IN JUNE, when Nelson Mandela was admitted to hospital with a lung infection, one South African bishop was grilled over a prayer service held for the ailing ex-president, and the man who consigned apartheid to history.
Bishop Manas Kabelo, from the Life Changers Church in Rustenburg, was questioned about Mandela’s own faith and whether or not he would approve of a prayer service being held in his name.
Although it was widely understood that Mandela was an atheist, Kabelo said he did not know about Mandela’s personal religious beliefs.
I don’t know about that. But we would have held our prayer service regardless of whether or not Mandela is a Christian.
Bishop Abraham Sibiya, from the Christ Centred Church, also conducted a prayer service for Mandela outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria.
We pray that all who those love and cherish Dr Nelson Mandela will have renewed faith and hope. The entire country is praying as one.
Two years earlier, South African atheist Philip Copeman, wrote a 93rd birthday message to Mandela. Referring to this towering world statesman as “Madiba” (his clan name), Copeman urged Mandela to publicly declare his atheism.
Madiba, you have done so much in your life for me and for so many people, can you now do something for yourself. Make a clear statement to all of your followers. Tell them, ‘Jesus had nothing to do with it’.
He said that younger people may find the tone of his birthday greeting melancholy and dark:
But an acceptance of the inevitability of life’s termination is not usually uncomfortable for older people, especially those with a leaning to atheism.
And he added:
Your soul is not even a few feet above our heads and already the theist vultures have started to circle. You will notice in the media and in the Web that reference to you is caged in ever increasing terms of reverence, bordering on sanctification. This is typical of theistic culture, where popular belief pervades that nothing good in the world can happen without the sanction of a higher power. Good is solely attributed to the will of the Lord. You are already described by some as a saint.
Madiba, you are much more than a saint. A saint is a comic book character that rules over a fantasy world where good triumphs in the spirit of Revelation and evil rides the world in broad daylight on the back of giant black bats. As a saint, the legacy of Mandela will rank right up there with Harry Potter, Batman and King Arthur.
You are a politician who has risen to global popularity. You have always been good at doing popular things and you have used this popularity to do good in the world. However you are not a politician anymore and you don’t have to be popular. Do something that will make you less popular, but will do much good in the world. Tell them, ‘Jesus had nothing to do with it’.
And he warned:
Unless you give crystal clarity … you can be sure that your deeds and your actions will be perverted for the greater purpose of glorifying the lord.
By Africa’s favorite son making one small, but clear statement, you will give light and hope to generations of Africans who can take inspiration from you that there is meaning and purpose in a godless world.
Africans can rise knowing that even in the moments of darkest despair and adversity there is no need to turn to fairies to find the strength to stand firm. A simple statement from you can make us all believe that a good life of compassion to your fellow man, forgiveness even in the face of massive aggression, is possible without divine assistance.
Most importantly the children of Ham will be able to rise up and cast aside the label of water carriers that is placed on us by the Bible. With one statement you can help break the last chain of colonialism that still holds us in slavery.
Madiba tell them, ‘Jesus had nothing to do with it’
On a lighter note, The Onion carried a satirical piece in June under the headline Nelson Mandela Admits Thoughts, Prayers Of Millions Played No Part In Recovery. ‘My Doctors Treated Me,’ Explains South African Icon.
Addressing supporters Monday from the hospital bed where he is being treated for a recurring lung infection, former South African president Nelson Mandela admitted that the millions of thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes he has received have played absolutely no role in his improving health, and that his recovery has been 100 percent dependent on doctors.
‘In these past days of struggle, I have seen messages of hope and love from citizens around the world, which, while nice, weren’t going to help remove the excess fluid from my lungs. Doctors do that, Mandela told reporters. ‘The capacity of gentle souls to unite their voices in a message of peace and strength is certainly the greatest gift of mankind – I’m not denying any of that.
‘But when you’re a 94-year-old man with a horrible lung infection, you need trained medical professionals. That’s really most important. All that prayer stuff is, frankly, pretty useless.’
Mandela said that while his doctors were compassionate and thoughtful human beings of unflinching character, that’s not going to do anyone any good if they ‘don’t give me some codeine’.