Thursday, October 28, 2021

Schools should teach students about dangers of ‘Fire!’ churches

Concerned about evangelical pastors fleecing people off in cultish settings, the government is stepping up its campaign to limit physical contact between the two parties. In 2015, parliament passed legislation that sets an extremely high threshold for church membership in order to make it difficult establish new churches. There is an ongoing campaign to kick out dubious foreign “Fire!” church pastors and recently one (Prophet Shepherd Bushiri) was denied a visa to enter the country. What complicates the situation though is that some “Fire!” church pastors are citizens who cannot be expelled and some congregants travel outside the country to attend the church services of pastors who were expelled.

There is a more durable solution that the government has not tried ÔÇô religious education. While RE has evolved from the educational tragedy it used to be when it confined itself to Christianity, it has not been updated to equip students with the knowledge that they will need to navigate commercial religion in adult working life. On the evidence thus far, the machinations of “Fire!” churches and their pastors get worse by the day. In a decade, the problem would definitely have multiplied many times over and for that reason, there is desperate need to prepare young people to foil the predation that they will be subjected to in the future.

For the most part, “Fire!” churches use tithe scripture to fleece people off. This succeeds largely because pastors interpret the Bible in such manner as to get congregants to harmfully alter their financial priorities. RE taught in schools should teach students that if you stop tithing, your income goes up by 10 percent and in that way, you will be better able to meet your financial obligations. For too long, “Fire!” pastors have subverted scripture to impoverish congregants through tithing. While stressing the duty to tithe that is expressed in the Bible, RE should also empower students with relevant information about tithing: that it was done once a year and only confined to three herbs – cumin, mint and dill. Tithing with 10 percent of annual harvest of spinach from a backyard garden would be scripturally legitimate while insistence on money tithe is not.

RE should educationally fight the conception of “blessing” as peddled by pastors. Often holding themselves up as living examples, these pastors get congregants to shell out their hard-earned money through tithing and plate collections in order that God can “bless” them. The reality is that pastors’ “blessing” comes from the money that they get from their congregants.

Some pastors use scripture to trick female congregants into bed. While they preach against fornication, these pastors is only opposed to fornication that they are not one half, one third, one quarter, one fifth or one tenth of. Outside of what Guidance and Counselling programmes do, there is urgent need for RE should warn school girls about sexual perversion that is rife in the “Fire!” church and how they can insulate themselves against it.

School is where young people acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes they need to negotiate the pathways of adult life. There is no doubt that the “Fire!” church presents a peculiar problem that citizens should be empowered to deal with. Legislation, visa denials and deportations are never going to be as effective as educationally empowering citizens to distinguish between real and fake religion.

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