I woke up late this Sunday and checked Twitter to see what 'tweeps' were up to. A fellow 'tweleb-in-the-making' quickly directed my attention to an article by Siyabonga Nyezi whom we both follow on Twitter. The article was published this morning in MyNews24 and it is entitled 'Millionaire Pastors, Hungry Followers'.
Let me start by saying that I follow Siyabonga Nyezi because he is a young man whose high level of intelligence on various subjects is attractive. He is bold and often, I am in awe of the gutsy manner in which he addresses the 'who's who' of Twitter when armed either with facts or an informed opinion. He does not bend over backwards to conform to Twitter standards. Siyabonga Nyezi has an amazing sense of humor though sometimes he comes across a little too 'higher grade' for many in his audience. His blog is more proof of his intellectual prowess though, a recent blog post inspired by a memorial service left me curious to hear what solutions he offers for the safety problem on campus.
This Sunday Siyabonga stunned me with the nonchalant manner in which he delivers the article which I think borders very closely on defamation of character. He did not come armed with facts or an informed opinion this time. In the article Siyabonga loosely refers to “psychology used to prey on followers” in the church, “exploitation” and “pimp evangelism”. The article offers Siyabonga's view on tithing, mismanagement of funds in the church and the church in general. I found the article to be rather shallow on the research end. In fact, I wonder where the statistic that “on average churches give less than 1% of the wealth in their coffers to charity” comes from and what figures were used to arrive to this 1%.
Siyabonga Nyezi, in one 623 word article, managed to blanket many of those who tithe and give offerings to the church as desperate, disillusioned people who are so under the influence of the church that they can not make their own decisions. He says that “miracles come at a high price” making it seem as if miracles are on auction every Sunday. He speaks of the poor that “make up a huge part of the demographic of these churches”, forgetting that the poor make up a huge part of Africa to begin with.
Also, it peeves me that the article is very provocative and sensational. If Siyabonga's tweets after the article was published are anything to go by, then it is very clear that this piece, for some reason or the other, was, amongst other things, meant to ruffle a few ANC feathers.
My colleague in blogging seems to have missed the bus on this one completely when he says that “the need to offer your money to “God” is emphasized so strongly that it is tantamount to force”. By this logic, the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins are also 'emphasized so strongly that it is tantamount to force' but, not many people complain about that. The Bible, like many other religious books, if one wants to be blunt about it, is really a book full of instructions on behavior and lifestyle. When one undertakes the lifestyle of a Christian, one does not pick and choose what instructions work for them; the Christian lifestyle embraces all that is the instruction of what the Christians believe to be the Higher Power.
I speak not on behalf of the church but, as a churchgoer. I speak in defense of my tithe and offerings. My tithe and offerings do not leave my pocket so that miracles can manifest in my life. If anything, I tithe because miracles have already happened in my life. For me, and many others like Nkosi Mamba who posted a comment on Siyabonga's article, giving offerings in church is a means for us to give gifts to God. It is way of showing gratitude for being in a position to even have that little to give away.
I am not poor. I am smart and have a decent level of education. I have a reasonable income. I tithe, not because my pastor has 'coerced' me into it; I tithe because I have chosen a Christian lifestyle and tithing is a way of becoming one with a culture of gratitude. When my circumstances are not ideal and I cannot make a physical or monetary offering, I do not feel that God will not show me favor because I have missed a Sunday or two, or more. I have not been brainwashed. My seat in church is not tithe-dependent.
Evangelist preachers are usually affluent but, is this not maybe because they have a bigger audience? I admit that there is widespread mismanagement of funds in many churches, especially the newer ones. I admit that some individuals will cover themselves in a cloak of holiness and feed off the faith of church members. Church members are not moved by that. I am not moved by that. I will not be dictated to by the wrong and inappropriate actions of another person.
When I have tithed, I am happy I have given to the church. I am a reader, I am familiar with countless versions and translations of the Bible. I do not have 'blind faith'. I am capable of receiving from the church that which is uplifting and inspirational to me but I also have the desire to learn that which I do not understand. I do not go to church hoping to catch the preacher out in a lie or to query the bookkeeper. This is what I believe and I have no silly ambitions of imposing these beliefs on anyone else. I do not expect it to make sense to anybody but, I do take offense to being told that I need to be protected “from exploitation by these gospel capitalists and also from” myself.
Having said all this, I must thank Siyabonga Nyezi for raising such a relevant and thought-provoking topic. I am very excited about following him because it is clear that I will learn a lot from him especially the tenacious way in which he tackles 'taboo' issues. I share this with Siyabonga; “We were very different and we disagreed about a lot of things, but he was always so interesting, you know?” - John Green, The Fault in Our Stars.