Reason Wafawarova On Thursday
After penning a piece on exposing counterfeit faith on January 21 this year, I have received numerous requests for a follow up article, and this week I have taken the honour and privilege to once again engage the reader on a social issue that has taken centre-stage in the affairs of Africa today. The fact that we recently lost over a dozen people in Kwekwe in a stampede at a church gathering, just after we had lost close to a hundred others in Nigeria when a building they were lodging in unexpectedly collapsed, makes the case of debating Christian faith more compelling.
Our evangelists, prophets and preachers from the Pentecostal movement often proudly declare that God is moving in the mightiest of ways across Africa today, and it is quite common to hear some of them deriding traditional Christian communities in the West as “backslidden.”
The large African churches, the passionate praise and worship teams, the tearful prayers, and the intense hunger for the word of God is unmistakable in African Christianity today, and countries like Malawi, Kenya, Botswana, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe are excellent examples of this wave.
In fact, Sub Saharan Africa as a whole has been hit by this worship craze, and this development would be plausible, if only there was no darker side to the tide.
The Christian faith faces a dangerous threat in Africa today, not from any persecuting opponents or from any external force.
The greatest threat to the Christian faith today is from its leadership, so increasingly infiltrated by dangerous mountebanks preaching destruction right from the pulpit of salvation, and the swindlers are far from remorseful. If there is anything threatening the nobility and integrity of the Christian faith today it is the preaching of prosperity gospel.
There is of course a slick version of this deceit in the United States, and factually the US is responsible for manufacturing and exporting this deadly spiritual virus. Without trivialising the damage prosperity gospel has done in the US, the reality in our midst is that African Christians have now taken this money-focused gospel to new and extremely dangerous levels.
Far from being the blessing our “men of God” rhapsodise so much about, prosperity gospel is drastically damaging the African social fabric, and it is also undermining the nobility and integrity of Christianity itself.
Firstly, some communities have easily mixed the doctrine with occultism, especially in places like Nigeria and Ghana.
Traditional rituals that would otherwise be dismissed as diabolical and demonic have become acceptable practice in pursuit of the materialistic objectives of prosperity gospel.
Pastors and prophets now pour libations on the ground as a way of enhancing church growth, and bottles of oil, sand, water and other such substances are given to believers as tools of bringing the much-sought-after blessing.
In Zimbabwe some of this oil has been sold as church merchandise, alongside hand bangles, handkerchiefs and similar objects.
The followers of the charlatans merchandising God’s blessing are always reminded that their promised windfall will not materialise unless they continue to give money to the church.
Some occult practices include indecent conduct with female followers, including hand penetration in private parts, fondling of breasts, or any such indecent behaviour.
Today’s prosperity gospel fuels greed, and it focuses on getting as opposed to giving. It is a selfish materialistic faith with a thin veneer of Christianity.
The central theme of prosperity gospel is to continually urge members to sow financial seeds so they can reap bigger and bigger rewards. Entire conferences are often dedicated to nothing else but collecting offerings, and believers are almost instructed that this is the way to achieve wealth.
This is often punctuated by impressive testimonies from selected or volunteering church members, almost always bragging about how much they paid for their suits, shoes, jewellery, or how they travelled first class because of “God’s blessing.” It is an elaborate scam meant to railroad unsuspecting followers into parting with the little hard-earned cash at their disposal.
It is like greed is now officially preached from the pulpit, and the disgusting phenomenon has spread into a cancerous pandemic in God’s churches.
As opposed to the contrived belief that God is moving across Africa in the mightiest of ways, this heresy has become the sorry state of affairs in Africa’s Christianity today.
Some of the young so-called prophets today are pathetically proud, and they have the temerity to defend the disgrace of pride by misquoting the Bible.
We have a warped church leadership in Africa today, thanks to the scandalous commercialisation of the Christian faith.
We now have pastors who plant churches not because they have a burden to achieve or realise the salvation of souls, but because they see dollar signs in any auditorium full of people.
People are elevated into church leadership not because of their spiritual maturity, but because they are big headed opportunists who need position, applause and recognition to keep themselves happy.
The most dangerous prosperity gospel preacher is the one who is wealthy, or one who can fake wealth to impress his listeners. He can easily convince crowds that Jesus died not for our sins and for the redemption of our souls, but to give you and me the luxury of driving Bentleys.
Prosperity gospel works against the formation of Christian character. Of course gospel means good news, and the most simplistic way of justifying the preaching of prosperity gospel is to say it is good news to the poor, and as such it is gospel, and cannot be condemned.
But prosperity gospel as often preached today is a very poor imitation of the gospel, and it dangerously ignores suffering, poverty, humility, patience, or delay.
It is simply a gospel of illegal shortcuts where people are gathered and promised instant results and overnight success, including securing of husbands for the desperate unmarried and ageing ladies.
When these promises fail to materialise, as is the case most of the time, the follower is simply blamed for not giving enough money in offerings, or for lacking in faith.
We have this prosperity gospel that does not agree with Jesus when he said we should deny ourselves and follow him, carrying our own crosses. Rather we are now taught to deny Jesus and follow the urge of our materialistic lusts, perhaps not in literal terms but surely indeed.
Many of our African pastors are evidently set on getting rich, and this is not to demean the decent work of many other well-meaning true servants of God on the continent. The continent has a serious leadership crisis in its churches, particularly within the Pentecostal movement. The church now accommodates and even hails young men and women who openly enroll into Bible School for the financial benefit of pastoring, and it is hard to imagine the grief of putting up with Bible schools churning out charlatans.
In fact prosperity gospel has this ironic effect of keeping people in poverty. It encourages politicians to follow corrupt patterns, as even the church understands and promotes inexplicable shortcuts to riches. That role of the church is the arbiter of morality has drastically diminished with this scramble for riches.
The popular prosperity gospel preacher is an excellent diversionary tool so important for the lazy and corrupt politician. He provides the required false hope to the bewildered masses, pacifying them so they do not cause unwanted trouble for the corrupt and under-performing politician. There is a mutual link between the religious and the political charlatan: both thrive on pacifying their followers with deceit and false hope.
In the past 25 years Sub-Saharan Africa is the only place on earth where poverty has been on the increase, and clearly the much hailed prosperity gospel is not bringing prosperity to the continent.
If one is looking for the fruit of today’s prosperity gospel, there is no need to look any further than the wallet and bank account of the preacher of the message.
The followers will have to make do with wild cheering of the preacher and mountains of pulpit-driven hope, as did the Zimbabwean lot when one popular prophet once promised the raining of precious stones all over the place.
It is surprising that well trained editors in our media fraternity allowed the nonsense to pass for news, and when sober minded people questioned the logic of honouring this gospel swindle with public attention, they were met with the fury of the expectant followers of the prophet.
Zimbabweans we are one and together we shall over come. It is homeland or death.
Reason Wafawarova is a writer based in Sydney, Australia