For a long time, the Christian community has played a passive role in politics and electoral processes with several denominations distancing themselves from such issues.
This has left the Christian community vulnerable in the country’s socio-political and economic atmosphere as most of those elected into public offices, or those in positions of influence have minimum or no fear of God and Christian values.
About 67% of Zimbabwe’s population is composed of young people according to the last census in 2012, of which a majority are Christian. The youths have a major role in the country’s electoral and political processes and they could be a major player in transforming the country in line with Christian values and principles if they actively participate.
Ndumiso Sithole from Brethren in Christ Church in Mkoba North in Gweru believes that only Christians, especially youths, can sanitise politics and the electoral processes in the country which is now viewed as a ‘dirty game’.
“Youths have a very important role to play but it is just unfortunate that some denominations treat politics as something that is un-Biblical or should I say a sin. But I do believe that the reason why we say politics is dirty is that it has dirty people. If Christians want politics to remain clean, if they want leaders that are clean, they also have to join. Actually, if you read the Bible, the Bible is full of politicians like David, and people like Elisha who was a prophet but at the same time was influencing what was happening in the political sphere.
“It is said that most of the youths in Zimbabwe, like the ages between 18-25 years, in the last elections in 2018 about 2 million of them did not vote and you can already see the attitude of youths before we even focus on the Christian ones,” he said.
In the last election, as Sithole notes, the winner won by a far much smaller number compared to that 2 million who absconded, and if they had voted maybe something different could have happened, either if they voted for the winner or the looser, a sign which he says shows that youths, in general, are not serious.
“Coming from that background into the church, the Christian youths are even worse. Yes, maybe we can blame the church doctrines which treat the church as if it exists independently from politics and what is happening here on earth as if it is in Heaven. So in as much as you can pray for your leaders, if you do not vote for them nothing will happen, remember God said we should be wise as snakes and meek as doves; so if you are not clever as a snake no matter how hard you pray nothing will happen if you don’t vote.
“God has given us that power and if you do not use it and think you are just going to pray for government, nothing will happen up until you vote,” he said.
Sithole says the best way forward is for youths to take action, stand up, and be counted in electoral and political processes.
“The Bible says ‘faith without works is dead so if you are not voting it means your prayers might be a waste of time, pray and act; praying alone is not going to change much. Most Christians do not want to vote such as church leaders, elders, and so on because they think it is a circular thing and one is not supposed to be part of it; those who vote just go but the Christians, in general, do not want to vote or contest for position in politics or government.
“We have very few Pastors in Parliament and in South Africa, I think there is one Reverend who is in Parliament and he has a huge influence. When they try to legislate something that is unchristian he always tries to defend what he believes and speaks against it. Now imagine if there are, let us say, 100 Christians in such a Parliament, things will change, and Christians will be better off. If you look at the past lockdowns, Christians suffered the most because there was no one to defend them in Parliament or wherever those decisions were made,” he said.
Another Christian youth, Tendai Chiminya (25) from the Lutheran church, expressed skepticism about the electoral processes and politics saying citizens are just used as a ladder by politicians to get into power.
“Before we even go to Christian youths, the main challenge in participating in politics or the lessons that we have from politics is that our representatives only come when they want to be voted into positions and disappear after. They don’t care what happens to you or what you do after. That’s the society we grew up knowing that whether we vote or not nothing happens, and nothing changes. At the end of the day, we have to do everything for ourselves.
“There are very few politicians who fulfill what they promise or who take up action when something happens or is needed. For example, we have children in rural areas that walk long distances, 15-20 kilometers to the nearest school but those places have Councilors and Members of Parliament who do nothing to improve the situation. So people really don’t have hope in politics, youths are demotivated, they have no zeal to partake in political processes,” Chiminya said.
She said most people who show interest in politics want to benefit something directly, especially during campaign periods and thereafter it’s done, nothing happens till the next election campaign. Church schools could be partly a solution to the youth apathy problem, she said, if they teach them the essence of active participation in such issues.
“I really do not know what can be done to encourage Christian youths, and the youth in general to be active participants. Maybe having churches establish schools from the primary level where they instill certain values from a tender age that they will grow with and will be difficult to divert from. So maybe if they push issues that enlighten them on the need to be part of electoral processes at early stages of education then the situation can be better,” she said.
Sharing similar sentiments, Sympathy Maphosa (22) from Power House, believes that young Christians should be neutral in politics which she associates with violence.
“I do not think Christianity and politics link. We do have some church leaders who come out in the open supporting certain politicians who they believe understand their values but I believe as Christians we should be neutral on political issues. Growing up, we saw politics being associated with violence and as Christian youths, we try to distance ourselves from such violence by not involving ourselves in political issues. Anyways, what is the use of voting if I get nothing out of it? We also don’t have the assurance that if we vote out those in office and bring in new people things will change,” she said.
Maphosa said maybe a solution to the problem is having Christian youths register to vote and going to vote peacefully and quietly without openly participating in political activities.
Lewis Kuchineyi (34), another youthful Christian, believes young Christians are key players in sanitizing national politics and should occupy offices of influence in order to protect against unchristian foreign cultural infiltrations as the world slowly becomes a global village.
“The role of the Christian youths cannot be separated from the role that other youths, in general, are supposed to be playing. Christian youths should register to vote, go and vote and also be candidates themselves. Why? Because we are now living in a global society that is being permeated by other cultures. So if young Christians are actively participating in electoral processes they are going to guard jealously their religion, culture, and values,” he said.
“Remember we have issues that we do not want in our system as Christians, as Zimbabweans, which are not recognised by our culture; issues like gays and lesbians. The moment we take out the Christian youths from active political participation it means that we are going to have these foreign influences in our culture through legislation. We will also continue to witness the perpetuation of corrupt politicians, people who do not fear God.
“We have politicians who do not know God and who do not regard people. We have people who are plundering resources that are supposed to benefit the vulnerable and the masses in general without fear. If Christian youths and Christians, in general, take an active role in elections, we will see a change because they would be influential.
“I remember one Pastor who was saying the moment that he has a Christian politician in his church it means if that individual does something wrong, he can easily call him and counsel him or her on where they are going wrong in relation to Christian values. But now we have people who don’t listen, people who cannot be warned, who do not fear diverting from the ways of the Lord,” Kuchineyi said.
One of Gweru’s prominent Pastors, Pastor David Chikore from Kingdom Life Covenant Church says it is wrong to tell Christians to stay away from politics and electoral processes.
“As Christians, we talk of the Heavenly kingdom that has a mission to bring the consciousness of that Kingdom into this world. The Christian is there to influence the way we live on this earth because it says, as Christians, we are the salt of this earth and we are the light of the world. Politics is part of this process and who can better represent the Kingdom of God than the child of God?
“It’s very wrong to say Christians should stay out of politics, it is written that blessed are those who are led by someone who knows God. Christians should be heavily involved in the electoral process and take up governmental positions. If you go to the Bible, Joseph became the Prime Minister of Egypt, Daniel also became a Prime Minister and for one to really transform communities they should be influential.
“Christian youths should be involved in political processes but currently they are not. We have some Churches that will tell you that politics is unholy; that it is unchristian, which is very wrong. There is a serious need to go back and educate the church on the need to participate in worldly politics because as I said, Christians are the salt of the world, if salt is not put in meat it is useless, the meet will just rot and you the salt will be just there,” Pastor Chikore said.