Many have noted with horror a series of reports of pastors accused of all kinds of outlandish acts. So why do people still lap up their sermons? SA is a deeply religious nation, says Dion Forster, head of department and director of the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University. The reasons are steeped in inequality, colonialism and apartheid, and he says there’s been a steady rise in religious, particularly Christian, affiliation. People turn to religion to make sense of the past and the present, when unemployment is high and growth prospects dim. "The state hasn’t been able to fulfil what people expected in terms of security and a better life, so they are turning elsewhere — to religious leaders and religious communities [for] that kind of security," says Forster. "The historical or mainstream churches haven’t really kept pace with how to help people to live better lives." They run congregations but do the things they did in the 1800s and 1900s, such as bui...

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