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The faithful under siege from religious leaders

Notwithstanding that Zimbabweans are of diverse religions and faith, our Constitution says we are a Christian nation.

CONELIA MABASA SUNDAY VIEW

The charter also provides for the right to freedom of worship. That we are a Christian nation makes the goings-on in churches matters of national interest.

Recently a group of men from an apostolic faith church made the news for all the wrong reasons after they beat up police officers who were escorts for an elder who wanted to ban their church for abuse of women and children.

While they have been granted bail on the case of assault, women’s groups and child rights activists are waiting for formal reports and investigations into the allegations of abuse, especially that fathers insert their dirty fingers into their daughters’ vaginas every week to test for virginity and give away daughters as compensation to men who married non-virgins. Virginity-testing is largely referred to as sexual assault, but I believe it must be upgraded to be treated as a form of rape.

Some sections of society also want to know if Johannes Ndanga [president of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe] had the mandate to ban the church and if he used the right channels to carry out the mandate. His actions could have been interpreted as provocation and an infringement on the right of the vapostori’s freedom of worship. If any crimes were committed, then it is the role of the police to investigate and get the perpetrators to be prosecuted.

These “lower-end churches” which tend to be a mix between traditional religion and Christianity thrive on intimidation and twisting of scriptures to keep women and children in check. They say women have no business preaching the word.

They believe women are born to serve men, born for the sexual gratification of the male species and to give them big families. In other sects, a man will marry a big number of women so they can compete for his attention.

Women have to be preached to and not raise any objections. While some give scriptures to support their suppression of women, some sects do not even read the Bible though they purport to be Christian and followers of Christ. It is only fair that the goings-on in these churches be monitored with a view to protect women and children.

However, most of the time people are quick to roundly condemn these “under-the-tree” churches, yet there is a new breed of apostles, prophets and prophetesses who are also taking advantage of congregants in a big way.

Latter day apostles are not driven by the passion to win souls for the Lord when they breakaway from mainstream churches or start new ministries altogether.

The new churches by apostles are formed not to serve the Lord, but are ventures to sustain families. They preach to the daily needs of people and conveniently forget the spiritual dimension.

They preach about the here-and-now and the potential that we all have to live like kings, but the unfortunate thing is they are starving the inner being.

They rarely talk about sin, for fear of offending the generous giver because they have an insatiable hunger for hi tech gadgetry and want to drive the latest models courtesy of the faithful.

The competition for congregants is not to save souls, but boost coffers. The miracles, fake or genuine are meant to keep the faithful captivated and to raise the profile of the prophet and his church. Yet miracles are supposed to be a manifestation of God’s power among us.

So-called men-of-god must bring people to God, not to man.

When the real apostles in Acts of the Apostles went out to preach, they had a situation when complaints were raised about the distribution of food among the widows, orphans and the infirm. [Acts 6 v 1-5] The apostles would now lower themselves to serve at the tables, they did not want to lose focus of the job at hand. They found a way around the problem, contrary to that today’s apostles are abusing their positions to undermine the body of Christ.

They are actually worshipping at the tables! They want to preach to the rich, to encourage them to make more money and bring a huge chunk to the church. Some even make their congregation feel bad for not supporting their lavish lifestyles. People need not buy their pastors’ love.

Recently there was a story in the media that merchandise was being sold during church service in one of the pentecostal churches in town. They can argue that they want to fund the church’s various compassionate ministries, but to do it during church service would distract people from listening to the word.

Jesus himself whipped up traders [Matthew 21 v 12 – 17] because he was horrified they had turned his father’s house into a den of sin. Why not just start a church shop that sells the merchandise outside worship time?

It is unfortunate that the church seems to have lost its campus. It seems to me the church is operating at a very low level, worried about virginity and fat tummies at the expense of the spiritual needs of the people.

People need somewhere to turn to without being abused. The economy is bad, the job market depressed, Zim Asset is yet to take off and religion manipulative.

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