Monday, 9 November 2015

Prophets Magaya and Makandiwa - Religion and Politics Inseparable

CHRISTIANITY is a lifestyle. So are many religions. A thumping 85 percent of Zimbabweans are said to be Christians in one way or another.

At least they profess to be one. Politics is what it is. Some define it as the use of intrigue, gimmickry and strategy to obtain a position of power or control. Imagine then that 85 percent of Zimbabweans decide not to mix their religion (way of life) and politics and leave themselves to be ruled and governed by their inferiors. Those ones who just want to gain control and power for the sake of it.
Prophets Magaya and Makandiwa - Religion and Politics Inseparable
Those who want to gain a position for what it brings to them rather than what it enables them to do for the nation and their people. What a disturbing world will that be! Even in the current mix, nations are being ruled by terrible people who profess Christianity. That maybe provides them with a bit of moral check. One of course just hopes.

The other heathendom political world seems to be what some people and a NewsDay editorial for November 6 titled “Keep Churches out of politics” seem to be calling for. Among other things, it alleged that Zanu-PF was so desperate for money that it was hoping to raise funds for its conference from a couple of the most prominent so-called “prophets” Messrs Makandiwa and Magaya. Maybe it’s Magaya and Makandiwa as it is alleged that these two are fighting for their own pre-eminence so the order by which they are written down might be a “political” issue.

This columnist’s views on this new movement of Pentecostalism are well documented. Suffice to say that they are unflattering. But that should not detract from the fact that the call for these two and the rest of the churches to stay out of politics just because they are thought to be associated with Zanu-PF is ill-conceived and very self-serving.

It is a fact that this type of a call only comes whenever there is church’s association with the ruling party. That being said, raises the debate whether the call to keep churches out of politics is a good call, one just happened to cross the mind at the time when the rich pair was associated with Zanu-PF?
Religion is said to structure one’s way of life, and politics modulates it. The whole Bible is based on the interaction between politics and religion. There is a whole Land Question which emanates from a people occupying others land based on a religious promise they alleged to have been given by God. That is an issue that has absorbed the whole world to this day in what is known as the Palestinian Question.

It is one where religion could not be kept out of politics. In talking of Biblical promises and politics, the fact that most religious leaders then were political leaders cannot be ignored.

As one traverses the Bible they come across the Crucifixion, whose basis was both a religious and a political accusation. There was confusion about Jesus’ declaration that he was King of the Jews. Some felt this was a rebellion against Caesar and the political order of the day, while others saw some religious sacrilege somewhere.

The end result was a political leader in Pontius Pilate releasing Jesus to the Jewish religious sects of Pharisees and Sadducees resulting in the most revolting and sadistic form of religious martyrdom. And we are here today talking of a religion that was founded upon that religio-political martyrdom.

But that happened in far off foreign lands. Let’s bring it closer to home. From the days of Father Gonzalo da Silveira all the way to Robert Moffat tracking through the liberation struggle to this day, organised religion and politics have always been inseparable in Zimbabwe. The occupation of many African lands had the double edged sword of the Bible and the maxim gun. The infamous 1883 letter to imperialist missionaries by King Leopold II comes to mind in illustrating this inseparable combination.

More positively, during the liberation struggle, a Catholic periodical known as Moto Magazine was banned by Ian Smith in 1974 to only emerge in 1980 after Independence because of its position against the Rhodesian regime and its perceived support for the liberation movements.

When it comes to the nationalists themselves (however they ended) the nation had clerics such as Ndabaningi Sithole founding president of Zanu, Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa prime minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia and Canaan Sodindo Banana, the first state president of an independent Zimbabwe. Weren’t all these cases an interaction between church and politics? Isn’t it just rich (pun intended) that suddenly there is a voice that says Makandiwa and Magaya stay out of politics?

How many times has Zimbabwe experienced political rallies packaged as prayer meetings?
Hoo zvakanaka zvichiitwa navamwe kana zvava zveZanu-PF mavara azara ivhu (Is it only acceptable being done by those opposed to Zanu PF, but it becomes foul when the ruling party delves in religion)? Why is the nation not hearing these cries to keep politics out of religion when Bishop Bakare calls for his “convergence” conference?

Doesn’t the whole outlook of civic society in Zimbabwe have a veneer of Christian work?
Is civic service only that which is opposed to the State? Churches are allowed and should be allowed to deal with civic issues such as human rights, governance and justice. But those that want to rally behind the status quo should also be allowed the same space to advocate and finance such causes without risking demonisation.
Prophets Magaya and Makandiwa - Religion and Politics Inseparable
If churches must be left alone to be outspoken against political excesses, by the same token they should also be allowed to be outspoken in support of the status quo and even fund it if they so wish. If churches provide a moral voice, such a voice should not be prescribed by the media or such pseudo-democrats.

Those religions supporting the status quo should not be seen as collaborators/accessories whereas those that oppose it are seen as heroes. Religion is an issue of conscience. And everyone has a different one. When church provides a moral voice in a political discourse, it doesn’t always have to be anti-establishment.

All political parties are aware that churches complement or oppose their work. And naturally both politics and religion are divisive and they will always have a strained or complementary relationship.

If there is nothing wrong with Levee Kadenge issuing statements against the Government, maybe there is also nothing wrong with people like Rev Andrew Wutaunashe, who are deemed to hold either Pan Africanist or nationalistic slant in their life outlook, issuing pastoral sermons deemed to identify with the same ideals as Zanu-PF. If there is nothing wrong with Pius Ncube delivering religious edicts against the Government, what would be wrong with Mapositori uttering supplication for the health of Zanu-PF leadership?

Whether people like it or not, politics and religion will always interact and political parties will deploy them to their own ends. It all comes down to who can do it more creatively and in a more productive way. Churches cannot only be recognised as a vital force to foster moral conscience, when they oppose the State and be accused of collusion when they work with the government of the day.

The attack of seemingly hostile clergy does not only come from those opposed to the government. Those in power have also issued what could be deemed to be unholy edicts against religious organisations and individuals. If this is unacceptable, then it should go both ways.

On their part religious organisations riding roughshod over politics by choosing when to utter their two pence worthy through the so-called pastoral letters, retreat and claim unfettered freedom of worship when politicians return fire. That is tantamount to them having their cake and eating it.

If politicians can be scrutinised and attacked, those religious organisations which rightly get involved in politics should be given their political just deserts like everyone else. After all who can separate religion from politics? And politicians should also be free to use churches as fishing ponds, after all that’s where 85 percent of the voters are.

Let politics and religion interactively co-exist, after all what actually is the difference between the two? Religion is both a unifying and a dividing element in society. Just the same as politics, but generally religion has killed more than politics.

And this is not about the current wave of terrorism and the accompanying outrages to extremism. The reality which everyone must live with is one cannot separate religion from politics. And politicians love giving moral authority to their nonsense by quoting religious texts. It is known that the most favourite scripture to be quoted by incumbents in political positions and those that support them is the one that says every leadership or dominion is ordained in heaven.