‘All have sinned’
THE issue of worship is often an emotive subject that has caused conflict — both subtle and physical — among nations and individuals. In all forms of worship there are certain basic tenets expected of followers.
These include respect for the sanctity of life, upholding moral values to do with sexual relations, marriage, respect for elders and so on.
In the Christian faith — which I am more familiar with — the Bible is the key manual of values and principles which have also been adopted by individuals and groupings who do not necessarily want to be labelled followers of Christ. Such is the wholesomeness of the Bible that it forms the foundation of many laws in many countries including ours.
But Christian groups have enforced biblical principles with varying degrees of tolerance and strictness.
There are sects which believe that sinners should stand atop the nearest soapbox to confess their transgressions publicly.
There are others who believe that the same act of confession can be done in front of a pastor who “intercedes” between the sinner and God, while others feel that confession can be done quietly through meditation and prayer.
I have been to a congregation where a philandering gosa (deacon) was forced to spell out in graphic detail his exploits with a single mother from the same denomination.
The confession, punctuated by shouts of “Amen” and “God is good”, as far as I saw it, provided great entertainment value to the perverted spirits in the church who urged the poor fellow to reveal more.
All this in the name of building the body of Christ, I wondered? In the end there was great celebration, tears and prayer. The pastor declared that the poor guy’s sins had been forgiven and he had “been purified by the blood of Jesus”.
Among other Christian groupings it’s a sin to watch television, seek medical treatment, take contraceptives or to put on make-up. Others enforce the rule of tithing with military precision — to the extent of applying a garnish.
The differences in the enforcement of values and principles are a matter of degree. There are sects which see nothing wrong with polygamy or marrying minors. Others prohibit the playing of drums and instruments in church while others see prayer en-mass as demonic.
There are those whose ministries have been built around magical episodes of healing and casting out of demons.
Others see nothing wrong with drinking alcohol and smoking. They all say they worship the same God. In all these congregations, people willingly become members and they will confess that their lives have never been the same since their association with the sect.
Amid such variations to worship, Bishop Trevor Manhanga, in an article in the Sunday Mail this week, proposed that religion should be regulated to rid the Christian faith of rogue pastors and churches which he believes have devious designs.
He says regulation should punish errant churches, pastors and leaders because there is so much evil happening in the name of religion.
I share Bishop Manhanga’s concerns that there is growing worship without God but who then is the paragon of virtue to lord it over errant Christians and enforce discipline? Can it be humanly done in
this world where all have sinned and will continue to sin?
Bishop Manhanga’s plan is bereft of moral grounds of execution. He tries to equate religion with medicine and law where strict regulation is enforced and culprits punished by law.
I believe Manhanga is head of a church because of a calling and not the law. He does not practise religion because of training but because he committed his life to saving souls, he will confess to this. He should concentrate on this ministry and not invite government to regulate religion.
Manhanga falls short of saying there should be a law to ban errant Christian leaders from practising religion or that they undergo reconstruction and rehabilitation. Under whose stewardship I ask?
What has happened to the right to worship as enshrined in our constitution? I am even more worried about the mechanisms of setting up religious regulation.
It is not only Christianity whose ethics require scrutiny. There is no common ground of ethical issues among Christians, Moslems, animists, Nazarenes and so on.
Also, people are free in this country to form churches and register them. That is how Manhanga’s church came into being, legally that is.
Instead of trying to awaken government to a possible nascent avenue of control, he should be worried about how the church in Zimbabwe is slowly being suborned to the state with leaders pushing slogans in support of tyranny and misrule.
In the Bible, was it not the role of prophets to caution transgressing leaders instead of consorting with them?
I shudder at the prospects of a political appointee deciding between good churches and bad ones.
Which ones will be the good ones? Those that sing loudest in praise of the incumbent? Those that troop to the airport to meet our dear leader or those who owe their existence to state largesse?