Pastor Alph Lukau's Alleluia Ministries. File picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency(ANA)
There's been gnashing of teeth and rending of hair aplenty this week by people who really should know better. 

The person at the centre of it all is the latest in a long line of charlatan South African pastors, Alph Lukau. His crime: He raised a person from the dead at his service last Sunday.

If you haven’t watched the clip, do yourself a favour; it truly is the gift that keeps on giving - especially the bit where our modern-day Lazarus sits down to eat the food afterwards that had been set out for the people who had gathered ostensibly to mourn him.

In typical South African style, it has spawned a mini pop-up industry of parody videos and memes and has been a godsend, pun intended, for cartoonists. But should someone like this be regulated? Should they be punished? The Mother Grundies, most of them from organised, and very lucrative Christian denominations, think so.

I’m not so sure. This is religion, after all. There’s an old chestnut that says if a person believes in another being who exists only in their imagination, they’re mad. If a lot of people have the same belief, though, it’s a religion.

Our Constitution protects the rights of all of us to believe or not to believe, as we see fit. Depending on how you read the Good Book, we could still be offering up live sacrifices, we could be praying to be healed, forswearing traditional medical interventions like blood transfusions, and/or we could be worshipping ancestors and intercessionaries like saints rather than the Holy Trinity itself.

Some of this is dogma, some of it is anathema - it really just depends on your belief, and your point of view. We can’t punish people for interpreting things differently - especially when it does not harm themselves, their followers or third parties.

We should, however, ruthlessly punish the alleged Ponzi scheme pastors, like Enlightened Christian Gathering church’s Shepherd Bushiri, aka Major 1 Bushiri who apparently brazenly defraud their followers out of their pensions. 

We should have no mercy for people like Pastor Lethebo Rabalago who commit grievous bodily harm by administering pesticide to their parishioners as holy sacrament or Pastor Penuel Mnguni who would feed his followers snakes. 

As for alleged serial sex pest Timothy Omotoso, up on charges of rape, sexual assault and racketeering; he might deserve a special hell on Earth.

Licensing pastors is no guarantee against them misbehaving; it only attempts to keep them in ecclesiastical check. As @fakedansavage noted this week following the conviction of Cardinal George Pell in Australia after a protracted battle to bring him to justice: “If kids got raped by clowns as often as they get raped by priests, it would be illegal to take your kids to the circus.” What of the so-called Christian churches that supported apartheid, segregating their congregations?

And if they are to be regulated, who will stand in judgment? Who will cast the first stone? There’s a challenge. In the meantime, does anyone know what happened to “Brighton”, our modern-day Lazarus? Apparently, he never went back to work this week.

* Ritchie is a media consultant. He is a former journalist and newspaper editor

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Saturday Star