Monday, July 24, 2017

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!
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