May the real church please stand up!

The church has always played a pivotal role in many societies throughout the world.

In fact, the constitutions of many countries are deeply rooted in religion rather than politics.

In the context of South Africa, the church as an institution played an important role in educating the leadership of the liberation movement and in the fight against apartheid.

This is not to discount the role the church played in deepening colonialism and, in the case of the Dutch Reformed Church (NG Kerk), defending racial discrimination.

Despite the destructive role of the NG Kerk, it would be many men and women of the cloth who became the pillars on which the back of the apartheid regime was broken.

The church has always been central in public life – whether in pursuit of justice, caring for the sickly and weak, educating people and feeding the hungry, among others.

One is reminded of the centrality of the church in public affairs by the drama that is ensuing around self-proclaimed prophet Shepherd Bushiri and his wife, Mary. The pair were remanded in custody at the Kgosi Mampuru prison on charges of fraud, theft and money-laundering to the tune of over R100-million.

The rise of the so-called charismatic church movement has put the institution of the church on trial. The emergence of flashy pastors in shiny suits, luxurious cars and houses funded by the congregants is a sad development in an institution such as the church.

You would swear the institution of the church has been hijacked by the mafia and has been turned into a brothel.

While the congregation is drunk on opium – as asserted by philosopher Karl Marx that religion is the opium of the masses – the church hierarchy is lining up its pockets.

It is unfortunate to see dozens of grown-up men and women risking
contracting COVID-19 to line up the streets of Pretoria in support of a man they call “Papa”. Some are even older than Bushiri.

The church must also take steps to root out the rogue elements who bring the institution into disrepute and not being entangled in allegations of stealing from masses of poor people by the bling pastors.


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