Kivumbi Press

Why Pastoral Roles Are Getting Really Ambiguous

It is a real disaster when the men of the cloth as the salt of the world lose their flavour

Matthew 5: 13

Last week’s Frontline show on NBSTV had Retired Anglican Bishop Zach Niringiye as one of the guests. Whereas the show was captivating as it always is, I was rather taken aback by the extent to which a man spruced up in a religious collar seemed willing to go, to make a [political] case.

As a matter of fact, I am not questioning the merit of his intellectual deliberation – religious leaders are mostly erudite. My concern has to do with how far he would go, delving into divisive politics and squaring up to hard-edged politicians – on their turf – which is mostly known to be a dirty lane.

On the show, Bishop Zack Niringiye unsuspectingly locked horns with Government Spokesman, Ofwono Opondo and he even became emotional and rowdy after taking quite a daunting bite off Ofwono’s bait.
It is expected that men of the likes of Bishop Zack Niringiye, because of their higher calling, would wait yonder to have the last word.

On the contrary, there’s a problem when a Bishop loses his sense of inviolability just because he wants to win an argument on a political talk show – just because he likes being right – and reproachful. That is starkly tacky.

On February 10, 2018, the Bishop of Rwenzori Diocese told President Museveni to his face that he should reconsider his decision to run for the presidency when his current term expires. According to the grapevine, Bishop Reuben Kisembo Amooti lectured a keenly listening Museveni that although the Constitution allows him to seek reelection, he should just not exercise that right.

In answering, the President, among other things mentioned that there must be a more “disciplined” way of discussing, to plot the course that the country should follow – more privately and exhaustively.
On Mr. Museveni’s part, this was quite an exposé of finesse and humility… and this is how people like Bishop Reuben Kisembo Amooti have always made President Museveni look like a saint vis-à-vis his competition. Otherwise what justified Kisembo’s erratic disposition? Lecturing a president in public?! Who does that?!

Moreover after haranguing him, Bishop Reuben Kisembo Amooti and his posse brazenly went ahead to receive all his [Museveni’s] love-gifts/donations, including a large-figure cheque.

Now, one would think that was a conflict of interest. Kisembo, however didn’t see it that way. And then somehow he gets the impetus to say Museveni is a repressive despot.

While there’s this concerted effort to derail the man, his witch-hunters seldom realize that they inadvertently bring themselves under the same spotlight. For we, the people, are always bound to examine the real motivation of the volunteers who appear to make our case – lest they turn out to be a scam.

Therefore condemnation is a two-edged sword. That’s why it is foolhardy for bully-pulpits to attempt to torment their constituents into submission [with utter disregard for their feelings] and expect no rebuttal; it defeats Newton’s third law of motion.
In any case, it is a new normal for religious leaders to join the cart with chauvinists – brashly – to take purely controversial political stances – on the pulpit.

Moreover, “so full of arrogance,” as observed by the President in his end of year [2017] address: “They [men of the cloth] talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth. This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse,” he noted.
You would think that the real place of religious leaders is to hold their opinion in mystery – as leverage – to call secular leaders to order and create a safe zone [middle ground] where rivaling sides feel comfortable to come for guidance. As it is, pastoral roles are getting really ambiguous.

Purporting to fix political contentions, clergymen forget that in a democracy people oppose each not just on the basis of right or wrong – the arguments are about points-of-view [opinions] – and opinions cannot be absolute [notwithstanding the towering passions]. Opinions are subject to scrutiny. This is why all sides have followers – leadership dynamics are not black and white. This is to say that the only thing Uganda’s politicians should learn is to harmonize positions – not be hate mongers.

It’s in bad taste and I must powerfully state, here, that they [clergymen] are becoming absolutely wayward and disagreeable.

It is a misnomer for leaders to think that third world Africa has already reached that point where we have the luxury of haphazardly saying whatever recklessness in public – just because we can – merely on the basis of elitist hogwash. We don’t have any cushion for our peace and unity yet – in a matter of time our country can crumble into sheer wreckage. Until recently we were. I don’t understand how a mere thirty years of serenity have turned the political elite into a club of spoilt brats, so to speak, some; vultures, others; whiners.

Several Pan-African leaders are talking about this new age rollercoaster of Western liberalism… however there’s way too much expediency going on [informed by literature-made-in-London]. It has now culminated into full-blown clatter.

We are neither listening to [their] admonition or anything for that matter. And maybe, the increasing lack of decorum is what might badly hurt this country… for we are beginning to walk down an uncharted track – it’s existent only in flights of our imagination – propped up by Harvard jargon [with help of civil society and political punditry]. I fear we might be taking a wrong turn, for this country’s sake.

Many uncanny tendencies are growing on right now [such as slander, hate speech, and misinformation] but leaders refuse to chuck them, as long as it is good political capital in this freedom-of-expression country. Religious leaders are unknowingly being drawn in – into this menace and they seem happy to be blind to the fact.

It’s in bad taste and I must powerfully state, here, that they [clergymen] are becoming absolutely wayward and disagreeable.
Earliest political parties in Uganda were built along religious lines – like DP was a fit for Catholics as UPC was to Anglicans… there has always been political undertones in Church but were not detrimental to harmonious living – because, in any case – you cannot shut it out completely – man, apparently, is a political animal.
But now, the overt mounting of squabbles with the president is downright gratuitous and imprudent; it is grossly unsettling and confusing.
• There has been no crackdown on any Church in this country
• There’s no effort against freedom of worship
• No church-based charity organizations have been stopped
• There’s no extrajudicial killings in this country – at least not perpetuated by the regime. One would argue, there’s not a real crisis?
I would be very interested to know what exactly is pushing Church men to be so boisterous and disquieting; I am confounded why the supposed men of God would be hell-bent on fanning flames like that.

My fear runs deep because no one wants a back and forth exchange between the Politicians and the Church… it easily could culminate into unrest.

This article was first published on May 1, 2018 on my Facebook Platform, Michael Kivumbi

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