Rejoice Ngwenya’s article “Religious Entrepreneurship” (Wednesday, March 30 2011) cannot go unchallenged.
I feel there are things that Ngwenya should know free of charge, that he may receive his spiritual deliverance.
The most important is that religious freedom, just like freedom of association, is a fundamental provision of democratic societies whether these societies are socially or liberally democratic.
This right should not just be nominal, but practiced.
The second is that the basic tenet worth observance by every citizen of such a society would be respect of one’s choices and the issue of freedom of worship does not escape this demand.
Suffice to say that if Ngwenya is a true liberal democrat as he purports in his article, then he should, at least, respect that there are intelligent people out there who are smart enough to make enough money, buy houses, residential stands, cars and have thousands of United States dollars in accounts which they can voluntarily give to churches, charities or political parties of their choice.
I am sure, empirically so, that there are local businesspeople, not hypnotised by any religious demagoguery, who have parted with millions of dollars to support political parties formed by men and women whose intellectual bearing, cognitive dexterity and persuasive artistry are so questionable you wonder how these mega-bucked fellows were convinced to part ways with such huge sums of money on political projects least expected to succeed.
That is what is called choice — the freedom to do good and bad with equal measure but still remaining responsible for your actions.
I would have dwelt more on this issue had Ngwenya’s article not been a hotch-potch of loosely connected ideas with nothing except exquisite hatred for the work that Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa and other Pentecostal church leaders are doing.
For all the condemnation Ngwenya heaps on Prophets Makandiwa and TB Joshua, Pastor Chris and Reverend Tom Dueschle, there is no Biblical scripture to premise his accusations and slander.
All he does is quote Wikipedia as if it’s a new Bible.
The Bible is clear about judgement. John 7 vs24 and 51 are instructive: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Our Law does not judge a man, unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?
Throughout Ngwenya’s article there is no trace he has sought audience with Prophet Makandiwa or any of the men of God that he irresponsibly defames in the court of public opinion.
It is also quite clear that Ngwenya is not only passing judgement on the Pentecostal leaders he cites, but the thousands of congregants who gather every weekend and every lunch hour to listen to these preachers.
Certainly Ngwenya’s problem is epitomic of the pitfall of pseudo-intellectualism created by Zimbabwean journalism which raises even graduates of first degrees to levels of analysts and commentators.
Not only that they are totally ignorant of the subjects they write on, but that they also exhibit infantile fascination with their new-found social status they think they are omniscient, if not omnipotent.
They know everything even subjects they never did for their degree courses — that is a major problem.
Certainly, how else could you describe Ngwenya’s self-proclaimed role as the protector of the men and women who willingly contribute portions of their wealth towards noble causes such as buying a public address system for a church that has outgrown the City Sports Centre and wants to congregate at the National Sports Stadium?
Does he think Makandiwa wants to use this system to address his wife and three children at home?
Is not the Bible instructive about giving towards the work of God?
The Bible says that when you are generous in your giving (sowing), God will make all grace abound towards you so that you may have more than enough to support the work of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 9:8).
This is when you are not only blessed, but when you become a blessing (Genesis 12:3). That is God’s plan, and that is why He wants us to be generous in our giving.
It is quite noble if you don’t understand things, especially when they concern God’s work and the people He uses, to seek counsel from the Biblical Gamaliel in Acts 5:38 and 39 which say: “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
What Ngwenya is doing is to blindly attack everyone based on the assumption all of us who have given cars (I have given mine freely), cash or properties towards this cause are imbeciles or hypnotised drug addicts who need his protection or tutelage.
Why doesn’t Ngwenya, if he knows so much about our giving, also mention in his article that Makandiwa donated his Mercedes S600 V12 towards the same cause?
If one gives towards God and Ngwenya assumes the role of supervising how the gift to God is being used, isn’t that blasphemy?
My Biblical understanding is that all these Christians who give are God’s children who give towards their Father’s work thus it is God’s responsibility to look after the gifts He is given by His children and if they are misused, isn’t He big enough to punish the offenders?
Is it that Ngwenya is assuming he is God, His representative or His cousin with powers of attorney to preside over the gifts given to God?
The attacks on Pentecostal churches and the so-called “gospreneurship”, is however, not new or unique to Ngwenya.
They are peddled by people who have scant knowledge of how churches function, usually those who have never been close to where collections from tithes and offerings are counted.
I am glad I know a bit about what churches go through as operational costs for a service to be delivered on a Sunday.
Take, for instance, a church I used to attend before I joined Prophet Makandiwa’s United Family International Church (UFIC).
They congregate at the HICC most Sundays and they pay $7 500 for a service that runs from 9am to 1pm.
The average tithe and offering every week is $4 000 leaving a rental deficit of $3 500 that is taken care of by the bishop’s earnings from foreign missionary work he does most of the times.
There is also an illusion about numbers and subsequent dollars derived from these numbers especially when it comes to churches like UFIC yet the contradiction is that the same commentators acknowledge most of the saints are poor and unemployed.
One Sunday with approximately 30 000 people in attendance, all what could be collected as offering was $3 600.
If you then consider the cost of hiring the venue (ask soccer teams about Harare City Council), then you run into big figures in deficit.
The untold story about most Pentecostal churches is the struggle and sacrifice that a few men and women who love to see the gospel being spread make every week to ensure venues are hired and everything is in place for even the sceptics and spies to come in “free of charge” every Sunday for spiritual service.
No church, for all the religiosity people like Ngwenya want to show us, is given a venue free of charge.
Even conventional churches like the Roman Catholic receive donations in billions of dollars from dedicated Europeans and Americans so that each national diocese is able to operate.
No wonder the Vatican operates a bank and employs a finance minister.
In an interview published in Money Week, Cardinal Edmund C Szoka, the Vatican’s “finance minister”, claims that the Vatican’s assets are $5 billion and that “income to the Holy See from donations has more than tripled from 1990 levels, to $22 million per month in 2000”.
The difference between the conventional churches and our Pentecostal churches is that Europeans pay for your operational costs while we have chosen to go it alone and take care of our own expenses incurred in doing the work of God. If that is criminal we proudly plead guilty.
It is, however, morally imperative for anyone who intends to be a commentator to be conversant with the subject he comments on so as to be fair and logical.
Certainly Ngwenya’s knowledge of the Bible and how churches operate is evidently scanty if not utterly non-existent save for his claim that he is “deeply religious”.
Being religious does not translate to knowledge of Christianity for religion is any form of abstract belief system. One can forgive Ngwenya for certainly if he considers Canaan Banana and Pius Ncube “anointed men” then his understanding of scripture is quite amazing.
If the sexual shenanigans associated with these two men (never mind the sex or marital status of their accomplices) is the anointing Ngwenya talks about, then the difference between my understanding of anointing and his is like that of day and night.
It is also pathetic to note that Ngwenya wants to bring a political spin to his attack on Makandiwa, dragging the usual Gukurahundi issue into his mantra.
If it was anyone else not someone who claims to be a social commentator, I would not have reminded him that his spiritual hero (Canaan Sodindo Banana) was in fact the President of Zimbabwe when people in Matabeleland and Midlands (not only Ndebeles) were killed between 1983 and 1987.
Need I say anything about Madzakutsaku and Bishop Abel Muzorewa?
What Ngwenya should do is to leave these men of God alone for the Bible is clear about how they should live, that is their income.
1 Corinthians 9:13 and 14 make it clear that “Those that serve the altar, partake of the altar . . . Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”
Jealousy Mawarire is a freelance journalist based in Harare. He writes in his own capacity.
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