VARIOUSLY defined as “particular system of faith and worship” or “a pursuit or interest followed with great devotion”, there is no apparent consensus among scholars about what it is. My own definition of it is that religion is Mankind’s way of accessing the divine or spiritual. I have refrained from really tackling this creature called religion in this nation but today I must.
Growing up as a young boy, going to church was an unquestionable ritual. You just knew that one particular day in a week, you dressed up to go to a certain place where people gathered and engaged in prayer and worship. As a child, the children’s class was also a place to fraternise with fellows. We sang the hymns and felt a certain sense of being watched over.
I believe that I saw angels floating about once or twice. Maybe it was my mind playing tricks on me. But maybe not. I remember in fourth grade, writing a letter to God asking for a new pair of shoes. I was tired of Sandak plastic shoes which burned my feet when the sun was hot or froze them when the winter’s chill set in. I dropped the letter outside our bedroom window. I believed that surely God would send one of his delivery beings to fetch a child’s heartrending missive. But my letter to God was still lying on the ground come sunrise. Maybe that was because there is to be no litter in heaven. Maybe God did not need to hold a piece of paper to decipher the cry of our humanity’s deepest thoughts? I may never know. But herein is the gist of the discourse: where does one draw a line between fact and fantasy? Faith and presumption?
Churchianity versus Christianity
The Christians were first called such in the New Testament, in Acts 11, after Barnabas brought Saul (Paul) to Antioch where they taught the disciples for about a year, the text says that the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. Thus Christianity’s genesis is in the 1st century AD after the death of Jesus. It was later to spread throughout the Roman Empire and flowered indeed to become a colossal tree at the very epicentre of human history.
But this is not a discussion about church history per se. It is an exploration of the practices associated with the religion today. Much is happening in the name of Christianity and the church. By churchianity, I refer to the rites which make up the religious experience on the continent today. It is not so much a reference to Christianity as a spiritual relationship an individual has with the Christ.
Thus in my view, much of what is happening masquerading as Christianity is in fact Churchianity. When you see a self-styled prophet bathe in a drum and have congregants drink from the water which he hands them, that for me is churchianity. When you see self-styled prophets serve congregants millipedes or grass, then I have no option but to call these bizarre acts the extremes of churchianity. How is it even feasible? How do otherwise sensible folk debase themselves to such an extent?
Sleights of hand
Magic, which is the power of apparently influencing events or things by supernatural forces, is rife in the so-called church. That is my supposition. When a self-styled man of God waves his hand and a whole mass of believers fall to the ground in what appears to be a trance-like state, I marvel how such displays of power can really be from the very inspiration of God. It is vanity in motion. But it happens willy nilly these days.
I even saw one video in which one self-styled prophet conjures a whirlwind which he said was the presence of God. I daresay these things are inducements for the skeptical to believe that God is working through their agency.
Miracles are the major draw cards of the new church age. Last year, one of the prophets feigned a resurrection in South Africa. Turned out that the raised man was just a shyster who wanted to help his equally ambitious prophet cultivate a reputation of being supercharged with the supernatural. Such perfidy is commonplace and the gullible rush on. Apparently, it is not enough to be a mere pastor these days, they must also be “apostle doctor prophet something”.
All bad apples?
Well, my judgment is that there could be some truly righteous men and women left in this world. But religion is too rife in Africa and it is interwoven with mysticism and superstition. The syncretising is clearly maddening as churches are proliferating faster than any other enterprise. Anyone with some kind of “revelation” is setting up shop. There will be a range of products such as bangles and even holy oil to accompany believers in their “faith walks”.
Such is the epoch we are in. It is an epoch of belief and unbelief. Will African lives be saved by this thronging toward the temples or the mosques? Will African economies turn around through prayer and fasting? Will the demons holding African economies back be “cast out”?
Someday, we will wake up as a people and realise that no one is coming for us and that the power is already within us and that the only demon worth casting is the demon of beggarliness. God long made us in His image and what we are praying for is already within our reach. Opening churches where factories must stand is not going to lift us out of poverty. Madzibaba or mbuya or sekuru is not the solution. Neither are political parties and their slogans. It is self-respect and the dignity of proper planning and work which will lead us to stop looking for crutches when our black feet are not lame!