In the Sunday Monitor, March 22, Bishop Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa made two assertions that need some attention. See “Western Secularism is like Islamic Fundamentalism”.
Bishop Mwesigwa writes that “Western secularism is under-guarded by values that squeeze religion out of the public sphere and instead promote a materialistic or mundane notion of life that glorifies the sanctity of a human being who is not accountable to God.”
He continues: “The pursuit of personal pleasure is the ultimate goal of a secularist mentality as opposed to the realisation of commonly held beliefs, values or norms.”
Now, is the bishop upset by the glorification of the sanctity of the human being, or by the human being not being accountable to God?
Put differently, if the human being remains inviolable but is also accountable to God, would the bishop be satisfied?
Or is the human being inherently evil and is only sanctified by becoming accountable to God?
Patience is good. If need be, read those questions again until you are sure you are not dizzy. It is the bishop who lured us into this little maze.
We cannot say that Western secularism undermines religion and elevates man, then (also) say that the secularist mentality is opposed to the realisation of commonly held beliefs, values or norms.
Why? Because this socio-mental condition in which religion is undermined and the human being is elevated is the result of a revaluation. New or significantly modified beliefs and values have been established.
When old norms are replaced by new ones, we do not say the current order does not reflect (commonly) held values. We may prefer the old order, but the norms in the new order have become norms precisely because they generally reflect a set of (commonly) held values.
If Bishop Mwesigwa has not paid enough attention to the logic, he is very firm in condemning secularism for its “materialistic” or “mundane” notion of life, and whose ultimate goal is “personal pleasure”.
So the bishop has spelt out the values, and he does not like them.
Later, he approvingly cites a critic of the West for its “blatant hostility towards Christian values based on the Bible”.
But why should the West base its values on the Bible if there are other sources of knowledge and moral intelligence that are more enlightened?
Why should the West join Bishop Mwesigwa in lamenting the decline of evangelism because there are “few powerful lobby groups that have influenced legislation”?
Like so many Christian and Muslim clerics, Bishop Mwesigwa is obsessed with sexuality. In his article, all the three British anti-Christian cases he cites to support his argument are to do with sex; more specifically, homosexuality.
Yet there is a whole range of moral questions around the rich/poor divide, or on charity, or about corruption and public responsibility, around the pursuit of political power, or around race and social justice, or the conduct of war, or around high bio-technology, on the environment and the future of man on other planets.
Does Bishop Mwesigwa maintain that the ethos of secularism in the context of all these concerns ultimately boils down to the pursuit of personal pleasure?
The Bible, of course, has lost its command and evangelism lost its pulpits because (to much of the West) its central figure, God, is no longer tenable.
As God increasingly looked a mythical figure, custodians of the tradition steadily elevated the idea that He had no obligation to directly show his power or goodness.
But the prophet, Elijah, probably an illusionist and sorcerer who dealt in fire, starkly shows that gods, including his own, had to prove themselves. The punishment for the losers was hundreds of human lives, executed by the holy man himself.
Where is Bishop Mwesigwa’s evidence that God is not on the side of ISIS? Or that, tomorrow, Elijahite Christians will not rise and mount a counter barbarism?
Without inquisitions, armed crusades or Jihadist bombers, Western secularism has restrained different faiths from overtly advancing sectarian interests in the public sphere. When Africa sheds the blinkers of mass ignorance, she will follow the same path.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator email@example.com.