D-day is nigh
EASTER is coming this weekend and where will politicians be as they prepare to enter the home straight of their campaign for the general election on Thursday? As Zimbabweans prepare
to attend church services and other events associated with Easter this is also the last weekend for them to consider which candidates to select after weeks of relentless campaigning by the two main political parties.
Last Easter United States presidential aspirant John Kerry’s quest to fulfill a religious obligation by attending a church service suddenly became a political issue. He was not the first Democrat to want to attend a church service but that seemingly innocuous act became a national issue because Kerry was standing in a presidential election. The church’s position on Kerry’s standpoints was crucial hence the media watched with interest in which church the politician’s knee would bend.
If Kerry, a Catholic had stuck to his home Boston Archdiocese, he faced the implied threat from Archbishop Sean O’Malley of being refused Communion.
Archbishop O’Malley, according to the Washington Post, had declared that pro-choice Catholic politicians were in a state of grave sin and could not properly take Communion, though he mentioned neither Kerry nor other Democrats subscribing to the politician’s ideals.
In his campaign for the presidency, Kerry favoured human stem-cell research; the right to abortion, including partial-birth abortion; and civil unions between homosexuals which was contrary to church teachings. He could therefore not take Communion.
Reports say he ended up sidestepping the Communion issue by attending the Missionary Baptist Church, where he quoted a few verses from the second chapter of James.
He again worshipped with a Protestant congregation at the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Dorchester where he received plaudits from the pulpit.
“We’re thankful that there’s going to be a revolution in this country … a new movement,” the Rev Gregory Groover said from the pulpit during the Palm Sunday service. “And we say, God, bring him on, the next president of the United States.”
That is the church taking a stand on key issues of politics. There are many who did not vote for Kerry because they abhorred his stance on gay unions, human cloning and abortion. Of course, praise for the Democrat who eventually lost the poll to incumbent George Bush rang in church auditoriums. God, bring him on, the next president of the United States!
This weekend, there are many candidates here who would wish to have that kind of support from the altar. Candidates entering houses of worship will be watched with curiosity, especially the infrequent visitors, not necessarily seeking divine support but to making an appearance before a constituency that is imbued with immense societal influence.
That is why Pamela Tungamirai had Zanu PF imbed Rev Obediah Msindo at rallies in Tafara and Mabvuku last weekend notwithstanding the spectacle created by the huge wad of cash — $90 million in all — which he held during his “sermon”. I did not see a bible in the hand of the man of God!
Msindo’s campaigning for Zanu PF has been as overt as it gets. He has even beatified Mugabe to the sainthood.
A number of senior Zanu PF officials have of late been regular visitors to the churches where overawed clergymen have surrendered the pulpit to political mandarins to expound the virtues of their party and Mugabe. Did I lately hear one of them saying the Zanu PF government brought the people of Zimbabwe closer to God by “democratising the church?” At a church service in Harare Central last weekend parishioners listened in awe as the preacher expounded the virtues of women leaders and why change was a demonstration of lack of faith.
I see more visitations to churches and other religious gatherings by aspiring politicians this Easter. They cannot be turned away but it is important for parishioners to question what the politicians stand for. It is important for the church to analyse campaign literature being used by candidates’ respective parties.
Does the church in Zimbabwe have a view on hate language used by Zanu PF for example in its jingles on radio and television? Does the church believe that it is fair for children as young as six to be herded to rallies where they sit for hours under the baking sun waiting for the convoy of motor vehicles or helicopters to disgorge the leader?
Parishioners, especially in rural areas, could this weekend be barred from assembling to celebrate Easter, especially if ceremonies coincide with a political rally to be addressed by the local god.
When will the church stand up to this bullying. Does their silence mean endorsement or apathy?