Why have the Christian leaders deserted Zimbabwe in its hour of need?

The history of Christianity in Black Africa is appalling. It has played a major part in keeping Africans subjugated and in poverty.

And just in case you think I am an atheist setting out to “knock” Christianity. I am not. I am a committed Christian thoroughly ashamed by his own Church leaders of all denominations.

To begin with, Christianity even questioned whether Black Africans had souls. When it finally decided they did, it then actually encouraged and supported slavery on the basis that it introduced Africans to Western so-called “civilisation” and the chance to have their souls “saved”.

My memories of Christianity under colonialism is of White bishops, priests, ministers and nuns behaving towards their adult Black parishioners as if they were children. Don’t get me wrong, they clearly loved them deeply, had great affection for them, devoted their lives to them and looked after them as well as they could. Many loved their Black flock so much they died or were martyred for them, some even refusing to save themselves when they could have done. But underneath it all, there was never any suggestion that Black people were the equal of Whites.

However, I don’t think many people blame those early Christians because you can only live according to the perceptions and mores of the time. And when Christianity finally recognised its mistake and saw slavery for the evil and stain on humanity that it was, it took a leading role in getting it abolished.

Christianity also played a leading part in rolling out formal education across Africa, an important step forward in the development of Africa.

However, the fact remains that Christianity also helped to consolidate the rule of White over Black, taking it to extreme lengths in South Africa. It believed in colonialism just as much as the colonial powers themselves did, and even its education, although a major step forward in one way, in another was based around the concept of White superiority and thus helped to limit African self-belief – a seriously retrograde step.

It did nothing to help promote opportunity for Africans within the colonial structure. It did nothing to fight to end poverty. And it did nothing to aid Africa’s freedom movements – if anything, it did the opposite.

Very sadly, that history has continued into African independence. The great majority of Africans today are in real terms as disenfranchised and controlled as much as they were under colonialism, only this time by their own kind: a Black African elite.

In fact, the 43% who still live on less than US$1.90 a day (this figure is over 80% in Zimbabwe) would have actually had better lives on the plantations of their North American owners back in the 1800s, because there they were treated as valuable assets, to be looked after and fed properly. If you don’t believe me, just google “Images” and “North American slave quarters”. Then compare them with your local slum, and you will see what I mean.

The trouble with the Bible is that you can “cherry pick” quotations from it to support almost anything. And this is what non-interventionists do, by which I mean Christians who think it is OK to sit idly by while their fellow-children of God are oppressed, abused, even murdered, and locked unnecessarily into wholesale extreme poverty. And that is even when it is members of their own Christian fellowship who are being treated in this way.

Not all Christian leaders have been so weak and pathetic. Many lone voices have spoken out and been wrongfully imprisoned, tortured and martyred for fighting against oppression. But these have remained as I said: lone voices, unsupported by the great majority of Church leaders from bishop level right down to priest, minister and pastor level.

However, take the Bible as a whole, and it is absolutely clear: all Christians have a God-given responsibility and duty to fight for the oppressed, the weak and the impoverished.

And that responsibility is not discharged by handing out baskets of food and clothes. Nor does it mean being on one’s knees and wringing one’s hands in prayer or all-night vigils. Nor does it mean preaching a few sermons from pulpits, or letters sent to the Vatican. As James says (chapter 2):

“……faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead”……”You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?”

Moses didn’t mooch around all day praying to God and expecting Him to do something about saving the Jews from the Egyptians. He got off his backside and motivated them into a mass movement overcoming all obstacles until they reached the Promised Land. It was only when he was prepared to take action that God intervened to help him. As the saying goes: “God helps those who help themselves.”

The difference between the Jews then and sub-Saharan Christians now is that the Jews were a weak minority. But Christians as a whole are by far the most powerful organisation in sub-Sahara. In Zimbabwe alone, they make up 91% of the population. They are easily big enough to create a mass movement to overcome any of Africa’s oppressive governments (which is most of them), including Mugabe and ZANU PF.

Let’s face it, the lifestyles of the vast majority of Africans have scarcely improved since the end of colonialism. Many commentators think they are actually worse off now. This despite Africans being recognised as the most religious people on Earth. St Peter must have become deafened and the Heavenly Gates taken a huge battering from the outpouring of prayer from Africa over the last half century since most nations became independent (37 years in the case of Zimbabwe).

Yet all that prayer hasn’t done much good, has it? I wonder why? Is it perhaps because God is waiting for a few “Moses’s” to stand up and be counted, not as lone individuals (there have been plenty of those), but dedicated to creating the mass movement of citizens needed to take them into the Promised Land of freedom from oppression, and from poverty to affluence? I am not advocating armed insurrection, but peaceful mass protest. Research has shown anyway that this has been more effective in revolutions that actually do lead to freedom, and to citizens being taken from poverty into affluence. Armed uprising more often than not leads to yet another oppressive government.

When they are prepared to do that, perhaps they will feel the Hand of God helping them, because this proved to be the most effective way to defeat dictatorship in what are now the developed nations, to take people from oppression to freedom, and from poverty to affluence. One could therefore say this is the way God wants us to act. But it has not yet been applied in Africa.

The Christian Church should find that simple to do. After all, it has a tied congregation just waiting for leadership.

The Devil wants Christians to do nothing. If you do not fight against the Devil, then you are fighting for him.

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Post published in: Faith

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