By Bruce Ndlovu
Prophet Passion Java stopped breastfeeding when he was one month and three days old.
That story is true, that is if the people close to him are to be believed. That is the story of his birth as told by his mother, Senator for Buhera Cristine Rambanepasi.
Never mind that most medical practitioners, even the United Kingdom’s vaunted NHS, say it is not advisable to wean a child off mother’s milk even after six months. It is unheard of for one to also self-wean merely three months into their birth.
Java, if the stories of those that are close to him are to be believed, had an eventful childhood, a dramatic upbringing because of “gifts” that would lead him one day to the pulpit and national fame.
Before he had styled himself as a man of God that delivers “deep revelation and forensic prophecies”, Java was already shocking those close to him with his unmatched foresight. This is true, if the tales about him are to be believed.
He is the boy who, while in Grade Four, saw his father being chased down by a lion that sunk its sharp teeth into his Achilles tendon. That was his first dream, the first prophecy, delivered on a Tuesday. He was to deliver yet another two days later. In his Thursday vision, he had seen bearded men drowning his father in a drum.
The message was clear: Charles Java was not to travel to Buhera for a memorial service. The elder Java defied his son, probably deciding that these were the nightmares of a boy worried unnecessarily about his father. He returned from Chigavakava area vomiting violently, after choking on meat. He died the following Sunday.
With that tragically accurate prophecy, Prophet Passion Java, then only a primary school pupil, was born. This tale is also true, if the stories of those close to him are to be believed.
Java has undergone many changes since then. He has come a long way from the young boy who rushed into his father’s bedroom in the middle of the night to warn him about bearded men that wanted to steal his breath.
At Seke High 2 in Chitungwiza while other boys were battling with puberty, Java, armed with only a Bible from the school scripture union, was already confronting demons and going toe to toe with satanists. He is said to have even predicted the death of his own teacher right down to the hour.
Such prowess all points to the early life of a prophetic prodigy that was no doubt destined for bigger things.
Looking at him now however, one would think that all that great history of a would-be prophet as a young man is a lie, a fancy bedtime story his followers tell their children. Java is not your typical prophet. Even in Zimbabwe, and across Africa, where many a prophet has been known to turn a church into a theatre of the absurd at times, Java stands out.
Yes, Java has all the trinkets that are associated with the average prosperity preacher. He has the nice cars — a Lamborghini, Maserati and a top of the range Rolls Royce are some of the fancy toys that compete for space in his garage.
He has the nicely tailored suits — whenever he steps on to the pulpit he does so in style, with perfectly tailored designer garments cut perfectly to hug every inch of his lean frame. He also has the pointy, shiny shoes that seem to be an essential part of every Man of God’s wardrobe.
In addition, he also has an army of followers ready to defend him in case of any attack. This army is essential for any prophet that takes himself seriously.
“We are being attacked as a Ministry, instead of people appreciating social responsibility programmes our Man of God is doing they are actually persecuting us . . .
“Prophet Passion is a blessed man, recently he bought a Lamborghini and he has also entered a deal with Gucci, when we publicise those things our aim is to show what God can do,” his Kingdom Embassy said last year after several prominent pastors questioned Passion Java’s lifestyle.
All that is standard for the modern Man of God. What makes Java stand apart however, is what he does away from the pulpit. However, this does not mean he has not provided a fair share of jaw dropping moments even in the house of God.
In 2013 Java grabbed headlines when he claimed that he had performed a miracle abortion on a woman who was four months pregnant. This was despite the fact that the Holy Book is explicitly against the practice of “taking lives” of unborn children.
Late last year, Passion Java was in the headlines again after he claimed that he had foreseen the death of fellow prominent prophet Shepherd Bushiri. However, these prophesies are not what has made Passion Java the prophet on most Zimbabweans’ lips.
It is his flirtation with dancehall, a genre one would not necessarily associate with holiness. Java, who now calls himself the Gafa prophet, has gone the extra mile, signing dancehall artistes to his stable.
Not only does Java love dancehall music, he also lives it and, in some ways, embodies it more than some chanters. There is no man of God that has been known to have an influence on urban style and language but Java has succeeded where no man has.
Phrases like “twabam” and “gore regonzo”, a humorous twist on the Chinese’s Year of the Rat, are part of the everyday street lingo used by young people in Zimbabwe.
Java, in a move that would be out of character with your ordinary prophet, recently did not hesitate to show off his arsenal of guns, which he claimed were worth US$150 000. Weapons of war and violence are not what one would associate with a minister of the word.
As they preach the gospel of prosperity, it is not rare for prophets to show off their wealth. Most are happy to let their possessions do the talking.
Prophet Bushiri has been known to post a well-timed snap from inside his private jet from time to time while Uebert Angel’s suits always turn heads.
While Java might also have the trinkets, he is also not afraid to tell everyone else that they do not possess what he has. He runs commentary on his own wealth and he rarely even pretends to be modest.
This is clearly a rare breed of prophet but is he the first of his kind?
Java has used comedy and absurdity to gain prominence and there are others in history who have been similar — showman that entertained more than they preached the word of God.
American preacher Grady Nutt was hailed as the godfather of Christian comedy because of his ability to bring humour into his sermons. Later on, Nutt became a full-blown entertainer with TV shows even on American television networks. In modern day America pastors like Steven Furtick and Tanver Smith have also become known for being “entertainers “with their cult-like followings.
Their grasp of the Bible has also been questioned. Smith, who preaches while wearing jeans and bleached hair, has claimed that “God doesn’t have legal authority to operate in the Earth without a body; He needs men to accomplish His work.” Furtick plays rock and roll music in his church and preaches sermons with such provocative titles such as Visionary Love/ Dream Sex.”
“These “pastors” are effectively entertainers who put on a show for their audiences. Their business transactions, because of their overt religious nature, are tax free. “Tithes and offerings” serve as a substitute for ticket sales. These entertainers do not preach from a pulpit; rather, they perform from a stage,” religious scholar Seth Dunn said of the likes of Furtick and Smith.
Anyone who saw Java’s recent showing as he spoke in tongues cannot deny that it was anything other than a performance. What has made him unique however, is how he has used social media to take his performance beyond the pulpit. Perhaps the public should give the man, born Pangayi Java in 1987, a break and not link what he does on social media to his work as a minister?
“Being a minister is a full-time job. There is no and off switch. You have to lead an exemplary life that your followers can also aspire towards because you are a beacon of light in a life full of temptations. If you can’t be exemplary then it becomes a problem,” Head Priest of the St Joseph’s Catholic Mission, Father Innocent Ndlovu said. Sunday News