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28.06.2014 Opinion

CHURCHES TOO SHOULD OPEN UP TO CRITICISM

By Watt Shawa
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A cartoon in the Sunday Times of 12th May 2013, tells it all. It depicts the speaker of parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda locked out of the DPP National Governing Council, languishing in the dark, lonely and dejected as the chosen few are chewing goodies inside some house. One observer asked the other, 'What wrong has he done?' and the other answered, 'He tried to exercise his democratic right'. Simply put, Chimunthu Banda challenged the anointed one of the Blue party. In our politics, that is a punishable crime. Analysts are are up in arms condemning this undemocratic tendency. An opponent is not an enemy. As all fingers of blame are being thrown in the party's direction, we need to pause and ask why most of our politicians do not accommodate opposing views.

Most of our politicians were educated in mission schools where academic education was spiced with religious education. Religious gurus in those church- run education centres had a profound impact upon their lives. We need to remember that most religious institutions are not democratic but autocratic. They claim that God is not a democrat, but a theocrat. This may be true in some sense, but not in its entirety. Though God is sovereign, He does listen to people and even invites them to a reasoning table (Isaiah 1: 18). People are not God and should never play god. The church has generally been intolerant towards dissenting views. Many pioneer scientists who taught and thought otherwise were either excommunicated, persecuted and even butchered by the church just for advocating different views. People who taught different doctrines were persecuted even by the previously persecuted protestants. John Calvin had a French scientist burned at stake. Religious intolerance has never truly died but only metamorphed into something a bit gentler. In some churches, people fear even to gently and constructively criticise their leaders. Most religious leaders surround themselves with hand clappers who are quick to ostracise anyone who dares to challenge the views of the religious 'big man'. Opposition is considered enmity and questioning the leader is considered irreverence and discourtesy. In some cases people literally kneel and worship church leaders. The Bible admonishes people to respect their leaders, but worship, should be an absolute reserve for the Almighty.

Checks and balances are an absolute necessity for any growing and healthy organization, churches included. Most politicians have religious leaders among their coaching panel and any dark spot on their character should be refered back to their political dressing room. What the DPP has done to Chimunthu is exactly what is done to church leaders who have dared to challenge the anointed sacred cows of the church. One prophet was quoted on the television threatening people that,' they should question the prophet at their own peril'. His audience screamed back and shouted, 'Yes Papa!!' But are we sure, that church leaders are always right? If all are bullied into silent submission, who will tell the leader when he takes the wrong turn? Great men of God who were deified (worshiped as gods) started by getting rid of any opposing voices. Jim Jones took his congregation to a new place and massacred them. John Alexander Dowie believed he was the prophet Elijah re- incarnate and later had a complete mental breakdown. All the above happened because opposing voices were professionally silenced. When opposing voices die down, church leaders become 'Yesu Matikis'.

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