Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uganda Is More Christian than the U.S.

I’m scheduled to attend a Catholic (and conservative) wedding today, and I hope it won’t look like ingratitude toward my hosts (who I’m sure are too busy to read this blog today) if I pick this occasion to remind people of my love-hate relationship with religion and the religious right.

I say love because, despite my atheism, I think the moral and social effects of religion — the stuff the left usually complains about — are actually often quite positive, and I am not indifferent to the deep passions that people like C.S. Lewis represent with noble lions (which they worry shallow secularists must lack).  It would indeed be awful if people lacked those sorts of deep passions, and if religion evokes them, it must be contended with.

I say hate — though I swear I don’t literally mean hate — because I don’t think the underlying supernatural claims are true and because there is a tendency, especially on the right, to think religion explains and causes all the good things in life.  Is Europe (just slightly) more socialist?  Must be because they’re so much more secular over there.  Was the USSR oppressive?  Must be because they didn’t believe in God.

But if you think a country’s level of religiosity is a short-cut to seeing how socially-functional and civilized it is, consider just one country that’s more Christian than the U.S.: chronically war-ravaged, brigand-plagued, impoverished Uganda.

•Their populace is 85% Christians to our mere 78%-and-shrinking…

•…with Catholics about 41% of their population to our 24% or so.

So are they in better shape than the U.S. culturally?  Are you moving there soon?  If so, beware the occasional witch-led armies of fanatical soldiers who think rocks can be used as magic hand grenades and that sort of thing, which Uganda seems also to have in rather larger numbers than we do.


Michael Bates said...

On the other hand, I hear from friends who have been in the country that President Museveni, a born-again Christian, has been a great civilizing influence on Uganda, helping to reduce tribalism and corruption, improving the government’s financial condition, and running the most effective AIDS prevention program in Africa, a program focused on personal responsibility. (On the other hand, he wasn’t willing to cede power when he hit his term limit.) As Uganda has become more Christian, as conservative versions of federally organized denominations (e.g. Anglican, Presbyterian) have grown grow, civil society has become stronger, and traditional animism, with its witch doctors and cannibalism and magic hand grenades, have lost influence.

The Presbyterian Church in America-affiliated Chalmers Center for Economic Development is training Ugandan churches of many denominations how to support sustainable economic development, helping poor people learn the cultural habits (trust and thrift among them) necessary to building wealth. In connection with Chalmers, the Anglican Church in Uganda is working to establish a savings and credit association in every Anglican congregation in the country.

Full disclosure: The conservative Presbyterian (PCA) congregation to which I belong has been involved in Uganda since the early ’90s, providing theological training to a locally-run network of Pentecostal churches and providing financial support for Chalmers Center training for those churches.

Jon Blanc said...

Atheist in Uganda….in 17 years I have only met one in Uganda…besides bazungus such as yourself…In Uganda there are 11 million born again Pentecostals, the largest Christian segment of society, Anglicans are the next largest groups, then Catholics (not 41% of population). There are also 6 million Muslims here…the population is not edging toward 31 million people, over half the population is under 14, the youngest nation in the world. I had to chuckle at comments made by Michael Bates, Presbyterians are a tiny minority here…Pentecostal churches have mushroomed with their American Style ala Benny Hinn and Crefflo Dollar laodicean Church style Christianity. Yoweri Museveni is not born again, that is propaganda from TBN TV and Pentecostal preacher Kayanga claiming so, his wife certainly is and one of his daughters is a preacher and pastors a well to do church in Buziga, a suburb of Kampala.

Witchcraft is still widely practiced in spite of Christianity and Muslim belief systems, multi relationships are flourishing and one of the main reasons of the recent increases of Aids, hence the new campaing that admonishes men to be faithful…Kabaka Mutesa I (King of Buganda)had 5000 wives when English Anglican missionaries and the French White Father Catholic missionaries came, now you have one official wife, but often at the time of death of a man 2 other women with children will show up.

Christianity is everywhere, but a true genuine change according to Christian principles has never taken place, greed, corruption, theft, graft are the rule of the day, churches take no coins, have pay for pray rituals, Pentecostal pastors live lavish lifestyles, go to America with tin cup in hand and stay 3 to 6 months collecting funds….for who?

Is Socialism the answer? Uganda under President Milton Obote twice went down that path – the result and what most the world does not realize that Obote with his smile and suit caused as much destruction and pain at Idi Amin…

President Museveni was a student of Julius Nyerere the Tanzanian who led his country in a socialist manner and the country is still trying to recover from its effects today.

Museveni had enough sense to toss it out at the end of the day and for 26 years has given the country stability with the exception of the North, but even there peace has been in effect for 2 1/2 years with the signing of the cessation of hostilities with the LRA.

Faith is important to Ugandans, you cannot compare it to the USA…it is is a different culture…thank goodness in recent time a new song has hit the top of the charts on both secular and Christian staions…Kani-a story about a woman who is dying and the man gives her a blood transfusion and she recovers, all she wants is things from the man, material possessions based on her deep need, she goes to church only to get, wears provocative clothing, just things of herself, Kani is short for Kanissa, the Church of Jesus Christ, and it is an indictment of churches to get back on the path of Jesus, instead of instant wealth, visas to the west, and a guarantee of health and wealth…When Ugandan Pentecostal Pastors truly serve God, become Servant Leaders instead of strong men or women, this nation will be changes…Then we do not need laws of morality or a minister of Ethics, but it will be written upon the hearts of the people who serve God come hell or high water. When the leaders in government turn to the living God to serve him, they will in turn serve the people of Uganda and it will be more than a big house, a big landcruiser, a right for wealth, but in the slogan of Ugandans “for God and Country.” It will happen here eventually….

from Kampala…