It is dynamic and changes over time as a consequence both of endogamous factors but also due to exogenous influences. Thus we should approach the discourse on culture with great circumspection.
The notion of a simplistic and mutually exclusive, if static, culture between us and others (mostly European, in our case) is plainly banal and, therefore, unhelpful. We say this and more as our attention has been drawn to a looming showdown between the men of cloth in the blue corner and the mob of “die mannetjie” in the red corner.
All this excitement and stockpiling of pangas and provisions for a drawn-out war have been caused by olufuko. The protagonists are marching from different terrains and the exchanges so far have the ring of unnecessary ultimatums and chutzpah.
Our counsel is, boys, take a deep breath and relax. It is not Armageddon yet and we can actually talk the issues through. Trust us.
The question is, whether culture and religion are mutually exclusive? Should one take precedence over the other? And if so, why?
In widely bandied about statistic, more than 90 per cent of Namibians swear by the Christian faith. We assume the enumerators who took this tally were credible and reliable, unlike the lot from Electoral Commission of Namibia who produce, without fail, turnouts of 160 per cent and more in constituencies north of the omahangu curtain.
Some fear that the recent visit by King Mswati III of Swaziland was a decoy for plunging back into our primitive past. But the representative of the President in Omusati, governor Sophia Shaningwa, has raised Article 19 of the Constitution as her shield for the planned Olufuko fete galante at Outapi.
She assures that there will be no fumbling and touching. It will all be only looking and that all this is in exercise of and consistent with the Article cited above. It will be good for tourism, she reasons.
The church on the other hand, ELCIN to be specific, believes there should be no return to these practices after they have laboured for a century and more to educate the communities in the ways of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Their pleas have, however, been drowned out by shouts of they being lackeys in the service of imperialism. Some raise concerns where this new enterprise we embark upon will take us. They ask, for example, whether we are about to return to the days of polygamy or epasha soon?
Culture, which includes, religion reflects the society and the economic structure and morality of the day. Not long ago religion justified slavery and exploitation and fought bloody wars for converts. Some who are not as benign as us would argue that this still remains the case.
Under these circumstances, for example, slavery would be considered legitimate both morally and legally. Before Christianity’s notion of monogamous marriages polygamy would morally be perfectly acceptable.
In essence then, for believers it is their faith which will serve as their compass and moral code. The ways of life of the others will be defined by their Weltanschauung and consequent moral code. The letter and spirit of our Constitution is that there is place under the sun for all. If that be the case the church must be at liberty to transact its business of seeking converts and saving souls. And the representatives of the temporal powers should not seek to white knuckle the flock of the good men and women of the cloth.
The beauty of this entire fracas, however, is that the church seems to have found its voice again. This is to be applauded because their silence on the big issues of the day was deafening. They should not allow themselves to be cowed by politicians, whatever their station in this life of ours and make their views heard for better or worse on the faith of the people of God. So welcome back. Stay the course.