Gulu and the issue of witchcraft by Charlie King
We are into our training week here in Gulu, at one of the churches that TCWM built many years ago, called Grace Church. It has had its ups and downs, but is doing well now, mostly due to the leadership of its pastor, Komagum Patrick. There are some photos below of the church grounds, the TBI audience in attendance on day one (we have about 140 registered), as well as other shots from there.
I mentioned in an earlier report that the women are very well organized here. But as I went on to say, they recognize strict spheres of life for men and women. (The idea that a man can just decide one day to be a woman, or that a child should somehow be able to choose which sphere to be in, well, it’s simply incomprehensible. And by the way, no one I know is particularly interested in discussing the pros and cons of the gender and sexual insanity in which we indulge ourselves, simply because they cannot comprehend why it is even an issue.) In any event, you’ll see a shot below of a woman seeking some sort of counsel of Pastor Komagum. I am not sure of the issue – it was discussed in Acholi and not shared – but what was interesting was the attitude. Note that Komagum remains seated and the woman is on her knees. Despite the subservient posture, she and he had quite a heated discussion. But she is not marginalized – she has as great an access to the pastor as anyone else. And earlier, this particular woman had been her small group leader and presented their results to the class (and the small groups are mixed sexes). So there is this odd alignment of custom and posture which on the surface seems to objectify women, yet maintains a clear recognition of women as individuals. Indeed, I am struck by the observation that in our culture, for all that we have the trappings of equality between the sexes and would be shocked by the strict adherence to the spheres of manhood and womanhood which I see here, our culture objectifies women far more than this one does.
You will also see a picture of our registrar – Akaa Nancy. She is another example of what I am talking about. As registrar she is a close helper of Pastor Komagum, who is in charge, and she administers her responsibilities better than most. Yet when it comes time for lunch, she serves. You see the lunch she set up for us.
Speaking of lunch there are some photos here of the women preparing the meal. It is a great deal of work, as you can see.
This is probably a good time to bring up the subject of witchcraft. While taking an evening walk around town with Rich the other night, we came across fliers pasted to a telephone pole, photos of which I have posted below. These are ads for witch doctors. They don’t call themselves as such; rather, they use the name of advisor, or herbalist, or traditional healer, but they are witch doctors. This is not voodoo by the way. These are simply men and women who claim to be able to interact with the spirit world, interceding for good or ill on the part of those who pay them to do so. And yes, there is also some traditional herbal remedies employed, but that’s a lesser included skill set. They make their living dealing with spirits. Samuel Kunhiyop, a well published African evangelist (the genuine kind, not the health and welfare fraud!) explains that the continued existence of witchcraft amid an ostensibly Christian society is a sign that the Christian gospel is failing somehow. Well, the gospel isn’t – but those who present it are failing in the presentation and teaching of it. The African world view, he maintains, when faced with the vicissitudes of life, does not ask for the cause, but rather for the purpose and the agent behind the changes of life. Death, illness, misfortune, wealth, marriage, etc – these are the tides of life, and in this world view, these tides are not—as the rationalist in the West might see them—the result of inanimate, purposeless forces, but rather the outworking of some agent, for some reason. To the Christian, it is providence. But absent a complete understanding of the gospel, or rather, if all one gets is the health and welfare pitch, then there is a hole – and that hole is filled by witchcraft. And so, Kunhiyop maintains, this explains why many African Christians will dutifully attend service on Sunday morning, but be at the witch doctor that night for the real business of life.
And lest we feel superior in this, consider this: those in our culture who seek a moralistic, therapeutic church, pursuing, as that fraud Joel Olsteen puts it, “your best life now” are really no different in the end—theologically at any rate. It is, as one of our African leaders, Pastor Milton Lipa, puts it: “all Baal worship.” If the only reason for going to church is that one wants a fix for the problems of this life, then that’s all it is – Baal worship. Such worship has an internal logic, but rests on a falsehood. An example of this is here. Kunhiyop is explaining the internal logic of what lead a young boy to kill his father – it makes perfect sense from the point of view of witch craft, and as such, is an indictment of those who fail to preach the full and complete gospel.
I respect African culture; I hope that come through my writing. But such respect does not require me to respect traditional religion and witchcraft, anymore than Elijah was required to respect the priests of Baal (1Kings 18:27). What is the difference between the empty, moralistic clichés of the Olsteens, Meyers, and Hins of the West (as well as the atheistic, scientistic clichés of the Nyes and the Tysons) versus the flagrant pandering of the witch doctor in the ads below? Not much in my view. At least the witch doctor doesn’t pretend to be a Christian.
And so we have our work cut out for us.
Cheers and blessings,