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Religious theatrics undermining the church’s influence on national governance
19/02/2017 00:00:00
by Learnmore Zuze
 
 
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THE Pentecostal and prophetic movement undeniably remains the most talked-about faith in Zimbabwe today which, nonetheless, has poignantly weakened the church’s standing on issues of national governance, depleting the ecclesiastical of its general societal influence.

By the term ‘church,’ in this installment, I  refer both to formal denominations and to the ecumenical movement representing these different denominations for, the main stream church has become the innocent casualty in a crooked game being played by a selfish few.

Since time immemorial, one of the important gears of development in any society has been the building of a robust, people-centered democracy. And, as well, a culture of participation by the church in the processes of building accountable democracy.

It has always been the natural principle that the church supports those government initiatives that promote justice, peace and democracy while continuing to protest against unjust policies.

The church alongside civil society has been known to protect the interests of the poor and minority groups. The voice of the church has been a salient feature advocating for the upholding of human rights among other civil things.

However, through the conduct of some of the popular movements today also classified as the church, the ecumenical church has become a distant voice on national governance, losing credibility at an alarming rate.

It is sad that the supremely popular movement, the prophetic movement, despite its massive sway, has actually emasculated the church’s role on issues of national governance. Capitalising on its huge popularity, the prophetic movement, could, by now, have had a profound influence on national governance if it had a good name.

However, its greatest undoing is its comical tag. Many of us will recall that high school character, and almost every class or stream had its own. That student who, when they stand before the class, even before uttering a word, would have the entire class crawling with laughter. I am talking of that rib-tickling character who would pull pranks on the teacher, nickname the headmaster and engage in all sorts of mischief in school. Personally I recall one such character who I am sure, with enough support would have made it in standup comedy.



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While such characters always brought lighter moments, there is one strikingly notable yet unfortunate thing about them: these characters become difficult to believe in the long run. They become difficult to take seriously even if they be right. They lose integrity, so to speak. I remember the entire class receiving lashes from a livid headmaster for disregarding a call for an urgent assembly. The ‘comedian had been sent with the word but the class had remained buried in their books. Everybody would just look at him with a bothered get-away look and fall back on their studies. It was not until a couple of minutes later that the school head himself showed up seething with anger. This, precisely, is the trouble with people who make a name for being outlandish and creepy.

Religious theatrics
While there are many places across the world where the church has fortified its role of peace-building, the situation obtaining in Zimbabwe is quite odd. The religious leader can’t even be taken seriously by any right-thinking person. In fact, if one wants to appreciate this truth nakedly they just have to hear President Robert Mugabe’s views on the current prophets. Mugabe has chided the prophets at every turn, actually running out of the words to describe their delusionary antics.

It naturally follows that such a national leader with contempt of such clergymen is unlikely to be influenced by their views no matter how sensible. The weakening of the church in Zimbabwe has been inflicted by these prophets to the detriment of the church as a whole.

Imagine a religious leader like one Prophet Mapfumo (the one who claimed to have had lunch-with-God) drawing the ruling party leaders and the opposition together to broker solutions to the decade and half long economic crisis! It’s ridiculous isn’t it; almost unthinkable. The clergymen have popularised theatrics and delivery if funny stunts like walking on air. From anointing pens, anointing condoms to outright infidelity, these men hardly represent the breed that will speak truth to power or act for the common good. They can’t be taken seriously. It’s a disgrace and it is sadder that those who naturally have no flair for religion will classify the church by its noisiest group, namely the greedy prophets and apostles.

The supposed spiritual force across Africa today, namely the immensely popular prophets is an epitome of the high school character. Entertaining they may be, but the damage they have caused is almost irreparable. The ministers of religion we have are known for theatrics and decadence more than anything else. They have been the proverbial ape that cut its limbs and ate them. The church at large now has to fend off damning allegations associated with it as it is now common for people to say Christianity has gone to the dogs.

Remember a prominent prophet who claimed to have helped a woman conceive to give birth in 3-days? How about the one who bought a book by the First Lady for $50 000? Recall the Doom theatrics? This, to me, is hardly the caliber of the church leader whose influence translates to anything noteworthy on national governance. They don’t remotely resemble the dignified church minister whose views on governance issues carry currency. There is no sane person who takes seriously a person who deliberately fleeces money from the gullible by selling an orange for $20 each to thousands of adults. Cunning they may be but not in God’s eyes. The church’s reputation has become the major casualty in the whole fracas. The church in general is paying a hefty price for the trickeries of the loudest voice in faith today, the prophets. They have engaged in every degrading thing to the church; from anointing condoms to siphoning money from the desperate in society. Can this crop of religious leaders bring, for example, Zanu PF and the opposition together to broker solutions for the economic crisis? Almost unthinkable, isn’t it? They are the typical high school character who has no sound-minded person taking them seriously.
The hallowed role of the church in the past
The church has always maintained a sanctified position in national governance issues ever since time immemorial and the same still obtains in respectable jurisdictions.

Religious leaders have been instrumental in uniting warring parties and promoting peace-building. In South Africa many know of the crucial role played by the church through assistance and participation during the struggle against apartheid.

Missionaries, especially those from English-speaking churches such as Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterian and Congregationalists proliferated in the Cape and some were critical of both the colonial government. They were also critical of the Boer republics and their racist laws. Linked to this was the growth of educated black Christians who were starting to play a pivotal role in both the church and wider society calling for the recognition of black people’s rights.

Churches and the civil society organizations from the North supported those who were fighting the system of apartheid by calling for sanctions against the South African government, holding demonstrations and rallies, and channeled financial resources to support the struggle through the churches and other civil society organizations.

Going to Ghana, as an example, The Christian Council of Ghana, one of the foremost and well respected umbrella Christian Church Organizations continues to make a positive contribution to Ghana’s democratic consolidation process. As part of a broader civil society, the Christian Council, has played a democracy-supporting role of fighting authoritarianism and contributing to the nurturing of democracy in Ghana. This hallowed role of the charge is clearly seen in most States and must not be compromised.

The real church versus the modern prophets

Suffice to say that these prophets, through their religious theatrics, have brought nothing but shame to the Christian faith. Emphasis now must be made on the true church’s hallowed role in national governance issues. The formal church, the likes of Roman Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians and the Salvation Army among others cannot continue to take bullets for the sins of a notorious few. These represent the church as we know it.

True, as they say in Shona, “Hakuna musha usina zveko” (Each home has its own internal troubles), these main stream churches have shortcomings of their own but still, for decades, they have managed to preserve the good name of the church. They have maintained (though now under threat) an influential role on the governance issues of the day.

Delegations from these groups have had occasion to give sound advice to the national leadership and where they have differed it has been with dignity to the church. On the contrary, the modern day prophets have almost stampeded each other to dine and wine with known corrupt elements in the top echelons of power. They have not represented but actually disgraced the badge of honour of the church.

 The real church has a true role to play in national governance and it must be upheld and supported. The foundational motivation for the church’s involvement in the consolidation of democracy is based on the quest for a system that approximates the principle of governance in God’s household where justice, peace, dignity and equality are upheld (Ephesians 2:19).
E-mail lastawa77@gmail.com


 
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