The 2011 Election

As the 2011 approaches, pastors of affluent Evangelical and Pentecostal churches will be under extreme pressure from the ruling and oppositions political parties to lead their flock into voting for their political party.  Since Zambia was declared a Christian nation in 1991 the connection between Christianity and politics has been a strong emotional force when voting for the “right party.”  As a result, many Evangelicals and Pentecostals vote for which political party will maintain the Christian Nation clause without considering the character of the candidate or the issues and agendas they seek to promote if elected.  This single issue litmus test is not only short-sighted but can lead us to make unwise decisions with lasting consequences for our nation.

When we syncretise “The Kingdom of God” with our maintenance of the “Christian Nation” clause we unwittingly weaken our Christian witness.  One of the reasons why a significant percentage of irreligious people in Zambia despise Christianity is because many Christian politicians have made opposition to the Christian Nation clause tantamount to denying Christians the right to freedom of expression.  The scriptures call us to “…be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt.10:16).  When in haste we support candidates without thoughtful consideration of who they are and how they plan to serve our country we lose our ability to engage non-believers on the most important issues, namely The Kingdom of God.  It is a bit of a tragic irony that we who are most passionate about bringing about the Kingdom of God are often the same ones who inhibit it’s coming through insistence on identification as a Christian Nation (Phil. 3:4-8).

Christianity should never be exploited to legitimise a political system.  Christians should influence government by enabling and encouraging them when the agendas they are advancing seek to promote justice for the people.  Similarly, Christians should pressure government when it is acting unjustly or without regard for the good  of the people.  Sadly, out of corporate self interest or a pastor’s desire to be noticed, the church is often commandeered as a puppet of the state, thus losing its ability to affect positive change (saltiness) in the culture and its Christian witness in the world (light).  This is wrong.

Shared allegiances beckon Christians to stand as one with those who are suffering in our poor communities.  As the church in Zambia grows, our ability to effectively stand with and advocate for the poor should increase as well.  Churches in the affluent areas of Kansenshi, Itawa, Parklands, Roma and Northmead must remember that many of the children and adults dying of malaria and HIV and AIDS in Katolomba, Kawama, Mulenga, Ngombe and Chaisa are our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible says that to “whom much is given much is expected.” The church of affluence and influence cannot overlook or ignore the church of poverty and oppression (1 Cor. 12:26).

As an affluent church political parties will pressure you to endorse them that you may influence your members to do the same.  Remember, your calling is not to Christianize a political party but to challenge and invite your members to demonstrate a radically alternative lifestyle to their community.  Essential to the mission of the church is to speak out against injustice, defend the cause of the poor, and to hold those in power to account-without compromising the ultimate calling of bringing and demonstrating the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God.  Next time the government or a political party pressures you about speaking on their behalf, may God help you to cast a broad vision of the unique kingdom of God as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ.

Lawrence Temfwe