The thing that is wrong with Government regulation of religion is precisely what the Chairperson of the CRL Commission, Mrs Thoko Mkhwanazi -Xaluva, contends, ie that God does not speak to people. This display of ignorance about historic Christianity is what frightens many Christians about any suggestion of Government regulation. The fear is that government will not know where to stop once it curtails the powers of the citizens. Judicial overreach is a present and imminent danger.
So as the Timothy Otomoso case drags on and damning evidence piles up against him, the hope is that in the end, armed with a guilty verdict, and on the strength of existing laws, the court will be able to deal adequately with the matter. The downside is of course that the wheels of justice grind agonisingly slow for victims of rogue clerics like Otomoso. These victims are often poor, black, vulnerable and female. It would be of some comfort if Otomoso was alone in the vast landscape of independent churches headed up by an unaccountable “strong man” figure in South Africa. The facts on the ground are that there a multiplied thousands, some more brazen and conscienceless than others.
The sooner Churches find a way to effectively self regulate, the better it will be for everyone. Christian disunity though, which is something Jesus detests, stands in the way of finding effective solutions. A divided Church will find it difficult to set aside their difference for the sake of an effective defense of the poor. Nor is this surprising. Throughout history, and with few exceptions, the Church has often found itself on the side of privilege, power and wealth. Thus accustomed to the comforts of privilege, the tendency has often been to frame for itself a theology of self preservation rather than incarnation. It is not very difficult to see how the poor may not matter very much, if the choice to be made is between them privilege.
Let us pray for current efforts between TEASA, SACC and others to find workable solutions.