Lincoln Towindo and Edwin Mwase
Christians worldwide are celebrating Easter, which is a commemoration of the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ over 2000 years ago.
The holiday is typically commemorated through merrymaking, feasting and general Christian splendour as believers celebrate the forgiveness of their sins by God.
Easter is also a time of deep reflection for most believers.
As Zimbabwean Christians take stock of their faith, very few are also taking time to reflect on the state of the religion itself.
The holiday comes at a time the Christian religion is undoubtedly going through testing times which, in some cases, are threatening the fabric holding together the estimated one billion believers across the globe.
The religion, in Zimbabwe, has in recent years fallen under siege from immense challenges, ranging from the scourge of satanism, church divisions, an increasingly secular population, and the commercialisation of the original Christian doctrine, among others.
As a result of such challenges, the religion strangely finds itself at a crossroads despite trends showing a steady growth of the Christian population in Africa.
Observers note that one of the foremost challenges bedevilling the Christian religion today is divisions among Christians themselves.
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and (that) there be no divisions among you; but (that) ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” reads 1 Corinthians 1:10 in the Bible.
But divisions within churches and among the institutes’ leaders having taken centre stage in recent times, such teachings from the Christian constitution seem to have fallen by the wayside.
Over the last five years the Anglican Church, one of the largest mainline denominations in the country, split into two following differences among its leaders over the church’s doctrine.
It took an arduous five-year court battle to finally settle the differences. But many were left asking whatever had happened to the Christian teachings of meekness, humility and love when these parties were at each other’s throats.
As the battle for the ownership of church properties turned nasty, church members ended up in situations resembling war zones, with anti-riot police becoming permanent features at most of the church services.
But such problems are not confined to the Anglican Church alone. A group of high-ranking United Methodist Church leaders walked out on the church following in-house disagreements albeit in less acrimonious circumstances.
Many traditional African churches, especially apostolic sects, have also suffered the blight of divisions resulting in the formation of various splinter groups donning different colours and flags branching out of the Johanne Masowe, perceived to be among the founders of these African churches.
Such divisions have in many cases left many believers disillusioned with their religious belief.
Analysts have attributed this acrimony which has resulted in church break-ups to a power-hungry leadership sprouting within the Christian community.
However, Dr Jonathan Musvosvi, a senior reverend in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, said divisions among Christians have always existed since the early days of the apostles.
“Even during the time of the early apostles, that tendency for divisions manifested itself when they quarrelled over who would be the greatest,” said Dr Musvosvi.
“But our burden should be to try to minimise such divisions, but we can never rule them out completely.”
Zimbabwe has also witnessed an emergence of satanism that has left most curiously clueless. However, the church in Zimbabwe stands accused of not doing enough to address challenges that are emerging as a result of the proliferation of this scourge.
Christians are showing a dispiriting tentativeness in taking on the scourge head-on.
Mysteries of child disappearances and strange occurrences, which have been linked to Satanism, have largely remained unexplained despite the country witnessing an exponential growth in the number of enlightened “prophets”.
Most of these prophets have been accused of being preoccupied with amassing wealth at the expense of tackling the emerging challenges confronting the Christian religion.
Christians are generally expected to provide the light in the face of such an onslaught from the dark forces. Could it be possible that the church may have already been infiltrated by such dark forces as some have been led to believe?
Pastor Joachim Kwaramba of the Family of God Church said the devil will continue to manifest himself in the Christianity realm as long as the church itself fails to acknowledge the prophets of this time, whom the Lord has anointed to lead the current religious flock.
“At all the biblical times, every era had its own prophet, and at the moment, the prophets of our times have been there for all to see, but then when they perform the miracles of the Lord, people will attribute that to the works of Satan,” he said.
Numerous cases of heinous crimes of greed, corruption, nepotism, sexual perversion in churches have been documented. Observers have pointed at the church’s failure to speak against Satanism as premeditated since the church itself has become the purveyor of Satanism.
Mr Lawrence Marira, a senior pastor at Holy Ghost Fire Ministries, said devilish ideas have become embedded within churches.
“The desire for earthly possessions by today’s church leadership has allowed the devil to penetrate the epicentre of the Christian realm,” he said
The commercialisation of churches has also been the latest problem to hit the gospel fraternity in Zimbabwe.
Ever since the dollarisation of the local currency, there has been a visible shift of religious doctrine from that of humility and salvation, to a naked glorification of earthly riches and pleasures of the flesh.
This has seen the transformation of churches to commercial entities, structured to generate large sums of money and requiring the services of auditors from reputable companies to take care of the financial books.
This has, in turn, ushered in a new challenge of Christians attacking each other.
The media has been awash recently with stories of religious leaders attacking each other, with accusations of some being used by the devil being thrown around.
Could these attacks be out of a genuine concern for saving the religion from falling into the abyss or they are born of jealousy?
“Religious leaders should have mutual respect for each other whether they are from the mainstream, pentecostal or apostolic church.
“Earthly wealth is a heavenly blessing from the Almighty and not a cause for acrimony among leaders. The church should come together to pray for a common purpose,” said Pastor Kwaramba.