The Pentecostal movement fronted by self-proclaimed prophets was always bound to implode. Not only is their brand of Christianity suspicious and often unbiblical, but it is also openly exploitative to the very vulnerable people in society.
It has attracted mainly women and the youth, the very segment of our society that is bearing the brunt of the economic crisis the country is going through. A huge percentage of youths and women constitute the 90% of people who have failed to secure jobs because the economy is not creating any.
Many a youth has resorted to doing menial jobs which are a mockery to their educational qualifications. Women too, particularly housewives, have found themselves in a quandary as far as feeding their children is concerned. Family incomes are dwindling as employers cut or fail altogether to pay breadwinners’ salaries.
The level of stress among these disadvantaged groups is so high they have to seek solace in the church. The mushrooming of prosperity gospel churches is a response to this. The leaders of these churches have seen how vulnerable people can easily be duped into believing anything.
It is amazing how a small country such as Zimbabwe has been so favoured by God to have so many “men of god” per capita than any other country. A simple guestimate shows that in Zimbabwe there must be a “prophet” for every 10 000 people.
In the Bible there was may be one prophet in two generations. Traditional Christian churches believe Jesus Christ who appeared 2 000 years ago was their last prophet. Muslims believe the last prophet was Mohamed and he appeared more than one and a half millennia ago.
But the Pentecostal movement wishes us to believe hundreds of prophets can exist contemporaneously.
This has brought with it many problems, the most pronounced being the fight among the “prophets” for congregations. The churches are run on a highly competitive basis with each establishing powerful marketing departments that use any method in the book to outdo the other. They have roped in senior politicians and policemen in their fight for congregants.
Criminality cannot be dismissed entirely as some methods used amount to blackmail and extortion.
But since there has not been any parliamentary debate on the operations of Pentecostal churches and investigations into how women are a treated the criminality is going unchecked.
Recently a charismatic leader of one of these churches was outed as a predatory rapist who has ravished dozens of vulnerable women. He is now serving a long jail term for his crimes. But it now seems he is not the only exploiting susceptible women.
Recent press reports about the exploitation of women by church leaders should be investigated. Goings on in these churches must be probed and brought to the open. It is irresponsible of our police and lawmakers to wait until another Martin Gumbura masquerading as a prophet is exposed.
These so-called prophets are dangerous in another way. They tell ill people, especially those with HIV/Aids to discontinue taking ARV. This has taken the fight against the pandemic back 30 years as these people die of a disease that can now be treated. The Ministry of Health should bring these false prophets to book.