TB Joshua, Makandiwa, Pastor Chris ‘religious charlatans’
Fired Up and Angry on God’s behalf
By Darlington Majonga
NOW, I’m about to reveal what would have made my late poor mother’s eyes pop out of their sockets.
I haven’t been to church since one Sunday, in April 2008, when helmeted and black-booted anti-riot police officers, brandishing batons and slinging rifles, stormed the Anglican Cathedral in Harare in the middle of a sermon. We stampeded for the doors, with terrified women and children, the majority of the congregants, screaming and falling over each other.
The law-enforcement officers were doing it at the behest of renegade bishop Nolbert Kunonga – an ardent supporter of President Robert Mugabe – who made it clear anyone who did not recognise him as the leader of the church had no right to worship at Anglican properties. I will come back to the moron – yes, that’s what he is – some other time.
But he’s not the reason I haven’t been to church for more than three years. This was unacceptable when I was growing up, with my mother being a popular leader of the Mother’s Union at the St Mary’s parish in Chitungwiza.
In fact, anyone in our family who bunked church would not have tea with fried eggs – Sundays, not all of them of course, were the only days we could be treated to a somewhat decent breakfast. So in a way the fried eggs became an incentive for going to church. But I also believed that was the only right thing to do and, honestly, I have fond memories of my times at the Sunday school.
I always liked it when the big bell chimed. The holiness that engulfed the church especially when servers, clad in white robes, paced up and down the aisle swinging a small urn pouting burning incense was quite unbelievable. And the hymns were quite captivating and I sang along so much I thought I was a brilliant tenor until I couldn’t make the school choir.
You can imagine, when I was young, I actually thought the late Father Oliver Mutume, for example, could talk to God. It meant so much and I felt God’s spirit entering me whenever the priest touched my head while we knelt around the pulpit.
By the time Kunonga started putting the name of the Anglican Church – and Christianity at large – into disrepute, I had long ceased seeing priests and pastors as pious.
With Kunonga wreaking havoc, I was tempted to look for another denomination but I found it hard to leave my Anglican and its traditions. The only time I had done so – leaving my Anglican – was when I went to one Pentecostal church after learning the girl I wanted was an ever-present there.
Armed with my fairly good understanding of the Bible, which I had to somehow memorise when I was doing divinity at A-Level, I maneouvred my way close enough to the hot one to impress her with some verses. The only thing I didn’t do was to speak in tongues. In all honesty, I didn’t believe in their razzmatazz way of worshipping and only put up with it because I had a mission.
That’s exactly why I’m no longer interested in this church business. The church, in general, is full of pretenders. Some, like I did years ago, go to look for women. And women too – especially when their marketability is teetering towards expiry – also go to church to look for potential husbands. The place of worship has become a stage to show off fashion trends and wheels.
Yet that’s not my biggest problem with Christianity.
It’s the leaders stupid!
And the overzealous preachers!
And the pretenders
And the blind followers too!
Has anyone ever paused to think why some Christians thrive on striking fear into the hearts of non-believers? Is it not because such Christians do not understand the life and teachings of Jesus Christ upon which the Christian faith is based? Not that I understand the Bible better.
Yet that’s exactly my frustration!
Whenever I have tried to understand the religion and its teachings better I have been unfortunate to meet Christians who take pleasure in making other people feel “hellish”. They tell you symbolic practices like brewing sorghum beer to remember or appease our ancestors are satanic — as if the white man who brought Christianity to the shores of Africa does not have his own traditions.
Like burning incense to chase away evil spirits!
If they are tired of stuffing that nonsense into your ears, the fear-mongers either spurt the crap about burning in hell or God meting out heavy punishment against sinners and non-believers. When you ask them if that’s not the antithesis of the compassion, spirituality and love which the religion champions, they become so defensive.
They hide behind the “it’s the will of God” mantra in their desperate attempts to stifle and obfuscate meaningful debate on religion. If you ask them what they don’t know, they label you blasphemous. In fact, some of them get angry on behalf of God. “You need prayers!” they usually quip.
Yet it is such people who need more prayers than anyone else for endangering a religion that has taught the world love, forgiveness and all the virtues that make us a peaceful and happy people. The religion that I grew up loving so much is at the mercy of cults or sects led by fundamentalists who hide behind dogma and fake miracle works to sate their narcissistic desires.
We must watch out for such fundamentalists who thrive on isolating gullible followers from outside influences that might cause them to doubt their saintliness. And these marshals of blind faith, who claim exclusive access to God’s will, normally target the very vulnerable in society — the loveless, the sick and hopelessly poor included.
Do I hear anyone saying Pastor Chris or Prophet TB Joshua or Pastor Makandiwa? Yes, those are among the religious charlatans. They thrive of fooling people by performing spell-binding miracles that heal wheelchair-bound people. They can cure cancers and any other terminal ailments.
They can exorcise evil spirits by sending bearded men and breasted women tumbling into trances. I saw TB Joshua doing that on his TV channel recently. A trembling woman was told she had a spirit which made her not have any feeling of affection for her husband.
“It’s the crocodile spirit,” he “prophesied” to a deafening applause as the woman wriggled and snapped her mouth like a reptile. Then a guy was told his family was battling a spirit that made them unfaithful to their spouses. And, can you believe it, the possessed always exalt the Man of God for correctly prophesying their problems and dealing with the spirits!
Now, my problem is that I have relatives and friends who have terminal illnesses like Aids who believe TB Joshua can deal with that. And those who chow their modest salaries like they are Bill Gates suddenly blame spirits when they find themselves penniless and unable to feed their families hours after payday!
Even prostitutes shout spirits when their addiction to sex suddenly overwhelms them.
The whole idea, it seems, is for these charlatans masquerading as genuine prophets to sway people into believing they are all-powerful. It’s about them, not Jesus or God. That’s why most of them run TV channels which broadcast sermons and miracle works to hoodwink people.
Isn’t it why they are filthy rich?
Their dubious missions are more akin to occult practices than they are to genuine Christian modus operandi. I know some Christians will regard this article in bad taste because they are already victims of fear-mongers who take every opportunity to misinterpret the Bible.
Maybe TB Joshua should try the “remote control” trick with me – but only if he pays me too and I will gladly join those telling the world the “Man of God” is great!
*Darlington Majonga is the editor of the Free State Times in South Africa. He previously worked for the Zimbabwe Independent and Daily News in Zimbabwe. You can email him at [email protected]
You can visit his blog http://ka-darlington.blogspot.com/