We close the year on a sad and disturbing note. The ongoing trial of a pastor on allegations of several counts of rape is deeply worrying.

Rising poverty has given birth to the establishment of many diverse churches. Many Zimbabweans desperate for an end to their financial and social problems have become easy prey for some unscrupulous church leaders.

For any rational person it would seem so easy to be able to tell whether or not some of the new churches littering the country are truly there to win souls for the Lord or merely for the enrichment of the pastor and his cronies. But judging from the many people who end up complaining about the evils perpetrated by leaders in some churches, it is obviously not so easy to separate the good from the bad.

There are very simple guidelines that anyone should be able to employ to be able to tell if the church they have chosen has sensible values or simply a cult that benefits its originator.

We have had several cases of women complaining of rape or sexual abuse at the hands of church leaders. Women make up the large numbers of the people who rush to become members of any new church that promises miracles. It would be easy to say some women are gullible but the reality is that poverty is the driving force behind all this.

I have nothing against adult men and women who head off into the deep dark forest in search of wealth and salvation. But I find it hard to forgive parents who allow their teenage daughters to follow them blindly and fail to yank their daughters away when they are preyed upon.

Zimbabwe guarantees freedom of religion. Maybe what we need are stringent checks to ensure that the country does not end up with churches that engage in acts that have nothing to do with Christianity. Churches that are proponents of polygamous marriages or marrying-off of teenage girls should be closely monitored.

Parents should be held accountable for being party to the sexual abuse of their children.

Any sensible woman should know that any pastor who asks for sexual favours is certainly not doing God’s work. The moment something like that happens you should not only run as fast as your little religious legs can carry you, but report to the police.

It is sad that we now have some pastors who claim to have powers to change the course of their members’ lives and use the power they wield over their congregation to hold them hostage. Miracles are supposed to be for the greater good not for a pastor to wreck havoc in people’s lives.

Growing poverty and increasing numbers of people who believe that they can become rich without ever working a day, are some of the reasons why anyone can start a church today, promise miracles and that church will be swarming with people.

Do yourself a favour — face reality — wealth comes with a lot of hard work. Find honest ways of making money. Protect yourself and members of your family from being abused by unscrupulous people who pretend to care for your welfare. Church is good but choose your church carefully. Be responsible for your beliefs.

By all means go to church and pray as hard as you can, but open your eyes and use a bit of common sense when it comes to some of the doctrines you are force-fed.

We all have a God-given ability to tell good and bad apart, but some people choose to cede that decision to people they see as demi-gods. Your life and religion are your responsibility. Only God has power over your life and he does not sub-contract his powers to other people, to be used for evil gains.

What happened to old Christianity where people prayed to God, believed in Jesus and not the pastor? Can someone please tell me why more and more people now place pastors at par with Jesus or God?
Why do more and more people now believe that you do not have to work hard to earn a living or get rich?  Obviously a whole bunch of people need an urgent lobotomy.

Have a merry Christmas and use the time to reflect on your religious choices.