As I travel across Zimbabwe meeting pastors, principals and tutors of theological colleges, church members, and many others I have a recurring thought wondering where is God in all our visits and conversations.
We talk economy and politics of both the state and the church. We talk theology. But where do I see Jesus?
I reflect that there are lots of God’s…
The God of the economy (if only there was more money), of ZANU-PF (they set us free from colonialism), Mugabe (he wasn’t as bad as Mnangagwa), the MDC (as the opposition they will free us from ZANU-PF), prophets (if we pay them they will give us blessings), ancestors (we must return to pre-colonialism and rediscover ourselves), investors (with their money jobs will be created and the country will recover), Methodists (our church style, theology and mission will bring salvation), the United Methodist Church (UMC) (our church style, theology and mission will bring salvation), white farmers (if they return our economy will recover), colonial fathers (things weren’t so bad during colonial times), Chinese development (they will bring infrastructure and build quickly), and so on.
As a team of mostly white European Christian’s we rely on our money, tablets, bottled water, lotions, potions, phones, wifi, we don’t rely on God. We rely on our intellect to win the game of politics of church power and control. We rely on safe foods, hand sanitizer, ability to bride, insurance, contacts in high places … who is our God?
The UMC in Zimbabwe relies on UMC of the States as though there will always be finances from there. The (British) Zimbabwe Methodist Church is reliant upon traditions; upon the spirit of Wesley.
“I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from _ _ _ _ _ _ _.” I should be able to write “the Lord” yet I am not convinced this is an honest answer for most, regardless of the faith we claim.
There is a battle for each god to be the Saviour of Zimbabwe. But where does salvation come from? What does salvation look like here? What does it look like anywhere?
There is a sense of resignation to our lot in life. Zimbabwe has lost her passion, for anything and everything. Another team compares compares their experiences in Uganda where the church and her members were crying out to God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We do not see or experience such passion; Zimbabwe is not seeking after God.
Writing in 2018, post Mugabe and mid Mnangagwa, Chigumadzi writes
“On the drive 80 km due east from Harare to Murehwa, what my parents do say has changed dramatically since they left Zimbabwe in the early 90s, and even in the last few years, is the way people drive. It’s a change they interpret as the frustration, anger and impatience of people who no longer care about much, let alone the rules of the road, as motorists continue to make a go at their own early deaths and ours too, making dangerous cuts at dangerous speeds even after nightfall.”*
What I observe through much of my visit to Zimbabwe is this sense that people do not care about much and have almost lost hope of salvation. Chigumadzi goes on to write:
“In the same ways we limited our political imaginations to the end of colonialism, with dire consequences for our post-independence years, Mugabe’s end represented the end of our political imagination. Now we are living through Mugabe’s end, we will come to understand that Zimbabwe’s future is not a matter of the old dying and the new being born.”°
After almost two weeks in Zimbabwe with a variety of Christian’s I finally hear a preacher, named Itai, pronounce the need to trust in God. Shortly after this sermon, I’m in conversation with a Bishop who says, “We need a new way; not the ancestors, not the colonialism, not post colonialism, not post-independence, but something new.” And, it seems that the ‘new’ is not yet clear.
During a powerful lecture Rev. Dr. Kennedy Gondongwe says of the current regime dominating Zimbabwe that they have “changed the dress on the lady but the lady remains the same.” As I reflect I suggest that not only has Zimbabwe lost its political imagination but that the church has lost its spiritual imagination. Within Zimbabwe and within the context of the Global North, including the UK, Europe and the US, we are redressing the Church in a desperate attempt to stay relevant and alive when we really need a complete heart transplant, a change of heart and mind.
Dr. Gondongwe says, “You must have a framework of justice and be guided by the principle of justice.”
Rev. Raymond Motsi says, “The greatest issue of the church is that they have stopped being sacrificial of self but have become sustaining of self.”
If these bones are to rise again the church must rediscover her spiritual imagination, God’s spirit of justice, and the willingness to sacrifice herself for the sake of others. The church must actually trust in God.
*Panashe Chigumadzi, These Bones Will Rise Again (London: The Indigo Press, 2018), p.120.
°Panashe Chigumadzi, These Bones Will Rise Again (London: The Indigo Press, 2018), p.129.