The Church, the Leader and Politics
The mantra of the ‘church must not get involved in politics’ is an emotional outburst and often emotional outbursts are irrational and baseless.
The questions that must be answered then are what or who is the church? What or who is a leader? What is politics?
Allow me to state from the onset that I, as a church leader, not only within the borders of our country, but on the continent as well, have been and will always be involved in affairs of the state, what we call politics.aI will also encourage those who follow me to be very involved in politics whether they are in the same party as I am or the opposition.
To make statements dictating to fellow citizens not to be involved in politics as I read in an English weekly, lacks academic research, is unscientific and even unscriptural as well as undemocratic.
In the biographies of both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, we are confronted with prophets, teachers, soldiers and revolutionaries of God that were not only involved in politics, but were born into politics and royal courts.
I have written about this very subject in the press some two years ago, but because we tend not to listen to each other because we each think that we are right in our own eyes, we have to keep revisiting and repeating the same debates and arguments.
My question is, what is it that informs people to make a statement declaring that the church and church leaders should not get involved in politics?
The need for all institutions and individuals to be politically informed and involved has never been greater and more appropriate than in the contemporary world of the twenty first century.
The world, described as the arrangement of things as they are has become a more advanced and more dangerous place because of the blurriness that democracy and the information highway have brought with them.
The impact of economic opportunities and threats have resulted in what is known as globalization where everyone is competing with everyone from everywhere for everything.
Globalisation has also increased the level of anxiety for material and physical security among the people of the world a point where the notion of the “survival of the fittest” is beyond just being a notion, but instead is a reality.
The concept of globalisation which has the information highway as one of its main characteristics has managed to access and influence the minds of children a point of them being pushed to imagine that they are older than they really are by exposing them to information, both ocular and auditory that they should not be privy at their tender age.
Studying and understanding the constitution of the republic of Namibia is political, writing a letter to the president, prime minister, minister, permanent secretary, mayor or councilor, is political. It is politics.
Driving a right hand vehicle on the left side of the road is political. Wearing the clothes we wear and even eating the food we eat is culturally politics. It is politics. Politics is life and life is politics.
Telling a priest, a reverend, a pastor, and an elder, a deacon or as you say, the church not to get involved in politics is like telling the politician not to get involved in church for all I care.
Politics informs and information empowers and empowerment liberates.
The prophet Daniel who endured the threat of death was very political and he even ended up becoming the prime minister of a country where he had been a foreigner.
The wise, spiritual intellectual Joseph who also endured detention without trial found himself being made prime minister in a foreign land.
Moses, who would later write the first five books of the Old Testament as a servant of God grew up in the royal courts (political) of Pharaoh and when he engaged Pharaoh to set God’s people free, he was engaging in politics.
I keep meeting religious individuals who would ask both my wife, as pastor and professional business person and I how it is that we can be involved in leading the church, in politics and business.
Our answer is always that it is the versatility given to us by the grace of God because that is what God expects of us, to be all things to all men as long as this does not contradict the word of God and undermine the law of the country.
Wanting to create artificial compartmentalisation and walls around certain institutions will only short-change us as a nation that has to compete internationally.
Jesus Christ Himself was highly political as an Ambassador of the Kingdom of God and He also engaged in business as a carpenter. Paul, the apostle of Jesus Christ who wrote one third of the New Testament of the Bible was a Roman public servant as Saul and later a tent maker and political activist.
It is unfair for anyone to expect pastors and churches to ignore politics as that will be wanting people and institutions who are directly affected by politics to be heavenly minded and earthly useless.
The involvement of a pastor or church in politics for personal gain instead of serving the broader society for its betterment is of course unacceptable and tantamount to corruption which is in turn criminal.
What is the church?
The church is the people.
Who are the people that are the church? They are the parents and children, the doctors and nurses, the masons and carpenters, the teachers and preachers, the healthy and the sick, the dead and the living, the rich and the poor, the black and the white, the employed and unemployed, the educated and uneducated as well as the politicians.
It was during the reign of regimes like the illegal regimes that perpetrated the atrocities of apartheid that did not want to see church leaders addressing political matters that affected the daily lives of their congregants.
In a free, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society like ours, the old oppressive mantra of churches and their leaders not engaging in politics is an injustice that lends itself to a human rights crime.
To know the concerns, worries and personal challenges of the members of the political parties we belong to as church leaders requires of us to be politically active together with them.
One could say that it is a matter of choice. One could also say that my view on the matter is influenced by my personal life’s experiences. That might be true, but allow me to state that reading the newspapers, watching the news on television and interacting with one’s community and environment politically and economically will only enhance one’s life as this gambit of exposure will empower one with knowledge and information.
The church needs to be in alliance with the state as strategic partners addressing the socio-political and socio –economic issues of the people in this life on this earth.
The society that all of my generation and those ahead of us belonged to was bathed in active political engagement on an hourly basis and I believe that the liberation politics of the past prepared us to be informed and well versed on matters affecting our communities locally, nationally and internationally.
You walk into our churches today, you will meet us preaching and teaching our congregants and empowering them using biblical principles in the fields of life, death, politics, business, education as well as responsible living as patriotic citizens who must be pro-active in improving their lives and leaving long lasting legacies behind.
Finally, it will help if those who tell us as church leaders not to get involved in politics, which is already involved, in us to explain and substantiate such statements based on facts that make sociological sense.
May the grace and blessings of God fall on all of us as the beautiful nation of Namibia.