Monday, April 02, 2012
By The Post
Mon 02 Apr. 2012, 13:00 CAT
"…for me and the Catholic Church, the proclamation of Zambia as a Christian nation is a non-event. It is a useless proclamation because not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of God. How Christian are we? Just take a look at what happens when we have a simple by-election. Corruption, intimidation, fighting, thieving…is that Christianity?" asks Lusaka Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu.
We cannot agree more with Archbishop Mpundu on the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation. Truly, we should ask ourselves what kind of fair, just and humane society we have built in this country that declares itself to be Christian.
Truly, the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation is nonsense. And it reminds us of the behaviour of Pharisees. A church that places its patrimonial interests ahead of the demands of justice, life and the people among whom it is inserted is certainly a church that considers man less important than the Sabbath and, like the Pharisees, reverses evangelical priorities.
A religion that cares for the supposed sacredness of its objects but turns its back on those who are the real temples of the spirit is worthless. They don't understand that, in Jesus' way of thinking, there is nothing more sacred than the right to life.
Spirituality refers not only to our spiritual life. It refers to man as a whole, in his spiritual and bodily unity. In the gospels, the totality of the human being is what brings life to the spirit.
Thus, spirituality isn't the way you feel the presence of God. Nor is it the way you believe. As Archbishop Mpundu has correctly quoted, Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' shall enter the Kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."
Thus, spirituality is a way of living according to the spirit. José Marti, outstanding hero and forerunner of Cuba's liberation, said that "Doing is the best way of saying." For Christians, living is the best way of believing.
Faith without deeds is worthless; declarations of Christian this, Christian that without Christian deeds are worthless; as James stated, "What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but has not works? Can his faith save him?
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (James 2:14-17).
Equally, our way of life is the result of what we believe. Our way of being the church is a reflection of our concept of God. Declarations of Zambia being a Christian nation without Christian deeds are worthless, are dead, are nonsensical and useless.
It is a deception, a lie, a falsehood. It is hypocrisy similar to that of the Pharisees. We shouldn't forget that in the Old Testament, the prophets were worried by idolatry, the gods created in accord with human interests. There is still much idolatry.
In the name of God and under the banner of a Christian nation that they had declared, Frederick Chiluba and his friends looted the national treasury to enrich themselves. Chiluba was a contributor to the coffers of many pastors who were his friends and their churches.
And it was them who came up and still support this nonsense, this falsehood, this deception of Zambia being a Christian nation to conceal their own inadequacies and corruption.
For Jesus, the world wasn't divided between the Christians and the non-Christians, between the pure and the impure, as the Pharisees wished; it was divided between those who favoured life and those who supported death.
Everything that generates more life - from a gesture of love to social revolution - is in line with God's scheme of things, in line with the construction of the Kingdom, for life is a greatest gift given to us by God.
Whoever is born is born in God to enter the sphere of life. At the same time, Jesus' spirituality contradicted that of the Pharisees, which consisted of rites, duties, asceticisms and the observance of discipline.
Fidelity is the centre of life for the Pharisees; the Father was the centre of life for Jesus. The Pharisees measured spirituality by the practice of cultural rules; Jesus measured it by the filial opening to God's love and compassion. For the Pharisees, sanctity is a human conquest; for Jesus it was a gift of the Father for those who opened up to his grace.
And in this sense, all who struggle for life are included in God's scheme, even if they lacked faith.
"Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?' And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these brethren, you did it to me'" (Matthew 25:37-40).
It is your fellow man, and especially the one who lacks life and needs justice, in whom God wishes to be served and loved. Therefore, there is no contradiction between the struggle for justice and the fulfillment of God's will. One demands the other. All who work along that line of God's scheme are considered Jesus' brothers and sisters (Mark 3:31-35). This is the best way to follow Jesus, especially in Zambia's present situation.
Looking at things this way, one can understand why Archbishop Mpundu says the fact that Zambia's current President, Michael Sata, is a staunch Catholic fundamentalist doesn't matter in the way the Church will deal with him and his government.
The religious persuasion of the President doesn't matter in the way the Church must deal with the government. This is so because, as Archbishop Mpundu correctly observes, the church has a God-given command to speak for the voiceless: "Speak up for the people who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless.
Speak for them and be a righteous judge. Protect the rights of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:8-9). Thus, if criticism is valid, it must be made. But this does not mean that the Church and its leadership must go on a marathon of cynicism criticising everyone and everything for the sake of it. Such a course will be tantamount to cynicism.
And societies have never been built by cynics. What is needed is a humble leadership. This is so because Christ's entire doctrine was devoted to the humble, the poor; his doctrine was devoted to fighting against abuse, injustice and the degradation of human beings.
And given the humbleness of the great majority of our people, a true leadership of our people should be dominated by the humble.
The humble being in the majority, what is needed is a government that truly represents them as such - a government of the humble, by the humble, for the humble. Again, as Archbishop has correctly pointed out, "there is need for leaders to be humble. They were once ordinary people like everybody else. Great leaders are those who are humble. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to show how humble he was and so every leader should humble themselves".
We also know that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.Some people start to get deformed as soon as they have some little power, some little responsibility; they start to change the way they talk to others, the way they walk and act.
Power quickly gets to their heads; they start to become big-headed and so full of themselves. They forget that the exercise of power must be a constant practice of self-limitation and modesty and not a source of arrogance, lack of humility and abuses of power.
The exercise of power should not be something that changes someone, deforms someone. Of course, there is need to bear in mind that the exercise of power, if not moderated, has greater risks. And this requires being aware of this danger and ever alert, ever vigilant against it.
And at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what label we put on ourselves - Christian this or that, socialist this or that, liberal this or that, conservative this or that. What matters is what we do - "doing is the best way of saying".