Reforming Culture

Each presidential and parliamentary election cycle allows us to hold up a mirror to ourselves. The image we see is not only the one we have elected but also our own.  Democratically elected leaders are always a reflection of the values and virtues of the citizenry.  The recent revelation that the Member of Parliament for Kasama Central beat up his wife is therefore at least a dim reflection of the electorate.  The aforementioned axiom will hold true in the upcoming by-elections in Mpulungu and Chilanga as well.  Ultimately, an electorate which does not consider the unity of a person’s public and private character during an election will be subject to the implications thereof.  Sadly, we are the only ones to blame.

If our leaders are wife beaters, or adulterers, or take bribes, or view their political opponents as enemies, then we must confess that we as the electorate share those same attributes. Conversely, if our leaders respect women, are faithful to their spouse, love justice, and appreciate a good debate, then the electorate shares those attributes just the same.  Ultimately, real power does not lie in government or parliament but within each Zambian excercising their vote.  If people in Kasama see themselves reflected in the likes of Dr. Chishimba (former MP for Kasama) then they would do well to elect someone who possesses those attributes.  If Mr. Geoffrey Mwamba better reflects who they have become then they will likely elect someone with similar character again.  Our leaders are a reflection of our values and virtues.  The principle is the same at presidential level. Take the case of polygamy, which de humanizes women, this is only acceptable for a president of South Africa because it is acceptable among the electorate.

It is our view that African Christians have not made strong advances toward cultural transformation because we have allowed political and traditional agendas to cloud our vision of what it means to be citizens of the Kingdom of God.  Many theologians and preachers see Christ as the transformer of culture, and yet because our culture itself mirrors many biblical virtues: community life, respect for the elderly, love for the neighbour, care and defence for the environment, we often fall short of actually critiquing our culture with the biblical measuring rod and instead baptise our culture as if “Thy Kingdom has Fully Come.”  The call to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” assumes that transformation is needed.

The Israelites were guilty of compromising the holy splendour of the rule of God by embracing traditional and cultural practices of nations around them that knew not the God of the sea and the land.  This compromised the Israelites primary mission of being a holy nation. The Bible says, “They worshipped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshipped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with customs of the nations from which they had been brought (2Kings 17:32:33). The consequences for Israel were devastating. God sent them into captivity for 70 years as punishment (Jer. 25:5-11). The failure of the church to affirm that our primary authority comes from God and His word, and not from political or tribal affiliation, has harmed our witness of Christ as our hope for personal and community wellbeing.

Doing God’s will here on earth demands that we seek to make devoted followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.   We do this by gathering communities of followers who form churches, which are model nations (church-planting, 1Peter 2:9), who then influence the culture by our “peculiar” economic, political, and social structures which reflect the values and the virtues of the Kingdom (Matt. 2:19-20).

When a community elects a leader who charges that it is normal to beat a wife, then the church in that community needs to ask the difficult question: Have we lost our saltiness? We need leaders who understand that women are made in the image of God. To slap a woman or wife is to slap the image of God.  May that NEVER become normal.

Lawrence Temfwe