I have always loved Joseph Kabuleta’s writing. He earned my respect as a humane being when I learnt that he boycotts Shell products because the company is stained with the blood of the human rights activist and writer, Ken Saro Wiwa. When I found a book he wrote about The Rich Man Virus, I read it and even included it among the titles we gave as gifts to our 2017 staff and volunteers. In it, he makes persuasive arguments for the prosperity gospel. Some of the things he says to help us identify fake prophets and pastors who use the name of Christ to defraud human beings can be seen in the man he mentions in the book as a true prophet. The rich man virus he says afflicts those under the control of mammon from a distant point of view is visible in that same man.
Yesterday, photos emerged online of Kabuleta kissing/licking the shoes of this man who has become a sensation. I have friends who follow this prophet. They are convinced that the prophet is a representative of the God of the Bible. As we love saying, we, meaning those trained as lawyers and political scientists, there is freedom of religion and the church/mosque should be separated from the state. Reading Kabuleta’s The Rich Man Virus, I could tell that indeed he was dealing with spiritual matters.
But there are two op-ed articles by Kabuleta that have confused me. One was in The Daily Monitor and in it, he argued against the state regulating churches. He used very secular and allow me say, America-centric thinking around religious freedom. The state has no business regulating matters of faith he said. But in a recent article in The Observer, he suggests that Uganda should listen to the flamboyant pastor he argues is a true prophet and I dare whisper, can be seen as the embodiment of the rich man virus the same Kabuleta preaches about in his book, but what do I know?!
I don’t understand. How does Kabuleta want the Ugandan state to stay away from regulating matters of faith but take his true prophet’s predictions so seriously they should make him part of the country’s intelligence apparatus!? How does this work? How does Uganda operate a secular regime of religious freedoms and at the same time include a religious entrepreneur in its secular intelligence work?
Obviously, Uganda isn’t a nation, by any definition. The most recent scholars to prove this are Busingye Kabumba, Dan Ngabirano and Timothy Kyepa. Uganda is a state. It is a state that was created by Britain through military force. It is a creature of British White Supremacist and capitalist imperialism. It is not a theocracy. It is a tool for imperialist exploitation. At what point does this colonial creature become comparable to a Biblical Israel that was protected by God and therefore had prophets in its national defence and security structure?
The confusion points to one thing. Religious narratives are being used in a political struggle. Individuals are using powerful narratives to claim power for themselves. They are succeeding in getting money. They now actively want political power. As Kabuleta writes, mammon doesn’t get satisfied. Mammon is greedy. Money is not enough. Political power is needed too.
To go back to the story of Christ, the revolution that Jesus led was at a personal level not at the level of states and nations and empires. Kabuleta writes about this when he talks of some disciples expecting Jesus to be a political leader. Jesus’ work was personal. It confuses one when Kabuleta in his article uses the Bible to justify the search for political and military power by a new breed of religious entrepreneurs. It is very dangerous territory especially when he combines this naked appropriation of the biblical narrative with his love for the neo-imperial military and capitalist power that is the United States of America.
By the preaching in The Rich Man Virus, capitalism as a system that is based on greed and exploitation as ideals is a formalisation of the work of Mammon. Capitalism is naked greed. Capitalism isn’t necessarily wealth. Capitalism is the glorification of greed. Hence no amount of profit is ever enough. Capitalists search for more and more. The US embodies this. The so called richest country on earth has some of the poorest individuals on earth. Because capitalism fuels greed. But Kabuleta tells us that the US uses prophets as an intelligence strategy and Uganda should, as well.
The Kabuleta gospel and its contradictions remind me of Chwezi Code, the novel by Nick Twinamatsiko, first published as Mugu. I loved the novel and I heard that Taban Lo Liyong said it was the best novel to come out of Uganda (that was before Makumbi’s Kintu was published) although he wished it had been better edited. I know a few friends who offered to edit it and I was told the author refused their assistance. The novel explains some of the things we are seeing today. The mixture of greed, the prosperity gospel, free market capitalism, US neo imperialism and political dictatorship. Nick Twinamatsiko is himself a Christian of the problematic kind (those who latch onto right wing white supremacist ideas of civilisation and progress) but as the Chwezi Code novelist provides insights into the world in which we live. It is a scary world. Very scary. Will we live to see the prosperity towers Kabuleta speaks for, collapse or shall we perish in the debris? I pray for the former.