By Sij Ncube
HARARE, January 15, 2016 – President Robert Mugabe has no spiritual authority to call the nation to prayer in the wake of myriad problems facing Zimbabwe, a Christian grouping has said.
Last week, then Acting President Phelekezela Mphoko claimed Mugabe has asked churches to hold a period of national prayer as the country braces for what could turn out to be the severest drought in years.
In response to Mugabe’s alleged call, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) called a press conference in which its spokesperson, Shingi Munyeza said: “Following discussions with the Acting President, Phelekezela Mphoko, who had said he had authority from the President, we have agreed to call the nation and all Christian denominations to prayer from the 9th of January to the 17th.”
But it appears the ZHOCD’s response has sparked a tiff with other churches, with the Zimbabwe Christian Prophetic Voice, a group of Christians from different denominations, saying the pro-Mugabe churches were “way off the mark”, labelling Mugabe and his regime sinners not fit to implore the grace of God to solve Zimbabwe’s problems.
“We would like to make it clear to the people of Zimbabwe that these so-called Heads of Christian Denominations are way off the mark,” said Pius Wakatama, the spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Christian Prophetic Voice.
“First of all, what spiritual authority does President Mugabe have to call the nation to prayer? How can a loving God use the leader of a corrupt, oppressive and inhumane secular state, which rules through fear, to call God’s people to prayer?
“As far as we understand the Scriptures, there is a great divide between the state, which is the Kingdom of this world and the Church, which is the Kingdom of God. In their relationship, which should be complementary, the Church is definitely not subservient to the state. When Caesar overstepped his bounds, the early Christians made their Scriptural position very clear. We must obey God rather than men,”
According to Wakatama, it is not the church which has sinned, but the government, and that true prophesy is when the church admonishes the state and calls upon it to do justice.
He lashed out at the pro-Mugabe churches, saying his grouping has noted the state is eager to use churches “to quieten the masses who are not being paid their salaries and who are sick of being misgoverned”.
He charged that Munyeza and like-minded church leaders’ “pandering to the whims of a decadent government is not prophecy at all”, adding “true prophesy is when the Church admonishes the state and calls upon it to do justice.”
“The real prophet is today saying to the Heads of Christian Denominations, ‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked’, Psalm 82: 2-4.”
Wakatama said it was saddening that Munyeza’s ZHOCD is not alone in welcoming the President’s call to prayer, noting that The Herald of the 11th of January reported that Family of God Church founder, Andrew Wutawunashe, had said the church felt challenged by government’s call to pray for the rains. He said Zanu PF had shown that it is a God- fearing party by documenting in its political manifesto its belief in Christ.
“The Christian Prophetic Voice is calling upon all faithful followers of Jesus Christ to ignore the tricks of Satan, who has infiltrated the Church, and to seek God’s guidance in “discerning the spirits”.
“Politicians know that churches represent a large constituency. They know that what Karl Marx said was true – that “religion is the opiate of the people”. They are, therefore, eager to use churches to quieten the now restless masses not being paid their salaries and sick of being misgoverned.”
“As far as we can see, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, in this week of prayer, is merely going along with a wicked and lawless political leadership in response to drought. There is no call for real repentance. There is no sorrow, grief or righteous anger at the injustice and lawlessness in the nation. We want rain and blessings from God while we carry on with our evil ways. It is what the German theologian and martyr, Dietrich Bonheoffer, called the “cheap grace gospel” – and God sees through the hypocrisy of such a false gospel.”
He further charged that praying for rain without deep repentance and the nation turning from its evil ways is a sick joke.
“And Satan is the one who is laughing. Zimbabwe’s problems can never be solved by praying for miracles or re-organizing, redefining or improving upon an unjust and corrupt system but by praying and working towards replacing it with a God-ordained system leading to a just and God-fearing society.”