Religion is a matter of personal decision

By Hilary Mulenga
The suggestion that the National Constitution Conference is nothing but a circus is easily bluffed up as mere politicking. Yet, last Tuesday, one would have to recant that thought after the NCC resolved to maintain the declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation. Not that there is anything against God but the reasons advanced in favor of the declaration do not befit a serious and expensive constitutional making process.

Reading about the theology coming from the NCC and spearheaded by some pastors, one cannot fail to know that there is something wrong about their debate. More serious is that an important document has to be based on the theologies so deficient and poorly construed. In short, it is based on mythical reasons. These reasons are not only improperly thought out but they carry political ramifications:

Acknowledging God as Zambia’ supreme ruler
This reason has been advanced for the declaration. It is typical of Chiluba’s 1991 declaration when, rising as a new Moses to carry the nation to the “promised land”, he subsequently felt he owed the nation to God. By then, Zambians were still drunk with the multiparty tide and the anti-UNIP mentality that everything proclaimed by the new Moses were divine truths. By virtue of that declaration, it meant that Chiluba was also divinely enthroned to rule Zambia.

During the third-term bid by Chiluba, the declaration myth was one of the major reasons for his attempt to override the constitution. Many people remember “men and women of God” paraded before ZNBC cameras to proclaim Chiluba as the anointed leader of the nation. If that anointing was anything to go by, it carried overtones of the declaration.

For political leaders, making God as the supreme leader of the nation benefits them more than God. It will definitely anoint them as divinely instituted leaders. Any criticism against them will be criticism against God. This is pure theocracy where leaders feel they act in the name of a divinity. Moreover, many Zambians are notoriously religious and one cannot underrate the psychological effect of that declaration on their minds.

Secularism equals Atheism and Satanism
The consequences of not inviting God to be the supreme ruler will be atheism and Satanism, others have argued. Yet, God’s influence is never determined by human’s doing. Otherwise, God would never be as free to act as we believe He is. Again, one cannot fail to see a loophole in this too: It is an attempt to force the nation to accept Christianity. It is an attempt to find fault with those who don’t believe in the existence of God or those who practice other religious beliefs contrary to Christianity. This reason forces everyone to accept Christianity unconditionally. Therefore, there is nothing godly about it but other reasons.

Again the use of psychological tactics in big words such as Satanism is purely meant to coerce unsuspecting minds. There is nothing as scary as Satanism to unsuspecting minds. A declaration based on avoiding the devil is a very strong tactic in Zambia.

The winner is, however, the politician in power. This reasoning will give weight to the politician’s presumed theocratic rule by accepting the declaration unconditionally.

A soft stance?
According to the draft constitution, it declares the republic a Christian nation while it upholds the right for anyone to freedom of conscience or religion. But again, what is the point of the declaration if people are free to practice their religion of choice? And why singling out Christianity when the nation has so many other religions? Of course the argument would be that Zambia is predominantly Christian but when did Christianity become a religion of numbers apart from belief in Jesus?

The soft stance carries with it overtones of the tyranny of the majority. This aspect has nothing to do with Christianity. Only in political circles do numbers matter. So, however the soft stance, the draft constitution is singling out that Christianity for the benefit of the politicians.

So then, does the nation owe God?
Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the USA could not be farther from the truth when he said: “Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.”

Religion, especially Christianity, is a matter of personal decision. You can baptize a person but not a nation. Jesus would say: “Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Mt. 7:21). Even when he invited others to join him in building the kingdom of God, he invited them as individuals and not as a group.

Way forward
Although the Christian nation declaration is likely to pass without any major hindrance, the maturity of our democracy will depend on the separation between state and religion. The Christian declaration should clearly be seen as the ploy by the state to use religion for its own benefit. Zambians must stand up and reject any effort to sabotage Christianity by politicians or anyone. The attempt to pursue theocracy at the expense of democracy will never help anyone.

Share this post