The insincerity of our systems: A value check

By Fr. Matthew Madziva

People’s values and culture are the backbone of their wellbeing.

Honorable people die for their ideologies, principles, and values. There is nowhere I dare think of where developed people are spoon-fed with porridge that is not coming from their granaries and cooked in their clay pots, and served on leaves from their indigenous trees.

The world is shaking for a rebirth or some regression. On the world stage, there is a strong push from holders of mighty spears and hunting stuff to impose themselves on other cultures. Issues of who marries who is cultural as the Old Testament clearly demonstrates. Zimbabwe and its variegated cultures, its soil, and its sub-soil of abundant resources has clear directions on who not to marry. On the world stage and using instruments of globalization in the area of sex, it is anything goes, anything is fashionable and vogue. Individual whims are considered before the collective will and egalitarianism. This calls for a review of world values at racial, continental, regional, local, and individual levels. The Church is not left out in this quagmire, it is drawn to a fight it does not know how it will end. Experts in the area seem to be after score-settling.

This calls for self-knowledge. The knowledge of self does not exclude culture. Value your culture, your hospitality, your love for life and family, children, and respect for elders. It was not a lone issue not being married in those days when people knew who they were. The issue of not getting married was for the whole family and even the clan. Elders would walk the length and breadth of the spiritual world looking for answers and solutions to their physical and social problems. A problem in the physical realm was not only sought in that natural realm but would move to the metaphysical and the supernatural. Having no wife or husband was a curse unless one was designated to be so by their societal role either as sangoma, svikiro, mbonga or nyusa.

Our snacks were mangai or gideri, nzungu nenyemba, mukanca, nyimo,tsvoritsvoto, matamba nedzvirumombe. Are we not reminded of the Garden of Eden? (Cf Genesis 1:12). These have seen us throughout the precipices of life. We had our bushes, forests, rivers, and mountains and our lizards as the late Robert Gabriel Mugabe would retort. We taught our children using taboos, and curses leading to the unforgettable process of kubata makuku and kutanda botso, kuranga neshamhu in our quest to instill and entrench our values. Ad baculum was not considered to be fallacious as a way of argument but a reliable way to convince one and teach them fast.

Hence, development should never be measured by what is taking place in the neighborhood. Homegrown solutions and answers endure through time. Look at Japan. They are at peace with themselves, their ideologies, principles, and values. Today, who does not desire to own a Japanese car? These people were able to embrace their culture and only move with the dynamism that comes with time. The social issues that make many westerners want to change their curricula in the name of inclusivity are minimal in cultures such as Japan, with no “man in man” nor “woman on a woman” kind of complications about sexual intercourse. Imbibed and embedded in their cultures, they make long-term strategic plans for their generations and posterity.

We ‘pour’ our resources into safeguarding and protecting the so-called endangered species, we do ‘gofundme’ to protect the indigenous people like the red Indians of America, the Masaai people of Tanzania and Kenya, Basarwa in Botswana, Doma in Zimbabwe, and many more. Our systems deem minorities and yet we unrelentingly push them to accept what is culturally and traditionally not theirs. This comes in the form of liberating their sexual life and embracing values like those of the LGBTQ+ community which are all foreign to them. We cannot say those who wish to follow non-traditional sexual practices are to go to prison for their condition. What minor and peripheral cultures are resisting, is the imposition of it on them. Are the third world not endangered species?

Pope Francis says “we are all children of God” and true that we cannot be criminalized for a condition we were born with; the same principle should guard against powers that want to impose it on others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church guides us now as it goes against practices that are not natural and whose end is nothing but uncouth sensual gratification (cf CCC 2357). People may choose to follow new trends which are used in disaster management and say as the Oceanians say “in times of storm, any harbor.” That perhaps could be allowed to sail when the world through the office of United Nations(UN), accept that we are in troubled times. Many parts of the world are experiencing cyclones e.g., Madagascar and parts of Mozambique. Zimbabwe too had hours of excruciating pain waiting for cyclone Freddy, and Turkey has experienced one of the worst attacks of earthquakes in years, it is humane to commiserate with them but mitigation cannot be universally applied. It is by far incomparable to Covid-19 which was threatening to annihilate humanity from the face of the earth. There are some parts of the world and their cultures that are yet to experience that and should they not be afforded the opportunity to have their experiences?

The Church has always been an authority on a wide range of issues including the option for the poor and the marginalized. The Church holds itself to the same high standards with which it challenges the world. Pope Francis has made strides to nip in the bud and deal with the thorny issue of clericalism and sexual scandals in the Church.  For the Church to relinquish that position could be tantamount to a betrayal of Jesus who asserts; “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”, (John 14:6). Saint Paul assailed for something deemed out of the way speaks harshly to his assailants; “God will strike you; you whitewashed wall. Do you indeed sit in judgment upon me according to the law and yet in violation of the law order me to be struck?” (Acts of the Apostles 23:3). Let us pray for a system which is not protective and predatory at the same time. A system that is sincere and value people as they are, and which takes off its shoes and keep some ‘canonical distance’ in respect when approaching other cultures. Moses had to be told to take off his shoes when he started to wonder why the bush was burning but not consumed (c.f., Exodus 3: 1-5).  The smaller cultures may be burning but still, respect is needed. Our systems should not only carry the logo of sincerity but should be sincere in word and deeds.

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