“Today, we have a Caesar in our midst, it is His Excellency the President. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar simply means when it comes to voting, Christians are number one on the queue to vote. Caesar has been given to you, give him what belongs to him. Caesar is created in the image of God. Your Excellency, in case you have been doubting, you don’t need to campaign next year. You will just come smoothly because these are heavenly settings, at the proper time they come into being. No need for political violence, no need for those sponsored rallies, Caesar is coming because he is God-sent.”
The above message was delivered to President Edgar Lungu on October 18, 2020. It was not a campaign rally, it was not a PF mobilization event, it was not a party card renewal exercise, it was not even a private event for a group of people from the same organisation. This was at a government event called the National Day of Prayer and Reconciliation, at which Mr Lungu was officiating in his capacity as Head of State. The priest who was delivering this sermon was not a man from some bogus Pentecostal church like “bootlicking ministries” or something like that. This was a respected Catholic priest who is in charge of a congregation.
This leaves us wondering; what has remained of our men and women of the collar? Where do we draw the line between politics and religion? How do we define ourselves as children of God? Who do we really worship? What is our interpretation of the phrase “Christian nation?” Do we mean a God fearing nation? Are we trying to say Zambia is a nation where the majority of citizens are Christians? Or perhaps, are we saying Christianity is the official religion to consider when assessing someone’s faith? We need to be clear about what we are trying to communicate.
This is why we say church leaders must not be using the word of God to campaign for their preferred political candidates. It sends a mixed message which takes away the seriousness of our religious beliefs. We know this is a delicate subject, but what needs to be said must be said if we are to build a nation anchored on the truth, morality and love for one another.
Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Father Emmanuel Chikoya says the national day of prayer and fasting has turned into an image building event for political party players. He says the role of the clergy is to speak to the moral consciousness of the country and not to endorse a political party candidate.
“I stopped going to these prayers because they are camouflaged as prayers and yet they are an image building event for particular political candidates. That is unfortunate. Our role as clergy is to pray, to speak to the moral conscience of the country, to speak truth to power. How do you expect other political players and other stakeholders to be in attendance when it becomes an endorsement for one political party player? The moment we begin to zero in on individuals and we begin to make pronouncements, it is no longer a national day of prayer, it becomes a campaign platform for other stakeholders,” says Fr Chikoya.
No person with a clear conscience can disagree with what Fr Chikoya is saying. Our religious leaders have to learn to choose their words carefully. They must make efforts to ensure that their thoughts and teachings are in line with the teachings of the Scripture. In fact, we must blatantly put it here that biblically speaking, there must not be any such thing as a “Christian nation.” This is very important to understand so that we know what God expects from us.
We say this because if we call ourselves God’s children, then we are disciples of Jesus, and if we are disciples of Jesus, we are subjects of a kingdom that knows no national boundaries. It cannot be defined in earthly terms. This kingdom is a timeless, transcendent reality. It’s a place where “there is neither PF nor UPND, neither the rich nor the poor, neither Christian nor Muslim. This is a kingdom where we are all one in Christ Jesus. That’s what Galatians 3:28 teaches us: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
We are not suggesting that as a country we must never incorporate biblical principles and Christian ideals into our foundational documents, governmental policies, and cultural values. In a sense, this is exactly what our founding father, Kaunda and his fellow freedom fighters were trying to do when they formed this nation. This is what they had in mind when they came up with the very first Constitution of this land and established the motto One Zambia One Nation.
Our country is not God’s kingdom on earth, the Patriotic Front is not God’s wing for the righteous. Therefore, our religious leaders must stop using the Bible and biblical nomenclature to paint our politicians as God’s chosen saints who must worry not about their political obligations and Constitutional processes. Such priests like Fr Lastone Lupupa and such sermons like “Give Caesar the vote because it belongs to him, because he is the chosen one by God”, do not build or unite a nation. Such sermons divide Christians and when Christians are divided in the so-claimed Christian nation, it means we are headed for destruction. Such double-tongued priests are dangerous and must be known for what they are – bootlickers.
This is what happens when a nation forgets God but remains only with a sense of obligation to occasionally meet and make meaningless references to the scripture. We must be worried when our clergy lead us into prayer but don’t lead us to God; we must be afraid when they lead us to Lungu instead of leading us into repentance. Our religious leaders have withdrawn their trust in God and have bestowed it on man. We must be worried. It is a serious matter when a nation forgets God.
We have lost economic direction as a country; we have lost political direction too and now we are losing spiritual direction as well. We must not pretend or claim that the Church is holding us together at this moment. That can only happen if our church leaders stand firm on the principles and values of the Creator of heaven and earth. But we have forgotten God. If we have not totally forgotten God, we have at the very least replaced Him in the frontal lobe of our minds with other things such as money, food and power.
A nation that forgets God and His values but remembers to merely fulfill the obligations of kneeling down and closing eyes in front of cameras is far more dangerous than a secular nation that makes its evil intentions clear. We must be ashamed to even call ourselves a Christian Nation.