‘Religion is the opium of the people’


Chioniso and Other Stories
By Shimmer Chinodya
Published by Weaver Press 2012
ISBN: 978-1-77922-170-4

THROUGH a collection of short stories, Shimmer Chinodya focuses on a number of issues which include teenage rebellion, the moral compromises that are brought by the economic hardships in the country and the effect of religion in our lives.
The story ‘Infidel’ touches particularly on Christianity as a religion and highlights the new wave of gospel that has affected most families in Zimbabwe.
These Pentecostal movements have taken the cities by storm and have affected attendance even in the orthodox churches such as Roman Catholic, Methodist and Anglican as a number of their congregants, particularly the young, have left for the Pentecostal movement.
Chinodya highlights a sad truth about how some of these movements have broken up families instead of building up families as most funds are channelled towards the church instead of taking care of the family.
Some children are sent back home from school, there will be no food in the house and rentals are not being paid while others are going broke as a result of the hefty pledges they make at their churches in the name of partnership.
Writes Chinodya: “Her life changed.
His life changed.
Vhaidha went to prayer meetings three or four times a week and attended two consecutive church services on Sunday.
She frequented weddings, funerals, all night-prayer meetings, tithed heavily and ran a parallel budget to support her new cause.
She was now demanding money for groceries and the children’s uniforms from him, responsibilities that had been once hers.”
In the end Vhaidha and her husband Godfrey divorce because of the strain that religion had brought into their family.
Vhaidha had forsaken her role as the mother and wife of the house, delegating everything to the maid simply because she was on all the church programmes.
Funny enough, Vhaidha was missing an important element of the Bible which the Christians ought to follow which emphasises on the Proverbs 31 woman; a woman of virtue who is praised and blessed by both her husband and children because she is committed to her household.
Chinodya also highlights cases of rape and adultery in some churches when he says: “One male pastor ensnared a chain of willing housewives and took them one-by-one to bed .
Another, believed to have healing powers, used gullible young virgins, extracting sex from them in return for material presents. When they fell pregnant, he arranged for them to have abortions and then had them implanted with five-year anti-pregnancy devices.”
The scenario resembles the highly publicised End Time Message leader Robert Martin Gumbura’s case where the so-called ‘man of God’ was eventually incarcerated for rape.
The so-called, ‘man of God’ even threatened some of the victims who wanted to expose him.
Apparently, it’s said some of these so-called prophets have mafias who deal with and, at times, take out such women.
However, adultery is not limited to Pentecostal churches.
Years ago, an archbishop of a famous traditional church was caught pants down on camera with a woman in Zimbabwe.
Despite all this, churches continue to mushroom and trying to vilify a ‘man of God’ usually attracts the wrath of the sons and daughters of that particular ministry.
Congregants protect their ‘man of God’ at all costs, even when the evidence against the so-called ‘man of God’ is clear.
Yes, because they are taught to defend and that is why the churches continue to flourish everyday despite claims of fake miracles, adultery and juju, among other things.
Religion indeed is the opium of the masses.
Chinodya believes that if there was no religion, people throughout the world would live happily together.
“The greatest threat to the world today is a full-scale war between Islam and Christianity,” says Chinodya.
Throughout the story ‘Chioniso’, which is the title of the book, religion also plays a part when a wife leaves her house ‘to go and pray in peace’ away from her husband who has tantrums which disturb her prayer life.
However, the separation has a negative effect because the mother uses Chioniso, her father’s favourite, as a weapon to get back at her husband.
In the end, the child leaves school and follows her mother’s advice and goes to Mexico to study a one year Bible School programme, abandoning her ‘A’-Level studies and by the time she gets back, her father does not want anything to do with her.
Her mother cannot afford to take her to the school that she wants.
In all this, the father loses his daughter and his daughter loses an education.
Despite all that, he hopes the relationship with his daughter would mend.
In the story ‘Martha Hero’, the story of the liberation struggle is told and how the spirit mediums played a crucial role in the attainment of independence.
Other stories in the collection include ‘Queues’ which is a reflection of the queues that Zimbabweans endured during the 2008 period as a result of the sanctions and ‘Tavonga’ which explores adoption and how culture challenges the Western tradition of living with a stranger without the consent of the blood relatives.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here