The accident of timing, of course, sounds cruel and suspicious.
Piksy’s title track Mthunzi, launched a month ago, brutalises a story which social media, today, has gone viral with across the entire Southern Africa.
From the dead mines of Harare, Zimbabwe, through the beatific shores of Cape Town, South Africa, to peasant farmers of Lilongwe, Malawi, the past three weeks has been punctuated by deeper theological debates regarding authenticity of Pentecostalism.
But it is debate, like a volcano, with an epicenter.
Weeks ago, a video went viral depicting Malawian, but South African-based Prophet Shepherd Bushiri performing a miracle of capturing in spirit with an iPad.
Just this week, another video depicting the same prophet performing a miracle of walking in the air has gone berserk.
The general response has been wild and intense. Thoughts, for and against, have raged—something that, on the face of it, appear to be questioning the spiritual mantle of prophet Bushiri.
But these thoughts, both for and against, need not be narrowed to Prophet Bushiri. They need to be seen as a continuation of long held reservations and criticism many have against the rise of Pentecostalism in Malawi.
In just over 100 years, Pentecostalism has grown to be the second largest Christian denomination. With 500 million followers worldwide, including Malawi, it is second only to Roman Catholicism. The Protestants have been replaced.
With an emphasis on the “Holy Ghost,” speaking in tongues, performing miracles, a distinctive worship style, a literal Biblical interpretation and energetic preaching, this controversial religion has attracted large numbers searching for immediate religious purpose in a world defined by poverty and disease. Multi-million dollar church complexes are sprouting up around the world. The wild, animated style of worship has drawn in Catholics and Protestants alike, even attracting the nonreligious.
So is Pentecostalism a way to go?
Pentecostals themselves see it that way. But critics are steadfast in their opposition to most, if not everything, that Pentecostalism represent in the expectations of Christianity.
No urban artist has come full force, ruthlessly vitriol in brutalising what Pentecostalism represent than Piksy in the title track of his recent album, Mthunzi.
The song, produced by DJ Sley, begins with a chorus:
Ndikufuna Mthunzi woo/Sindifuna Nkhuni zoo/Chonde musadulee mtengo wangawoo/
Mthunzi, in the song, can be understood as shelter—to symbolically mean ‘rest’ or ‘peace’. While Nkhuni (firewood) can be understood as heat, something that brings discomfort.
Now when Piksy, in the chorus, pleads ‘do not cut down the tree (chonde musadulee) because it brings rest’, the assumption, from the verses of the song, is that he is sending the message to Pentecostals whom he accuses to be segregative, hypocritical, misleading and usurping God’s respect.
He begins the first verse by breaking the silence. He believes Christians evade discussing the ills of Pentecostalism in public. So he breaks that silence by, firstly, attacking the segregative nature of born agains (BA). He accuses them of segregating those not like them—the sinful; and living as if they are already in heaven. Yet, he sings, Jesus came for the sinners. To mean, the BAs are not living the word.
Yesu anabwerera ochimwa, miyala yokanidwa/These days, ndiyomwe ikusalidwayo/
Hypocrisy is the second charge Piksy brings against Pentecostalism.
Abambo prophet/akazi awo prophetess/Chondidabwisa amakhala ndi confidence/Ine I thought zimayendera mayitanidwe?/Mesa ndi Mphaso yoti ena alibe?
Here Piksy, unarguably, sees hypocrisy, and of lies, when ‘prophets’ have wives who, automatically, becomes ‘prophetess’ when prohecy, according to scipture, is a gift or a calling from God.
Piksy further tears down families that, after searching for a name on Google, begin their own ministries luring thousands and promising riches without working for it. He argues, lured by their good feeling gospel, people, instead of working hard, believe in miracles to prosper.
When somebody who is not a BA but works hard prospers, he continues, the BA condemns them as Satanic—devils.
Beyond hypocrisy, Piksy see Pentecostals as misleading the gist of the gospel which is enternal starvation. He charges that their material gospel is blinding people from pursuing eternal life which is central to christinaity. Besides, stuck in the material gospel which promises immediate answers, Piksy, further, charges Pentecostal leaders of usurping God’s respect. He see them as striving to win earthly respect, that they should be feared, not God. He advises in everything it is important that God becomes first, not them.
However, despite the attacks, Piksy fails to balance his song by questioning the reason people flock to Pentecostals. It might be a push or pull factor, but, hey, they are an issue too. They deserve probe.
Otherwise Mthunzi, in the moments of ‘Ipads’ and ´walking in the air’ is thoughtful piece for religious reflection. Or we perish