Church giving up on family values?

Israel and his wife Meleasa Houghton during happier times

Israel and his wife Meleasa Houghton during happier times

Stanely Mushava Features Correspondent

February may be the month of love on the secular calendar, but pastors went against convention this year, not so much for Christian ideals but for carnal pleasures.Pastors seemed bent on a new mission; to promote divorce, with several Christian ministers admitting to infidelity and walking out of their marriages.

Musician Israel Houghton, Bishop Andrew Wutawunashe, Prophet Passion Java and Pastor Chris Oyakhilome are among influential Christian leaders whose divorces have been topical this month but a longer list goes back into the recent past.

Unfortunately for pastors, their work sets them on a pedestal where their failings seldom escape scrutiny, but divorce is much more widespread to the point of becoming a new normal.

Lately, articles on the upsurge in divorce cases have become staple for Zimbabwean newspapers; at least once a year and the messy divorces and sex scandals publicised in the media often involve Christian leaders.

Besides divorce, the church worldwide is also entangled in a lot of rotten fibre, including dysfunctional families, sodomy, infidelity, child molestation, spirit-brokered marriages and promiscuity.

While the duplicity and depravity of the human heart is not new, what is new and disturbing is that the church is no longer on the forefront of defending family values.

On the contrary, both the clergy and the laity are being swept away by the tide of permissiveness and cultural relativism, not to speak of failing to offer the moral leadership society desperately needs.

The victims of this downgrade are children who are growing up in a world where self-interest is the principle to end all principles and family has become negligible. Christian leaders at the Council of African Apostles recently convened in Harare by the New Life Covenant Church expressed concern for children growing up in a world where the computer is the new baby-sitter while parents prioritise other interests.

Derene Bismark, an administrator at the New Life Church, said parents needed to ensure their children were morally rounded individuals and the church has to support them in this respect.

“The church cannot underestimate its role in the day to day life of the family. Married couples inevitably face challenges but the church needs to help them withstand and raise God-fearing children,” Bismark said.

Highly regarded gospel music minister Pastor Charles Charamba said divorce was on the rise because Christians and society were caught up in wrong priorities which water down their commitment to basic virtues such as love and loyalty.

“As a society, we need to redefine success. Possessions are not everything. Unfortunately society’s misconception of success is driving people too far such that the gluing of marriages is dependent on materials,” Pastor Charamba said.

“Partners who fail to deliver in the quest to amass things are considered irrelevant hence their ejection from the marriage with the other partner demanding ‘space’, only to ‘move on’ shortly after,” he told Herald Review.

Charamba said choices parents make have enduring implications on the lives of their children

“I blame the moral deterioration on the absence of sound custodianship in the lives of many children. A huge number of parents have died due to HIV/AIDS or relocated to the diaspora, leaving children in the hands of distant, in some cases, incapable guardians,” he said.

The breaking down of the family institution, if not unchecked, has the tendency of replicating itself.

“Unfortunately, some of those children who have not received enough parental care have naturally grown to be parents. There is not much they can teach as themselves have been deprived of essential teaching. It cannot be blamed on them but the circumstances or environment,” Charamba said.

The church has the duty to consider proactive parental mentorship and should not wait to offer counseling services to people when they are immersed in irretrievable conflicts,” he said.

Sex is now a rather banal subject not so much from an educational but from a perverse perspective. Sexually explicit songs are played at parties attended by infants, who actually sing along – perhaps innocently. The church hardly seems to notice and, for its part, is importing questionable entertainment and tastes from the world.

“The sad thing is that the church of today does little in terms of research and invention, as such it has been a ready client of the worldly innovations which include fashion and technology,” Pastor Charamba said.

“We seem to eagerly await the next product the world unleashes on us regardless of the effects of such to our religious establishment. As the light, the church is supposed to superimpose itself on the face of the world,” he said.

“The church should lead the world though it is not easy, considering that the ‘world’ thrives without conscience. It takes God’s grace, anointing and relentless prayer to achieve this,” he added.

Charamba also lamented that Christians are sometimes too restrictive in respect to the social activities of their children so that youths end up adopting sinister schemes of socialiasing, sometimes to harmful consequences.

He said while children need to be taught to align their activities with the Bible, elders can only be too legalistic at the risk of eliciting rebellion.

“The church needs to step up to its position as the ideal torch-bearer. It must never shy away from leadership where appropriate. There is also need for it to affirm certain elements of our ‘ubuntu’ philosophy which are not necessarily printed in the Bible but have been part of our cultural values since time immemorial,” Charamba said.

“When we do that, the world finds reason to emulate us and is persuaded to listen to the voice of the church attentively. Most importantly, the church does not need to be complicit, it must not be seen entertaining double standards in its own spheres of operation,” he said.

Concerned Christian Leaders Network Zimbabwe coordinator Bishop Joshua Chiweda said the church needs to be unequivocal on the position that God hates divorce. The church must maintain God’s word without compromise on the issues of morality. It is written that God has blessed the marriage union with His Spirit and seeks out of the union a godly offspring,” Bishop Chiweda said.

“The church must clearly teach the meaning and responsibilities of marriage. The materialistic, sensual, as well as celebrity portrayal of marriage has never been part of God’s plan for marriage,” he said.

“The institution of the family was ordained by God at creation. Marriage has more than a natural meaning of union between husband and wife, but also a spiritual meaning of the union of the church to Jesus Christ.

Bishop Chiweda also called on players the arts and entertainment, media and advertising industry to showcase their talent in a way that returns glory to God: “Once these important pillars media start corrupting society for money, foundational values are jeopardised,” he said.

A culture war is on and the church needs to define where it stands before it becomes just another dot in the circle of the world. Reports about Christian leaders adapting the truth to their weaknesses make sad reading, and so do reports about pastors coming out in support of gay marriages for the sake of being politically correct and commercially expedient.

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