Yesterday, I had an unexpected confrontation with a young brother and his two counterparts. I had paid a friend a visit at her hostel of residence in Nakawa, and these chaps happened to be moving from room to room in the establishment, handing out fliers inviting interested people for a Christian fellowship at the Makerere University Business School Campus, when they chanced upon me and the other people in my friend’s room. They politely stated their cause and invited us to fellowship; then as if it had skipped his mind earlier, this young brother asked us in the room if we were Christians. Two were, one was a Muslim, and I the cause of the drama about to unfold, was the liberal who didn’t take sides, and as if to add insult to injury, refused to acknowledge the lad’s Jesus as my Lord and saviour.
“Can I tell you something, my brother?” he began in his West-African accent, “you are in great danger because if you die as you are now, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” He then went on to give me a lengthy lecture about how Jesus was the only way into heaven and I was destined for the eternal flames of hell; about how I had inherited sins from a certain couple that dwelt in a garden somewhere in Mesopotamia that only Jesus could cleanse me of and render me worthy of the almighty God’s presence in heaven; and about how God had sent the three of them to save me from the fiery doom that awaits me. I am still shocked that I actually paid this bunch any audience.
I am no atheist, and I made this fact known to these three fanatics. I personally believe that there is some supreme power I choose to call God that is responsible to some degree for a lot of the stuff that happens in this world we call home, I also believe greatly in the free will bestowed upon us by this power; I believe, above all, in love, and all that flows from it: generosity, kindness, blablabla. I consider myself just another guy, but I earned the tag, “moralist” from these Pentecostal zealots who would assure me further that I wasn’t going to be able to buy my way into heaven with my good deeds, for Jesus remains the only way into paradise, that I am just another hypocrite lying to myself that I am morally upright yet I chase after girls and do all sorts of things with them (which by the way are classified). The debate got only more heated, scriptures were quoted, some queer comparisons drawn, and honestly, at this point I was beaming with laughter at the self-assured bigots passing judgment on me. When I tried to reason that the Jesus they follow summed up his teaching into love for God and love for fellow man (no homo), which is the same love I practice, they were quick to conclude that the simple act of quoting Jesus’ preaching meant I believed in his word. I wonder whether they’d call me neo-Nazi if I quoted Adolf Hitler next.
I looked at the three guys before me and saw my generation: the confused youth seeking meaning and direction in sometimes the most wrongful of means and sources; the young men and women looking for the approval of others and self, in abidance to popular practice and doctrine; the overzealous young people quick to draw lines of division and intolerance between them and those not like them; the confused lot, the generation of sex tapes; yup, that’s us.
I am kind to people not because I am trying to be in somebody’s good books or earn some reward in the afterlife, but because I understand the value of kindness, what a big difference a small generous deed can make in another person’s as well as my own day or even life. At times I am unable to; many times I bypass beggars on the street and act like I haven’t seen them, but that doesn’t make me any less human than anyone else who might’ve done otherwise. I abstain from certain acts and behaviour not because I am afraid of fire and brimstone, but rather because I understand the pain and detriment I would have dealt another, had I chosen to act or behave in that manner, and my conscience tells me it is wrong. I act of my own free will, knowing well its limits and the laws that govern our existence. And as for my God, he sees all and takes me as I am; he will judge me based on my own life choices and not what some guys did several thousand years ago. This is what the three evangelists failed or just stubbornly refused to see and understand.
For some reason they kept dodging me when I asked what the fate of my Muslim friend would be on the Day of Judgment. It was an intense and entertaining twenty minutes for my friends and me. In the end however, I do not need, nor do I seek the approval of others in my deeds, because I believe we each have an intrinsic worth that makes us individually good enough for ourselves and for each other. Sadly though, I see most people around practicing their religions in anticipation of the afterlife, or to gain the acceptance of peers and society. I’ll just top it off with Joan Osborne’s song, One of Us. See y’all in Heaven.