On Churches and Faith in Malawi
This is more of a follow-up comment to Tsala Kamwendo’s article that “Churches are Spreading HIV/AIDS in Malawi. I think it is interesting and a thought provoking article.
To start with, I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that the church or churches have been full of contradictions, flattery, and corruption through out history. This was the very reason that the early Catholic Church faced revolt and splinted, with the splinter group forming what we now know as the Protestants. The Protestants, however, did not bring about that many radical changes, many of the ideals of the early church still exist today: criticism is still not tolerated, in other words, the church is still autocratic. This is because the church, as an institution, is business; therefore, its image has to be ‘good’ and acceptable in order to attract customers (believers). Any dissent must be stifled at all cost. That is why churches have their dos don’ts, mostly based on carefully selected passages from the bible. They pick one verse and completely ignore the other. Even though situations might differ in various countries, but this is pretty much the format everywhere.
While Tsala’s article only discussed the topic in relation to Malawi situation, the abuse power, in her case pastors sleeping with women of the congregation, is not unique to Malawi or indeed to the church. We can take the example of the infamous White House scandal: the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair. Yes, even the bible has a well documented case of King David sleeping with a wife of one of his soldiers who had gone to war. He later ordered the death of the woman’s husband. His son, King Solomon is perhaps the well-known womaniser the bible has recorded. You could not count his women with your fingers. Yet these were men of God.
Those days King Solomon could do this and stay longer, it is not the case today. Mother earth has natured all sorts of nasty diseases. HIV/AIDS being the most lethal as it is incurable. The most interesting fact, however, is that churches in Malawi do not encourage safe sex; they do not even talk about it; they prefer ‘abstinence’, when they cannot abstain themselves! Sadly, young, innocent, and vulnerable people become victims of this hypocrisy.
The big problem in Malawi, and indeed elsewhere, is that majority of the people follow things blindly. For instance, if you were to ask the most ardent church Gower or any Pastor why they are Pentecostal members and not Presbyterian they will not tell you. This is because they do not know what they believe in. They are believers and they go to church end of the story. Instead, I think people should be questioning and discuss more about the church, its ethos, and ideals. Challenging and questioning our believes helps strengthen our faith and understanding. Christians with ‘true’ faith are more likely to withstand temptations than the ones without ‘true’ faith. Yet, this is a taboo within churches in Malawi. Try to question the virginity of Mary, and then no choir will sign at your funeral. Trust me!