The Sunday Mail
Karl Max is considered to be one of the critical thinkers of the 19th century, and his work continues to shape and reshape the contemporary world.
“Religion,” he once said, “is the opium of the people.”
And this probably rings true today.
This year, as the country tries to extricate itself from the current economic challenges, the role of religion and the church is increasingly being interrogated.
As societies evolve, the lines between secular and religious values and priorities are becoming blurred.
Men of the cloth are slowly becoming main actors in politics.
They, however, say this is not unusual.
Dr Clever Gomba, a scholar with Living Waters Theological Seminary, said religion is cross-cutting and involves almost every facet of life.
“Religion should deal with issues to do with peace, unity, patriotism, tolerance, human rights issues and more.
“Some of the leading political figures like Mahatma Gandhi of India, Martin Luther King Jnr (on civil rights issues), Malcolm X – a devout Moslem – were strongly motivated by religious teachings,” said Dr Gomba.
Religion, he said, can also help complete current efforts to grow the economy through promoting empowerment programmes, guidance and the much-need motivation.
“Religion should . . . be more practical, especially on the economic front, through building capacity on entrepreneurship, business management and wealth creation,” said Dr Gomba.
“Churches should engage in empowerment activities as most of them own farms that can be great production centres in terms of agriculture, mining and tourism.
“For example, Zion Christian Church (ZCC)’s Mbungo estates are a hive of agricultural activities that could benefit the community,” he said.
The church, Dr Gomba added, can foster smart partnerships with the private sector, public sector and non-Governmental organisations (NGOs).
In addition, a collective body of believers can provide a platform to participate in mutually beneficial cooperatives.
Dr Gomba said: “Religious groups can encourage cooperatives among its members to pursue particular economic activities such as cross-border trading and engaging in international trade.
“However, the bottom line in all this is that these endeavours should benefit the society more.
“Only this way can religion regain its position in society and can the citizens regain their confidence.”
Church of Central African Presbyterian’s (CCAP) Reverend Gibson Botomani said the church has the potential to lure local and foreign investors willing to participate in the economy.
“To some extent, our economic situation calls for foreign engagement and this is where religion should come in because it has a role to engage too,” said Rev Botomani.
He added that believers are better equipped to identify opportunities and map the way forward.
Rev Botomani said the ethics that are inherent in most religious disciplines are essentially similar to corporate governance practices that mainly thrive on order.
His views are shared by Prof Taremeredzwa Nishau from the Zimbabwe Open University.
Religion, he reckons, can play an overarching role in society as it is broader in scope.
“Apart from just giving people hope, religion can actually empower people to work hard and make a living in any economic environment because it is an influential voice that society submits to,” he said.
Most importantly, Prof Bishau says religion can be used as a tool to mobilise people to work.
“We have a general misunderstanding within religious circles, especially with regards to issues of proclamations and declarations.
“This misunderstanding subconsciously continues to harm many who begin to think that after a declaration, things come on a silver platter.
“In the Bible, James talks of faith without works and for clarity, these were not just spiritual works, but physical works too,” he said.
Saving and serving the masses
Of late, there has been a growing trend where congregants seem to give to the church, but it is now time for the church to save and serve the masses, said Prof Bishau.
“Religion should benefit the society, but of late, it has been vice-versa and if religion should retain its position, things need to change,” he said.
It is believed that there is scope for the religious sects to reinvest part of what they get in offerings and tithes into various small-scale projects such as poultry and horticulture.
But some churches are beginning to walk the talk.
Last week, ZCC launched its 2019 theme “Gore re Mhindu ‘Entreprenuership’ Amakhono.
Through the programme, which is currently being held in partnership with Reapers Private Limited, congregants will be receiving inputs to start agribusinesses.