Church is a place that is supposed to bring comfort and ease in an individual.
Saturday Dialogue with Ropafadzo Mapimhidze
But when that sacred space becomes a platform where congregants are manipulated into doing unethical things that becomes a very big problem.
Last week, a member of some well-known Pentecostal church complained that a visiting pastor who took to the pulpit, forced congregants to take all the money they had and place it in the offering basket.
The preacher ordered those that had come by public transport to reserve money for transport back home and donate the rest as offering.
Those that also came with their cars were also told to give whatever cash they had and give to the man of God.
“Where is Zimbabwe headed to? I am so angry that these people are taking the little that these poor people have for their own benefit.
“I refused to part with my cash, but my wife gave in and dropped the only money she had in her purse into the offering basket,” said a businessman who owns a fleet of kombis.
“The Bible says you must give cheerfully, but this visiting pastor, who strayed from a popular mainline church to start his own ministry, left us wondering whether our pastor had invited him to demand money on his behalf. I was so disgusted,” complained the businessman.
Another Christian from yet another church noted that victims of emotional blackmail are often insecure about themselves and that they relied heavily on other people and give in to their control.
One pastor once told his congregation to raise money for his church and argued that it was biblical, but all properties that were bought are registered in the pastor’s name as the sole beneficiary.
The truth is that nowhere in the Bible is it written that men of the cloth should demand money and valuables from their congregants.
The gospel of prosperity is what has created all this rush for wealth creation and it is a reality that some pastors live large, at the expense of congregants.
This week, leader of the RMG Independent End Time Message Robert Martin Gumbura was jailed for rape of his congregants over a number of years.
But there are stories now filtering in from some people, who are members of his church, who were totally separated from their families, to live according to Gumbura’s demands.
Members of this church were sometimes told to do a sacrificial offering by donating their entire net salaries to him for sometimes six months in order for them to receive a blessing from God.
Those that resisted would be offered to the Devil or he would pray for them to suffer misfortunes like fatal accidents. When such things happened, this created so much fear in these congregants resulting in them believing what this person said, even though deep down they would know that what they were doing was wrong.
Gumbura allegedly has nearly 15 children at a local private primary school in Tynwald and he was one of the most reliable parents when it came to paying school fees, totalling around $20 000.
What of those children at the private high school?
Congregants were blackmailed to the extent of becoming zombies that could be tossed and turned at will as men and women were sexually, physically or psychologically abused.
They suffered in silence because they were trapped in a sect that they could not question its doctrine.
The mind can condition a human being into believing or viewing such vices as a normal way of living.
Some members of Gumbura’s church work on his farm for nothing and one of them is believed to have donated his teenage daughter to the church. It is not clear whether or not this teen is attending school.
This church apparently does not allow congregants to own television sets or radios, but the church leader had access to these gadgets at his house.
His wives allegedly had to seek permission in writing to be allowed to watch television.
Then, we have various apostolic sects that do not allow girls to go to school and sometimes get married off to elderly men from the congregations.
Emotional blackmailing has six stages, says a local psychologist.
It starts with demand, resistance, pressure, threats, compliance and then the cycle repeats itself over and over again.
Yahoo Voices says: “Demand is when a person asks you to do something for him.
“Resistance is when you convey how uneasy you are about this. Pressure is when he backs you up into a corner.
“Threat is when he starts saying that not giving in will have negative consequences for you. Compliance is when you give up and give in.
“Repetition is when the whole maddening cycle begins again resulting in you conforming to the abuser.”
This is clearly what happens in some of the churches.
Church leaders play with a person’s mind to the extent that individuals lose their sense of reasoning only to realise much later, like what has happened in Gumbura’s case, that there is no human that equals to God.
We wait patiently to hear the outcome of other similar cases that are being investigated by the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe leader Johannes Ndanga, who said in an interview with this writer on Thursday that 15 churches were under probe with sexual abuse cases topping the list.