The Bible has nowadays become so vulnerable that everyone interprets it their own way. This has been complicated by the fact that pastors have flourished in the country, with some of them not having theological background.
The scenario has resulted in some of the pastors finding refuge in preaching anywhere, including commuter buses. These self-anointed pastors would invade the buses and then start preaching whenever they are about to start off. Desperate people would listen and, after sometime, it is time for offering. They get that money, drop off the bus and catch another bus back to the bus terminal.
Such pastors instil fear in the unsuspecting travellers, either that they have to pray to safely reach their destinations, or they need Jesus in their daily lives. With road accidents occurring almost every day, who would want to be a victim?
And before preaching, they read a few verses from the Bible and literally translate them. One wonders whether they know the verses themselves.
But it is easy to understand these things, especially when the preacher had no training in what he is doing. He just woke up one day and became a pastor. After all, what matters most is not the word of God, but the offering.
Then there are others who preach in hospitals. One day, it took a courageous health personnel at Nkhata Bay District Hospital to chase them. According to the officer, there were some patients whose conditions did not want noise.
And these pastors do not understand what noise is. According to them, word from the Bible is an exception. It is not part of noise. And that is what you expect from who become pastors overnight.
Homosexuality is another issue that has caused a lot of divisions and understanding among the people of the collar. This division is mainly based on the understanding of the Bible.
There are passages where homosexuality is regarded as abomination (or sin?). These are the creation as narrated in Genesis 1-3; the Sodom narrative in Genesis 19: 1-26; Judges 19; Leviticus 18: 22, Leviticus 20: 13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:10.
Some pastors in the Northern Region of Malawi took government to court for issuing a moratorium on homosexuals They insisted that those doing the act should be punished (forget about Jesus’ insistence on love and forgiveness).
Late last year, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) and the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) organised a march against homosexuality and abortion.
“We note with grave concern that the institution of marriage between a man and a woman is under direct attack by those pushing for the legislation of homosexuality practices and unions,” said a joint statement by ECM and EAM issued on December 6 2016,
If the Bible is used that way, what about Deuteronomy 22: 22, which says that punishment for adultery is stoning both the man and the woman to death? Who has been stoned to death for committing adultery?
Deuteronomy 23: 19, says it is wrong to lend money at interest. I thought banks and other lending institutions are doing the same? Why are churches and pastors silent on this? In fact, some clergy and churches get loans from lending institutions and pay back with interest against the Bible’s directive.
In 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 and 1 Timothy 2: 11-12, women are forbidden to speak in the congregation. But now, women speak freely and some are even ordained as priests so that when they speak, men are generally quiet. Is this not working against the Bible? Should we say priests or churches are right to ignore what the Bible says on this issue?
Former moderator Livingstonia CCAP Synod Reverend Maxwell Mezuwa Banda argues that the Bible has always recognised women and their roles.
“In Romans 16: 3, Priscilla was recognised. Again, the first people to know the resurrection of Jesus were women.
“We should also know that Jesus had women disciples and on the well, he met and talked with a woman. All this shows that women were recognised from the beginning,” said Banda, adding that not allowing women to speak in the congregation was a Jewish culture, not a religious one.
The former moderator said Jesus was in many times in conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees because of the way the law (Bible) was interpreted.
He said: “For example, they brought someone whom they claimed was caught committing adultery and that the law allowed them to stone her to death. But Jesus said the one who had not sinned should cast the first stone.” They all disappeared because of the way they interpreted the Bible.
On homosexuals, Banda said stoning them to death is not the solution, but showing them love. He disagreed with pastors who went to court to demand that government should remove the moratorium on homosexuals and continue punishing them.
“You should know that the attitudes of the Pharisees and those who interpreted the law [Bible] that time are still among people today. We need to preach love, not make people suffer,” he said.
ECM secretary general Father Henry Saindi warned against using the Bible literally and anyhow.
“The books in the Bible were authored by different writers who had their own literary genre. Some use songs while others use poetry.” Said Fr Saindi.
He added: “Again, there is need to understand the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. While the Jews in the Old Testament did not promote the active participation of women in society, Jesus in the New Testament does exactly the opposite. So every Bible text must be understood in its own context, culture and tradition of the author as well as the language used.”
He, however, defended the march against homosexuals and abortion, saying it was organised to celebrate the value of life and family. n