I express my disgust at prayers for Mandela’s life

Time to let go.

I find it hard to contain my disgust at the response in South Africa and abroad to Nelson Mandela’s hospitalisation for what is quite clearly a terminal illness.

It has been nothing short of ghoulish.

Mandela is 94. Given what he has experienced in that long life, it is perhaps surprising that he has survived to such a ripe old age.

Now it is time to let him go.

But ‘letting him go’ has not been an acceptable option for the country’s politicians, its churches and many of its citizens. The nation is encouraged to ‘pray for Madiba’ – not for a peaceful end to his suffering, but for the extension of that suffering or, at best, his survival in what may be little more than a zombie-like state. What masquerades as loving concern is in fact the ultimate selfishness.

I’m an atheist, so I see prayer as having no function other perhaps than to comfort the supplicant. But my objection to the prayers for Mandela springs not from my unbelief, but from the very notion of asking God to prolong the life of a terminally ill 94-year-old man. Because the inevitable corollary of that  prayer being answered is that it will  be repeated again and again, on each and every future occasion that Mandela is taken ill. In essence only eternal life for their hero can satisfy Madiba’s followers.

What South Africa and the world needs to do is to mourn Mandela’s death when it occurs and, when the mourning time is over, celebrate the life he lived. Instead, we crowd like vultures around the hospital bed of a dying man, some savouring titbits of hope, others in the expectation of gathering the first morsels of publicity that will increase their journalistic reputations.

As I say, I find it hard to contain my disgust.

Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards has retired from posting blogs at Brian Edwards Media

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