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Snakes on a plate

PROPHET MD BALOYI

THE IRREVERENT REVEREND


The Church has lately been in the news and social discourse for all the wrong reasons. The social media world has been abuzz the last few weeks because of some unconventional and disturbing displays of "God's power" or miracles. Our neighbours to the south have been properly alarmed and disturbed by the goings-on in a couple of Churches.

A phenomenon of clergy feeding their congregants anything and everything in the name of miracles, signs, and wonders has been gaining rapid momentum. Clothes, cloths, hair, lizards, snakes, and everything in-between has been eaten in the Name of Jesus! In fact, we are told that the lizards and snakes were a "mystery"; that by eating them, the faithful had in actual fact eaten Christ Himself!

The opinion hive has been on high gear and emotions have been running high from both those vehemently opposed to these displays and those who are rubbing their hands in glee and asking for more. Clearly, miracles have a market and throngs will descend anywhere the unusual occurs. But what is a miracle? The term “miracle” has lost much of its luster in our day.

 And it isn’t because we see miracles taking place so often that we no longer are sensitive to their meaning. It’s because our speech has evolved in such a way that today, if I got to work on time this morning, “It was a miracle that I made it, seeing that there was so much traffic on the freeway.”

A biblical model and definition, on the other hand, for a miracle is another thing altogether. Not everything hard to believe can be quantified as a miracle according to scriptural standards. Miracles are those acts that only God can perform; usually superceding natural laws. Baker’s Dictionary of the Bible defines a miracle as “an event in the external world brought about by the immediate agency or the simple volition of God.”

It goes on to add that a miracle occurs to show that the power behind it is not limited to the laws of time, matter or mind as it interrupts fixed natural laws. So the term "supernatural" applies quite accurately. It’s very interesting that a common word used for miracle in the New Testament can also be translated as “sign.”

In other words, a miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself; the same way we follow signs to find a museum or an airport. That being the case, we have to soberly and objectively ask ourselves if eating unconventional and disconcerting things really point people to God. Granted, there might be a "wow factor" to it, but if it's shrouded in disgust, people are more put off than drawn.

An interesting question may arise. Does something have to break a natural law for it to be a miracle? C.S. Lewis defines a “miracle” in his work by the same name as an interference with nature by a supernatural power. Obviously, to interfere with natural law may not necessarily mean to break the natural law. In fact, nature and “super nature” become interlocked after a miracle occurs and nature carries on according to the change wrought by that event.

A science example: the law of inertia (Newton’s first law of motion) states that an object will remain in rest until an external force is applied. Nature can only move from event to event through supernatural intervention. Deists believe that it was only at creation that the supernatural and the natural related. But we Christian theists believe that God has intervened in nature by its inception, sustained it by His preserving power, and will redeem it through the final act of intervention.

The creation and incarnation of Christ are the perfect examples of supernatural inertia (another way of referring to a miracle), not to mention their conclusion as well, in His second coming. God is still in the business of working miracles.

The miracles recorded in the Bible fall into several categories. The following examples are illustrative, though certainly not exhaustive: First, there are supernatural acts of creation. Certain creation activities were accomplished by the word of God (Hebrews 11:3); He merely spoke, and it was done (Psalm 33:9).

Obviously, this type of divine action is not being duplicated today since the creation process of the material universe was concluded at the end of the initial week of earth’s history (Genesis 2:1-2). Second, there were miracles which involved a temporary and localized suspension of laws regulating nature. Jesus calmed a ferocious storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:23-27), and, on another occasion, he walked upon the waters of the lake (John 6:16-21).

Third, there were signs which involved the healing of man’s physical body. The blind were made to see (John 9:1-7), and the lame to walk (Acts 3:1-10). Fourth, there were signs demonstrating divine power over death.

Lazarus, dead and buried for four days, was raised (John 11:43-44), and, of course, the resurrection of Christ is the very foundation of the Christian system (1 Corinthians 15:16-19). Fifth, some of the wonders of the New Testament age had to do with the expulsion of demons that had entered into human bodies (Matthew 12:22ff).

This was evidence of the fact that the Savior’s power was superior to that of Satan. Sixth, the exhibition of divine authority was seen in the manipulation of certain material things. Christ turned water into wine (John 2:1-11), and multiplied a lad’s loaves and fishes, so that thousands were fed (John 6:1-14).

Seventh, miraculous power was demonstrated in both the plant and animal kingdoms. Balaam’s donkey spoke with a man’s voice (Numbers 22:28), and the Lord Jesus, in an object lesson relative to the impending destruction of Jerusalem, destroyed a fig tree with but a word from his mouth (Matthew 21:19).

In this study, we will limit ourselves mostly to a consideration of miracles as purported to occur today, particularly ones to do with eating things. As I've already stated, the eating of non-food things has caught everyone's attention and made theologians out of atheists.

What strikes me is the preoccupation with eating and drinking. Nothing is off-limits. Not that it should, as I will further elaborate later. But why eating all the time? Eating this, eating that, drinking this, drinking that? Why is everything based on what can be eaten? Why is the "demonstration of power" centered almost exclusively on eating? It's either something nasty is being eaten or bodies are being trampled upon and stomped on!

These have become the most prominent occurrences – eating strange things and stomping on people! One could almost be tempted to conclude that the objective of all these is to humiliate and cheapen human life and dignity.

Again I ask, why eating all the time? Could it be that there is a deep rooted hunger for something? And why insist on eating contrary to the spirit of these words: Romans 14:14-17 I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.

Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Paul begins this passage by saying we are to accept those who are weak in faith; and the weaker in faith eat only vegetables while the stronger in faith may eat all things.

It's imperative that I state that, Biblically speaking, in the spirit of the New Testament, anything can be eaten. Yes, including snakes and lizards and fabrics. If it's a matter of disgust, we daily eat more disgusting things – from snails to frog legs to insects. Cooked of course. The difference is we don't eat these creatures in the name of demonstrating power. You can eat anything if you want to. But just because you can doesn't mean you should!

1 Corinthians 6:12-13 KJV [12] All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. [13] Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them… Colossians 2:16 KJV [16] Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink… 1 Timothy 4:3-5 KJV [3] …and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. [4] For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: [5] For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Last year, there was an uproar when a certain man of God made his congregants drink petrol. I happened to see the broadcast. The question arises: Did the petrol turn into a beverage or it merely tasted like it to the palates of the drinker? Secondly, could anyone, even unsaved visitors, drink the petrol and remain unharmed, or you needed special faith to drink it?

Personally, I think anybody should be able to drink it without needing faith. Why do I say this? Well, simply because proponents of the petrol-to-pineapple juice miracle and the other instances of eating, almost always use Jesus' water-to-wine miracle as a precedent or point of reference.

Since that is the case, we then have to ask ourselves: Did the water turn into wine or it merely tasted like wine? Following up on that, could anyone drink that water/wine without needing to believe? My answer to the latter is, yes. Anybody who was at that wedding in Cana could drink that wine without it tasting like water for it was not water tasting like wine to those who believed or were "under the control of the Holy Spirit."

They didn't need faith for it to taste like wine since it had become wine. Therefore, if the petrol miracle is of the same vein, anybody at that service should have been able to drink the petrol without needing faith and without fear of harm since it would have ceased to be petrol. So then, we see an immediate difference between what is happening today and what took place in the Bible.

Of course, it's no less of a miracle if grass were to taste like macaroni and cheese. The problem with that scenario is that the miracle is only apparent to those brave enough to eat! To others of "less faith," it still looked like grass.

The miracle therefore could only be confirmed by the eaters. Unfortunately, that becomes subjective. A miracle should not be subjective. In fact, a miracle should not even be defended. A miracle, in the Bible sense, was apparent to all. It spoke for itself without needing apologetics.

Jesus often wrought His miracles in hostile territory amongst hostile crowds. They all, even His detractors and naysayers, could confirm that indeed a miracle had occurred. In our present considerations, we cannot confirm the veracity of the miracle but must depend on those who ate and drank.

As I stated, it is no less of a miracle for a snake to taste like a chocolate slab of Chomp. If the snake did taste like chocolate, then assuredly a supernatural feat had occurred.

However, skeptics here have a field day. The main argument becomes that the prophet used the power of suggestion to "ready" the snake eaters' palates to expect a chocolate taste. As such, they argue, it was more the power of suggestion than miracle. Without siding with them, I must concede that the argument is a valid one.

Bible miracles go beyond mere taste. The snake must become, not merely taste like, chocolate. What has repulsed both the Church and the world was that the snake was still a snake. Had it become a slab of chocolate, the debate would have been of a different kind. We must also interrogate and appreciate the purpose of miracles.

Miracles, in the Bible, were always demonstrated to meet a need. None of the Bible miracles was used just to excite the masses. Moses' rod became a snake for a purpose. The Red Sea was parted for a purpose. Balaam's donkey spoke for a purpose.

The widow woman's oil kept flowing for a purpose. Water was turned into wine for a purpose. None of the miracles were performed for the sake of "demonstrating power." Right at the start of His ministry, Satan tempted Jesus to "demonstrate power" by turning stones into bread.

Jesus refused. I fear modern prophets would have immediately turned those stones into doughnuts! Later on, the Pharisees asked Him for a sign so that they could believe (Matthew 12:38-39). Again, Jesus refused to play along. The power of God is not to be used to entertain.

The power of God must set the captives free and advance the kingdom of God. It's also important to underscore that miracles should not dehumanize and humiliate the beneficiaries or repulse the spectators. Miracles must bless both the recipients and those watching.

It would perhaps be understandable if the people eating reptiles and rodents were hungry. In that case, then perhaps God could use what is readily accessible to meet their need, whether it be a snake or a lizard. But that's not the case.

They eat because they can! On the weight of the above, what need is met by eating fabrics and reptiles?

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Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

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Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

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Opinions

Our Strength is our Unity

18th March 2022
Craig-Cloud

Putin Chose War.  We Remain United with Ukraine.

U.S. Ambassador Craig L. Cloud

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world.  By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy.  But the people of Ukraine are resilient.

They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world.  The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.  By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.

When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.

United in Our Response

This will not end well for Vladimir Putin.  Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable.  As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.

President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology.  After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.

Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.

By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime.  In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.

We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military.  We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy.  And we are prepared to do more.

In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.

We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies.  President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.

He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks:  Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.  Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense.  There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world:  NATO is more united than ever.

The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies.  We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.

Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War

This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time.  He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border.  He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.

He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.

Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do.  We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas.  We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine.  We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.

Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there.  We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.

And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law.  Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine.  Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.

We have been transparent with the world.  We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up.  Putin is the aggressor.  Putin chose this war.  And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.

Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever

Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed.  In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity.  We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.

Putin has failed to divide us.  Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies.  And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.

The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine.  Putin has unleashed great suffering on them.  But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.

The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.

Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically.  The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.

Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression.  In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake:  Freedom will prevail.

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