[By Davies Chilufya]
WHEN you are in Lusaka and you draw up a list of things to look out for, don’t include church, because church will look for you. You’ll probably find posters everywhere advertising one church event or another. Some will ask for a fee while others will say, “Free, Free, Free.” But of course, what you’ll expect at such gatherings will be sermons on giving, sacrificial offering and planting monetary seeds. Which in essence is not really free at all.
There are over five thousands churches in Lusaka alone. You’ll find them in classrooms at every school. You’ll find them near markets, along the railways and even in industrial areas. Which begs the question, why are we having churches in industrial and commercial areas? Why are we having more and more people opening up churches while industries are shedding off labour? I’ll tell you. That’s what politicians want. Zambian politicians want to preside over a poor but religious population. They know that religious people are very obliging and less likely to mutiny and demand change. Christians are admonished to pray for those in authority. They are taught that if someone slaps you on one cheek, give him the other also. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”, haven’t you heard? And be reminded that politicians enjoy to donate to the poor and help struggling churches to build. They know that these are the same people they’ll go to when election time comes. If people are emancipated and become less dependent on politicians, they could start asking questions like, “Do we really need these guys?”
On the other hand our church leaders today want to justify their relevance by insisting that Zambia should be constitutionalised as Christian Nation, though little is shown for our Christianess. We are just about the very corrupt and lazy lot there can be. We report for work late. Zambian women dress to show their body shapes, making Zambian men to look at them lustfully. Zambian men lust after many things, but women and football top the list.
The list of our unChristianess is long. For example, we don’t take good care of our environment and we throw litter anyhow. We cheat every day. We neglect the poor and orphans. We condone cheating politicians and idolise the corrupt. Where is our virtues as Christians?
Many of our churches today are run by one man pastors who can stay at one church for years. These men of God will condone politicians who are inept, as long as the politician promises them that Zambia shall remain a Christian nation. Ok, we are a Christian nation, so what? Are we better than those countries that remain secular?
May be the one difference is that we have many people setting up churches called ministries. Not like the Ministry of Education, anyway. But don’t stone me, because there are good prospects in starting a church; as it’s one way of being in employment. It’s not easy but it’s simple. Pray hard and convince yourself that God has called you. Next convince others to believe in what you hold strongly. Come to think of it, God does not tell others what He knows about other people, does He? Which makes it possible for anyone to say that they feel called by God. Just like I feel called to talk about these things. Actually, all you need is faith. Faith makes all thing possible.
So in a society that is teetering with poverty and unemployment, many people will find solace in religion, especially the prosperity gospel that is being peddled today, miracle money and all that stuff.
I wish Christianity could transform us economically as it transforms us spiritually. “It does!” someone might say. “Really?” I would ask. We inherited Christianity from the west. If religion was so essential for national or personal success, our friends in the west would not have abandoned it as they have done in the past century. We have institutionalised religion for the past three decades with dismal results to show for it, except a few charismatic men of God who have become wealthy, (at least by Zambian standards), followed by the many who are doing everything to interpret the bible and make fortunes out of it. Don’t you wonder why some European countries have fewer churches but have less social upheavals and a high standard of living? Why is India and China, where Christianity is barely noticeable, doing so well economically?
True. Some pastors are doing so well economically, In fact, some of the church ministries today are run by pastors with entrepreneurial skills and their churches are as good as businesses. And if so, why don’t we just declare them as businesses and start taxing them?