In mid-December 2015, pastor Patrick Mugadza (45), deeply troubled by the suffering around him, felt led by God to demonstrate peacefully at the ruling Zanu PF party conference in Victoria Falls. He left his home in Kariba and went to the conference where he silently held up a placard in the centre of the town, amid the crowds of delegates, which read: Mr President your people are suffering. Proverbs 21.13.
The police pounced on him, arrested him and charged him for being a “criminal nuisance.” In court, bail to set him free until trial was set at $500. The poor man of God was not able to raise such an amount. Such a large sum of money would ordinarily be charged for the serious crimes. He had broken no law, but was nevertheless incarcerated in police cells like a common criminal.
The independent press was outraged by this naked travesty of justice, and publicised the story internationally. Editorials condemned this criminal action by the State in the strongest terms. In contrast, the church was unperturbed. It was business as usual.
After a couple of weeks, it was reported that President Robert Mugabe, who is holidaying in the Far East, sent a message to his suffering people at home to hold a period of national prayer as the severest of droughts looms and the country teeters on the brink of political and socio-economic disaster.
In quick response to the president’s call, a group of clerics, representing the Christian Heads of Denominations, called a press conference. Their spokesperson, well-known businessman Shingi Munyeza said, “Following discussions with the Acting-President, Phelekezela Mphoko, who had said he had authority from the president, we have agreed to call the nation and all Christian denominations to prayer from January 9-17.
“It was a spiritual request and as the prophetic voice of God, we must respond responsibly. We, as the body of Christ have chosen to respond to this request with responsibility as required of us rather than be irresponsible or reckless.”
It should be made clear to the people of Zimbabwe that these Heads of Denominations are way off the mark. First of all, what spiritual authority does Mugabe have to call the nation to prayer? How can a loving God use the leader of a corrupt and inhumane secular State, which rules through fear, to call God’s people to prayer?
As far as I understand the scriptures, there is a great divide between the State, which is the kingdom of this world, and the church, which is the kingdom of God. In their relationship, which should be complimentary, the church is definitely not subservient to the State.
Pandering to the whims of a decadent government is not prophecy at all. True prophesy is when the church admonishes the State and calls upon it to repent and do justice. Why did these church leaders remain silent when their fellow Christian was arrested for doing his prophetic duty?
God is today saying to the Heads of Denominations, “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82: 2-4.
The church leaders were not alone in welcoming the president’s call to prayer. Elsewhere in the press, it was reported that Family of God Church founder, Andrew Wutawunashe, had said the church felt challenged by government’s call to pray for the rains. He said, “Zanu PF has shown that it is a God-fearing party by documenting in its political manifesto its belief in Christ”.
Are these not the tricks of Satan who has successfully infiltrated the church? Faithful followers of Jesus Christ should be aware of the tricks of Satan, and prayerfully seek God’s guidance in “discerning the spirits”.
Politicians know that churches represent a large constituency. They know that what Karl Marx said was true that “religion is the opium of the people”. They are, therefore, eager to use churches to quieten the masses who are getting restless for not being paid their salaries and are sick of being misgoverned.
As far as many can see, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, this week of prayer, is merely going along with a wicked and lawless political leadership in response to drought. There is no call for real repentance. There is no sorrow, grief or righteous anger at the injustice and lawlessness in the nation. We want rain and blessings from God while we carry on with our evil ways. This is what the German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called the “cheap grace gospel” — and God sees through the hypocrisy of such a false gospel.
Pius Wakatama is a trained theologian, Christian writer, author and publisher.