By Malama Katulwende
I have often taken arguments in support of Zambia as a Christian nation to be ambivalent, fallacious and somewhat trivial. In his criticism of my article, “The State and religion”, for example, Dr. Mulenga Kaela (who happens to be a respected columnist on this site) reproduced some of those easy-to-believe assumptions which, although popular and in vogue, are nonetheless not based on significant facts. By “significant facts” I mean phenomena that are consistent with material truth.
In saying this, though, I do not deny the existence of Christianity as a social fact, nor do I seek to upset the sensibilities of its devotees. I recall that at one time Dr. Kaela called me a “spokesperson of the devil and cults” on account of my objections to the Declaration, though I never flooded him with abuse. Yet I merely wanted to question the terms of some religious belief and social trust. What basis is there to presume that the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian makes sense? Why should we allow ourselves to be persuaded by arguments which are not only materially false but contradictory and archaic as well?
In “The State and Religion”, I raised a number of objections to the Declaration, “Zambia is a Christian nation”. Arguing from consequents I showed that the Declaration as it stands does not have a defined epistemology, theology and economic model. Although its proponents argue otherwise, the Declaration is discriminatory in spirit and contradicts the very essence of an ideal law which spells out the rights, privileges and obligations of all citizens regardless of their gender, color, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and social standing. As it is, however, the Declaration purports to create a clique of Christian extremists who are intolerant of others on account of their religious beliefs. As a form of social coercion and control, the Declaration aims to preserve the privileges and rights of some religious.
In today’s column, then, I propose to derive the discriminatory nature of the Declaration from a simple logical analysis. I also demonstrate that in terms of political discourse the Christianization of State institutions and functions is not only dangerous but contradictory as well. Finally, I also argue that the “historical and biblical” reasons for the Declaration are largely false and misplaced.
In an article titled “Uphold Zambia’s Crucial Covenant with God”, Chief Policy Analysts for Press and Public Relations at State House, Charles Kachikoti was quoted in the Times of Zambia (23-01-2010) as saying:
“The Christian Declaration does not suggest that all the people living in various parts of the nation are Christians. Neither does it imply that they all attend church. The Declaration is a vision statement rolled into one. It espouses a national vision, a people’s mission and family values as encapsulated in the lyrics of the national anthem…It is a statement of strategic intent. It is a rallying point giving credence to national development plans and bringing moral sensitivity into governance. It is Zambia’s view of the future.”
What does one make of this famous quote? Certainly there is much that could be said. In a logical analysis, a proposition of the type, “Zambia is a Christian nation” is both universal and affirmative. It means that that which is denoted by the subject-term “Zambia” is included in, and forms part of the class of things denoted by the predicate term, “Christian nation”. The predicate-term, “Christian nation” applies to the whole of the subject-term, “Zambia” and not to some parts of it. On the other hand it is the subject-term, “Zambia”, and not Sweden, Zanzibar, Peru, Nigeria, or indeed any other country in the universal set of “nations”, which is a “Christian”. In this regard out of all possible nations in the world, some of whose citizens might be Moslem, Hindu, and Traditionalists and so on, Zambia is a Christian nation. Since we are referring to the whole of “Zambia”, the subject-term is distributed, whereas the predicate-term is not distributed since we are only referring to some nations.
The material truth of the proposition is rendered even more evident when we transpose it as – “Some country that is a Christian nation is Zambia”, or when we convert it into a better logical form: “Zambia is a nation whose religion is Christianity.” By implication, therefore, such faiths as Islam, Hinduism, Shinto, Atheism and Animism, which surely exist in modern Zambia, are not denoted by the predicate-term, “Christian nation”. These faiths are excluded. The real connotation which qualifies some country to be called “Zambia” is, indeed, the characteristic of being Christian. Other beliefs and faiths are excluded by the differentia, “Christian” since the proposition consciously narrows its extension to the class of “Christian” only.
Now the principle of identity, which states that if something is X it is X and not otherwise, might help us grasp the full meaning of the proposition “Zambia is a Christian nation” more clearly. That is to say, Zambia is indeed a Christian nation, it is not otherwise. In logical discourse, then, it would be fallacious to admit of other faiths and religions when the proposition “Zambia is a Christian nation” still holds true. It follows that the proponents of the Declaration are not being sincere when they claim that it is inclusive of every faith. Moslems, Hindus, Atheists, Traditionalists and others ought to be very concerned that the Christianization of government and state institutions shall eventually affect them. Kachikoti has said it: “[Christianity] is Zambia’s view of the future.”
To illustrate the inadequacies of the Declaration further, let us test its ramifications in the political arena. Granted that the State and Christianity are synonymous, then the three arms of government – the legislature, executive and judiciary – should reflect Christian values and ethics. By consequence, therefore, the functions and operations of government should be informed by the Biblical teaching, interpretation and doctrine. This perhaps explains why Kachikoti said: [The Declaration] is a rallying point giving credence to national development plans and bringing moral sensitivity into governance…”
The question, though, is this: Which doctrine should government accept as representative of all the Christian faiths in Zambia considering their differences in their history, dogma and social teaching? The belief-system of the Catholic Church, for instance, is radically different from that of evangelical churches, Seventh Day Adventists or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. For this reason, perhaps, some evangelical churches (which support the dubious acquittal of the former president of Zambia Dr. Frederick Chiluba, in spite of evidence that he had stolen from the public treasury) derogatorily call the Catholic Church “The Beast”, “666” or “The Harlot of Babylon”. The Catholic Church opposes the Declaration.
Debating on the floor of Parliament last year a government Minister of Broadcasting and Information Services, Reverend Ronnie Shikapwasha said the Catholic Church in Zambia was bent on committing acts of genocide similar to what happened in Rwanda when more than 800,000 Tsutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered. These unfortunate allegations have since not been withdrawn by any officer from the government – yet have been taken up by one Chanda Chimba III, in his pro-government documentary called “Stand up for Zambia”. This local journalist alleges that the Catholic Church has been fomenting “disorder” and “anarchy” in the country contrary the teaching of the Bible where the citizens are asked to obey their leaders without question, a assertion I find very foolish. But Chimba III is, to my knowledge, an average journalist whose discernment and grasp of the subtle undercurrents in Zambia’s contemporary, historical process and politics is superficial.
To be sure, the Catholic Church in Zambia has several short-comings, yet they cannot just be discredited and dismissed anyhow for opposing the Declaration. The Catholics have nearly 2000 years of experience with the dangers of harnessing an alliance between the state and religion. More than anyone else perhaps they understand that those who hold the reins of government could abuse religion to further their interests. This position was clearly explained by the Archbishop of Lusaka Telesphole Mpundu, in an interview conducted by Mark Riedemann for “Where God Weeps”, a weekly television and radio show produced by the Catholic Radio and Television Network in conjunction with the International Catholic Charity Aid to the Church In Need. The interview was reproduced courtesy of the Post newspaper on June 6, 2010.
Archbishop Mpundu contended that the Declaration not only compromised the constitutional rights of the citizens but was also crafted to deceive the people:
“Zambia should be a secular state and not a theocracy. Well, successful governments have reaffirmed it for their own interests. They have their own agenda…This agenda in my humble opinion and I think in the opinion of the Catholic bishops, is a way to try and manipulate the Catholic bishops and the Catholic Church…By giving the impression that you have a rapport with the Christian Churches and that you support the Christian Churches and thereby getting their vote, their support, and we felt that this was not right…[The Declaration] was a total ploy indeed and in the course of time this has been proven to be so because, unfortunately during this time of the successful governments to that of President Frederick Chiluba, they found during their time of office that a lot of corruption has been unearthed, not that there wasn’t corruption before but it should have reduced if really the state is so called “Christian”. By the way, a country is not or is Christian not by declaration, whether this declaration is presidential, ministerial, that doesn’t mean that it’s Christian or non-Christian. It’s the way; it’s the life of the people. For me, for the Catholic bishops in Zambia, and most of the Catholics, the country is not more Christian or less Christian as a result of that declaration so it is a useless declaration. It doesn’t help anyone. On the contrary, it puts Christianity in the bad light. “Caesar” wants to combine that he is the priest, and the Pope; those who have been trying, in the history of the Church, the history of religion, especially Judeo-Christian religion, to be prophet, priest and king end up being more kings, than prophet or priest.”
The Catholic Church – with over 3 million followers out of 12 million Zambians –is the largest religious denomination in the country with a wide network of schools, hospitals, universities, hospices, social and relief services spread across the country. No other faith in Zambia can match the Catholics in terms of their assets, investments and accomplishments in the areas of education, health, research, relief and disaster management, vocational training and advocacy. Furthermore, the Catholic clergy are also very educated as compared, for example, to most evangelical and Pentecostal pastors who are in the habit of quoting verses from the Bible to “prove” their point.
Ironically, though, the government of Zambia perceives the Catholic Church as an enemy of the state. Recently, Zambia Episcopal conference (ZEC) general secretary Fr Joe Kommakoma denied in the Post newspaper dated June 10, 2010 that the Catholic Church had any intention of seeking political power but was merely pressuring government to meet their obligations to the citizens in terms of providing basic needs such as food, shelter, education, water, civil rights, accountability and good governance.
Amusingly, other Christian churches – such as the evangelical and Pentecostal ones – have tended to emphasis the ‘spiritual’ mission of the church and ended up supporting the ruling government under the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD). These ‘prosperity churches’ have asked the citizens to obey their leaders and authority without question. These churches have aligned themselves to former republican president Dr. Frederick Chiluba and others who stole from the public treasury.
Given this kind of scenario, how does the state identify itself with Christian faiths which are so radically different from each other? Conversely, assuming that a government whose leaders oppressed their citizens, plundered the country’s resources and mismanaged the affairs of the state was synonymous with Christian religion (as was the case with the Declaration), then these mistakes would seem as if they were endorsed by the Christian faith. That is to say, the faults and failures of the State would be viewed in the light of Christian ideologies, whereas Christian ideologies would be perceived as though they were acting within the operations of the State. Furthermore, the State could exert political control over religious matters and make edicts that would be better left for the men and women of the cloth. This, I am afraid, would create confusion and a distortion of reality in the understanding of the nature of causation and history.
Perhaps the greatest inadequacy of the Declaration is a false claim that the Declaration in itself shall bestow divine favors upon Zambians. This belief is based on some biblical text. Kachikoti writes:
“…The flourishing nations that Zambians admire; peoples that win acclaim in Africa for their massive scientific and technological advancement, hemispheres that draw accolades in endless ripples among third world countries for their colossal economic prosperity started on a biblical foundation…The whole system of governance that the West is grounded on, with judiciary, legislature and executive arms of government, the democratic ideal we are pursuing, was given them by the Bible, which states the following about the Living God in Isaiah 33:22 – ‘For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our Law giver, the Lord is our King; it is He who shall save us.’ “
From the a foregoing Kachikotian excerpt, it would seem as if a causal connection existed between Christianity on the other hand, and social, political and economic advancement on the other hand. That wealth, technological development and whole civilizations flowed naturally from some religious ideology. A quick glance at history, however, demonstrates that this assertion is erroneous and has no basis in fact.
To take Africa as an example, I am not aware of any country on the continent which has prospered and become the envy of Zambians or, for that matter, anyone, because of their strict adherence to the “principles of the Bible”. Of the most successful economies, such as South Africa, Egypt, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Algeria, Kenya, Morroco, Uganda, Libya and Tanzania none can be said to have been founded on biblical principles.
South Africa, whose economy is far more sophisticated than most European countries, was founded on racial segregation (Apartheid). In fact, the history of that country since the Dutch East India Company first set foot on the Cape in 1652, has been that of exploitation of land and mineral resources for use by America and Western countries.
Nigeria, in spite of her vast oil wealth and human capital, is not exactly the envy of Zambians. Or even if she were, the West Africa nation is both Christian and Moslem. The history of Nigeria is laden with civil unrest, ethnic violence, secessionist tendencies, corruption, coups and political stagnation. In the recent past, the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, suggested that the only way to guarantee lasting peace in Nigeria was to break her up along ethnic lines the way Yugoslavia was partitioned.
Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco – all with robust economies – are predominantly Moslem. The Sudan, with both Moslem and Christian influences, is on a verge of splitting up in two come January 2011 when the southern part of the country votes in a referendum to grant the South complete autonomy.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is still a loose, chaotic state where multi-national corporations and foreign militias from Rwanda, Uganda and other African countries rob the Congolese of their resources as they are busy fighting each other. Ghana, independent in 1952, was not founded on “Biblical principles”. Kwame Nkhurumah was a thinker and not the type of states man who was swayed by religious fanaticism. In his book, “Consciencism” the Ghanaian founding father advises Africans to frame their development agendas in the context of rational thought and ideology.
Botswana, which is a very successful state, both economically and politically, is not a Christian nation. Angola, Mozambique and Tanzania are not all growing economically strong because of Christian declarations, nor are any countries in West Africa linking success with any particular religion. They are all secular.
Yet there have been, on the contrary, some attempts to ascertain the connection between capitalism and religion. Max Weber (1864 – 1920), a German thinker, in his work titled “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” first published in 1904 in “Archiv fur sozialwissenschaft”, tried to show the historical origins of capitalism by demonstrating the connection between religious belief and socio-economic patterns of behavior. However, Weber, influenced by Hegel, dealt with the “ideal types” of concepts which were not intended to show empirical reality but delineate what human actions of a certain kind would be if they were strictly purposive or rationally oriented and undisturbed by error or sentiment (lichtheim).
In this regard, Weber believed that the Calvinist-Protestants, individualistic as they were, possessed a psychology which changed the mindset of a medieval burgher into an early entrepreneur. Karl Marx, however, criticized Weber for failing to affirm that once the capitalist mode of production (with its social environment) had come into being, it did not matter what the individual agents imagined themselves to be doing.
R. H Tawney’s “Religion and the Rise of Capitalism” (1926) proposed that Calvinist ethics in Northern Europe was an ideology of a rising middle-class and created an environment favorable to the adoption of a middle-class work ethic. Nevertheless, this does not imply that capitalism derived directly from Calvinism. Religion, therefore, by itself did not invent the various technologies, markets and labor which were crucial to the transformations which occurred in Europe. As Marx correctly observed, it was the relation between the factors of production (labor, capital, markets and raw materials) which determined this historical process.
In his work, “The Age of Revolution” J. Hawbsbawn, who analyses the elements which set in motion the industrial revolution in England, says that the cotton textile industry and colonial expansion were the most important instruments in the rapid economic growth of Britain sometime in the 1780s. With the emergence of the cotton-industry, however, England de-industrialized India, and set up colonies and the slave trade to work the cotton, sugarcane and tea plantations in the Southern States of America, West Indies and elsewhere. African slaves, who provided the bulk of the labor, produced the cotton which were processed in England and exported overseas. This trade also included Latin America. Thus it may be argued, as Walter Rodney did in “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa”, that it is the extraction of Africa’s labor and resources and expansion of overseas markets which had largely contributed to the industrialization of Europe and America. This industrialization has absolutely nothing to do with God. If this were so, then we would be compelled to believe that God sanctioned slavery and the plunder of Africa.
I have had to digress far into history to dispel the false claims that the Christian religion antedated economic growth. Let me hasten to say that some of the most successful economies such as Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are predominantly non-Christian. Christianity, therefore, is not by itself a precondition for some Rostow’s economic take-off. Let us not forget the contributions of Moslems, Hindu and other peoples and religion to the civilization of human kind in such fields as mathematics, architecture, astronomy, capital finance, medicine, philosophy, art and engineering.
There is another argument which may be developed to counter the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation. According to Dr. Chiluba and the evangelical fundamentalists, a verse in the Book of Isaiah confirms that when a nation brings itself to God, then God would bring honor and glory to that nation. Now to what extent is this true? Granted that the all-knowing God fashioned the universe in all its complexity and totality, then it would be ridiculous if such a God loved Zambia more than other parts of the created universe. This is so because a part of the universe cannot be greater than the whole. Moreover, there would be no reason for God to enter into a “covenant” with some people as though He discriminated against other parts of the universe. On the contrary, even if He did enter into such “covenants” He would be perfectly free, self-sufficient and not in need of being worshipped, thanked, venerated, danced for, or prayed to by Christian zealots who conducted overnight prayers as they screamed for succor against unemployment, disease, unrequited love, poverty, injuries and other types of infirmities. In this sense, God is dead because He has nothing to do humanity and how they manage their affairs. Therefore, Zambians ought to learn to understand causality: life is to be explained in terms of life, not fictitious divinities.
Thus this realization is very terrifying. Yet it explains why earthquakes, floods, crimes and other catastrophes shall always take place without anyone from Heaven lifting a finger to protect the most devoted Christians from the cruelty of the elements. The Nietschean thesis that God is dead is correct. We are alone in the universe.
I have tried to contest the Declaration of Zambia as a Christian nation for several reasons. From a logical standpoint, the proposition “Zambia is a Christian nation” is both universal and affirmative. Although the predicate-term, “Christian nation” applies to the whole of the subject-term “Zambia”, the differentia, “Christian” distinguishes the species “Zambia” from members of the genus “nations”. This means non-Christian faiths in Zambia are excluded if the proposition holds true. In a political sense, the Declaration presents a dilemma. If State and religion are synonymous, the State would interfere in the conduct of religious life whereas the errors of the State would be identified with religion. Moreover, the radical differences among various Christian groupings would make it difficult for the State to identify with the Christian faith, even preside over their differences.
Claims by some religious that the Declaration by itself would bring glory and prosperity are unfounded, either in history or in fact. Although some studies indicate that the Calvinistic-Protestantism did inspire a new sense of individualism, work ethic for the new entrepreneur, savings and investment, religion was by no means a causal factor in initiating the industrialization of Northern Europe. However, it was the cotton industry and the expansion of overseas trade – which involved the capture of slaves and plunder of resources from Africa and elsewhere– that really spurred the economic growth of Europe and America.
It is also absurd to believe that an all-knowing God cares one bit about the dances, chants and invocations of the Christian religious. This is because a self-sufficient deity, if He should exist at all, does not stand in need of external events. At the same time, a proposition that the Declaration would translate into favor and prosperity for Zambia does not make sense either. It is unsupported by the facts of history and the nature of cause and effect. If non-Christian societies such as China, Malaysia and Japan have succeeded economically, then Christianity as such does not guarantee success in a development model. We have to unveil a new set of causal factors which are always and everywhere at play.
I am afraid, therefore, that the Declaration is an exercise in futility. It doesn’t make sense to me.