Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Forest, the chemist and supermarket of all time

October 2, 2017 in Opinion

By the rev Dr Levee Kadenge 
Zimbabwe is endowed with traditions that have stood the test of time. These are culture and religion. The two are very tricky to separate. Where one is, the other is. Unfortunately, when Europeans came they made it their prime task to get rid of these two pillars of the African communities.

Before the coming of the whites, this land was controlled by chiefs and paramount chiefs who had jurisdiction over large pieces of land guided by Munhumutapa and Lobengula in the south. The latter had just come in from South Africa and settled in what is now called Matabeleland.

Whites came in when there were two major tribes: the Mashonas who spoke Shona and Ndebeles who spoke IsiNdebele.  Within the boundaries were other minority tribes that comprised among them, the Kalanga, Sotho, Venda, Tonga, Vapfumbi, maTshangana and Shangwe in designated parts of the country.

The Shona were divided into five groups, Korekore, Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika and Ndau. Among these various groups would be variations of both cultural and religious practices. At the end of the 17th century whites started coming in, adding another dimension into the mosaic religious and cultural differences that already existed.

Instead of whites accommodating what they found obtaining in the form of traditions which were expressed both through cultural and religious practices, they embarked on direct confrontation against the two. Their aim was to completely change all that they came across by introducing the church and the school. This is the time colonialists and missionaries established their basis in order to control and subdue the people and the land and everything the people owned and practised. 

All these people inhabiting the land had complete systems that ran their affairs as regards both culture and religion.  The forest was both the chemist and supermarket of all time. Whatever man wanted he got from the forest in abundance; fresh and natural.

Traditional food was and is still the best legacy given to us by our forefathers.  Today any doctor who does not recommend traditional foodstuffs has to interrogate his/her conscience. Thank God there is still a lot of it for us to take and restore our health.  Ignoring our food is just as good as committing suicide.

These people did not lack anything in terms of their everyday lives. They had an elaborate health system that dealt with all ailments to the extent that there were experts who specialised in different diseases that affected society. They also had an intact cultural life that was satisfying to them. Their religion gave them the latitude to exercise their faculties which led them to enjoy life on a daily basis. Dance and song made life make sense.

Traditional religion was their way of life. It affected all facets of their lives. Food was the best ever.  It was both nutritious and medicinal. One did not need a chemist. Indeed, health provision was a total package. They say you are what you eat and you eat what you are.

Midwives were in abundance and carried their duties with expert hands. Medicine men and women had the best herbs for all the ailments that affected people.  This was real, we are not just romanticising. 

Surgeries, both caesarean and other complicated injuries were conducted using sharp iron knives that were made from iron ore that had long been mined in Hwedza mountains.

Experts/mhizha were all over villages and these processed iron ore into steel which eventually was sold to traders for use in various tasks as cutting tools. Goat skins would be used to blow furnaces that burnt iron and turned it into steel with ease. Those gifted with such talents would spend days on end blowing these furnaces to produce as much steel as possible, some of which was exported. Barter trade was the game in the nation.   

Legend has it that even brain surgeries were conducted in the villages with great success rates. It is believed that the biblical King Solomon came for the iron ore from these mountains. 

Those who specialised in treating particular diseases would be the most sought after in the length and breath of the land. Mental cases were dealt with successfully.  In essence, no health complaint was left unattended. There were specialists who dealt with such cases.

On the cultural aspect, it should be noted that education began in the home and knowledge impartation was systematically done by all those who had roles in bringing up the young ones.

Homesteads/villages became the education centres which were then assisted by the expanded community which supervised the norms and values of different communities. Each community was expected to produce people who would fit into the society and be acknowledged as worthy by surrounding villages. The family was the centre. Families were either monogamous or polygamous. The latter came into being when a man could afford to marry as many wives as he could.
Marriage was at the centre of African life. Tokens were given to parents of wives as ways of cementing marriages. A hoe was enough to give to one’s in-laws as lobola.

Cattle also could exchange hands as lobola. These were family affairs. No individual would marry his/her daughters without the involvement of the extended family.  The whole family came together with representatives of the one who would be coming to marry congregating for the purpose of executing the marriage. As it took the whole village to raise a child, it also took a village to marry a couple.   

An elaborate system of relationships was at the centre of African lives.  To this effect, everyone is related to everyone through societal links; be they marriages, friendships and collaborations even in war. Alliances were common when a particular group would help the other in times of need, for example when fending off an enemy. Cross tribal marriages were arranged to bring harmony among different groups.

The church and the school became the ideological tools while the colonialist represented the repressive power which did not hesitate even to use the gun to force people to comply. The fact that Christianity and colonialism came at the same time, is something which will continue to occupy us as we study the effects of these two institutions.  One wonders what would have happened if these two institutions came at different times?

When confronted with these two arms of western power, African culture and religions took a back seat. They had to retreat for survival

The best the colonial governments and the churches did was to preserve local languages, vehicles of cultural and religious values. Let those with ears hear.

Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College.  He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com   

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Denominationalism is a gift we could do without

September 11, 2017 

By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
Zimbabweans have accepted Christianity as one of the major religions. Christianity is seen among the locals as the message of hope and a means to get salvation through their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.  This faith came to us through different denominations/traditions, beginning with the mainline churches introduced by western missionaries. Times have changed and now there are several versions of the gospel that have either been locally founded or brought lately by newer teachings from inside and outside the country.

The phenomenon has not only affected Zimbabweans, but is widely spread across the region or even the continent.  Some even claim that it is a worldwide occurrence that is sweeping all over. But, one can safely say denominationalism is a gift we could do without.

The multiplicity of the teachings have been a bother to our population. About 80% of Zimbabweans would claim to be Christian.  Their dilemma now is which one is the way to follow amidst the various versions that are knocking at their doors of faith.

This article seeks to analyse this religious side of our lives and how we have been affected either for better or for worse.  We do not seek to judge but to reveal the facts as people are affected by the teachings coming their way.  The unfortunate thing that happened to African Christianity is that it came already divided.  Yet the original message of Christ was that His followers may be one.

The history of Christianity has been chequered with division right from the time of its inception.
Paul complained when the first Christians at Corinth were labelling themselves as followers of this one and not of the other. This irked Paul to an extent that he had to write a strong warning by denouncing such divisions. (1 Corinthians 1 vs 12).

The church that was founded on the rock [Peter] that became the Roman Catholic Church or the Church of Rome eventually divided between the Eastern Orthodox and the Church of Rome.
As the Roman Empire spread across Europe, the rest of Europe became “roman” and the church followed the lands that were conquered  The Pope became the head of the church in the Roman world as it was known.  In fact, the church followed the flag.

When England came under the Roman Empire, things moved on well for some time until King Henry VIII wanted to marry a second wife because he wanted an heir to the throne.
The church could not allow that. Incensed by such refusal, the king decided to break away from the Roman yoke.  As a result, the Church of England was born in 1534 with Henry VIII declaring himself the head of it.

In the 1500s, there were growing cries for reformation in the church.  Martin Luther, who was a Catholic priest, became the prominent figure who protested against the many excesses of the Catholic Church. Primarily, he was against the payment of indulgences and celibacy in the church.

In 1517, Luther nailed the 95 thesis on the doors of his church at Wittenberg in German protesting against the church.  Eventually, Luther was excommunicated in 1521 and he also excommunicated the Pope himself. He actually was sentenced to death by the church by ordering anyone who came across him to kill him.  Such was the practice of the church.

The Great Evangelical Awakening of the 16th and 17th centuries saw so many brands of Christianity emerging as a result of the confidence that was ushered in by Luther. Because of space constraints, I will mention just the rise of Methodism that was initiated by John and Charles Wesley in England in the mid-1700.

John was a talented organiser while Charles was a great song-composer.These started a group of dedicated students at Oxford into a prayer cell.  That was unheard of in the Church of England.The two died Church of England priests but their followers eventually formed their own denominations after the death of John in 1791.

The Great Evangelical Awakening period became the period of missionary activities across the world. Propelled by the voyages of discovery, wherever, these ships went, so the gospel was also taken there.  At the time of discoveries and later colonisation period many denominations had come into being and these went into missionary activities across the world in such a big way.

The world was bombarded with a divided church right from the onset of missionary activities.Indeed, the Catholic Church had spread the gospel earlier on but such activities did not last in many instances.

The 19th and 20th centuries continued to see the church spreading like veld fire all over the place.  The message the new converts got was that of a divided church competing for followers to accept their different brands of church practices.

Colonised places would be exposed to denominations that were following their subjects.  This is how many parts of the African continent would be evangelised by differing denominations coming from the countries of origin.  People seemed not to have minded the divisions.As the churches spread their influence, locals also saw possibilities of coming up with their own versions of church.  African Initiated Churches started to be formed in colonial countries being led by vibrant former members of the denominational churches.

A number were divided because of racial segregation and others because of different interpretations of the gospel.  Individuals across the African continent and in the newly evangelised colonies sprang up with vibrant churches that attracted multitudes of followers.

The choice of churches became so many that the locals found it easy to follow whoever they wanted.
Many of these new churches would major in one aspect of Christian experience like being Pentecostal in their approaches or emphasise on healing and other specialties that go with gospel promises. Members would migrate from one church to another with ease.

Break away became the order of the day.On any worship day, the African terrain is dotted with several groupings in immaculate temples, on rocks, in the open or under trees listening to the word of God.

Of late, there has been the proliferation of the new wave of Christian experience in the form of the prosperity gospel. This has primarily come from the United States.

Zimbabwe has had its fair share as Christians are invited to sample this brand of Christianity or the other.“Prophets” and “Men of God” have now become the centre of Christian attraction. Some of these leaders have instantly become very rich from the pickings they make from their hard-pressed followers who are seeking solace in their teachings.

The previous indulgences had come in a different way.  Some prosperity gospel pushers started by selling “blessed towels” which people could use by wiping any car they wanted and they were promised they would get such vehicles.

Anointed items which ranged from oil to bricks would be sold at exorbitant prices.Seeding became another source of money.  Rich individuals would be asked to seed their latest models of cars in the promise that they would get 10 times more.

The latest developments are that they have moved to one-on-one, consultations which are so expensive. You book the prophet and meet him or her privately. Recently,there has been several court cases involving the prophets and their erstwhile followers who would be claiming of having been duped.

These emerging churches have major business plans which have helped them to come up with projects which cost millions of dollars.  It is like the reverse of the Gospel where Jesus feeds the 5 000 from five loaves of bread and two fish — the 5 000 are now feeding one prophet or man/woman of God. What a traverse of faith!

Let those with ears hear!
Levee Kadenge is a Theologian based at United Theological College in Harare.He can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com.

Kwese TV exposed the BAZ rot

1 Response to Denominationalism is a gift we could do without

  1. https://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/d339b7b78c6a0cfadbc43f45e73083b7?s=40&d=mm&r=g
Janana wa Bikaz September 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm #
A well researched article,people like you Rev Kadenge,should stand up and preach the word of God as it is.These so called modern day prophets have realised that a people can do anything to slip away from poverty or to get healed from sickness and hence these prophets cum- con artists are always shouting about healing and prosperity.God never said everyone shall be rich or everyone shall not fall sick.One has to use his or her own faith to get healed,not by the gods of these shameless con artists,but by the living God Who belongs to everyone,Who created all mankind,Who created the whole wide world and everything in it NOT MWARI WA PROPHET NHINGI.For evil to triumph,let good men do nothing!