Are pastors receiving too much praise?
Recent cases of pastors, who have been caught on the wrong side of the law, have evoked serious debate in various social platforms such as pubs, public transport, offices, as well as social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as to the extent to which pastors should be treated.
Media is awash with stories of pastors who are abusing their powers and exploiting their followers in the name of religion.
For instance, the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe, a grouping of indigenous churches in Zimbabwe, recently disclosed that the organisation has handed over cases of suspected sexual abuse, spanning more than 10 churches, to the police for further investigations.
“Pastors from more than 10 churches stand accused of rape and sexual abuse. In some cases, the pastors are accused of acts such as drug abuse,” said Archbishop Johannes Ndanga, the president of ACCZ.
One of the cases that the ACCZ has since handed over to the police involves the founder of the Mount Olives Church, Wilson Duncan Kwambana, who is accused of seven counts of rape.
Kwambana is accused of luring the victim into being intimate with him through claiming that it was the will of the Holy Spirit.
Sadly, the alleged victim said Kwambana “prophesied” that he had seen that she possessed spiritual gifts, hence, he wanted to be close to her as they minister.
She further alleged that her former pastor, who had a way of linking the Holy Spirit and the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda (a ‘svikiro’ or spirit medium of the Zezuru Shona people), is the one who deflowered her after getting the consent to do so from her boyfriend.
Still in Zimbabwe, highly debated is the appalling and disheartening story of RMG End Time Messages Church leader, Robert Martin Gumbura who is accused of sexually abusing female congregants since 1998.
He is also married to 11 women who are said to be in fear of him.
Maggie Mzumara, Zimbabwe journalist, said the case of Gumbura has shown the spotlight on issues of possible undue influence on followers by men of the cloth.
Instances of undue influences on followers by pastors are not only popular in Zimbabwe but other regional countries.
Reports from South Africa suggest that Pastor Lesego Daniel, the General Overseer of Rabboni Centre Ministers, a church based at the Garankuwa TUT Campus at Pretoria makes church members eat grass to be controlled by ‘the Spirit of God’.
It is also claimed that the pastor ensured the act to prove a point that humans can be controlled by the spirit of God and can survive on whatever they choose to eat.
According to a report on the Christian Post, Lesego explained the ‘grass eating’ by telling the congregation that Jesus had more disciples than the 12 mentioned in the Bible, adding that they (disciples) had also done new things which were seen as unusual at the time.
“There were many disciples and you do not know others.
“Let God show you as they were deliberately not revealed in the Bible because God wanted someone to do them, new things.
“Nathanael was a disciple yet there is no book of Nathanael, what about the miracles, signs and wonders, what about how they them who were not mentioned, taught,” Lesego was quoted saying.
Sadly, as they eat, they are kicked, stepped upon and are said to be dead to touch during this.
One thing for sure is that brainwashing is at the core of occurrence at most of these ‘cultic’ churches.
However, these ‘clear cases of spiritual abuse’ incidences have triggered people to express mixed feelings as to the cause of this, with some saying church pastors, especially the founders, are receiving a ‘God status’, hence the reason why they are abusing power while others believe there is nothing wrong with a person esteeming a pastor, but cultism is increasing.
A cult refers to a religious group that uses teaching and social structures to exhibit strong and/or controlling influences over its members.
Commenting on the Robert Martin Gumbura case, Zimbabwe’s top notch guitarist and music producer, Clive ‘Mono’ Mukundu on his official Facebook page said that pastors are human beings and should not be given a ‘God status’.
“We Zimbabweans are giving a God status to these pastors and this case (the Gumbura case) helps show the people that pastors are human beings as well,” said Mukundu, adding: “I do not believe these women were raped as it is not easy to rape a grown woman without drugging her or using a weapon.
“How can someone get raped without struggle then go home and come back for another ‘rape session’ for years.”
Sharing same sentiments, a social commentator said the church, women especially, are exaggeratingly adoring pastors.
“The problem with women, especially married ones is that they adore pastors a lot to an extent that their displays have plates and water glasses reserved for them that even their husbands are not allowed to touch.
“How can these pastors not take advantage of them when they treat them like that?
“Woman should stop this habit of inflatingly trying to please their pastors because a pastor is also human and has feelings, meaning he is capable of raping you,” said the commentator.
Without doubt, pastors and other church leaders deserve to be respected but they should not be awed as if they are God.
Even the Bible instructs church members to respect their pastors.
1 Thessalonians 5: 12 and 13 reads: “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
Sadly, after being esteemed by church members, some church leaders abuse this text, using it to justify their evil deeds.
Followers are also partly to blame in this equation of spiritual exploitation. Sometimes they do weird things in the name of commitment to faith but commitment to faith does not mean one must tolerate and accept anything that comes in the name of Jesus Christ.
This is according to Reason Wafawarova, a Zimbabwean political writer based in Sydney, Australia, who also believes this kind of religion can destroy a country.
In a newspaper article ‘The false front in miracle rumours’, he said: “I do not think our blood-sucking politicians are the greatest threat to our nationhood, diabolical as they stand. These we can revolt against, and we can either transform them or eliminate them from the political scene – by the vote.
“If religion cannot destroy our country then nothing will.”