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24 June
2016
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Christian Fanaticism in the Age of the Wristband

As the Bible tells it, Jesus and his disciples went up to a village in Samaria to preach. Jesus sent messengers ahead of him, to prepare his arrival. But the village wouldn’t receive him.

Seeing this, two of Christ’s disciples, James and John, always overeager to please their master, went ballistic – on his behalf.

“Lord,” they said, “do you want us to rain down fire from heaven upon them?”

But Jesus turned to them and told them “chill, curb your enthusiasm”. Well, not in those exact words, but the Bible tells us he “rebuked them”, and “they moved on to the next town”. No drama.

Here was a bunch of villagers, rejecting the Son of God himself, and yet here he was, just carrying on with dignity to the next town.

Those villagers would be grateful it was Jesus outside their town that day, and not a modern day Zimbabwean prophet, with his hordes of intolerant, fanatical followers in tow. For there is no telling what hell fire would have fallen on them.

They would have been drowned in “holy ghost fayah”, tantrums would be thrown, and threats of curses and eternal damnation of each villager, their children, and their children’s children, and their pets, would have been made.

For in Zimbabwe, there is a growing fundamentalism and intolerance among groups of Christians. As a Christian myself, it scares me.

Who among you, oh ye prophets, will be like Jesus and rebuke your minions? For, in your name, they are out here acting like football fans, supporters of African ruling parties, or the Beyhive, that scary swarm of Beyonce stans.

If you ever cross vana vemuporofita, my friend, you are on your own – it’s late for you.

Fundamentalism, by one definition, is the approach to religion in which believers consider their beliefs to be beyond criticism and to be enforced upon others.

Challenge what they believe, and you are a Satanist, you are demonic, and you need deliverance.

It takes little to set them off. Ask about the place of God’s word in their casual prophet worship, and they’re dragging you. Ask if they know any more verses beyond “touch not”, and they quote the same verse back at you.

In this fanaticism, there is no room for facts. Any rumour in the church WhatsApp group is enough to spark loads of holy wilding. Even street demonstrations.

See how legitimate opposition to the National Pledge has been hijacked. A pledge that, face it, is a waste of effort, somehow became a platform for hate and ignorance.

 

 

I saw a crusader wielding a wooden cross in one hand, and a loud hailer in the other, making an angry speech outside the offices of the Minister of Education, Lazarus Dokora. “We don’t want the Muslims,” he foamed at the mouth. Amens all round.

Perhaps it wasn’t his fault. Hadn’t the internet, that fount of all truth, said “the Muslims” were coming? Did not one website carry a story “Zimbabwe now a Muslim country – Dokora”, with the Education Minister’s pic superimposed over an image of Isis fighters beheading captives, AK47s in the air?

 

 

Who are we not to defend our “Christian country” against this invasion?

Minister Dokora himself was a Muslim, another said. How do you know, someone asked? “The beard,” came the answer. We are a Christian country, they shouted.

Another wrote on Facebook: “Anyone not a Christian born again of God is a pure Satanist pursuing Satan’s agenda.” And another: “Fokoro Dokora with your Muslims”. And yet another: “I hate this religion. Muslim is full of shit”. Also another: “No Zimbo-haram”.

This pledge is idolatry, another screamed. Irony, given how easily many are now willing to go to war for their church leaders, more than they are for the Word.

 

A placard left outside the Minister of Education's office after the demonstration / Unknown

A placard left outside the Minister of Education’s office after the demonstration / Clarkson Mambo

 

Not long ago, a newspaper carried a series of stories alleging Pastor Walter Magaya had been involved in adultery. A group of his followers organized themselves and threatened to march on the paper. One wrote: “We will pull you out of that office and show you some things are not for you to mess with. Handitukirwe baba vangu ndakatarisa (I cannot allow you to insult my father).”

The threats went on for days, until Magaya himself, to his credit, took out a statement telling his people not to beat anyone up.

Due to the negative publicity moving across all forms of media (print or electronic) against PHD Ministries in general and Prophet W. Magaya in particular there have been emotional reactions from all concerned PHD Ministries Members and followers. However, you are kindly but strongly advised to refrain from any forms of physical violence against such perpetrators.

Even as he purported to tell them to chill, he played on their paranoia.

It is true that we are being fought left, right and centre but all that are actions inspired by the devil to tarnish the good image of the Ministry and man of God Prophet W. Magaya in his personal capacity…Again I repeat – do not use any form of violence against such elements.

They rage, that lot. At everyone. At those who disagree with their interpretation of the Gospel, and even at those of competing church leaders. Yes, competing. Because, truth be told, there is a “my prophet is better than your prophet” battle going on.

In April, two men beat each other senseless near Harare’s Market Square. One had mocked the other over his church leader. Both wore wristbands of their churches.

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if some of these leaders were to set their members upon those they disagree with. Or upon those they do not like. What will happen then? With the stranglehold they have on their followers, and the influence they have in power corridors, we are all game.

Who is safe? The Gospel certainly isn’t, and neither are those that believe different. None of us is.

The church in Zimbabwe today needs more Christian tolerance. It needs to be more like Jesus, and less like James and John that day outside Samaria.

 

 

Ranga Mberi
Ranga is a writer, a Zimbabwean patriot, and an Afro-optimist. He also side-eyes every single thing.


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