|Written by:||Meshack Masibo|
Embattled Christian Gathering Church leader prophet Shepherd Bushiri recently stated in his affidavit that he is”happily married” and not involved in money laundering, organised crime or fraud. That was the thrust of his statement, read out in the Specialised Crimes Court in Pretoria where he and his wife Mary applied for bail on Wednesday.The two mega preachers have been charged with different crimes in South Africa.
His popularity and influence casts into light the different trajectories of self styled preachers and the influence such preachers have had on the public in history. Whether it is in Asia, Africa or the United States, different people groups seem to have a tinge of attraction towards pompous preachers who say they have a direct revelation from God.
In Korea, the career of Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church (known by the general term of “Moonies”) followed the classic trajectory forged by mystics and religious innovators or “prophets” in various religious traditions. He was born, the fifth of eight children, to a rural family in Pieyong-An, in north-western Korea, on 6 January 1920 according to the lunar calendar used then (25 February according to the Gregorian calendar). Although he appears not to have publicised it at the time, he later reported that at the age of 16 he experienced a supernatural visitation.
On Easter Sunday 1936, he claims that Jesus appeared and told him that God had chose him to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Over the next nine years Moon claims to have wrestled with the devil and to have received revelations from God as well as “spiritual communications” from Moses, Muhammad, Jesus and the Buddha. There are compelling parallels with the story of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, whose First Vision also occurred during adolescence. As with Smith and Muhammad, Moon’s revelations were preserved and written down in a holy book.
Moon’s Koran, The Divine Principle, is the official scripture of the Unification Church. Its doctrine is suggestive of the Freudian struggles surmounted by Moon during his adolescence. The Fall of Man, he believed, was occasioned by Eve’s seduction by Satan and the illicit sexual relations she had with Adam before receiving God’s blessing. Their offspring were tainted by Satan’s influence, and though God sent Jesus to restore a pure family on earth, he was executed before being able to marry and have children. Moon’s own mission was to establish a “true family” untouched by Satan while teaching people to lead God-centred lives under his leadership. The theology is highly original: Moon’s god suffered desperately from human waywardness. Moon’s mission was to mend God’s broken heart, to act as his devoted child and healer. Everyone should aspire to moral perfection in order to alleviate divine misery.
In the US the founder of the Jehovah’s witness founder Joseph Smith was also a self styled leader who drew large crowds towards his religious persuasion that ran contrary to accepted Christian Doctrine.Perplexed about where to find a church. When he was 14, he prayed for help, and, according to his own account, God and Jesus appeared to him. In answer to his question about which was the right church, they told him that all the churches were wrong.
Although a local minister to whom he related the vision dismissed it as a delusion, Smith continued to believe in its authenticity. In 1823 he received another revelation: while praying for forgiveness, he later reported, an angel calling himself Moroni appeared in his bedroom and told him about a set of golden plates containing a record of the ancient inhabitants of America.
Smith found the plates buried in a stone box not far from his father’s farm. Four years later, the angel permitted him to remove the plates and instructed him to translate the characters engraved on their surfaces with the aid of special stones called “interpreters.” Smith insisted that he did not compose the book but merely “translated” it under divine guidance. Completing the work in less than 90 days, he published it in March 1830 as a 588-page volume called the Book of Mormon .
In the same way scandal ridden Prophet Bushiri has drawn a lot of criticism from church circles. Hereceived much criticism on social media as his followers cried, prayed and shouted for his release outside the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Monday, February 4. Video footage of his supporters kneeling, praying and crying outside the court trended on Twitter as many criticized Bushiri’s influence over his supporters.
Bushiri and his wife Mary were arrested last week in Rustenburg on charges relating to fraud, money laundering and contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. “We are who we are because of Major Prophet Bushiri,” one of his supporters said.
Supporters of controversial pastor Shepherd Bushiri have dominated headlines and social media as they showed their undying support for their leader during his court appearance. Bushiri and his wife Mary were arrested last week in Rustenburg on charges relating to fraud, money laundering and the contravention of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. The Hawks say their investigation extends back to 2015, when the incidents allegedly took place.
From placards to chants and bold statements, Bushiri’s supporters are not shy to proclaim their love and sing the praises of their church leader. Bushiri supporters and members of the Enlightened Christian Gathering affectionately refer to Bushiri as “Major 1”, “Papa”, “My Father” and “Daddy”.
The supporters have threatened to abstain from casting their votes in the national elections if he is not released. “We can’t stay without our father. We are behind Major 1.””We want him on the pulpit to preach the word of God. We are who we are because of Major Prophet Shepherd Bushiri.”
Is the prophet a genuine prophet or another founder of a self perpetuating cult? Only God knows and time will tell.