Last Sunday, I wrote that if the State is lured into a closer engagement with religion, it must regulate this huge amorphous enterprise.
Religious leaders who have been pressing for the creation of a ministry of religious affairs were not amused by the word “regulation”.
For them, any regulation is as unimaginable as writing a new Bible or Koran!
It is intimidation. They want critical voices to be scared by images of the faithful protesting an act of sacrilege and bringing the entire universe tumbling down.
For, if things to do with religion cannot be regulated by the State, why should citizens finance a department of religious affairs?
Regulation is a quite straightforward concept. In a decent society, regulation removes chaos and averts potential conflict. But it also implies a ceding of some power to the regulating authority.
So our religious operators probably resist this process only because they know they are working in an environment that favours vampire instincts: How can you grab something from the State without putting anything in, except of course flattering the ruler?
Banks are regulated. Educational institutions are regulated.
Medical drugs and healthcare related accessories and services are manufactured and delivered under various regulations.
Serious scientific research; ordinary trade; even prostitution and narcotic drugs where they are legal; regulations… regulations… Why should religious matters be the exception?
If, for instance, you routinely import foreign charlatans to gang up with local operators and lure thousands of people to sports stadia to witness specific and spectacular miracles, the department of religious affairs – the State – can and should investigate the truth or falsehood of any claims made about these events.
Then it can guide the citizens; like the Ministry of Health does with the consumption of candy, tobacco, alcohol and so on.
As a signal, although not a stranger to arcane things, when building profiles in its quest for new saints, the Roman Catholic Church more or less acknowledges how difficult it is to find – let alone verify – an event that is unequivocally a miracle.
Then, what is a place of worship?
Should preaching be allowed on our urban streets at all? If yes, on which days of the week, and at what hours?
Can you in practice have swarms of riffraff street preachers and avoid the verbal aggression and offence they cause normal road users of various faiths and nonbelievers?
Or should these people operate in special places – like the vendors in Usafi Market – and indicate the organisations that sponsor them?
In the current anarchy, who will take responsibility for the next Joseph Kibwetere?
What established principle prevents some Jihadist extremist from roaming the streets and preaching his version of salvation?
Advanced nations are yearning to increase their knowledge as our masses are being dragged back into a world of the occult by tinpot preachers who still brag about the clothes they have amassed but don’t need.
You realise, of course, that, at bottom, they want to justify themselves; they want to be respected and glorified, but they do not quite know how to attain the required “weight”.
They have gathered mammoth congregations that clap ceaselessly, sometimes on command; they have amassed personal wealth; they have brushed shoulders with those who have political power; yet they still feel unfulfilled.
Like the drug addict, they have tried stronger doses of their prescriptions, but they still feel strangely “hollow”.
Although the phoneyness of their gospel should be self-evident, they are groping for imaginary enemies conspiring against them. Is it rivals within their Pentecostal movement in a quest for control?
Is it the Catholic Church that wants them down before the Pope’s visit? Is it politicians they do not support? Is it gay activists? Is it Islamic interests, because of the Islamic finance behind some media houses?
No; the claims of their daily conversations with God notwithstanding, let an ordinary mortal remind them that, like any other movement, a religious movement can die of its own excess.
So, paradoxically, a system of regulations could in the long term be in the interest of the Pentecostal churches.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.