Can the Church be neutral?

The Church in Zimbabwe has been severely polarised by the current political situation and ordinary Christians are confused as to what the position of the Church really is or should be.

Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.
Anglican Church in Zimbabwe.

On one hand are those who say the Church and politics do not mix and, therefore, the Church should only concern itself with spiritual matters. True theology teaches that Christians are not of this world but they are in the world and have to confront that world, head on, whatever the consequences.

The other extreme position is represented by the excommunicated former bishop of the Anglican Church, Nolbert Kunonga. After he was rebuked by the church for preaching pro-ZANU (PF) politics from the pulpit, Kunonga withdrew from the Church.

Today Kunonga claims publicly that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party were ordained by God and should never be removed from office or criticised. He then formed his own church, which he called the Zimbabwe Anglican Church, and went on to forcibly and violently grab properties belonging to the Anglican Church with the active support of the government (through ZANU (PF)), the police and security agents.

Before the bloody 2008 elections Kunonga and another so-called cleric, Obadiah Musindo, were given much money by the government in order to campaign for Zanu (PF). Today, for his open and political support, Kunonga is also the proud owner of a farm and a posh seven-bed-roomed house overlooking a lake. They are not the only ones. It is profitable for church leaders to openly support a particular political party.

In the middle are two groups – those who are afraid of openly telling the truth and those who are vocal fence-sitters. When you read or listen to what they say you become confused because they try to be all things to all men. Most of them, I have observed, do not speak out of conviction but out of either fear or opportunism. In Shona we say of them; ‘Vanorova imbga vakaviga mupini.” They beat the dog while hiding the stick. This stance is illustrated by the article written by my good friend Dr. Noah Pashapa in the Daily News on Sunday of 22 January.

Every knowledgeable Christian agrees it would be wrong for the Church to say we support this or that political party. The Church is composed of people who support different political parties which are wrong in some things and right in others. However, it is the prophetic duty of the Church to loudly denounce injustice and oppression wherever and whenever they occur.

Pashapa criticised those who suggest that in the same way the church in South Africa opposed apartheid as an evil system so should the Church here oppose either President Mugabe and Zanu (PF) or Prime Minister Tsvangirai and his MDC party. He describes our political leadership and parties thus, “A leader, such as President Robert Mugabe and his party who, despite manifesting baser human tendencies towards corruption, power-hunger and human greed, have pushed a political agenda incorporating restorative governance, national sovereignty, social democracy independence and economic indigenization and pursued programmes aimed to educate, economically empower, racially dignify and politically unite Zimbabweans for peace and national stability cannot be likened wholesale to the evil system of apartheid and judged to be satanic and evil alike.

“In the same way a leader such as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC party who, despite manifesting similar base human tendencies, have pushed a political agenda incorporating good governance, inclusive participatory democracy, individual freedoms and liberties, media reforms and peaceful free and fair elections etcetera and cannot be likened wholesale to the satanic, evil system of apartheid and judged alike.”

The good doctor’s argument is very cleverly put. It sounds all so pious and fair. However, it just is not true. It is common knowledge that in the so-called Government of National Unity Tsvangirai and MDC are just spectators. Mugabe and Zanu (PF) are the real government – responsible for the destruction of this once prosperous country.

They are guilty of gross injustice, violence and oppression. They have filled the jails with innocent people just because they don’t agree with them or they belong to the opposition. Most of those arrested and tortured in police cells were found not guilty of any wrong doing by the courts. I know because I am one of them.

Christian leaders should stop playing games. God is looking for leaders who will save his people by telling the truth, without fear.

In the book, published by Ecumenical Support Services, Prophetic Witness in Zimbabwe Rev. Eric Ruwona wrote about the question of political neutrality. He said, “In the Zimbabwean conflict, one side is right and the other is wrong. One side is being unjust and oppressive while the other is suffering injustice and oppression.

The oppressor is the one who abuses power and victimises defenceless citizens and enacts oppressive and repressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) meant to stifle civic participation and expression. The one who is right is innocent victim who tries to exercise a democratic right such as public protest, but is arrested or denied permission to exercise such a right.

I do not side with a political party but with victims of powerful politicians and their parties. I believe that if I do not take sides with the oppressed I may be unintentionally promoting the cause of the oppressor.” This is the biblical stance which the Church, church leaders and Christians in Zimbabwe should take today. There is no room for neutrality.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *