A son of a volunteer, part of a community upliftment programme in a Limpopo village has donated R49,000, intended for his tertiary education, to his church. This, in these times of student #FeesMustFall protests over the economic exclusion of a large number of black kids seeking tertiary education in South Africa.
The young man, 21 years of age, a reasonable man according to the strictest reading of the law, appears disillusioned and so desperate for hope and better circumstances that he gave his tuition money to the church. I must admit I'm hoping the young man to be disillusioned, I'm hoping he is hypnotised and this is not his reality, because this cannot be normal, right? But why can't it be normal?
Listening to the pastor of the church during an interview on Power FM, relay the verse where Mary Magdalene washes Jesus' feet with expensive perfume and uses it as a justification for his acceptance of the generous gift from the young man. "There will always be poor people..." he says, quoting the oily footed Jesus. Legally, there is no crime committed by the pastor, so why all the outrage over the story?
Is it perhaps that we as a society are closer to realising the shortfalls of the law in determining what is ethically right or wrong in the eyes of the masses within the larger mass? This is not a case of fraud in the traditional sense but somehow it seems as though an injustice has been committed.
This, I must admit, may be due to all the media coverage of seemingly bogus hypnotist church leaders and their theatrics persuading congregants to partake in obviously ridiculous activities.
The Reasonable Man And Faith
Outside the biblical definition of faith, which also speaks of the invisible manifesting as a result of action, will and belief, there is another definition. Faith is the reliance on time, patience, will and self (mostly abstract means to manifest a physical end / results.) Faith is what keeps us going. Its that "see you tomorrow" we say without thinking of the countless possibilities that could prevent that meeting tomorrow. To be human is to have faith in some or other reason to keep living. Unless we die, we never lose our faith, faith is in our DNA, we walk because we'll take the next step, and we talk because we hope we'll know how to pronounce the next word. We learn and go to school, to achieve a particular 'whatever', 12 years away... we don't have to think about faith, it's inherent in us.
But faith has been separated from the physical man, and peddled as something only activated in the church of particular gods and their ways. The powers that be have us rationalising everything, as if existence can apply to that which can be observed only with the five senses. Ultimately leading us to believe, if It can't be seen, heard, felt, smelled or tasted, then anything's potential for existence is questionable. But there are many other things like atoms, who's existence we believe in though true evidence of such phenomena can only be explained through non-secular science such as relativity and quantum physics. Sciences with concepts most of us would have much trouble pronouncing let alone understanding. We cannot pretend science is without blemish, science is as guilty of disinformation as is religion. The substance of things unseen is all around us, it is the ether (don't quote me), it is our created world, both science and religion allude to this.
Maybe in his heart that was self-sacrifice for the greater good, and this R49K would be doubled and pressed together and shaken and caused to overflow with many more R49K's from the vaults of heaven or the Vatican or wherever miracle money comes from.
Our Christian brethren are often times coerced, disregarding their own means to attain material possessions, to depend sometimes wholly on faith and to surrender a portion of their hard earned means to financing the gospel weaved into a prosperous lifestyle of a good news peddler. While the elite of the cloth, the pastors and bishops, only have to rely upon the tithes of the congregation and nothing else to survive... A typical case of an abstract promise in exchange for material means and no guarantees, religion in this sense is much like politics.
Pastors don't need faith to manifest their heart's desires into the physical... They only need you and for you to keep believing enough to keep giving. It's the congregants that need to live by a combination of faith and money, for the small things like the kids' education unfortunately. The most quoted verse on tithes, Malachi 3, reads "... Bring your whole tithe, so that there may be food in the storehouse... See if I will not open wide the floodgates of heaven... I will prevent pests from devouring your crop...".
What does this vague collection of words mean? It can't be referring to literal food, or can it? But what about expenses incurred by the church? Yeah what about them? Can tithes be used to fund the institution of church? I think faith should be the currency, especially for pastors and their endeavours. Maybe the pastors can explore storing up their faith in little jars marked by dates and potency... However, chances are these faith jars, if they did exist, would get sold back to the congregants to top up their own faith in times of need...
On The Ethical Herding Of Sheep
This is an ethical question ultimately, and most of the question is, how are we going to separate bullshit from belief? The Pastor, in these dire times of #FeesMustFall must have had the ethical duty to question the funds and have the necessary conversations with the young man's elders, 21 years old, as he is. But the blessed and distinguished man of the cloth did not see it to be strange, but fair. The unfortunate part of all of this is his right to behave as he does, blasé, all "god blessed me Hallelujah!!!", and "I'm innocent in all this..." but when we're feeling most holy, that is when we should check ourselves for fleas of grandiose, remembering the right to act does not qualify the act to be right. Basically.
For all we know the pastor could have brainwashed the young man, (yes, because brainwashing is a real thing). But, there is also another reality, the young man could be joyously giving because he genuinely believes, even his god speaks to him in his mother tongue and he is comforted, not fazed by all this worldly debate about that money the lord had giveth. He, 21 year old student at Jeppe College, Joyous because the R49K in question was paid straight into the Music Store account to help improve the church sound system and instruments...
Maybe in his heart that was self-sacrifice for the greater good, and this R49K would be doubled and pressed together and shaken and caused to overflow with many more R49K's from the vaults of heaven or the Vatican or wherever miracle money comes from. Why would we not want that for him? Trusting that he as a reasonable 21 year old has made a sound decision regarding the direction of his life? Knowing full on what he is doing? Do we not trust ourselves to raise 21 year olds to be able to discern the disinformation from all corners of society? Or do we not trust the society we have created, and the subsequent seekers of coin by any means necessary? Because probability is a strange science and it confirms that if it has happened before, the chances of it happening again increase... And yes, we've heard these stories, but always leave room for a surprise. Surely stranger things are yet to happen.
PS: This is what you get for raising god-fearing children. Whatever that means.