OPEN LETTER TO A FELLOW STATESMAN, SIMON SSENYONGA

Dear Simon,

I hope you are fine. I am being tempted to greet you in the name of Lollipop, the one you forced me to sing for whilst a bachelor boy at Nsibirwa Hall (I enjoyed being a Statesman and I am still proud to associate with it) but I am reminded that you have since transformed to a different manifestation. Praise God!

It was lovely watching you on NTV’s Thursday program, ‘On the Spot.’ You appeared as confident and smart as ever. You were discussing the question of religion, with Pentecostal churches being thrust in the crosshairs over the recent peculiar demonstration by followers of a man you also follow. Accordingly, the people (I understand, you inclusive) bowed, knelt and lied down to kiss the tip of a shoe of a one, Elvis Mbonye, a prophet of God according to most folks. They also paid an unbelievable amount of money to be part of that prostration.

I should first congratulate you upon the success of sitting on a panel table with renowned inspirational members of our society like Andrew Karamagi and Julius Twongyeirwe. It speaks of how you are writing history even beyond the walls of Makerere University. I am proud of you my brother.

Unlike before, this time, besides being irked by your attempt to disparage fellow panelists, I was strongly disconcerted by some of the arguments you raised in defence of the contentious spiritual act that has raised eyebrows and earlobes in the Christian community.

To justify the act, you compared Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem with the Mbonye shoe-kissing incident. Whereas I didn’t want to comment on any spiritual matter you raised (for who am I to advise on things of the spirit?), I am compelled to give my naïve thoughts: The first question here is whether Jesus, like Mbonye, called for the glory he was given or not. Yes, we see Jesus send his disciples for a colt (many texts call it a borrowed colt which suggests that it was taken back to the owners) but still, we don’t see Jesus asking the people to spread their clothes before Him and glorifying Him the way they did. I want to believe that you are aware of Pontius Pilate’s showy entry into Jerusalem on the very same day. Pilate’s entry was characterized with the glamour and pomp that many saw at the honouring dinner your church held for Mbonye. Yes, you might want to argue that times have changed; our generation has destroyed the flora and fauna hence rendering your congregation unable to get branches, colts and donkeys to honour your prophet. (And you can see that I have tried to make a blasphemous attempt of even comparing Jesus to Mbonye.) But as you should have realized, the act was not only religiously but also Christianly unconventional.

And I agree with your affirmation that one of the effects of sin is poverty but the absurd reality we are reading from the recent spiritual pose is of Christianity being a cause of poverty, through fleecing people, shearing the already poor nation of her remnant wealth. I have heard many folks who take your stand asking if we have seen them complaining. Yes, we might not have seen you complaining (and this is not to say that people are not complaining of how Christianity has robbed them) but you see, Christianity has well learnt and applied the Rat-analogy in her spiritual equation. At night, a rat will eat upon one’s foot yet keep on blowing some air to soothe the pain. One only realises in the morning that things didn’t go on well at night. It shall be an unfortunate realization for our society.

Simon, I agree that if Jesus appeared today, Christians would be the first to deny him, and at the worst, consider him a cult leader. It’s true, we have failed to conceive the true Jesus picture and that’s why conspiracy after conspiracy has risen with the growth of the church of Christ. And like you quoted from the scriptures, you can’t give what you don’t have. Does this then require our spiritual leaders, just like the case is with our political leaders, to have a larger-than-life existence? Maybe yes, but Simon, from whom are our spiritual leaders supposed to pick inspiration? We can argue that our political leaders have decided to pick inspiration from Ceaser but inexcusable is the attempt by our spiritual leaders to also try to model themselves according to the principalities of the world.

Yet like you said, salvation isn’t meant to subscribe us to some sort of poverty. You actually called it the nonsense of religion. I could see that you were getting angry but that is understandable. However, Simon, like Rodgers- the gentleman from The Africa Centre for Apologetics Research referenced, ‘the poor, you shall always have amongst you,’ thus says the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus’ recognition of the poor is a remonstration of the ongoing ‘Prosperity Gospel’ which I don’t know whether it exists in your church but according to the debate you put up, one detects that the gospel exists in a more sophisticated and esoteric manner. Quoting from your lips, you said, ‘I submitted to an authority that I could manifest.’ Simon, Jesus manifested in both poverty and wealth, and actually for the most part, in poverty. I therefore think, like Rodgers, that yours is a case of ‘Scripture cited selectively’ and misapplied. That’s very dangerous especially for a people who only rely on their spiritual leaders’ Biblical interpretations.

And I am saddened that you too might be falling prey of the ‘My Pastor’ virus where Christians don’t think beyond the thought structures of their spiritual leaders. I saw you call Mbonye your father, which is okay, but later on you added that you submitted to an authority you could manifest not one that you would ‘read in some beautiful books and have a habit and culture of attending some place, so called spiritual place’ I am convinced that by ‘some beautiful books,’ you were referring to the Bible and may be hymn books; and I guess that by ‘spiritual place’ you meant the church. That statement speaks volumes of how less influential and relevant the Bible and the church might be becoming in your life. My friend, even Jesus who was the son of God was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah to read from when he entered the synagogue in Nazareth. My brother, you can’t proclaim Christianity and do away with what you have chosen to call beautiful books. Man, those are ancient words; ever true.

I understand that this is my own opinion. And if I remember well, you said that spirituality (a realm you are now functioning in) will not confine you into dimensions of what men may give their opinion towards. Even before the talk show, you used your Facebook wall to warn whoever attacked your ‘father’, that you will take them head on not to explain yourself or defend what you did but to usher to them their reward in full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. I therefore expect a not-so-nice reply but just know that I will take it in good faith. Remember that I am also a struggling Christian and any hint that can lead me to the real light, I will so much appreciate.

Simon, I share in your plight that we have lived in a generation where we have seen many things going wrong. I believe like you rightly suggested that, ‘this has confounded the wisdom of those who claim to hold the spiritual authority.’ But my brother are we all going to pick up robes and hijack the spiritual places, and become spiritual leaders when we haven’t been called by God himself yet? Maybe for you, you have already received your call because I saw you cynic the three panelists who had spects on and actually requested to give them an instant healing miracle. Had the moderator given you chance, those men would now be free to see the sight rhyme in this sentence.

Nevertheless, I am still proud of you. I love your charisma. And I am one person who still believes that you are part of the youth that are going to change Uganda, although now I am doubting if it is for the better. Looking forward to seeing you make manifest.

Blessings,
Jacob Katumusiime

Photo by Zahara Abdul

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Dear Prophet Elvis Mbonye…

A modern preacher’s prayer