By Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu
SEVERAL Zimbabwean print media houses publish stories virtually every week on so-called pastors and prophets who are sentenced to prison terms of varying lengths for rape.
Some cases involve ‘pastors’, most of whom are shameless, self-ordained charlatans heading little known groups of irretrievably ignorant but credulous people comprising mostly extremely poor black women.
Many young Christians have gone off the biblical moral rails in many African countries south of the Sahara as their region has been, and is still being hijacked by scheming self-seekers whose main (if not only) concern is to satisfy their physical greed and achieve personal prosperity and material comfort.
The church, as founded in Rome by Saint Paul and Saint Peter, was based on the tri-dimensional doctrine of spiritual salvation, physical nurturing of the body and the development and guidance of the mind. The Christian believes he/she has a spirit, a body and a mind.
Those are to be taken care of by the church according to the doctrine of the Christian religion as stated in the New Testament whose foundation is the Old Testament.
Conventional Christian denominations such as the Roman Catholic, the Anglican, the Seventh Day Adventist, the Brethren-In-Christ, the Church of Christ, the Methodist, the Baptist, the Salvation Army, the Dutch Reformed, the American Methodist Episcopal, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) and quite a few more follow this tried and tested tri-dimensional doctrinal approach to mould well-balanced people.
There are slight differences on such details as whether one’s spiritual salvation is determined by one’s faith or by one’s deeds or by both.
Denominations that believe in the predestination doctrine as expounded by John Calvin say spiritual salvation of every person was decided by God before creation, a very, very controversial opinion or interpretation of the book of Revelations Chapter 16 verse 16.
However, the vast majority of denominations maintain that spiritual salvation is determined by a combination of faith and deeds.
Faith means belief in Jesus Christ as one’s Saviour and as the only begotten Son of God.
One’s deeds should uphold the Mosaic Law, that is, the Decalogue, plus additional instructions as found in Deuteronomy and some New Testament passages.
The fourth law of the Decalogue says: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
A number of pentecostal pastors and so-called prophets have been hauled before courts of law on adultery allegations with many found guilty.
We must hasten to add some deacons, evangelists and reverends of conventional churches have also fallen victim to that most embarrassing sin, which becomes even much more when committed by Roman Catholics who have taken a vow of celibacy.
Apostolic and pentecostal churches seem to be having a lion’s share of this adultery transgression because of the youthfulness of most of their church leaders.
They seem to think adultery and fornication are glorified virtues and not mortal sins. In well-established conventional denominations, those who train for senior church leadership should be aged 35 years or above and certainly must be married.
This is a very helpful requirement indeed. Unfortunately, in some pentecostal and apostolic churches, some leaders are in their early 20s; little wonder the incidence of sexual immorality is high in those hastily formed religious groups.
Some of their leaders have no conscience and seem to think that they do their congregants a big favour by either raping them or committing adultery and fornication with them.
Victims of those sexually immoral actions are generally young girls who become psychologically scarred the rest of their lives. Sexual immorality has caused a disastrous condition in some of those churches as is clearly shown during the prosecution of several of their leaders.
The leader of End Time Message, Robert Martin Gumbura’s case, was a most embarrassing example a few years ago.
It is appropriate to describe some female church members as mercenary prostitutes who take advantage of the hypocritic self-anointed pastors and satanic prophets to make money.
We can refer to some of those as rabid nymphomaniacs. For how else can one describe women who travel literally scores of kilometres to some man who calls himself a prophet, get into a closed room with him for what he calls a prayer — just the two of them!
We should accept that there are certainly a few God-inspired people who are able to read the future, and or some of whose prayers result in miracles.
It is undoubtedly unrealistic to think that every Tom, Dick and Harry can be a prophet or that every Tina, Diana and Helen can be prophetesses.
It also defies logic that a prophet’s wife suddenly become a prophetess by virtue of marraige. This is a sham.
Parents, guardians and teachers would be very well advised to guide all the children under their care correctly so that they do not fall prey to beasts of immorality who use God’s name.
Bringing up children morally, spiritually and intellectually is a very important church responsibility in the modern world.
That is because children are the world’s future and churches that have a morally sound, spiritually inspiring, intellectually edifying and physically healthy youth policy are sure of sustainable growth.
Every nation’s youth policy should reflect spiritual uprightness, physical vigour, intellectual motivation, self-respect and creativeness.
Another social and economic responsibility that churches have is over their women whose traditional role as anchors of Christian communities is as old as Jesus Christ himself.
Church officials who use their leadership positions to molest or take advantage of female members reduce at least, or destroy at most, the church’s respect and standing in society; the church is the body of Jesus Christ and for some of its leaders to behave immorally is to turn that body into a pool of sensual pleasure.
Church leaders who indulge in sexual immorality with some of the congregants reduce their own personal respectability and greatly damage their sermons’ credibility.
Only leaders who fail to act as practical examples tell their followers to do as they say and not as they do.
However, good leadership is based on the old English adage: ‘Actions speak louder than words’. That is especially relevant to Christian leadership.
A third social responsibility that is irresponsibly neglected by most pentecostal and some apostolic churches in Zimbabwe are the health and educational needs of the communities in which their churches are located.
It is not possible for one to justify leading a rich Christian church organisation whose members receive medical services and formal education from, say, a Roman Catholic or an Anglican any other denominational centre because their own church does not want to build schools or hospitals, but instead buys palatial houses, latest car models and private jets for its top leaders.
There is nothing Christian in that kind of selfishness. If anything, it is the opposite of the teachings of Christ, one of whose major pillars is charity. It is to promote charity that the Roman Catholics built and run not only schools but also hospitals at Hwange, Kutama, Lupane and elsewhere.
The Seventh Day have similar social facilities at Solusi and elsewhere; the Salvation Army have such institutions at Howard Mission, Usher Institute and at Ntjelanyemba while the Dutch Reformed have and maintain similar centres at Morgenster Mission, just to mention a few of the churches that practise charity.
Some of these denominations have universities, not only in Zimbabwe but also, in other countries.
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans donate every week to funds over which they do not have control, and the usage of which is a matter of only one or so church leaders.
They live on the hope that one day, they will miraculously become millionaires not through donations such as those offered to their pastors, but by an invisible God’s hand.
That elusive hope to become rich, or to get married, or to get employed, or to correct or achieve, defeat or remove whatever else that stands between one and one’s wish keeps those people’s lives afloat.
In the meantime, unscrupulous church leaders typically prey on them and in that way fulfill an old Nguni saying: ‘Ilifa lezithutha lidliwa ngabahlakaniphileyo’ (Nhaka yevakapusa inodyiwa nevakachenjera).
It is most advisable for the state to seriously control the official registration of churches with the aim of protecting the public from unscrupulous individuals, in addition to the stringent application of existing laws that punish rapists, fraudsters and extortionists.
Some people need to be protected from themselves, especially from their own ignorance.
Saul Gwakuba Ndlovu is a retired, Bulawayo-based journalist. He can be contacted on cell 0734 328 136 or through email: email@example.com