Spiritualization of the Causes of Illness

An Analysis of the Zimbabwean-Born White Garment Churches’ Theological Position on the Origin and Treatment of Covid-19

In: Exchange
Phillip Musoni Research fellow, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa Pretoria South Africa

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Ezra Chitando Professor of History and Phenomenology Religion, Department of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics, University of Zimbabwe Harare Zimbabwe

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This study focused on the spiritualization of the causes and treatment of illness within the African Prophetic churches in Zimbabwe (and its diaspora) in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The study comes at a time when most prophetic churches seem to maintain a position that sicknesses and diseases are caused by evil spirits. While mainline/missionary churches are of the opinion that most sicknesses and diseases were caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, hence advocating for scientific health delivery systems for treatment, most Zimbabwean prophetic churches are identifying spiritual causes of sickness and advocating for spiritual methods of healing and deliverance. These African prophetic churches seem to have remained steadfast in maintaining their African traditional worldview on the causes and treatment of diseases that predates the advent of Christianity in Africa. Accordingly, this study selected the white garment churches (Vapositori) and their responses to Covid-19 to underscore the argument that spiritualisation of the causes of illness among most African prophetic churches has remained intact. Methodologically, a descriptive phenomenological approach was used for data collection, while an interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA) was used to interpret data collected. Three main video clips on the church’s theology on the origin of Covid-19 posted on social media by white garment church members were transliterated. Interviews with the white garment church members were also carried out to triangulate data relating to these video clips posted on social media. Using this methodology, the major finding was that white garment churches operate within the African religio-cultural milieu where illness/disease has the cause-effect dichotomy. Unless the cause is diagnosed, holistic healing cannot be realised.

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