Well, Christmas has come and gone. We had a very pleasant day with our immediate family – the only missing members being two grandchildren who are presently in the USA and the UK. I am a deeply convinced Christian and have been so since my late teens and I chose the title for this letter from a song that is often sung at this time of the year. Christmas is an enigma in many ways – the whole world celebrates but has little or no understanding of what it is really all about. Even in the so-called Christian countries of the West this is increasingly true.
An eminent Professor in the United Kingdom became a Christian late in his life and wrote a book he titled “Good God, it Works!”. Another Professor with a similar experience wrote that Christ was either the biggest hoax ever perpetuated on the human race or he was what he claimed he was. This has also been my experience – my faith in Christ actually works for me in the world in which I live and work. For me, the work of the Holy Spirit in the world is an everyday experience and is absolutely real in every way.
Listening to the song this morning I pondered just what Mary the mother of Christ thought about what was happening to her. Right from the very start, this whole experience for her was a mystical one – angels, an unexpected pregnancy and then marriage to a man who knew he was not the father. Then the birth in a small village in a distant corner of the Roman Empire, followed by visions and prophecies and then raising what was clearly an exceptional child. As the mother, always watching and remembering every detail – not understanding what was happening and just who this visitation was. Then his death as a criminal on a cross, his instruction to one of the followers that he should take her into his house as his “mother”.
Why was this such a special event in world history? Even time is recorded from the date of his birth. More books have been written about him than anyone else and today probably half the world lives in a society that is partly or wholly based on the simple principles he taught while alive. Christianity is the only religion in the world that sings. To me that reinforces its exclusivity and significance. But simply by saying that, the present world in which we all live would brand me an extremist and fundamentalist. In Christian terms that I am in every way but of course, that does not mean I blow up buildings and kill. I hope my life is even more radical as I am called to love indiscriminately and without regard to colour, race, religion or state of humanity.
Zimbabwe is possibly one of the most “Christian” countries in the world – 80 per cent or more claim to be Christian and our churches are full every Sunday. But it is clear that many are still connected to the traditional religious traditions of their ancestors. Morgan Tsvangirai said to me once “Eddie, I am a Christian but I am also an African!”. I knew exactly what he meant and I recognise that those who are indigenous to the Continent need their roots to understand who they are, but that does not mean we have to continue to follow practices that are clearly at variance to our new faith and belief.
The ten commandments are not just fundamental principles or laws for humankind but are also the basis of Roman-Dutch Law and provide the legal and principle foundations on which modern society is built. Take these away or allow them to decay through non-use or neglect and the very foundations of the economic and political and social system that has given us such a standard of living in the 21st Century will collapse. The industrial revolution in Europe was foundered on the Reformation and then took root across the globe capturing all before it – even in the East.
Virtually all our Universities and Business Schools teach principles based on Christian principles and pretexts even if they are not recognised as such. The real test of modern society and our great and grand economic systems is can they survive if we continue to violate the spiritual truths on which they are foundered? I think not, in the long term and can only forecast decline and decay if we do not get our act together.
Do we really think that a society can destroy the family as a unit and still survive? Yet what are we doing; we allow our children to coexist outside of marriage and we watch silently as the majority of the children of the world grow up in dysfunctional families or with either only one parent or no parents at all. The family is no human creation – it was founded as the very basis of society and the only way to raise the next generation. The Communist States recognised this principle based on empirical evidence.
We treat sex as a commodity to be bought and sold, as a means of describing who we are – not just in terms of woman and men, but by aberration. I have many friends who are by nature, homosexual but that does not say it is right. It is obviously not how the sex act was meant to be performed. It has no purpose and the great attention being given to these aberrations by the world in which we live is totally misguided and wrong. Sex is a gift from a creator God who made it part of the sacred relationship between a man and a woman in marriage.
If you do not accept that then just ask any serious researcher who has worked in this field and they will tell you, without exception, that sex in a secure stable marriage relationship is always superior to any such activities outside. It cements the relationship and strengthens family bonds, children are not only the product of such arrangements but also direct beneficiaries. Sex outside marriage is a direct violation of the reason for which the gift was given.
Capitalism and free markets have given human kind a living standard that has eluded mankind for centuries past. But such systems without the restraining influence of Christ are almost always exploitative and destructive. Just as our faith should be able to turn alcohol into the furniture so our faith should turn wealth from something that is selfish and expressed in self-aggrandisement into a servant relationship with the world around us to the benefit of everyone.
The Chinese have a saying that you should never give power to anyone who wants it. The wisdom contained in that expression finds resonance throughout the modern world where leaders take it that it is “their time to eat” once elected. So the poorest continent in the world, where half the population is hungry and often homeless sees up to US$100 billion a year externalised to foreign banks every year. Just imagine where we would be with the more than US$2 billion a year that is externalised by Zimbabweans – many in leadership.
Right now Zimbabwe is experiencing a repeat of what happened last year – day after day, the rains circle us with Zimbabwe skies barren and clear. It is raining in all our neighbouring countries but not here. We are in a deep crisis and if these conditions persist we will be in real trouble next year. A friend on holiday in Nyanga called me this morning and said it was hot and totally dry up there. On my veranda today at 10.00 in the morning the temperature gauge says 34 degrees Celsius. He asked me “are we spooked?”. I laughed but it is a real question and one that no African can take lightly.
The song I quoted at the start goes on to say “did you know he would control the wind and the waves?”, Mary knew that sitting at the foot of the Cross on which her son had just been sacrificed. Do we know that eternal truth and if so what does it mean to us today?