Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The solution is to love those who hate you

The Bornwell Chakaodza column By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

Zimbabwean society has perfected the art of hatred in a very big way. It is no longer only the politicians, as this has encroached into the religious arena. Christians are appalled when traditional practitioners want to take part in religious ceremonies of their own. The best they can do is to ignore them like they do not exist.

The irony though is when traditionalists come across Christians doing their own thing, they are very respectful and will not dare interfere. If Christians on the other hand, could have their way, they would disrupt the activities of the former, calling their rituals demonic practices. 

This shows how intolerant Christians are towards other religions. One traditional healer was happy to inform me that one member of their family was a leader/bishop in one denomination.  This would be anathema on the Christian’s part.
The scriptures are clear, “You have heard that it was  said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you…,that you maybe children of your Father in heaven’.” (Matthew 5: 43-48)
The level of hatred is now being exacerbated by those Christians who claim superiority even over others. We hear prophets, pastors, apostles and men of God declaring “back to sender” messages.  Someone thinks they are being bewitched and a ritual of “back to sender” is performed and those claiming to have been helped dare go on air claiming that what had been sent to them had been returned to those who had sent it.  Such is the tragedy of our faith!

It now seems natural to reject what we had become used to in our lives. They say human beings are rebellious by nature. We have seen people drifting from the so-called mainline churches or historical churches and we thought they were going to improve the quality of worship. Some of us celebrated this move, only to regret at some stage when all sorts of weird behaviours were now being encouraged.

They show their happiness by witnessing the one who is alleged to have sent the spell suffering and dare thank God for that.  Then we ask what the Christian gospel is all about.  When Jesus cast out the evil spirits from the man tormented by them, he sent them to the swine and not to supposed witches. Characteristically, they have been joined by the US president Donald Trump whose favourite Bible verse is “an eye for an eye.”

Adverts over the radio like “let’s come to bury the witches” that are being flighted on our local channels are very disturbing.  They even quote scriptures like “thou shall not suffer a witch to live.” (Exodus 22: 18). What does this mean?

The Old Testament called for an eye for an eye but the coming in of the New Testament changed all that. The gospel of Jesus Christ we preach is of peace, unity and forgiveness.

God says revenge is his. We are not in any way encouraged to return evil for evil.

The solution is to love those who hate you. Once you love them, they become enemies no more.  You destroy your enemies by loving them.  That is what Jesus did.  While hanging on the cross Jesus asked for those who had hanged him to be forgiven for they knew not what they were doing.

Where has the gospel of turning another cheek gone to?  When someone asks for a jacket, give him/her another one.  When you are asked to go for a mile, go for two miles.

Parents are being discarded like they were never worth anything.  We hear these days that some churches are providing their members with parents and aunts while the parents who gave birth to them are ignored.  Parents are being invited to their children’s weddings while some are not even invited. 
Sad stories are told by some parents who discovered that their children were wedding in a few days to come.  Some could not get over the shock of it.  In-spite of parents having been snubbed, many of them have gone on to witness their children wedding.  They have loved even those who have disregarded them.
Revenge has become the watch word.  While Christianity has not been saintly all along by its involvement in crusades, the message from the bible has been that of advocating for peace, justice and reconciliation.  The bible has always taught us to love our parents but this has been thrown out of the window.
You come across a family with a story of a child who has left home and has vowed never to be part of the family again.  The church would have taken that child by removing him/her from the family. They are taken through rituals which make them commit themselves to the church and turn their backs on their family.
Some have even gone to bid farewell to their relatives, telling them that even when there is a funeral at home they should not be informed.  Those who have not experienced such separation may not understand the extent to which such teachings have broken many a family.

Individuals have now turned to support their pastor, ignoring their parents.  Cars and properties have been donated to pastors, while parents have not been treated to such.

When Jesus fed the 5 000 from five loaves and two fish, we thought that was going to be the trend. Now we witness 5 000 people feeding one pastor. What a mockery of our faith!

Is this not greediness?  What we would have expected is for the pastor to teach his followers to bless their parents first before they bring anything to the church. Perhaps selfishness dictates otherwise.

There are some congregations where working members bring their full salaries to the pastor and he will give back pocket money to them.

Jesus came and took a radical approach to life. He challenged the culture that he was born into even after he had been initiated through the same. He demonstrated that he could be in and above culture because he is God.  He said it is not the act of adultery that is the issue only, but that by merely looking lustfully on the opposite sex, one would have already committed a sin.

Could they be taking it from Jesus’s response when he was asked to attend to his parents who had been looking for him and he said those who did his father’s will were his parents and relatives.  Jesus, though, never abandoned his mother, even when he was on the cross, he instructed his beloved disciple John “here is your mother.” (John 19: 27)  One wonders where we get the teaching of ignoring our parents even to their graves.

It does not help us to then do all we can to have what we call decent burials for our parents yet when they were living we ignored them while being encouraged by the church to do that.  But as we have discovered, some of these Christians would have nothing to do with their parents when they needed help the most. They would even prefer not to be told about their death in the first place.

What then happens when one is in the opposition political party?  By the same token, they become enemies. Whether one is Christian or not does not matter for all are encouraged to hate those who do not belong.

One would have thought that Christians would lead by example by showing their unfailing love through forgiving even those who could have wronged them.  Jesus went to the extent of eating with sinners.  A tax collector Zacchaeus, who was a corrupt man found himself sitting at the same table with Jesus. (Luke 19: 1-10).  Jesus invited himself to the latter’s home.

Let those with ears hear!

Levee Kadenge is a theologian based at United Theological College, Harare.  Can be contacted on leveekadenge@gmail.com

Monday, August 7, 2017

There is nothing new under the sun


August 6, 2017 in Opinion



The Bornwell Chakaodza Column: Levee Kadenge
Zimbabwe is going through very interesting times. Alex Magaisa in his last Big Saturday Read repeated the Adonija and Solomon biblical story which had been extensively used by both Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko and the first lady Grace Mugabe in a way that shows that there are behind-the-scenes manoeuvres that are very clear to them. Perhaps someone wants to anoint themselves as the next president.

One asks, what are we in for as a nation? Professor Jonathan Moyo earlier quoted Ecclesiastes 3,  “Everything has its own time,” soon after Grace had demanded that President Robert Mugabe appoint his successor. I won’t bother you readers by repeating the same yet one is clearly tempted.

I will venture to say that “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1: 9b).  Indeed, in times like these we cannot help but turn to the Bible to seek wisdom.  It is not surprising that in every situation when things are frightening, even those who claim not to be religious seek the wisdom from the holy book(s). 

Nigerians who have had their president staying in the UK for over two months now seeking medical help are better off because at least they know that their president is sick.

Some African nations do not even admit that they have a crisis.  What we get are denials and even threats for saying anything like that. We have no problems except those caused by outsiders.

Nigerians have turned to God/Allah as they appeal to their religious leaders across the religions to pray for their ailing president. At least they know that their dear leader is not well, therefore he needs their prayers. Such are the differences across the continent.

As Zimbabweans, we can safely pray for God to intervene in our situation when we get such conflicting statements which range from telling us we will be led by the president even when he is in the wheelchair, he would rule even from his coffin to the latest call and appeal from the same first lady to the president to choose and appoint a successor. Every normal citizen cannot help but be concerned as to what is going on.

Historians will tell us that history repeats itself. Political analysts will talk of Machiavellian tactics. As a theologian, I can only look for a message of hope even in these times of hopelessness.  What is left is for the nation to go to the mountains and call to God for his divine intervention.

Compounded by the election fever that is being hyped by the youth interface rallies, we are left wondering what is happening in our midst.  What are the youths learning from our esteemed leaders?  Rallies have become places for certain individuals to be dressed down.  It seems no one is immune now.  Who knew we could be treated to such theatrical episodes.

There is also this talk of the politics leading the gun and not the gun leading the politics.  Perhaps, there is more to it than meets the eye.

What we are left with is only to appeal to the almighty.  Since we are now being encouraged that there is a time for everything we take it that those in the know are telling us that we should expect what we never thought would happen. We still carry on with our question, what is everything that has its time now?

What we know is that God will not allow that which we cannot handle.  Whatever he lets us through, he gives us the know withal to deal with that he permits to come our way.

So far the last 37 years have been very eventful.  The world has been furnished with our ups and downs in all sort of ways including some very dramatic.  The good thing, though, is that God has a full picture of our chequered history.  We live by faith and are always hopeful that we will arrive safely at our destiny.

When there was a war with the Israelites, the young man who was accompanying the prophet, Elisha was so frightened by the overwhelming presence of the enemy army.  The prophet had only to ask of Lord to open the eyes of the lad to see the great army on their side. (2 Kings 6 v 17).  The young man was so relieved when he saw this mighty army that was on their side.  God was fighting from their side.

In situations of hopelessness we must not lose hope.  These are the times God will come to our rescue. Surely, Zimbabweans are at such a stage.  We are crushed left, right and centre and no longer know from where our help will come from.  Surely, our help comes from the Lord.

We keep on hoping that we may soon know what is happening so that we can pray intelligently.
What Zimbabweans are yearning for is for sanity to prevail.  Faced with the impending elections and the confusion of a seemingly transitional period, we are between the deeper seas and the monster.

When the Israelites were faced with crossing the flooded river on their journey to their promised land, they panicked, only for God to come to their rescue.  We dare ask, what are the plans God has for us, his peace-loving people?

As religious people there is no need to lose sleep.  We are still on the journey to our land of milk and honey.  Times like these are there to test our faith.  We indeed are more than conquerors.

The good thing is that God keeps his side of the promise always, that he would be with us to the end.  We are in the safest of hands in spite of the panic in the camp.

God has from time to time caused commotion in the camps of the strong.  God is biased towards the weak and the meek.  When things seem to fall apart that is when God comes to our help.  The weak seem to be God’s favourites.  On such matters God does not sit on the fence, he is on the side of those who are suffering.

Let it be our prayer that those who are in the camp of the strong do not devour each other.  We know that when elephants fight, the grass suffers.  If there is time to pray for our nation, it is now.  Zimbabweans are such a peace-loving nation that they would shudder to see the nation being torn apart simply because of transitional issues that are not being resolved.

Let those with ears hear!

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

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Churches should not be involved in partisan politics

Churches should not be involved in partisan politics

The Bornwell Chakaodza column: Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
  
While we all agree that churches should not be politically-aligned, but be people inclined at all the times, that does not rule out political involvement of the church.  The main reason why the church must avoid unhealthy leanings is that most members of political parties belong to the same churches. There is, therefore, the danger that a politically-aligned church will try to accommodate opposing parties.

Individuals should freely participate in political activities and show by example how to conduct themselves. Christians should be encouraged to even vie for political positions so that they demonstrate that they can continue to love those who hold different views from them. Maybe there is this animosity because Christians are shunning participating actively in politics.  

The misunderstanding comes in when the church takes its proper role to protect the interests of people whose rights may be trampled by the powers-that-be. To silence the church, it is accused of favouring the opposition. This is the tragedy of African politics. It would be fair for the church to just be accused of nagging and not be implicated in regime change projects when it speaks on behalf of the people.

This is the dilemma of the church. Once it is accused of being partisan, it has to prove beyond doubt that it indeed is not being partisan. It will be forced to declare that it is apolitical. Being apolitical is a very difficult position to take without being hypocritical.  What then follows is that if a church supports the government, it is not being partisan. Chastising the government becomes or is interpreted as being anti-government.

What the church is being asked to do is to see no evil, hear no evil for it to be safe. For the church, this will be suicidal. So, what the church should do is to go for the jugular and call a spade a spade despite the consequences. This is important for it calls for times of reprimanding each other for the sake of the well-being of the people.

Perhaps this is the only way the church and governments should look at each other as having the common interests of people at heart. Indeed, the two institutions primarily are there to serve the communities they superintend.  The roles and functions may differ but at the end of the day, they should compliment each other.

When the president warns people about false prophets, the church should study the statement and research on it so that it is also seen to be concerned about the abuse that is going on, where people are being used and their hard-earned monies are being fleeced by false prophets. These are profiteers who are using the problems bedevilling people to rob them by claiming that they have solutions, which is not always the case.

In most African countries, the church is usually perceived as supporting the opposition. When will we learn that if governments are being chastised by the church, it is not a question of the church having preference for the opposition?  It is a known fact that churches supported liberation movements so that people could be freed.  That was not the end of the concern for the church towards the people.
The same should happen in case the opposition gets into power. the church should play a similar role to protect the rights of the people and to see to it that justice is done.

The churches should not compromise truth telling and fighting corruption in order to please anyone. The church should speak truth to power in uncompromising terms. Jesus says, “Blessed are you, when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” (Matthew 5: 11) In this case, the church should do its homework so that as they speak they are backed by facts.

Even those waiting to get into power — the opposition — they should also have their fair share of chastisement from the church. The church becomes the voice of reason in the midst of confusion. We have witnessed this when there are issues that need mediation. 

Come election time, parties are fighting for political space to win the hearts and minds of people. The church plays its role of being a pacifier. The role of the church in this instance is to bring harmony for the scriptures say “Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.”(Matthew 5: 9).
Sitting governments will not find it disturbing being supported by the church. Opposition parties would also find it disturbing being shunned by the churches. In normal democracies, the government in power should get the full support of churches. At the same time the church should nurture the opposition knowing that they are a government-in-waiting.  The problem arises when the sitting government is determined to stick to power through foul means.
Let us move from politics of hatred to politics of competition.  If politics is viewed as a race, then we are meant to enjoy the democratic systems which we all cry for. Today is my day and tomorrow it may be yours.  Such a peaceful atmosphere should be created by our leaders. When such an atmosphere prevails, our people will be the most free and well-served communities.
My experience has been that one cannot talk strongly against excesses of government in Africa without being accused of having a regime change agenda. It is almost unpardonable to talk about regime change. 
In a normal society, there should be nothing wrong with changing governments. In most two-party democracies, it has been the case that these two have to rotate to rule their countries. Africa has had some of the majority of the longest serving leaders. Perhaps there is lack of succession plans/strategies.  The opposition leaders in Uganda accuse Yoweri Museveni of vying for life presidency.

In other countries, the sitting president is declared a life president before he even gets to a rally. The state run papers would already have published what is going to be declared by the people who will be addressed in a couple of days to come. Such is the politics in Africa.  It’s like child play.

The state capture of public institutions is beyond comprehension. The argument is that this is their moment and they have to use it because come next time it will be yours. If it was as simple as that then there would be no problem, but the intention is that never should the opposition have an opportunity to be in power.

It is our hope that one of these days, churches would be free to invite any leader of any political party to come and address them at their gatherings without undue pressure to stop them from doing that. This has been the practice of many an African government. The intelligence organisations have always put pressure on leaders or influential members of the church not to be inclusive in their invitations.

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

*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.