Monday, August 16, 2010

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

How many lives do we live?  How many times do we die? – Sean Penn in 21 Grams

Right now on the evening news there’s a report about a woman, Nadia Chetty who, a year after her husband’s death while holidaying in Port Elizabeth, refuses to bury him.The husband’s embalmed body has been in stasis at a West Rand morgue for months because the woman believes her husband will rise from the dead.  There is short statement by a pastor who claims not to be behind this lunacy, but follows this up quoting a verse which encourages believers to cast out devils and raise the dead.   

Logos Bible Church pastor Shandrey Thumbran said Nadia and Gonasilan had been good friends with him and his wife Reyahana. Thumbran denied influencing Nadia not to bury her husband, saying her actions had come directly from her faith in God's Word that "He will bring her husband back to life".

Thumbran [his name brings to mind 'thumbsuck'] endorses this woman’s behaviour as having a biblical basis, which clearly has had a profound influence on her deep desire for wish fulfillment.


Let's face it, people have been brought back to life who have died.  After 5 minutes, a still warm body can literally be shocked back into operation, a lot like a car with a dead battery.  As long as all the parts are there, and the engine is still well oiled and warm.  Or not.  If they've fallen down a crevasse and frozen for a few hours, or gone into hibernation.  Hmmm...Chetty may have a case after all.  Perhaps there are cavemen walking around at the rate glacier tombs are melting.  But before we reach for our bibles Mrs Chetty might want to try a new line of thought.  Just for fun. 

Funeral Director

If we fire up our imaginations and lift the sheet over that more-than-a-year-old-corpse we’re likely to find her husband with his entire digestive system removed, along with the heart, and other organs. I'm not sure if the brain is removed during the embalming process - but the point is jump starting a body as long dead as this one is is like trying to jump start a car without a battery or engine.  Good luck.  In addition, there is no longer any blood in the body.  Perhaps the idea is that the miracle will be all the greater after the sands of time have withered the shell that was once a man’s body into…well, not much.  How long will this woman continue to hope that her husband will miraculously spring to life?  And when she relents to have him buried, how will she explain her lack of faith to her fellow believers, or her stupidity to the rest?

True Story

Once upon a time, when I was a Christian, our church Pastor died.  The circumstances were not mysterious.  In fact the congregation and family members and friends slowly saw the man – his name was Brian Winkler – deteriorate and finally breathe his last breath.  He suffered, to be sure.  What had happened was he [a South African] went to neighboring Mozambique on a mission to evangelize and scoffed at warnings to take anti-malarials saying, “I’ve lived my whole life without taking a pill, I’m not going to start now.”  He returned,  with malaria and stubbornly remained anti-treatment.  I remember cycling home one afternoon a few weeks after his return from Moz [a name that sounds like a place filled with malaria infested mosquitoes] and saw a number of ambulances and a small crowd milling around the Winkler home. Hours later I heard that yes, he had died. 

A casual reader may scoff at the stupidity of this, but consider the resolve of someone in the situation, health deteriorating, life trickling away…and not giving in at any moment.  That's pretty rock solid faith. Imagine the support and prayers from family, and the pastor allowing himself to weaken and die nevertheless.  I later heard that the entire congregation would be gathering around his body, praying for a Chetty-style miracle over the following 3 days.

When I was asked to join in this circus – in those days I was a sincere, born again Christian – common sense somehow intervened.  Some said that once the pastor was resurrected, my lack of faith would be noted, and I could be kicked out of the church.  I said I was prepared to take that risk.  I believe there was much hysterical praying and three days later, the pastor remained dead, and everyone went home.  The church was never quite the same after that.

I am writing this account as a cautionary tale for well-meaning youngsters and widows and other people with their lives still ahead of them, that may  be attracted to Christianity as I once was.  Hopelessly caught up in a good, but ultimately, counterfeit cause.  Your most potent weapon against being a schmuck is just this: critical thinking.  

+ Extract from a piece of non-fiction I'm presently busy with, working title THE CHRISTIANITY CON.

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