For the record, let me begin by stating that I am all for demonstrations, public or otherwise, dressed or in the nude, whenever anything and anyone threatens to infringe on inalienable human rights.Demonstrating nonstop to demand quality governance is in fact my priority of priorities; hence this column which will only become redundant the day each and every Malawian realises that without quality governance, we are doomed.
Having said that, I have issues with the sense of priority that our esteemed and reverend Faith Leaders demonstrated this week.
You all saw them, marching forward in the name of God, demonstrating holy anger against a piece of legislation, whose existence Government denies, which allegedly gives women wholesale freedom to retain a pregnancy or abort at will, plus –reportedly- dares to introduce homosexuality.
Watching the holy men, women and school children marching, my question was: are abortion and homosexuality as sins, more damning than our oppressive rulers looting and pillaging state coffers to the extent of mass homicide via intermittent supply of electricity and water – which puts the lives of those on life support in danger and poorly resourcing our hospitals knowing very well that President Mutharika will sneak to the USA for nyamakazi treatment since he is aware that he is presiding over a country whose hospitals are death traps?
I do not believe that it makes sense for the church to selectively mobilise protests, if at all it must do so.
If the churches are motivated by the idea that the government is legislating against certain morally wrong ideals, then the churches are hypocritical unless they mobilize against all the sinful ideals that the government has embraced that are affecting the moral and even the physical condition of Malawian society.
Let me put this in a better perspective.
First of all, I do not subscribe to the idea that religious bodies should use political tactics to try and influence public morals, whether thorough private action or through pressurising governments to legislate or not to legislate on any given issue.
Religious matters, in my view, are matters of personal conscience and should not be infringed or influenced by political legislation. In this regard, my contention is very simple: Churches have own doctrines and moral codes as dictated to by their religious teachings.
The proper method for entreating an individual to follow a certain moral path is to appeal to that person’s conscience and not to government to enact legislation to stop the church’s members from committing certain acts.
I believe and suggest therefore that church organisations and religious bodies are out of order when they march and try to influence political process so as to make it easier for themselves to enforce moral codes on their members.
Secondly, it is rather hypocritical when after a religious organisation takes that path, it decides to then pick and choose which sins it will influence and pressurise government to legislate on, and which ones they will ignore.
As much as I appreciate that Malawi is a “God fearing nation”, be the object of fear God or donors; and therefore must be administered and governed in line with a certain correctness, if anyone takes it upon themselves to use religion as the basis for political action, then all moral wrongs that the government is perpetuating must be tackled and not just the ones that are convenient or politically expedient.
Malawi is currently suffering economically because of the lack of a moral campus in those that are supposed to govern her. This is a serious problem whose consequences are being felt all over the country especially by the poor and the disenfranchised. I would have thought that if a decision to influence government to change its moral direction was being made in religious circles, the moral wrongs that are bringing the most devastating effects on the majority of the poor in the country and sending the country into economic and social ruin would be at the to of the list.
If we compare the effects of the alleged moral wrong of allowing legislation on LGBT rights or a woman’s right to chose against the moral wrong of corruption, stealing and looting public coffers, it is clear that the effects of corruption and the rampant looting of state funds are by far more extensive and devastating.
In my view then, if religious bodies are going to start invoking political methods for enforcing morality instead of simply preaching and pleading with their congregations to follow the teachings of their churches regardless of what legislation the state enacts- especially when that legislation goes against their religious teaching, then they must think very carefully about this strategy and not end up being hypocritical and unjustifiably illogical.
I would also suggest that the religious institutions be more tolerant of criticism of their methods and opposing opinion. It seems to me that over the years, for some reason, criticizing religious dogmas in Malawi has become just as much an abomination as criticizing a political party is to that party’s supporters.
One quickly finds oneself the subject of religious vitriol simply by making observations that some moves by the so-called religious people in the country- be they these proliferating modern prophets, or well established churches.
On the other hand, religious bodies and individuals expect to have a free ride and a carte blanche to comment on any issue and in whatever way they please. This bias may be responsible for breeding a nation of a religiously brainwashed public, for if ever there is an area where one needs to use their head in order to fully appreciate its peculiar nuances, it’s the area of religion.
Without allowing reason to be fully exercised, I believe one runs the risk of believing anything and everything, and being totally brainwashed and misled into thinking that everyone who says “Lord! Lord!” will enter the kingdom of God.