Something many of us are missing right now is the cosy habit of watching TV with our families. But those of us who’re in lockdown together can share our experience. This week, we watched reality show Abafundisi on Moja Love (DStv 157).
In the show, three highly opinionated pastors with different viewpoints come together to discuss their religious beliefs. Each week, Pastor Enoch Phiri, Reverend Teboho Moema and Bishop Joshua Maponga challenge each other’s knowledge on their spirituality, God and the Bible. They debate uncomfortable topics like decolonising Christianity to fit the African context, and whether Jesus was black or white. They aren’t out to force their opinions on each other, but rather to have a healthy conversation about God and theology.
Someone who wishes that she could be part of their discussions is my mother Beth, who is an open-minded conventional Christian. She’s also a big fan of the reality show, and thoroughly enjoys the lively debate. Her take on Abafundisi? While she doesn’t always agree with Bishop Joshua’s frank and unapologetic views – such as his suggestion that God is a woman or the way that he judges others based on their sexuality – and she often finds his arguments unpalatable, she does admit that he raises thought provoking points during the discussions. Here’s her reaction to the pastors in episode 3:
Keeping the peace
One of the hot topics that the religious leaders engaged in was homosexuality in the church, seeing that Reverend Teboho is openly gay. Although Reverend Teboho believes that God loves and accepts him as he is, Bishop Joshua clearly thinks otherwise. “Honesty speaking, if God is love, then everyone must be free to do whatever they want. There’s no way you can begin to exaggerate God’s love and remove discipline from it. We need order,” declared Bishop Joshua. It’s safe to say that their debate ended with a “let’s agree to disagree”.
Mama Beth was shooketh. She gasped! She was shocked and taken aback by her initial favourite, Bishop Joshua. “Sure, he is free to give his opinions, but he should at least be more sensitive,” she chided. Throughout the episode, her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped from Bishop Joshua’s remarks. Let’s just say he calls a spade, a spade.
Something in the water
Entrepreneur and LBGTQI activist Reverend Teboho has built his church to create a safe space for anyone who feels like an outsider in traditional churches. So he was struck speechless when Bishop Joshua stated that because it’s been scientifically proven that the mercury and lead in water is responsible for “turning” animals homosexual, it might be the case for humans as well. Bishop Joshua revealed that he believes that homosexuality is a means of contraception.
You can imagine the shock on my mom’s face after Bishop Joshua uttered these words. As Bishop Joshua continued, at some point, she looked like she was about to cover her eyes with the blanket. I got the distinct impression that she felt about Bishop Joshua like she would if one of her kids, one of us, disappointed her in public. She was embarrassed on his behalf and there was nothing she could do about it. Not even send him to the naughty corner.
Unpacking the Bible
The priests also discussed the formation and compilation of the Bible. They gave their thoughts on how certain texts were chosen, while others were left out, which raised the question: are they preaching the right book intended by God? While Pastor Enoch and Reverend Teboho agree that they are, Bishop Joshua again begged to differ. “It’s a newspaper that we are holding in our hands,” said Bishop Joshua. By now, my mom seemed used to Bishop Joshua’s bold statements, but after this she was beyond herself.
Towards the end of the discussion, Bishop Joshua slowly redeemed himself, though. Mama Beth agreed with his sentiments that people should be allowed to question their religion for a deeper understanding.
Overall, my mom enjoys the show and can’t wait to watch the rest of the season and hear more from Bishop Joshua. While his remarks aren’t for everyone, he has the pull factor. She also can’t wait to see more of the pastors when they’re at home with their families… especially the favourite Bishop Joshua, who she now has a love-hate relationship with.
Watch Abafundisi S2 Tuesdays on Moja Love (DStv 157) at 22:00