ABOUT two weeks ago a disturbing thing happened in light of the new political dispensation and the church. It is a serious matter which requires serious attention. It would be logical to assume that the church learnt something from the forgettable days of former president Robert Mugabe’s rule. Nonetheless, it appears the church learnt nothing and is excitable and determined to continue on the same disastrous trajectory that had Mugabe thinking God had made him life president.
To an extent it can be said that Mugabe was a victim of praise-singers from both the body politic and the church. They sang his hymns and, for some time, it appeared true that the nonagenarian was set to rule until death. What confounds currently however, is that Mugabe is being ridiculed by the very people who had placed him next to God in ranking.
A fortnight ago the clergy met with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and explicitly threw weight behind his candidature in the forthcoming general elections; this was shocking, to put it mildly, coming from the church. Zion Christian Church’s Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi and Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe leader Johannese Ndanga led the endorsement crusade.
This conduct is hardly surprising coming from Ndanga though; he is the same man who spearheaded Mugabe’s last supper at Rufaro Stadium known as Super Sunday where bootlicking went into overdrive with people likening Mugabe to God and alluding to him being God’s representative on earth. Such conduct, in this spirit, obliterates the supposed role of the church; it poisonous the political environment.
By their conduct, these clerics have once again brought partisanship to the church. Their followers unduly feel obliged to go along with their political positions. They set the motion for the creation of another Robert Mugabe. Once political leaders buy into the drivel that they have been placed in the seat of power divinely, then trouble is sure to follow as had become the case with Grace and Mugabe who abused the name of God each time they stood up to speak.
Questioning Mugabe’s long stay in power had become something of an anathema as the church bodies, palpably seeking to curry favour, endorsed the ‘divinity’ of his rule. The very nature and influence that church leaders wield over their flock demands that they be non-partisan otherwise the partisan conduct seen two weeks ago poisons the political space and railroads church members into endorsing the will of their leaders.
Now, the departure of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has been roundly welcomed within and outside the country’s borders. Whether the military intervention of November last year can be described in the language of a coup has not been an issue of substance to the world. Mugabe had become the proverbial national impediment on two legs. Elsewhere, in the world coups are never tolerated but the Zimbabwean case remains special.
The endorsement of the new administration has come from civic organisations, regional bodies and international bodies and lately the church. Even the loathed African Union has embraced the new government, sealing the fate of Mugabe who remains bitter over his ouster.
It must be mentioned that Mugabe’s fall temporarily brought unity amongst Zimbabweans of different political persuasions. In Zimbabwe the church has also added its voice to the growing endorsement of the ED government. It would be hypocritical to blame anyone who celebrated the demise of despotic rule. We all did, but there is need for caution when it comes to the church. While the church is well within its rights to take part in governance issues, caution should be exercised; extreme caution.
The church should never be a body to be excitable as to act on the spur of the moment. It should have been learnt that the church cannot defend the rights of the weak if it sups with leaders of the day. The church should remain true to its biblical calling as the salt of the earth. But, as the Bible alludes, if the church wines and dines with the rulers of the world how does it maintain its saltiness. Surely, people like Ndanga, after the Grace fiasco, shortly before the ouster of Mugabe, should have grasped the danger of partisan behaviour in the church.
What these partisan churches have done is to compromise the supposed role of the church of guiding people to reason and to truth. A church that is partisan cannot show reason to politicians. In fact, it cannot be taken seriously. The true church must stand neutral and defend that which is right, not to rubber stamp political moves which are not in tandem with God’s word.