Original Research

A critical assessment of Church and political engagement in Zimbabwe under the new dispensation

Christopher Magezi, Kimion Tagwirei
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 43, No 1 | a2527 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v43i1.2527 | © 2022 Christopher Magezi, Kimion Tagwirei | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 March 2022 | Published: 13 July 2022

About the author(s)

Christopher Magezi, Department of Missiology, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
Kimion Tagwirei, Department of New Testament and Related Literature, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; Assemblies of God Back to God Church, Harare, Zimbabwe


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Abstract

Since the reign of the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Zimbabwe has been seized by retrogressive puppetisation of partisan gospel ministers and churches, worsened by state victimisation of those who stand against political ills. Church and state relations were compromised and fear gripped most citizens. At his inauguration, the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged a ‘new dispensation’ but contrarily remained similar to the preceding regime. Today, Church and state relations remain compromised as leaders appear accommodative when supported and vindictive when critiqued. The prevailing situation divided the Church, leaving some pastors dining with oppressive leaders whilst others side with the oppressed, culminating in disturbing polarisation. Ruling politicians captured some gospel ministers to sanitise the ‘new dispensation’ and vilify its critics. Although multiple researches have been carried out on Church and politics in Zimbabwe, the lack of clarity on how churches should engage with the state remains an ongoing challenge. Using a literature-based approach, this article evaluates ecclesial engagement with national politics in view of the Old Testament’s fearless prophetic involvement in politics and the New Testament’s understanding of the Church as the salt and the light of the world (Mt 5:13–16). Results of this assessment are that Church engagements with politics have been defined by economic volatility, polarisation, corruptibility, hermeneutical weaknesses and theological differences. The article concludes that the Church should contextually apply the Old Testament’s prophetic stance and the New Testament’s ‘salt and light’ engagement in Zimbabwe.

Interdisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Assessing Church and political engagement in Zimbabwe under the new dispensation in light of the Old Testament’s prophetic involvement in politics and the New Testament’s conceptualisation of the Church as salt and light (Mt 5:13–16) is a contextually critical contribution that interfaces ecclesiology with Christian, biblical, public and political theologies.


Keywords

Church; state; politics; fearless; prophetic; engagement; Matthew 5:13–16

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