Monday, July 24, 2017

Christians should rise above being used



Christians should rise above being used

July 23, 2017 in Opinion

The Bornwell Chakaodza column Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

Why is it that towards every election our nation is gripped by immense fear, yet around 80% of our people claim to be Christians? There are several reasons, a few of which we will discuss today. While there is much talk about state capture by powerful individuals, as is the case in South Africa by the Gupta family, the church in Zimbabwe has been captured by the state.

There is no plausible reason why a whole nation, as big as South Africa, should be held to ransom by a family. The same should go for the church. That it has been captured by the state shows that there is something fundamentally wrong. Both the state and the church are very powerful institutions that should command respect from each other.

Once the state is allowed to silence the church at any point without any moral reason, then questions should be answered by the church itself. States are very good at employing tactics of divide and rule. Sometimes they even create church organisations to run parallel to existing ones for their own selfish reasons. State created church organisations give themselves a semblance of legitimacy.

These are faith-based organisations meant to gloss over state excesses. They are given resources both in cash and kind to spread a view favourable to the ruling elite’s continued existence.  Christians should rise above being used by politicians.

Individuals have also been sponsored by governments to masquerade as legitimate church leaders and these from time to time are interviewed to give an opinion contrary to the correct position of the church. A good example is when the church stands up against the poverty that has been spawned by corruption in the country. The explanation given by those sponsored church leaders is that those who are against corruption or other vices by the state are anti-government and therefore support regime change. In a big way, they would have also been corrupted by being sponsored to do various tasks that support the powers-that-be to facilitate their continued stay in power. Because they are benefitting from the support they get, they do not realise that it is only for a while.

In some instances, these church leaders have been given large pieces of land to parcel out to would-be voters. The intention is tantamount to bribery. Who does not want stands?

Corruption quickly creeps in and we find that those stands are given to particular party supporters. These church leaders will pretend all is well when they are being used to divide people in the name of using public land to benefit a few. When that happens, those who stand for justice are vilified. The church should speak truth to power without fear or favour. Government can also come up with ways to curb the influence of the church by applying what is known as the low intensity conflict approach on church officials.  South American states majored in this approach, whereby church officials would be monitored and blackmailed so as to keep them in check.

Perhaps this is why Jesus prayed for his disciples towards the end of his ministry when he said, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but thou shouldest keep them from evil.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth.  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have also I sent them into the world.” (John 17: 14-18).

Such is the scourge of Africa.  Those in power will always want to retain power by use of corrupt methods in the name of being benevolent to those in need. What we do not realise is that such overtures are gimmicks to turn people into being blind followers. People no longer see their real need for jobs because of the pieces of land, which in most cases remain pieces of land because the beneficiaries do not have money to start construction work.

Yet during the whole period one is in power, there is need to demonstrate that a government has people at heart by creating opportunities so that all live in peace and harmony. What we see is that towards elections these programmes of so-called empowering people come at the wrong time for those who can only make a claim of owning a piece of land they cannot even service.

What a travesty when powers-that-be dangle carrots which we cannot eat. The result is that the generality of people will be enticed by such gifts so that they support the status quo.  For those who benefit from this Father Christmas approach, they are held captive by the system. This is holding captive the suffering masses.

If only people knew that they have all it takes because of their numbers.  There is greater power in the masses than in the power of corruption which often caters for the few.  Why can’t the people demand what they really need — freedom?  States will not give people freedom unless they demand it. 

The worst they can do is to give people the crumbs under the table and call that empowerment.  We then revel in the understanding that half a loaf is better than nothing. Is this the uhuru that we fought for?  We struggled so that no one would again be forced to do what they do not want to do.  We fought against coercion and we thought we were free but what we experience are even worse conditions that border on slavery.

Did people fight to sleep in the open streets at night lest if one goes home they will not afford to come back the next day to sell their wares? Did people fight to sleep on queues waiting for their hard-earned cash only to be told that there is no money at the bank? 

People join queues at local banks as early as possible.  When the bank opens an official from the financial institution comes out and counts people who will be served that day.  The rest are told not to waste their time but to go home.

These are the things the church should encourage government to address and not to wait until towards elections. Good programmes have come in too late only to be used for campaigning purposes. The main benefactors end up being those who are well placed. 

Is it not true that those who are influential end up having more than one farm? Those who are powerful end up getting more inputs than others. In most cases, the majority of them do not even deserve to be assisted.

Such good schemes end up benefitting those who have and those who do not have influence end up picking the crumbs.  All these things are done under the nose of the church. The influence of the church should help to liberate and not to enslave. There is great temptation for states to do selfish things in the name of helping people yet their intention is to capture the masses so that they are manipulated.

Let those with ears hear. 

Levee Kadenge is a Theologian based at United Theological College. He can be contacted on
leveekadenge@gmail.com or Twitter @LeveeKadenge

Church and state, two sides of the same coin



Church and state, two sides of the same coin

July 16, 2017 in Opinion

The Bornwell Chakaodza column: 
Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

The state and church should work together so that people get maximum benefit from these two institutions created by God. What we have observed, however, is that the two institutions seem not to trust each other. Because of this dissonance, the generality of the people are left hanging without knowing where to turn to so that the fortunes of any nation are fairly shared.

It was St Augustine who in his book the City of God introduced the idea of the two arms of God which were mandated to be complimentary to each other for the purposes of conducting the affairs of human kind.  The third arm is the family, which is not subject of today’s deliberations.

The benefits of working together result in pulling together the efforts from the two arms to enhance the conditions of nations.  Checks and balances should be put in place so that no one is left behind. The two are service providers in their different areas of influence. Once they listen to each other, there will be progress of unprecedented proportions.

What we often see on the ground is that because of lack of trust, each side is busy protecting its turf.  Paul expected that leaders would aim to improve their nations like the Roman emperor of his time did when he was implementing progressive programmes for all the people in the empire. 

This led Paul to write: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” (Romans 13: 1-2)

Paul was writing to those in the Roman Empire who were enjoying the benefits of being well led.  Little did he know that there would be dictators in future in the likes of Adolf Hitler and those of his likes in our present times dotted across the world! 

The above scriptures are quoted by many a Christian trying to apply them to situations, which are intolerable.  God did not say Pharaoh was doing a good job when he was oppressing the Israelites during their stay in Egypt. When God had seen that his people had suffered much at the hands of Egyptian ruler, He sent Moses to liberate them.

We must bear in mind that when leaders are misruling their people they should be resisted.  The same Paul goes on to say that: “For, rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”(vs3)  God is always on the side of the oppressed. He is interested to see that all the people have their liberties guaranteed.

Not all Pharaohs were cruel to the Israelites.  It is only when the Pharaohs who did not know Joseph came into power that is when the children of Israel were subjected to harsh conditions.  The new king Pharaoh was jealous at the numbers and the progress of the Israelites. The king suspected that the disgruntled Israelites would join foreign armies and fight the Egyptians, hence the enmity.

In this modern era, nations should abide by the agreed conditions that are set by international standards. In our case we have the Sadc conditions — be they electoral or other principles which each nation is expected to follow in terms of being fair to their subjects. Leaders who break Sadc guidelines should be called to order.

Who can call to order governments breaking the set conditions other than the churches?  In this country there are electoral laws that have to be regularised so that there is a levelled playing field in the next elections in 2018. Pointing to such anomalies earn one the label of opposition. Yet it is everyone’s responsibility to demand that the right thing be done.

Surely the church should not standby and allow those in authority to flout their own rules.  Nations get divided along those lines whereby others are forced to support the unfair conditions while those asking for equity are accused of supporting regime change.  The church’s business is to point out anomalies wherever they show their ugly faces.

If by any chance there arises opposition parties that are bent on misleading people by fomenting violence, the churches must be able to raise the red flag and warn them of these misdemeanours forthwith.  In that sense, churches would be seen as being fair in their dealings with all who aspire to rule their nations. The church should be seen to be the watchdog of all the citizens.

For any responsible authority to cry foul when institutions like the church play their rightful duty to be watchdogs of the people they shepherd is only begging to be reprimanded.  On the other hand, the government should also protect the citizens from churches that fleece their members of their hard-earned money. Although the laws provide for freedom of worship, the powers-that-be should not pay a blind eye to clear extortions in some churches.

The church and state are each brother’s keeper. Conditions should be created such that each side should be free to chastise the other. It also follows that when one institution fails to respect the rights of people the other should fight for the rights of the people.

The church is always in a dilemma because it is viewed as opposing the governments of the day.  That only comes by when the churches are only there to look for faults and not even praising when the government does right things. The churches should, therefore, create conditions of engagement with the powers that be.

The good thing which is observable in the Sadc region is that even churches also relate at regional level as represented by the Fellowship of Council of Churches in Southern Africa This, like Sadc, should come up with standards which will be expected of each national council of churches so that whenever issues of miss-governance arise, they are there to come in with appropriate advice.

Recently, in May the Zimbabwe Council of Churches hosted solidarity visitors from the World Council of Churches which was led by the general secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.  Such visits are important because they show that the world church is concerned about affairs of each of our nations.  As our churches are exposed to ideas from other nations we improve our ways of facing problems that arise within our borders.

From what has been said above, the church and state are two sides of one coin, they cannot do without each other.  No one should be in the position to silence the other.  Doing so will only make matters worse.  This calls for constant touch with each other so that matters are dealt with before confrontations arise when the other raises point of order.

There is great scope in working in harmony between the state and church as long as there is no intimidation from either party.  The church should be encouraged to speak truth to power. This calls for highly dedicated church leadership which will also live up to the standard even expected by the government. Laws are made to provide maximum leverage to the people to exercise their rights for the progress of humanity and not to subjugate them.

Let those with ears hear!
Comments and queries to leveekadenge@gmail.com