Tithes flow as poverty flourishes

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Zimbabwe Prophets for Profit (ZPP) revel in the kind of elegance, high life and spending power that’s bound to be the envy of the traditional vanguard of prosperity: Bankers and industrialists whose prospects are fast diminishing thanks to the current economic decline.

They could even mount a serious spending challenge to Cabinet ministers and political elites, but then those are big guns, not even miracle money can outspend that lot. But they do come close nonetheless.

We are talking amongst other things of helicopter rides to prayer meetings, fancy car collections, holiday trips abroad, football club ownership, designer clothes, mansions and impressive business portfolios.

The possibilities for individual accumulation personified by the ZPPians are indeed attractive. They live and preach the good life that most of their followers will likely never taste. Yet in looking up to them, many such followers in enviable acts of faith believe that they too are on that same glorious conveyor belt to prosperity and like the ZPPians they see living lavishly they too will receive the miracle of the good life.

To be fair, the promise of blessing has actually happened to some of their followers who have received, through ZPP, miracle money, healing, gold and blessings. But these are just the lucky or blessed or chosen few. Unlike the ZPP and their access to a continuous stream of tithes and offerings, what most of these followers will live to see is a constant hardening of life mostly caused by the inequitable distribution of wealth, unfair policies and unjust practices orchestrated by the rich and powerful. Life outside the church meeting is fundamentally rigged against most ZPP followers; too many things are arranged in a way that will surely keep them locked in cycles of poverty, hardship and marginalisation.

For example, most of the money that fills the huge offering baskets stems from an informal economy that keeps the majority of Zimbabwean men and women on their feet for up to 10 hours a day, without the basic protections entitled to workers by law and prey to violent and corrupt officials.

To these realities ZPPdom has so far chosen to turn a blind eye regardless of the fact that they benefit from or claim to serve people living and subsisting in an unjust society.The poverty they experience daily is man-made and the result of the kinds of injustices that prompted the Old Testament God to send prophets like Amos and Jeremiah to speak truth to power (workers with no pay, children with little food, corrupt officials, unbalanced scales, evil rulers etc).

Hence prophets like Amos reviled by the injustice of their day would speak in terms such as “for l know how many are your offences and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. ” That’s the book of Amos chapter 5 verse 12.

In contrast, the prosperity gospel of ZPP has become a gold-plated meal ticket for those able to prophesy and perform miracles. Large crowds are drawn to these modern-day proponents of individual prosperity. The market for their trade amongst a broke population desperate for hope and certainty in an increasingly hopeless climate seems to know no bounds. It’s therefore not a coincidence that with the hardening of times ZPP has increasingly become all the rage. We have seen an incredible rise in ZPP-led churches post the year 2000 when the economic situation began to accelerate its current downward spiral. These days thousands upon thousands flee from these economic hardships to ZPP carrying with them large volumes of gifts and offerings plus a ready market for all sorts of prophetic merchandise: anointing oil, bracelets, towels, books, clothes,and what have you.

Most instructive amongst this merchandise are bumper stickers with messages such as “my Prophet my profit”; “I am determined to prosper by my prophet”; “I am a child of a Prophet”; “I am under 24-hour prophetic surveillance”; “I am protected by prophetic unction.”“I” is the operating word in these captions of the prosperity gospel. The focus is predominantly on the individual and deliberately turns a blind eye to the root and structural causes of the collective suffering experienced by most people seeking the services of ZPPians. For the message of ZPP, otherwise known as the prosperity gospel, is predominantly a rose-tinted concoction of feel-good happy-clappy words of encouragement and prophetic utterances mostly pointing to a better future and heavenly promises of blessings to come. This invariably unlocks gifts and offerings as well as fierce unquestionable loyalty to the men and women of God.

It does not, however, highlight the fact that what causes the mass poverty we see today are not the generational curses that ZPP is adept at destroying through prophetic utterances and the demonstration of spiritual power, but a system created and sustained by greedy and corrupt men and women in leadership positions to oppress the poor and deny them justice for their own benefit. It also ignores the fact that what will remedy this condition for most of their followers is the creation of a society that cherishes the justice, care for the poor, fairness and non-violence that Jesus and the biblical prophets laid their lives on the line for.

Over the years other religious figures have followed the example of Jesus and the biblical prophets to lay their lives in the fight for justice and fairness for all Zimbabweans. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace took the incredible risk of investigating and condemning the horrific Gukurahundi massacres of the 80s when most sectors found it inconvenient to place blame on a popular government. Beloved and revered Father Oskar Wermter, a proud resident of Mbare, is so beloved by his community because in instances such as Operation Murambatsvina and countless other times he has stood in defence of the downtrodden whilst demonstrating the compassion of Christ.

On the other hand, their more profitable counterparts in ZPP will continue ostrich-like with their heads in the sand to peddle the individualist prosperity gospel without ever rocking the boat and using their influential platforms to expose the injustice, corruption and repression that keeps most of their followers poor, diseased, unemployed, victimised and without hope for the future. Perhaps that will be too much to ask of them, for then they will have become Zimbabwe Prophets for Progress – less profitable truth tellers who use their positions of influence to denounce evil, corruption and injustice even at the expense of their fame and personal comfort. I have a feeling they have sunk too deep into the good life to turn back — so let the tithes and offerings flow while poverty and injustice flourishes!
lFambai Ngirande writes what he likes