So I told God... “Sha-la-ka-ta-bosi-tokasi-to-malaaaammaaatoma. Hallelujah!”

The Skinny | No 121 – River of Hot Lava

Gordon-John Manché
Gordon-John Manché

What are we skinning? The sudden re-appearance of the River of Love cult on the public stage.

Why are we skinning it? Because Pastor Gordon Manche’s American-style charismatic Christian sect is a ‘hard to look away from’ phenomenon most of the time anyway… but this time, the fallout of the shocking Sliema murder has been attributed to an alleged member of their flock (an association that Manche has vociferiously denied).

This all sounds rather sordid, and not the least bit befitting a light-hearted satirical back-and-forth between two metaphorical chums who love-hate each other. What can I say? This island isn’t always a paradise.

It is an offshore banking paradise, sometimes. Wrong satirical tack, sorry.

Dang. Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get a chance to return to the evergreen subject of Malta as a ‘tax flexible’ nation for rich foreigners soon enough. For now, I’m gonna have to pull you back to the cultist weirdos du jour (and many other ‘jours’ to come, I’m sure).

Okay so the murder suspect is said to have been present for at least SOME River of Love meetings. Yes, though it is highly likely that an association with River of Love (which, again, Manche and his lieutenants very much deny) is just one of the many factors that has led to this horrific event to unspool in the way it did.

So investigations are still ongoing and the suspect’s relationship to River of Love – and his earnest commitment to their overall cause – remains up in the air. Why is this subset of the murder narrative dominating the headlines? Because people want answers, and they want someone to blame.

But shouldn’t that be up to the courts to decide? Yes, but in the meantime, the conversation must be allowed to go on.

Do we really need to hear River of Love’s side of the conversation, though? If we are to gain any clarity in all of this, we surely need to extract as much information about the group as possible.

If they do indeed turn out to have been somehow instrumental in the whole thing… But even if they don’t, the River of Love phenomenon has been something of a thorn in Maltese society’s side – a representation of a freakish outgrowth of mainstream Christianity that has more in common with the kind of stuff we see coming out of the United States than the Maltese Catholic mainstream.

So you think the media attention they’re getting is genuinely helping the ‘healing’ process? I just think that keeping them clamped down underground will cause more harm than good.

But it’s not just the underground folk that have been attracting attention in the wake of the murder. Yes, the ever-controversial Fr David Muscat chimed in on the debate in the only way you’d expect him to…

Yes, homophobia is very much on brand for this guy. It did draw the ire of the Archbishop, along with a favourite of The Skinny – Jason Micallef…

An unlikely ally in the fight against religious extremists. These times are sent to try men’s souls.

Do say: “Religious freedom is sacrosanct (as ironic and potentially contradictory that statement may seem). But that doesn’t mean that any and all religious-leaning fringe groups should feel free to run amok in society. When extreme views are being bandied about – and a literal interpretation of the Bible certainly qualifies as such – full transparency is the very least Manche and his ilk should offer.”

Don’t say: “These guys know that there are no rivers in Malta, right?”