The question of whether a Pastor can be a political leader has been debated for a long time in Zambia with many people saying that politics is dirty and is only for corrupt people. They say Pastors are supposed to be too “pure” to enter politics. Yet the same people complain after they elect corrupt leaders to run the country as happened in 2011.
They say Pastors, Bishops and other church leaders should not go into politics because church and politics cannot mix. I have been attacked over this issue and accused of abandoning the pulpit even though I still preach almost every Sunday all over the world.
They say that a man of God has to lie and cheat to win elections. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can make realistic sober campaign promises without lying to the electorate. As Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), we have been doing this. Check all our statements since 2012 when I took office as MMD President and you won’t find me giving false “90 Days” type of promises.
Being a Christian leader and a politician are not mutually exclusive. Just because corrupt thieving politicians have taught Zambians dirty politics does not mean that is the correct thing. In the Bible we have several cases of men of God who were also political leaders like Moses, Joseph, Joshua, David, Daniel and his three friends.
They may not have been elected since democracy did not exist at the time, but the principle remains that they were politicians as well as spiritual leaders. They were appointed politicians. Politics is rooted in a Greek word that simply means to govern people. It is not inherently dirty or evil. I is people who are dirty and corrupt.
Many Zambians seem to believe that Nevers Mumba running for president is some strange new thing. Maybe here in Zambia it is, but we have plenty of examples from the rest of the world of Christian leaders who have served as heads of state.
James A. Garfield was a preacher, teacher, and lawyer who became the 20th President of the United States. John Bani, an Anglican priest was President and head of the State of Vanuatu. Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a Catholic priest was President of Haiti. Fernando Arturo de Meriño, another Catholic leader was President of the Dominican Republic.
Ignaz Seipel was twice Chancellor of Austria. Thomas François Burgers, a Pastor was President of the South African Republic from 1871–77. Lauri Ingman was an Archbishop and Prime Minister of Finland. Makarios III was archbishop of the Cypriot Orthodox Church and first President of the Republic of Cyprus.
We have many other examples of Christian leaders getting involved in politics at many levels such as Reverend Martin Luther King Jr in the USA who headed the American Civil Rights Movement and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa who tirelessly fought Apartheid. The first President of independent Zimbabwe under Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was Canaan Banana, a Bishop.
In America, Mike Huckabee, James Renshaw Cox, Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson all ran for president and they were all ordained Church Ministers. There are also plenty of Governors in the USA who were pastors such as Rev Huckabee himself who is a Baptist Minister. He is running for President again in 2016.
In Zambia, we have Rev Danny Pule who is a Pastor heading a political party and wants to run for President. There is Rev Gladys Nyirongo, Stan Kristafor and Ronnie Shikapwasha who are all political leaders.
So what is so strange about Nevers Mumba to run for the Zambian presidency? Why is he disqualified just because he is a pastor? Why is a school teacher, a trade unionist, a lawyer, an economic historian, a businessman and another lawyer any more qualified than a pastor to run this great country?
Some will argue that we have been let down before by some Christians who became political leaders but failed morally or made big mistakes. This is true, but it does not negate the principle that there is nothing wrong with a Christian leader running for public office.
We need god-fearing people to be presidents and Ministers in this country in order for our politics to change. They do not necessarily have to be Pastors, but they should fear God. And if some of them do turn out to be Pastors or Bishops, let us not disqualify them on that basis, but on the basis of their history and what they promise to do for Zambia.