Last Sunday, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, wrote an article in the Monitor called Uganda needs Jesus to end corruption.

The article deviates from the familiar defeatist attitude many religious leaders in Uganda have about corruption, where they urge Ugandans to rely on ‘God’ to save them from corruption, since, in their minds, all other approaches seem to be offering no solution because ‘Satan’ probably has his hand in it. The Archbishop instead appears to call for religious introspection:

The best our government can do – the IGG, the Anti-Corruption Court, laws passed by Parliament and enforced by our police and other agencies – is to give us moral and civil speed governors, external rules that are followed by us only because the police force or parliamentary investigative committees have been expanded to put fear into our hearts and ensure our compliance and proper behavior.

But, God said through the Prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament, “The time is coming when I will make a new covenant…It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers….This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

In other words, my fellow Ugandans, we must acknowledge that the problem beneath our rampant corruption, witchcraft, child sacrifice, domestic violence, and immorality is the problem of a sinful human heart.

Only Jesus, whose laws of love are written on our hearts because he lives in our hearts, can solve this problem Only acknowledging our human problem of a corrupt heart will lead us to the ultimate and true solution to our problems – Jesus – because his name still means “he will save people from their sins.”

I guess what he’s trying to do here is to appeal to Christians to clean up their act by recognizing that they are ‘sinners’. Corruption is ‘sin’. So by accepting Jesus and turning away from such ‘sin’, then everything will be okay and there will be no more corruption.

Of course this is a rather simplistic approach to dealing with the problem of corruption in Uganda – one that does not take into account the cultural and economic realities on the ground (vis-à-vis our all-too-rapid transition from a historically traditional African society to a pseudo-democracy) that give rise to the conditions that make nepotism and patronage inevitable.

As for witchcraft, the Church is doing a rather fantastic job of promoting, and reinforcing extant cultural beliefs about its efficacy, isn’t it? With magical thinking as the driving force of Christian theology (and more so among the charismatics/born-agains), the church is very much complicit in validating the irrationality that is witchcraft in this country.

Anyway, this post isn’t intended as a point by point critique of Orombi’s article, but rather to bring attention to the fact that Peter Kisirinya, chairman of the Uganda Humanist Association, wrote a response that was published three days later, also in the Monitor, titled: Uganda is a Christian-dominated nation but why the corruption?:

The Archbishop suggests that belief in Jesus as Saviour is the only important thing. But evidence shoes that this belief alone is neither necessary nor sufficient to improve our society. The Archbishop says of Jesus that “he will save people from their sins”. But we are the ones who must save ourselves. If we pray, that is fine, but we must also act. If we believe, that is okay, but we must also be good. If we worship Jesus, fair enough, but we must also respect our fellow humans beings regardless of their religious beliefs.

Anyone can say they believe in any religion, but what matters is their personal integrity. Do they respect what is fair and just? Do they want to empathise and understand other people? Do they contribute positively to society? The world is learning that these are the important questions.

Whether we happen to believe in the divinity of an ancient Nazarene preacher is one thing and it is easy to say that you do. But can you truthfully answer “yes” to these questions? Would the people that know you answer “yes” on your behalf? It is not our faith which make us, it is our values and actions – and that is what Christmas is really about.

I have frequently been asked about the Uganda Humanist Association. I must confess that at this juncture there is not a lot that I know about them. They have a cool website – check it out.