It is an important question to ask if indeed it is true that over 75% of Botswana’s population is Christian. In the current exciting political mood in which rights of citizens are trampled upon; in which government is attempting to shackle the unions; in which being critical is synonymous with being unpatriotic we must enquire if the church is important. Is it relevant? If it is, then what is its relevance? Who will lead us from the current morass? Will politicians do? Who will be our moral campus in this moral wilderness? The family has collapsed or is collapsing. It used to be a badge of honour to be married, it is now perceived as the highest level of restricting personal liberties. There are more children raised without their fathers than those raised by both parents.
Weekly we receive news of molestation, incest and rape from that other paper that services the semi-literate. Where is the church and what is its role?
Recently, we have heard the unions. Their position is very clear. For any political party that wishes to receive the support of unions, such a party must have the interest of the unions at heart. There are however more Christians in Botswana than there are union members. And if pressed, members of unions who are Christians, are more likely to heed the Christian call over the union one. Why is it then that the church is generally silent when it comes to political expectations and demands? Shouldn’t the church be calling for prudent economic management and godly leadership? Or is the church very much with the position of Rabbi Sir Jonathon Sacks who wrote in The Times (2005) that “Religion becomes political at its peril, and ours.” However, the relationship between these spheres is, for Christians, too important to merely be sidelined or ignored for the sake of avoiding controversy. This was exemplified by the UCCSA statement in the middle of the public sector strike. Tom Wright suggests that for many Christians the subject is treated as “a footnote to more important things, an aside, almost an irrelevance in a modern democracy where Christians are quite happy with things as they are and are free to preach the gospel and save souls.” Is that where the local church is today? Even if it were there, shouldn’t the local church be asking the opposition parties what they are bringing for the church? Aren’t they going to take away the very liberties that churches enjoy under the current government? Shouldn’t the church be demanding more land and influence under the current government? Shouldn’t they be offering a Christian solution to HIV/Aids pandemic, teenage pregnancy, cross-generational sex, corruption, greed, unemployment, moral degeneration and many others?
It appears to me that historically the church and state have been interwoven and there has been an expectation, not only that political leaders should permit religious freedoms, but that the leaders themselves follow the Christian God. God holds rulers accountable for their leadership. Conditions were placed upon the leaders, “including the requirement that the king should know, read and obey the law. He was not to be a super leader but a model citizen among his brothers and equals.” We have currently turned things around and developed excuses for moral sloppiness amongst our leaders.
We now have leaders who steal other men’s wives; who take young girls and use them in our lodges and hotels. This is not good for our nation. We should have higher standards for our leaders just as they do in the USA. The scriptures are clear, for instance, “[the King] shall read [the Law] all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law…”, and “Hear the word of the LORD, O King of Judah, … do justice and righteousness … but if you will not obey these words … this house will become a desolation.” This is not to undermine the authority of governments to rule, only to say that they do so ‘under God’ as stewards of his world. Any ‘divine right of Kings’, if by that we mean ‘appointed by God’, remains subject to the requirements of justice and righteousness. Furthermore, we must note that this accountability extends to all nations as is evident from Amos’ proclamations of judgement on various nations in chapters 1?2 before he homes in on Judah and Israel.
So, if the church is to “loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke [and] to let the oppressed go free “, and if it is to be the “salt of the earth… [and] the light of the world… ”, then surely it is obliged to lobby the authorities and to advocate justice and righteousness in government policy. The following quote, often attributed to Edmund Burke, is appropriate in this regard: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good men to do nothing”. Perhaps the words of Senator Roy Herron are instructive: “If people of faith refuse to participate in politics, then others will make the crucial decisions. In a democracy, the people get the government they choose ? and work for. You could say we get the government we deserve.
Government can be awful or it can be good; often it is some of bo