What Is The Role Of The Church In Politics?
15 June 2020
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By Prince Gora

Ever wondered what role can, and should churches play in the political process?

What – if anything – should pastors say about politics from the pulpit?

What about voting? Should the clergy try to influence the results of an election or encourage people to go out and vote? What about a more direct involvement in politics, should churches ever call for the removal of a leader? Can they demonstrate and take action when faced with incompetent leaders and systematic injustices? Should they remain silent and docile?

We have people like the famed Pastor Evan Mawarire and more recently Pastor Shingi Munyeza who have been vocal and active in political matters.

We also have Apostle Talent Chiwenga, whose relentless activism at the pulpit has now landed him in trouble. The Catholic church is no newcomer to Zimbabwean politics and the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) has never hesitated to call the government to order whenever it has strayed.

But we also have many church leaders who urge their followers to only pray and disengage from political activities arguing that leaders come from God.

This group of church leaders argue that the church shoud simply be the church with its priority being only to pray for the government the day.

Is support for candidates or discussion of issues from the pulpit activism?

Is encouraging everyone to get out and vote activism? I ask these questions because the Christian community is largely divided on these issues.

Some church leaders routinely discourage their followers to stay away from anything to do with politics, yet some of these leaders are themselves often seen in the company of political leaders.
Talking about issues is even more polarising.

It is hard to ignore the poverty around us at the moment nor the corruption and the systematic injustices that the Zimbabwean citizenry is facing right now, yet the moment starts talking about these issues they are quickly labelled as regime change agents. But aren’t they talking about real issues?
Another role of the churches is in providing a place for dialogue between political leaders and individuals.

Those of us who keenly follow Zimbabwean politics will remember that not long ago church leaders tried to kickstart a dialogue between Nelson Chamisa and Emerson Mnangagwa.

The church, I believe should be a place where unity can be achieved but is that going to happen? When our church leaders either shun away from politics or choose to pretend to be blind to the challenges affecting the country?

When they can’t speak openly about issues and discourage followers from speaking openly about politics?
Should the church pray so the economy gets better or so that our lives are happier or easier as we are about to witness on June 15, 2020?
I don’t think churches should be in the political-influencing business whatsoever.

This is the question with which I struggle most, and I increasingly tend to think that churches and Christians should avoid political processes.”If we disagree with something, we need to vote to make our voices heard.

One of the problems Christians have is not getting involved in the political process, even if it is on a small level, and then crying ‘sour grapes’ when a new law is passed that takes God out of our communities even further.

Christians should play a role in the political process. If God does have authority over the ones who are elected, then his will needs to be known as a part of the process.

Should the church not advocate for the oppressed? Should it not call out injustices that are perpetuated within our political systems?
I think it is the church’s duty to keep watch, listen, and respond where there is injustice.

I believe that an important role that the church should play in politics is to provide a foundation for people in communities.

When people feel helpless in the face of a turbulent political climate and in the presence of systemic injustice, the church should be the place where they reclaim hope.
My hope is to spark respectful conversation about political issues that are important to us.

Personally I believe that churches command a lot of following, like the catholic church has found over the centuries, they will soon find out that they have a role to play in politics.

As such, they need to give credit when credit is due and criticism when criticism is due, being silent will only harm the very people they purport to serve.

As long as they are silent, systemic injustices will be perpetuated because as they say, silent means contentment.