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The so-called men of God

Baffour's Beefs By Baffour Ankomah
If you cannot trust your pastor to pastor your wife for just a day, or if you allow me the pun for just a night, know that society is in deep, deep trouble. And that is what is sadly happening in the land that was once part of the mighty Munhumutapa Empire.

HOW do people who should act as the moral conscience and barometer of society abdicate their responsibility? Where do I start from? Zimbabwe is a land of Christians, or if we want to be purists a land of churchgoers. For there is a difference between the two, and it is as far and wide as from here to Masvingo, the home of my in-laws, the land of the Masibanda. But whatever the level of their Christianity, Zimbabweans know that the third of God's Ten Commandments enjoins them not to mock God.

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" is actually the modern translation of what God wrote on the tablets that Moses broke in anger.

Therefore, if you see somebody calling himself a pastor, bishop, prophet (thank God we haven't got a pope yet in Zimbabwe) doing things that a pastor, bishop, prophet or a "man of God" (that is another good one) is not supposed to do, you should worry greatly. And that is my beef for this week - the "men of God" in Zimbabwe who are mocking God by taking his name in vain and doing things that men of God should never do. So what are they doing? I will tell you in a jiffy. But while you wait, please mull over this: If you cannot trust your pastor to pastor your wife for just a day, or if you allow me the pun for just a night, know that society is in deep, deep trouble. And that is what is sadly happening in the land that was once part of the mighty Munhumutapa Empire.

The wider society To be fair to the pastors, I must concede that their behaviour is only a reflection, a tiny reflection, of a dangerous subculture that has been allowed to prosper in Zimbabwe - a subculture which, if not checked now with all the force at the command of society - may seriously spiral and choke life in the generations to come.

Fortunately President Robert Mugabe has been talking about it. Sadly nobody seems to be listening. Yet Zimbabwe will save itself a lot of pain in the future if it finds honour within itself to listen to the concerned voice of the President. In the second quarter of last year, the President went to Mutare to address a high-level meeting of the national association of local councils (or some such grouping), and in the middle of his speech, he turned away from his prepared text to talk about how infidelity was becoming a national security issue, in the sense that it was leading to too many family breakdowns, and once the very fabric of society, the family, is destabilised, the country will have no legs to stand on again.

I watched the President's speech live on ZBC, and I could tell the The so-called men of God enormity of his concern from his body language. In fact, he went on for a while that day expounding the issue. Since then, the President has spoken about the issue severally at different places, including at the wedding of the daughter of the former central bank governor, Gideon Gono.

You can tell it is something that greatly worries him. "Dai taiziva zvemasmall houses taiti we will go and destroy because they shouldn't exist at all," the President was reported to have said at the wedding.

"What do you need a small house for? What has happened to your big house? Why do you want to spend more time with a small house and not a big house? "Do your children know about the small house?" Same everywhere Before we are carried away, let's get some context here. The "small house" culture exists everywhere in the world, and we shouldn't make it look as if it is uniquely Zimbabwean. It may be called different names elsewhere but it amounts to the same thing.

What makes it uniquely Zimbabwean is the level and intensity it has reached in this country, to the point where the President and thousands of his countrymen and women are now alarmed by it. Everywhere you turn in Zimbabwe, men and women (particularly married women), of all social classes, are talking about it. They say marriages are no longer secure and wives cannot be at rest any more.

Which, ironically, reminds me of a notice that hangs in a friend's office in Accra, Ghana. "God created the earth, and rested. "Then he created the animals, and rested. Then he created man, and rested. Then he created the woman, and since then no one has rested!" It is thus deeply ironic that in today's Zimbabwe, it is the woman who says she can no longer be at rest. And the following is why. Women's voices Last month, my wife and I visited a family friend in one of the leafy suburbs of Harare, where three other couples turned up.

One of the newspaper headlines that day concerned the general level of immorality and infidelity in Zimbabwe, and as you would expect, the women naturally steered the conversation in that direction. I sat quietly and listened. Mercifully they spoke in English. If you have never been in my shoes, you may not understand the use of "mercifully", for in Zimbabwe people tend to cut you out of the conversation by resorting to Shona, and Shona only, even if they know that you understand not a damn word.

As a new mukwasha from United Africa, I have come to accept that it is the cross I have to bear, and an impetus to learn Shona fast.

At the end of the evening, the consensus was this: (1) Moral values have leaked so badly in Zimbabwe to the point where, despite all the Christianity in the country, the seventh and tenth of God's Ten Commandments, which say, "You shall not commit adultery" and "You shall not covet your neighbour's wife" hold no attraction anymore.

(2) Married women of all classes are groaning about the disrespect that some "sisters" (both single and married) show for other women's marriages. "They will do anything to break up your marriage and get your man for themselves," said one of the women.

(3) Some men have lost all decency to the point where they pursue women, and especially other men's wives, "with the integrity of a he-goat". That was strong language, but the woman who employed it insisted she would stand by it till death. A troubled society The concerned voices in the room created the scary impression of a society where nothing is sacrosanct anymore. "Where did the values of society go?", one of the women asked. "Surely, it wasn't like this when we were growing up," she added sprightly.

Another interjected: "These days wearing a wedding ring is no guarantee. Rings even appear to act as a spur to some men to harass married women. "They see that you are married, and yet they insist wanting to take you to bed, sometimes by trying to blackmail your husband, telling you he is helping himself with other women out there, so why not you?

"It's sheer madness, I tell you! "What are we trying to prove in this country?" The woman went on a good bit that evening. To a foreign ear like mine, it sounded quite petrifying, and I got the terrible feeling of a society sliding down a dangerous slope. When it reaches the level described by the women, where nobody appears to show any respect for another man's wife or another woman's husband - whether she is a friend's wife or a brother's wife, whether he is a sister's husband or a friend's husband (in fact one woman said it is common these days for a blood sister to sleep with a blood sister's husband), or whether it is a neighbour's wife or husband - that society is in deep trouble!

It is almost like what existed in Israelite society in the days of Prophet Micah (about 750-700 BC). Micah tells a harrowing tale at chapter 7:2-6: "The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood; and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; they weave it together.

"The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge . . . Put no trust in a neighbour; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats his father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter- in-law against her mother-inlaw; a man's enemies are the men of his own house."

It is frightening, isn't it? A man's enemies are the men of his own house, (and you can add, of his own country or society). And Micah is not finished: "Guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms", he admonishes. Other translations say "from the wife that lies in your bosom". And I say, if you can't trust the wife who shares your bed, who else can you trust?

But it shouldn't come to this, dear Zimbabwe; where nobody is at rest; where no one trusts anybody; where wives are worried stiff about their husbands and marriages; where women and men cannot live normally as social animals; where a sideways glance is taken as a suggestion to go to bed; where values have leaked to a point where sex becomes a be-all and end-all, and it doesn't matter how one gets it and from whom! Past admonitions While researching this article, I came across a piece on The Herald website written by Marshall Bwanya on June 5 last year, in which he reported that "several cases of men and women cheating their spouses across Zimbabwe have triggered a blitz of divorce cases . . . In some instances, spouses resort to violence when they discover that their partners have been in a promiscuous relationship." Marshall went on: "The local media has been awash with stories of a husband axing a wife's lover, a man fatally stabbing a suspected wife-snatcher, or a wife scalding her husband over suspected infidelity. The list is endless."

Three years before Marshall's article, on October 11 2010 to be precise, another article by Khesani Matatise, reporting on "Marriage no longer a haven against HIV", had some very gloomy facts and statistics on the situation in Zimbabwe. "Many people have long held the view that marriage is a place of refuge against being infected with HIV. But new research by the National Aids Council (NAC) is bound to make such people sit up and think again," Khesani reported. "According to the NAC research unit, the majority of the cases of 66 000 new HIV infections recorded last year are from married people."

Population Services International (PSI) interpersonal communications manager, Mrs Patience Kunaka, said that research had also revealed that of the total number of people engaged in multiple concurrent sexual partnerships, married men had the highest share of 21.2 percent.

"Women involved with multiple sexual partners contributed 5.1 percent; single women who have passed marriageable age contributed 14.8 percent of having multiple sexual partners, with most of them having relationships with married men. "These figures translate into the high prevalence of HIV infection among married couples because those in marriage rarely demand the use of condoms," Mrs Kunaka said, before adding the chilling rider:

"There is need to allow scepticism that your partner might be having other sexual relationships." That, for many people, is the rub! "Allow scepticism " Once that point is reached, they say, there is not much point in marriage anymore? Then you ask yourself: What precedent is the current generation setting for the next generation, and even for posterity? A society that cannot trust marriage? That is going to produce future generations via bastardisation? Enter the men of God It is a serious matter we are discussing today, which becomes even more serious when the one institution that should be the moral conscience and barometer of society - the church - has, in my view, abdicated that responsibility to its eternal shame!

For me, that is where Zimbabwe has got it so, so wrong! If, when it comes to sexual immorality, the men who call themselves "men of God" are behaving in the same manner, sometimes even far worse than ordinary men, it says one thing: society is in a deep mess! Therefore, for the so-called men of God, especially those of Pentecostal and Charismatic hues, who are mocking God by their immoral behaviour, preying on single and married women like there is no tomorrow, and making it difficult for genuine men of God to be respected and trusted, there is only one admonition for them:

They should bow their heads in shame for dishonouring their exalted titles, and turning the word "pastor", "bishop", "apostle", "prophet", and the like, into a term of insult. Here, I should be careful not to tar all men of God with the same brush. Some are genuine and doing God's work in truth and sincerity, and should be thanked for helping society to live right. But there are others who don't deserve to come near any church, whether held under a tree or in a classroom. They know themselves and there is no need to mention their names and churches here. They are in Harare as they are in Bulawayo, Mutare, Masvingo, Gweru and everywhere across the country.

Some of them have already been exposed by the media, others have been jailed, and hundreds more are hiding in the shadows of their pulpits and homes, and are continuing with their ungodly ways. More importantly, we shouldn't make the mistake that it is only the "wacky" pastors in dirty garments and dirty churches who are doing it. Not at all. Those in expensive suits and cars, with fashionable accents to boot, are all up to their eyelids in it.

Imagine. Just imagine: A pastor or a prophet sits on a VIP dais at a church conference in Harare with his wife, and yet, while another pastor is preaching, makes amorous passes at a woman sitting on the same dais.

Another pastor sneaks into the home of a married woman and tells her: "Marry anything, that will give me a good cover to get you". Yet another pastor tells a married woman: "If baba goes to work or goes away, I am the new baba". And a church in Harare promotes a deacon caught red-handed trying to get into the skirt of a woman not his wife, to a higher position! And you ask yourself, what in hell is going on?

Not surprisingly, the "men of God" who have no fear of God in them, still go about calling themselves by the endearing title of pastor, bishop, apostle, prophet, and the like. Oh, God where are you? Definitely not on holiday!





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