I am feeling more and more uneasy. Every day somebody else takes to the pulpit as part of the election campaign and I think this is one of the most dangerous things to happen here in South Africa. Not only do we have the simmering of tribal, ethnic and, let’s face it, racial divides, but now we have the ‘I’m more religious than you’ competition amongst the leaders of the parties. Bear in mind that this is not any religion. It is really only Christianity that seems to be the appropriate ethical entry pass to this new world of politics.
Now I need to be very clear here. I am not criticising the church, or Christianity itself. I am the first to admit that these institutions do amazing, vital, if sometimes terribly misguided work (I can’t get the image of the Pope warning Africans against using condoms out of my head!). But when the line between politics and religion is blurred, we are left in awkward, dangerous, often conservative and frightening territory.
The problem is enormous and complicated. The implications are far reaching. And unfortunately, it has everything to do with what the church and politicians have in common; power, money, influence and a moral whip. Sometimes the abuse of this is totally absurd. Allan Boesak is a religious and political absurdity. Rev Dandala of COPE seems to have tumbled from religion into politics, purely as a mechanism for COPE to climb on some moral ‘high ground’.
But, for me, it is Zuma who is the out of control religious nightmare, who manages to have dubious sex with an HIV positive woman who is not one of his (is it) five wives, who faces charges of corruption, who sings about needing somebody to bring him a machine gun, and then stands before the Rhema church congregation on a Sunday to sermonise. Is it just me? Is this beyond belief? How can anyone anywhere take this seriously?
More than the absolute absurdity of the situation I had the uneasy feeling that I have seen this before, and recently. Finally I was able to put my finger on it. These people are trying to pretend to be Obama! I have always found the conservatism of Christian American politics creepy, and now that it has been adopted by our own politicians in the most ill fitting mantle, it has gone from creepy to dangerous.