Two lessons from Zimbabwe’s past and present

My friend Jim sent me (and the others on his list) an extremely interesting article titled “Zimbabwe: A Fresh Start.” (To read it, go to With others, Jim thinks that the U.S. dollar is going to “go Zimbabwe.” Maybe so, maybe no. History is rarely predictable, and almost never apocalyptic. But, who knows, maybe this is one of those times. One would hope that the economic gurus would be able to see a danger so obvious. In fact, it is inconceivable — literally — that they would not. On the other hand, think of all the things obvious to us on the ground that is apparently opaque to the experts in finance, politics, industry, the “news” media, etc., etc.! We’ll see. My interest in this story centered on two aspects scarcely mentioned: One is the unanticipated consequences of activism, and the other is what we might call Southern Christianity.

1) The unanticipated consequences of activism

I remember well Ian Smith’s unilateral Declaration of Independence of Nov. 11, 1965. I, like most college-age liberals of the time, never considered that there might be two sides to an issue. Clearly, freeing the black majority from the tyranny of white minority rule was the right thing to advocate.

All well and good, but liberalism – any “ism” I suppose – has a tendency to preen itself on the purity of its intent, and then look the other way when policies it helped put into effect yield bad results. So much easier to look for other problems needing moral guidance! But the people of the country affected suffer.

It didn’t take me long to see that Robert Mugabe was making himself a dictator. (Where was the liberal protest?) As the article points out, Mugabe made no secret of his intent to recover for the Shona tribe the land that was “stolen” by the whites. Was the history that simple? And could it be set right merely by decree? And if in the process black became automatically assumed to be “victim” and “innocent” while white became automatically assumed to be “oppressor” and “guilty” – well, there’s a word for that kind of mentality. It’s called racism.

Liberals, having seen the triumph  of the anti-colonial movements of the 1960s and 1970s, have long since gone on to other causes. But it might be more honest if they were to concentrate on the bad effects that followed, no less than the good ones. An honest observer would be hard-pressed to say that the Congo, and what was British East Africa, are happier than they were in colonial days. This is not to say that we should go back to that race-based state of affairs even if we could; it is to say, rather, that only fools and those ignorant of history place their hopes on political movements. And, the older we get, the less simple any course of action appears.

2) Southern Christianity

The author says,

“We arrived late on a Saturday evening and due to the massive time change, I woke very early on Sunday morning. I decided to take a walk around central Harare and found my way to the Harare Catholic Cathedral. There were Masses in the local language at 7am, 8am, and 9am, followed by an English Mass at 10.00am. All four Masses were standing room only, as can be seen in the photograph below.”

Zimbabwe churchgoers
Zimbabwe churchgoers

This is just what I would expect, after reading an extremely enlightening book titled The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, by Philip Jenkins. (Oxford University Press, 2002) This is perhaps the most sane and balanced, non-polemical book on the new religious reality that I have ever seen. His point is that as European devotion to Christianity has hollowed out, the center of gravity of Christianity has moved south to the tropics. Using demographics and statistics in the way they should be used, he opened my eyes to a story seriously neglected by the mainstream “news” media.

One tidbit: his projections, based on demographics, on the numbers and relative proportions of Catholics worldwide in 2025, as opposed to 2000. (Not that his book is about Catholics only; or even primarily. It isn’t. But this is a short and interesting table.) First 2000 figures in millions, then 2025. I entered these numbers in an excel spreadsheet, and came up with these percentages. As you see, Europe declines to barely one-fifth from more than one-fourth , while Africa and Asia go to nearly 28% from 22%.

Latin America
North America

If you can find a copy of this book, I highly recommend it. It’s likely to change the way you see the world developing.

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