NOW DAILY EDITORIAL
Religion is a matter of opinion. What one believes as the ‘truth’ depends on one’s particular circumstances, background, expectations, experiences and hopes.
This is why it is dangerous to attempt to impose one set of religious beliefs on a population.
We heard this week the story of the Nigerian woman who made news by publicly boycotting church services. Her argument was that priests and so-called prophets were greedily amassing wealth and neglecting the work of the church.
Closer to home, we have had numerous people slipping out of churches because of the wayward behaviour of pastors and priests.
The statistics may not be in yet but we certainly have a growing number of people shying away from churches because of the behaviour of priests.
In more advanced countries, those who claim to be prophets are put through stringent registration procedures. In the USA, for example, faith healers like Benny Hinn or Billy Graham move with medical teams to ‘certify’ and confirm each ‘miracle’ they perform. There are legal implications for making false claims of healing.
In Zimbabwe, anyone can just wake up and declare themselves prophets and start hitting the pockets of an unsuspecting public.
We have seen these so-called prophets making outrageous claims that they can treat incurable diseases like cancer, hypertension and complications arising from AIDS. Many of these characters are just desperados out to make a quick buck out of desperate people.
To make matters worse, many of these thieves in priestly collars prevent people from seeking care from formal health facilities.
The proliferation of false prophets has been worsened by Zimbabwe’s faltering economy and political turmoil. This has seen every vacant lot around cities and towns being taken up by the VaPositori variety of religious charlatans. In Budiriro recently, we had the exposé of a religious sect led by one Madzibaba Ishmael. What Ishmael did was totally unacceptable, just like what is happening at a thousand other VaPositori shrines around the country. Not only did sect members rape young women and girls. They also tried to perpetuate their nefarious activities by attacking investigators and the media.
The episode was drowned out by popular sentiment against the police. However, it does resemble what happened some years ago to the so-called Branch Davidian sect in the USA. Its leader, David Koresh claimed to be a latter-day prophet and kept hundreds of followers in subjection, feeding them on his wild and perverted view of eternity.
In South Africa more recently, we saw the case of a so-called prophet who forced followers to eat grass.
These are not extreme cases. What did Robert Gumbura do? He raped women and then forced them to marry people of his own choice so he could perpetuate the manipulation.
It is undoubtable that the Christian religion as it is known to Africans was handed down to us by the West. Most early missionaries were humble people who chose to forgo the pleasures of this world in order to preach the gospel to the poor. People like David Livingstone left comfortable lives to follow their dream of evangelizing the world. The missionaries used donations to build schools, hospitals and churches.
Unfortunately, their template of humility appears to have been lost to our African pastors, many of who erroneously label themselves prophets and market themselves as magicians who can perform miracles for show to impress people who give them money.
Uebert Angel was heard a few years ago telling a congregation that God hated poor people. He claimed that God was for the rich and typically gave examples of the biblical men who were given talents. This is a favourite diversion of today’s ‘prosperity gospel’ preachers. Yet they conveniently forget that Jesus himself said, “The poor are always going to be with us.” Jesus’ own ministry, according to the Bible, was strongly geared towards the poor and weak. He had a treasurer, Judas Iscariot, whose job it was to distribute money to the poor. Throughout his life, Jesus taught true humility, which is guided by rejecting mega-riches which tend to corrupt the mind.
We are told Jesus was rich, but chose poverty instead. When he went into Jerusalem for the last time, he did so on a donkey, the lowest form of transportation. He could have ridden there in the most expensive chariot drawn by the most fabulous horse ever seen in the city.
Yet today, pastors boast more about the material things they have acquired than the souls they have saved.
They talk about their Lamborginis, jetplanes and jacuzzis. They talk about their sophisticated wives and husbands and children attending elite schools. They mingle with the rich and ‘prophesy’ for money. Some ‘prophets’ are recruiting celebrities and the rich as a way of luring people with money to their congregations.The result for many of these recruits has been frustration as ‘prophets’ fleece them.
(c) Now Daily.