Now Daily Editorial|
When people go to church, they are generally looking for life. Some believe Jesus will save their souls and they will go to heaven when they die. Others believe they will get healed or find solutions to other life problems. These are normal expectations.
However, the recent death of 11 people at Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader Walter Magaya’s crusade in Kwe Kwe has made many people skeptical about going to crowded events hosted by mega-churches.
Tonight, Friday, United Family International (UFIC) founder Emmanuel Makandiwa’s wife Ruth hosts what has been dubbed the ‘Victorious Ladies Night’, an event that has previously attracted huge crowds. Looking at what happened at the Magaya show, many are justified to be apathetic. After all, if anything happens, the church’s authorities will be looking up to our ever incompetent police for help. Their response at the Magaya crusade was simply to teargas everyone at the first sign of trouble. Then the cops simply denied causing the mayhem and blamed everything on a hapless vendor, whose gas bottle only exploded after it was overturned as people fled the teargas.
These events have led to intense speculation about organisation and control of religious events. The police advice in the wake of the Magaya stampede is that events which attract large crowds must be held in open spaces. This is ridiculous. Can people be expected to congregate in some open ground, with marauding thieves, in the dead of night? Some have suggested, quite reasonably, that night events that attract huge crowds should simply be banned.
Since the church was introduced to Zimbabwe by European missionaries several centuries ago, it has done a lot to shape our society. While nationalists accuse the church of purveying slavery and poverty in Africa, it is undeniable that many religious organisations have brought positive changes. Churches, schools, hospitals, orphanages and old peoples homes have been built, sometimes in remote areas, as a result of efforts by Christian missionaries. Many of these churches were founded on logical principles of hard work to achieve success, respect for human life to attain peace, respect for other peoples’ property to ensure stability and help for the poor to guarantee social equity. They also preached patience, perseverence and humility.
Unfortunately, as Zimbabwe plunged into economic doldrums and political turmoil due to corruption, mismanagement and repression by the regime of Robert Mugabe, things changed. We began to see the emergence of what we can call the ‘instant coffee preachers’ promising instant riches, instant healing, instant marriage etc.According to these preachers, you do not have to wait in line or work hard to get the good things in life. Everything can be delivered on a silver platter, but there is a catch. In order to get the goodies, you have to give huge amounts of money to these preachers who, typically, call themselves prophets and their wives are uniformly called prophetesses. They all seem to have mastered one verse among all others: “Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure pressed down and running over, will men pour into your bosom.”
But, unlike the old church which gave away vast amounts to the poor and its priests lived in near-destitution in order to inspire a spirit of service, the so-called prophets are super-rich and when they give, they make sure its properly captured on You Tube.
This has created personality cults around people like Makandiwa, Magaya and Uebert Angel, who are literally worshipped. These preachers have created the impression that you can not be blessed unless you are around them, hence the crowding at their events. They run their churches like businesses and expect military-style subservience. Of course gathering the crowds brings in the dollars, so they will continue to drive them into unsuitable venues, for profit, regardless of the consequences. This must stop.