The Seven Angels tragedy was not a surprise, but a tip of an iceberg
Use God-given common sense to sniff out fake pastors and their devious plans before you eat grass, drink petrol
If I were a Bible-thumping born-again Christian I would proclaim that what happened in Engcobo, Eastern Cape, where thugs were killed inside a so-called church last week was yet another sign that Doomsday, the end of the world, is nigh.
However, because I am a sceptic who believes more in my God-given common sense than in “signs”, I can say what happened there was yet further proof that the church as we know it is under siege.
We live in a country and in an age of uncertainty and unemployment, which breed crime; an age of hopelessness bordering on desperation.
When people are desperate they are not themselves. They cannot be held responsible for their actions.
Only the desperate would eat grass and drink petrol in the belief that by so doing they are connecting with God, or that by such acts their wishes, whatever they are, will be fulfilled.
Only the extremely wretched woman will take off her underwear and allow a pastor to kiss their buttocks in the hope that the “divine” kiss will make the man of her dreams suddenly materialise and put a ring on her finger.
When hopelessness and desperation are rampant in a community, there will always be those chance-takers waiting in the wings to pounce on the weaker members of the community.
These charlatans are merchants of hope. I use the word “merchants” deliberately. When these chance-takers call the poor people to their churches they do not dispense hope and prayer for free. There are always terms and conditions.
In the case of the Seven Angels Ministry, congregants were expected to do a number of things in order for their prayers to be answered.
One of the main conditions was that parents should take their children out of school.
Once out of school, the children would then have to be brought to the church headquarters where they would stay permanently, at the service of leadership.
Being employed was a sin. Those congregants who were employed should stop working if they wanted their wishes to be fulfilled.
Once they had resigned from their jobs, they had to deliver their pension payouts to the church. Their entire families would then move into the church compound where they would be “taken care of” by the church.
In 2016, social workers rescued 21 children between the ages of five and 18 from its premises after members of the community complained that some of the children had been turned into sex slaves by the seven Mancoba brothers who run the church, the so-called Seven Angels.
Unlike Seven Angels Ministry, many of the new charismatic churches are more sophisticated. They don’t tell you to quit your job, but they will ask you to give 10% of your salary.
Further, as a worshipper you will be told that “the more you give, the more the Lord will provide”.
An inability to contribute will invariably send the worshipper on a guilt trip.
To make things easy for congregants, some churches – the glitzy ones with premises in Sandton and Rivonia – even have ATM facilities in-house.
It’s no accident that the pastors drive posh cars while poor congregants wave and grin at the passing pastor from the pavement. They hope that “one day” they will be like the pastor.
Tragically, the Seven Angels Ministry is not an isolated case, an abomination. It is rather the tip of a sinister iceberg.
It is about time authorities dig deeper into this phenomenon, if only to protect our desperate fellow countrymen and, of course, prevent more nastiness that might make Engcobo’s events seem like a chapter from a Harry Potter book.