Dashiki Dialogues: The evil we do in God’s name

2013-12-03 10:00

Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions. French thinker Blaise Pascal said this at the height of his power in the 1600s.

He was a respected mathematician, physicist and Christian philosopher. So we can safely assume his was a fairly sound mind.

Pascal’s words ring true still today as conflict rages on with religious passion in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Israeli-Palestinian prospects for peace are stalled by men and women inspired by their ­particular faiths. This as Islamic and Judeo-Christian interpretations of justice cloud what should be simple pursuits of human coexistence.

The US’ so-called war on terror was caused, in part, by men with ­religiously inspired ideas.

Today in South Africa, men commit less spectacular but equally devastating evils in the name of belief. A Durban-based “man of God”,­ Bishop Hamilton Nala, has been selling bottled water to a congregation of desperate people claiming it can cure HIV and Aids.

The effect of his message is that some of his congregants say they stopped using antiretroviral drugs and opted for Nala’s “holy water” instead.

This is not just a bad message aimed at swindling money from ­gullible believers, it’s murder in the name of the Lord.

I read of the pastor’s hold on his flock and remembered Steve Biko’s writing. He was grappling with making the church relevant to the lives of oppressed black people.

“If Christianity in its introduction was corrupted by the inclusion of aspects which made it the ideal religion for the colonisation of people, nowadays in its interpretation it is the ideal religion for the maintenance of the subjugation of the same people,” he wrote.

Similarly, organisations like the SA Council of Churches sought to rehabilitate the church to fight apartheid – a crime against humanity committed in the name of a Christian-nationalistic ideology.

The church had used scripture to protect the status quo.

Some taught that equality was not biblical, hence the oppressed weren’t encouraged to interrogate the material causes of their poverty. Their suffering was the “will of God” and not a result of manmadeexploitative economic systems.

But there were some awakened believers. In the late 1970s, one made a poster depicting Christ hanging on a cross with a guerrilla soldier superimposed over his body.

It gave people a message of Christ as a warrior fighting to liberate his people. We still need that message today, even if that won’t sit well with many “men of God” who enjoy privilege in the status quo.

Poor believers must launch a dialogues to rescue Christ’s dashiki for themselves.

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