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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Must every Christian be baptised?

It is Biblically clear that baptism is a rite of purification that Jesus desires for all, but should it matter how and when it is done? Dennis D. Muhumuza writes 

In the early days, a cry of desperation rang through the wilderness and reverberated throughout Judea: “Turn away from your sins and be baptized!” Judeans and the inhabitants of Jerusalem attended to the cry of John the Baptist and were baptized in the Jordan River by him, confessing their sins (Mark 1:3-5).

a pastor prays for a convert before baptising her by immersion
It would be a point of no return! The converts as with the way John challenged the Pharisees and the Sadducees had to live in consonance with their repentance. He then assured them that One mightier was coming to baptize them with “the Holy Spirit and with fire!” (Mathew 3:11) 

Something extraordinary happened shortly after when Jesus Himself arrived from Galilee, and got baptized in the Jordan as well. It was the perfect endorsement of baptism as something sanctified by Heaven and pleasing to God (Mathew 3: 13, 16-17)

Over 2000 years today, baptism remains a sacred rite in the Church but the different Christian denominations have failed to agree on proper procedure. Mainstream churches baptize infants by sprinkling of water on the brow. This ritual, according to Encarta Encyclopedia, was introduced by Saint Augustine in late 4th and 5th centuries, his argument being that people are born with an affinity for sin and, as descendants of Adam and Eve, share in the guilt of original sin. Sprinkling the child’s head with water, he emphasized, would cleanse its soul and prepare it for a life in Christ.

baptism by immersion
But Pentecostals and Baptists insist on baptism by total immersion, and reject the baptism of infants, saying the act should be carried out when an individual is mature enough to comprehend the finished work of Christ and make a commitment to God.  

More controversial is the view that baptism should not be a one-time thing. In The Power of God in the Two Sacraments (Baptism and Communion), the author argues that since baptism represents the washing away of sins, it should be an everyday experience seeing we sin daily. 

“Many, many mornings when I get in the shower, I thank Abba Father that the water is washing my sin, failure, fear, guilt, and everything else negative from me.” she writes. “I get out of the shower 'baptised' in His love, grace, peace, joy, etc…” 

But Pastor of Bashan Zziwa of Makerere Full Gospel Church confutes this by quoting Jeremiah 2: 22: “For though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, yet your iniquity and guilt are still [upon you; you are] spotted, dirty, and stained before Me, says the Lord” (Amplified Bible). 

It implies no amount of washing and scrubbing can expunge man’s impurities except through the blood and name of Jesus. As Ananias tells Paul: “…arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)

Pr. Zziwa faults mainstream churches for ignoring the clarity of Jesus’ demonstration of how baptism is done. “If Jesus Christ is our master, we should emulate His example of baptism by immersion,” he says. “There’s no excuse as technology has made it possible to have baptismal pools even at the alters as we do have at Full Gospel Church.”

Once, Peter and the apostles preached to multitudes who got convicted of their sins and asked, what shall we do? Whereupon they were told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins, and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 37-38).

“This makes baptism is a conscious act that comes after confession, signifying the turning away from sin to live a transformed life by following Jesus Christ,” says Pr. Ziwa. “Since infants are unconscious of their sins, they should not be baptized, however they should be dedicated to Jesus by letting a minister pray to God’s blessing on these young lives as Jesus did in Mark 10: 16.”

Anita Asiedu of Promise Church of Christ, in Accra, Ghana is an example of one who got dedicated to the Lord as a baby.

“The pastor prayed for me and it was after I turned 18 that I finally got baptized by submersion,” she emailed Sunday Life. “I was supposed to be baptized at 16 because I knew everything by then. But I fell in love and started living in filth. Later I gave up the world for the work of God, and put my old self to death in baptism. The devil would be very happy if you would stay the whole of your life in church without what God wants you to do to attain total liberty. That’s why adults should actually put pressure on their pastors to baptize them.”

Rev. Canon Dr. Johnson Ebong, Chaplain St. Francis Chapel Makerere, says the baptism of infants by sprinkling and the baptism of adults by immersion are all right, water being the indispensable ingredient. 

He’s backed by Fr. Lawrence Kanyike, Chaplain of St. Augustine Chapel who says: “How baptism is done does not matter; it’s either by pouring [of water on the forehead] or by immersion, but the essential thing must be water.”

It’s the church’s responsibility, he adds, to welcome parents who feel the obligation to share their faith with their offspring through baptism. The baptized infants are after they have become adults then fully initiated into the community of believers through the sacrament of confirmation. The priest lays hands on them, anointing them with consecrated oil. This nullifies the need for a second baptism popularized by Pentecostal churches to those who become born-again.   

Some rush to baptize their children fearing that dying unbaptized would send their souls into what the Catholic Church calls “Limbo” –where they won’t suffer the torment of hell but are denied the everlasting bliss of Heaven. To this, Fr. Kanyike says: “What happens after death is not for us to judge.”

It is Biblically clear, overall, that baptism is a rite of purification that Jesus desires for all: “He that believeth and is baptized shall have saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

--Sunday Monitor (Sunday Life Magazine, page 4-5), March 20, 2011 

A penetrative look at the cultural aspect of circumcision

Title: Upon this Mountain
Author: Prof. Timothy Wangusa
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza

I once asked a Makerere University literature lecturer what to him is the greatest Ugandan novel. His answer was instant and emphatic: Upon this Mountain! I bought the book that afternoon! 

Prof. Timothy Wangusa’s first novel is set around Mt Elgon; indeed the front cover sketch of a small boy staring ahead at this protruding mountain should prepare you for the mountainous challenges and other affronts that the central figure Mwambu, must confront during his metamorphosis from childhood to adulthood, or rather from boyhood to manhood. And we are not talking about any ordinary transformation here. You see, Mwambu’s apprehension about circumcision –the important ritual around which the novel revolves –is felt early in the novel. The tension’s so tangible it sears the reader to carry on; turning page after page, to discover how Mwambu will face the crude knife if at all he does!

Mwambu’s fascination with the “exalted, everlasting mountain,” is so stirring that to reach its peak; to touch heaven, becomes his overriding aspiration. It’s evidently symbolic; he must conquer all the small mountains of life to reach the top of the world! 

Mwambi’s real life journey begins when he’s forcefully stopped from sucking his mother’s breast. Soon after his father Masaaba, leads the keen boy so school. Oh how sad he feels to be told the school’s not on the top of the mountain, “where the earth touched heaven and where the world ended!”

All the way, Mwambu exasperates his father with curious questions, and at school is quickly noted for his brilliance, his religious devotion and his close relationship with a beautiful girl called Nambozo.

The 119-page novel engenders a healthy debate on many cultural aspects. Should one be dismissed as a chicken-hearted, half-man for refusing to bow down to cultural dictates, or should he be admired for a taking a stand and embracing modern science rather than end up like the cowardly Wabwire who has to endure the shame of wearing a skirt like a woman the rest of his life?

This 1989 novel crackles with special beauty and humour; thanks to the poetic inclination of its author, which he combines distinctively with African folklore, songs and chants, proverbs and Biblical allusions to explore traditional marriage, superstition, religious hypocrisy, clash of cultures, and promiscuity among other issues.  

Prof. Wangusa’s description and depiction of the ritual of circumcision; the preparation of the candidates and the antecedent excitement is dramatically unforgettable. 

Setting the novel around the mountain, and using other symbolic physical features and items gives it an enviable local flavour that any African reader will gladly identify with. The knife is for example a metaphor of the whole cultural practice of circumcision by which a boy becomes a man among the Bamasaba.  

After I had read, I called the literature lecturer up, to concur. It’s not in vain that Upon this Mountain is on the O-Level literature syllabus. It’s the best Ugandan novel I’ve read so far!   

--Sunday Monitor (Sunday Life magazine, pg. 16), March 20, 2011

The loves and frustrations of ordinary working-class life

Title: Sons and Lovers
Author: D. H. Lawrence
Reviewer: Dennis D. Muhumuza 
 After hearing endless plaudits about Sons and Lovers (1913), I exploited the recent election madness in Kampala and stayed indoors reading the book. By midway, I was getting a little disappointed that it was not holding me as magically as expected. 

   And that’s not to mean the book’s boring really. Far be it from me to impugn the skillfulness of D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), who some critics have called the greatest English writer. But I feel this book’s weakened by the rootlessness of its plot. 

    I couldn’t figure out who drives the book. Is it Walter Morel, the hardworking coal miner who puts in the best he can for his family but is least appreciated? Is it his resolute little wife, Gertrude that’s as difficult to please? Is it their excessively handsome first son, William, whose early promise is obstructed by his dull-witted girlfriend before death finally snuffs out his young life? Is it their sensitive last son, Paul, struggling to divide his love between three women: the intricate Miriam Leivers, the busty Clara Dawes and his jealous mother? 

Everyone in the Walter Morel household, around which the 474-page volume revolves, is a protagonist and antagonist in one way or the other. Therein is the uniqueness of this sensual novel. To be admired also is the lucidity and sincerity with which Lawrence captures the loves and frustrations of ordinary working-class life, giving us new perspective into human behaviour.

Love’s gone out of the Morel homestead except for that of a mother for her children. Basically life offers little fulfilment, and some resentment sneaks on in the hearts of the children who find their father irritable. He seeks solace in work and the bottle while Gertrude escapes from the claustrophobic home by talking to Paul, who in turn finds release in painting. To William, it's dances and women while Arthur lives recklessly, eventually joining the army.

Throughout, the restlessness and listlessness of the main characters heightens the tension, bespeaking of the complex relationships among the sexes. After the death of his mother, Paul finally, determinedly, extricates himself from his attachment to Miriam, and quickly walks “towards the city’s gold phosphorescence,” symbolic of a new life ahead; a life devoid of the mistakes and failures of his parents.  

Sons and Lovers was turned into film in 1960, which I must watch to fully appreciate the merits of Lawrence’s first major novel. 

--Sunday Monitor, March 13, 2011

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Memoirs of an exciting road trip to Dar es Salaam

It was a journey of laughter and discovery as we shared anecdotes and funny tidbits that more than compensated for the weariness expected of a whopping 1800km, writes Dennis D. Muhumuza. 

We boarded the red Nissan Kampala Coach at Nakumatt and set off at 7a.m for the two-day road voyage using the Masaka-Mutukula-Bukoba-Biharamulo-Kahama-Singida-Dodoma-Morogoro route, what’s called the “Central Corridor.”
The Benjamin William Mkapa pension towers in Dar

Dar es Salaam was the destination.

As seeing is believing, the business magnets from Uganda, particularly importers, had been invited by the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) to inspect this route and see for ourselves that it was the safest and most viable for the transit of their cargo from the Port of Dar to Kampala.

It’s because of their financial and business standing that they were escorted all the way by a Toyota truck-full of security personnel from the Tanzania Police Force, with the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police, Mr Nsato Marijani, in the bus with us.

After about 100km, we arrived at the Mutukula boarder post, where it took us only about 10 minutes to get cleared by the immigration officials. The bus was filled with a sense of euphoria the moment we reached Bukoba, stepping on Tanzanian soil at exactly 11: 35a.m.

We made a stop at ELCT Bukoba Hotel, just about 1km from Bukoba Port, where in tranquil ambiance under the beautiful trees outside, we had a finger-licking lunch, the cool breeze fanning our faces while we enjoyed a spectacular view of Lake Victoria yonder.

It’s here that Super FM, the only Ugandan radio station I could still get on my phone radio, suddenly switched to Swahili and started playing Congolese music pakalast! I lost my Orange network too and laughed at the smartness and fastness of the Vodacom “hackers”, who sent me a text message wishing me a pleasant stay in Tanzania!

Bukoba is dotted with huts of fascinating “architectural” design, with their calabash-like appearance, some crouching on the ground like a mother hen shielding its little ones from birds of prey. The Coca Cola bottles there are industrially gifted with slender necks, gracefully longer than a giraffe’s, metaphorically speaking!

Anyhow, we soon hit the road again, determined to sleep in Singida by Lake Kindai, but the journey was longer than expected, so we slept in Kahama, the effervescent mine town notorious for debauchery, hard liquor and awfully beautiful women.

At Miami Beach Hotel, I fell for a stunner after she shot me a killer smile, but miserably failed to enchant her, thanks to my faltering Swahili and her nil comprehension of the Queen’s language. So I plugged my earphones in the right places and consoled myself by listening to holy hip-hop from my home boys Renee Emcee and No Hell of the Levite Clan.

Most of the road to Dar is in this excellent shape
The meals here were specially revitalising and with darkness closing in on us, we embarked on our journey again. Enticed by the perfect condition of the road (Eng. John Nasasira should see it), the driver brought his foot hard on the accelerator and soon we were flying past Dodoma, all the while the tyres of the bus wailing exhilaratingly on the hard tarmac. I closed my eyes and made peace with God, just in case!

Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania and Dar remains the business city. Along the way, we counted about 13 weighbridges, where containers of cargo are weighed to ensure they meet freight standards and don’t choke the road with their heaviness.

As we drew closer to Dar, the business moguls among us, who are accustomed to covering such long distances by air, were rather than gripe over their weariness, actually excited at having been part of this first-time adventure - a two-day on-the-road trip across the vast country. They had seen for themselves and agreed with TPA officials that “Uganda was no longer a land-locked country but land-linked!”

Close to midnight, we cruised into the soothingly glowing Dar es Salaam city, stopping outside the towering Paradise City Hotel that would be our home for the next two days. We were completely spent but at the same time overtly glad we had safely made it into “the haven of peace!”

--Sunday Monitor, March 20, 2011