KAMPALA – Dismally, despite being a famed religious country, Uganda has been listed as one of the top countries in the world, where a reckonable number of outstanding individuals have deigned to sacrifice God and religion on the altar of mammon. On the 10th of April, the BBC televised an interview with a Ugandan elder, a crop of Church or rather “cult” leader, who confessed the numerous lies they brewed and conjured up to get a good following of gullible “Christians” fleeced of lumpsums of shillings.
Cherry-picking emotionally and spiritually encumbered and heavy-souled individuals, the so-called men and women of God, beguile their prey to pastures of desolation, shameless exploitation, and manipulation with their miracle debacles and empty promises. They really do a wonderful job!
These astute individuals who ordain themselves as prophets, bishops, oracles, or priests, hone their skills in faking miracles, hypnotizing their victims, deriding them, and riddling them with guilt and fear, with utmost acumen. It is understood that both rich and poor, learned and unschooled, form part of their fodder or helpless pawns to move around in their power and gain games. Just as some trees flourish by depriving others of nutrients or light, so many of these self-proclaimed leaders flourish by depriving others of their due. Even though such leaders and such groups have been pilloried and challenged by some responsible people, these crass individuals use their upbeat personalities to lure many unsuspecting individuals to their fold. I do not want to feel superior or seem to look down upon others, who in a way seem to be serving God’s people, but I believe we have come overboard with all the touted claims of miracles and “seeding” money to these dubious Churches led by potential millionaire pastors.
Permit me to make this candid statement that one of the indicators and index of poverty and desperation in our country today, is the number of people who flock to the self-made pastors and cults for succor, healing, and prosperity, while the rest of us look on or refuse to sense this pain. We watch on as these self-seeking individuals pounce upon our naïve citizens, as did the ancient Romans by looking down over, as gladiators or lions killed and tore at the flesh of the early Christians and other offenders. The quizzical question is who is to blame for this whole pantomime.
Why is it that a number of smart, sane, and sincere people fall for these delusions every day? Shall we pour the blame on our school systems once more? I clearly believe that we should support our critical thinking teachers, lecturers, and mentors, more and more to mount their efforts in forming the young and old, because critical thinking and a healthy level of skepticism is what we need today. One loud writer puts it succinctly that insufficient skepticism is perhaps the most unrecognized and underreported global crisis of all. How true this is in our country Uganda! It is believed that some of us are so weak and passive that assimilation is our only option and so we will be carried away by any spectacular performance. The quizzical question is, shall we all be carried away by the sin of non-involvement and omission when our friends and counterparts are swept away in delusion and fear? Just imagine how many people in Uganda waste a good length of their lives on lies, mistakes, delusions, paralysis, and misperceptions. This would not be a good speed to our middle-income commitment as a nation.
You see, we must form our children and youth to learn about the functions of the mind and to learn to use their mind to help them solve all forms of problems that befall them in their lives, and of course with that, calling on the providence and surveillance of our God. Even where faith is required, we must not separate the gift of our mind and sense of reasoning from our decision-making processes. God lives right there. I will reiterate that we must cultivate in us a balanced level of skepticism, and teach our children to do the same. We know that the whole edifice of our civilization is built, if not on hard work and decency, on the power of reason (allow me to say too – and also from a blessing from a power above us). One great writer will again posit that skepticism is our most neglected defense and underutilized weapon. It has helped homo-sapiens live on. Let us rediscover this weapon and bring it right on our pulpits, classrooms, and homes.
Come to think of it, our entire world is diminished when minds, filled with potential, are sacrificed on the many altars of irrational belief. As our planet races around with us on board, so do the self-professed leaders go round collecting all tribes of quackery to fool the minds of the desperate and unassuming people in our towns and villages. Thousands of people in Uganda today, sit on rickety benches and make-shift Churches begging to be robbed and exploited with tears streaming down their sunken faces. How can we save our people from being fleeced of their meager incomes, of spending their precious time in fake prayers, and ghastly dances all in the name of three evils: power, pleasure, and wealth? We are acquainted with the use of some bits of the bible to manipulate believers into ceding their possessions to their millionaire church leaders, and indeed we know how some controversial bits of the Old Testament like Exodus 22: 18, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, helped to burn alive tens or hundreds of thousands of women in Europe and America between around 1450 and 1780. Can we afford replaying this holocaust in our country once again?
It is true that we can never be immune, but the more you know, the safer you will be from self-deception. One writer advises us about the traps that make us vulnerable to deception and fraudulent dealings of some manipulative leaders, and one warning calls us to learn to recognize and resist when confronted with extraordinary claims, especially in the line of healing, progress at the workplace, prosperity, well- being, and sheer good luck. Normally, we tend to believe, respect, admire, and also listen to the people who are always around us and in our circles, but this can be a well-set trap. We must learn to validate the information given by those who we seem to trust and believe at some point. This stance surely requires good reflection and discernment all part of critical thinking. Our challenge would now be to teach our children to hold dear a healthy level of skepticism.
Admonishingly, parents must take time to discuss certain spectacular claims to truth that spring up all around them with their children and taking time to probe them while getting in touch with reason, intuition, and inner freedom. There will always be a gamut of unanswered questions in our lives and in our seeking, but there would be no need to worry, as a cultivation of a good level of skepticism and guidance from the good mentors that be, will lead us home. And remember, what starts here changes the world!!
Dr Najjuka Solome
Senior Lecturer – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Victoria University