By Darlington Chiluba
HE Church has come to be known as a sum congregation of people of the Christian faith in their full expanse, whether catholic or protestant. Definitions may vary and be applied differently, but the association of the term Church is kept for those of Christian faith.
For our discussion, the church will not refer to a building or those contending interpretations born of history and geography. We will understand Church as a sum of believers who hold spiritual faith in God, Christ His son and the Holy Spirit as per their scriptures.
This simplified definition is important to entrench the fact that faith, or church is founded on incorruptible truth and transparency.
In essence, the letter of biblical text is expected to be infallible because it is not inscribed by man nor designed by mortals, but by a supreme deity who is perfect. This understanding, which is a matter of spiritual and provable fact for believers, immediately contrasts with the concept and action of the judiciary whose guiding pole is a law written by mortals.
In this respect, the law can either be punitive or restorative in its operation, but it cannot be perfect. Furthermore, unlike the (eternal) law of the Church – the Bible, the laws of a country can be changed to suit an agreement or reflect the prevailing consensus of an epoch.
For example, laws change to address abortion rights, civil liberties such as voting rights for women or protection of children’s rights.
This is an essential contrast between the two pillars, one text is considered ancient, spiritual and permanent; while the other is widely accepted, respected but pliable.
Government is anchored on the principles of law contained within the constitution. A constitution is definitive of the power imbued to government to protect its people and their sovereignty to the extent of justifiable violence using the armed forces. For clarity, the sum of national laws makes up a constitution which is a governing instrument for people within its geographic reach.
As institutions, neither the clergy (in the Church) nor the Judiciary (and its judges and lawyers) are exempt from criticism. Indeed, the criticism of the two institutions tends to be more intense because they are supposed to be the final arbiters of peace and conscience.
Unlike political choice, people cannot choose the law. They might choose legal representation, but they cannot choose which law should apply to them. Law is prescribed.
To put it simply, lawyers give interpretation to the law and judges give it application, but neither can readily change it so that they are excused from punishment if they break the same laws.
Neither judge nor lawyer can operate outside the confines of the constitution. Any perceived notion that judicial officers are exempted from the law can create an incurable mistrust of the judicial system.
Even worse if judicial integrity and impartiality exists as a façade, then the judiciary becomes an illusion of laws. The same logic applies to church: when the scripture appears to benefit only a section of believers especially the clergy then mistrust arises.
It means that the reality of infallible truth becomes twisted to enslave potential believers than liberate them.
Ultimately, a church that is devoid of truth is a cult in pursuit of self-interest. So, if the connection between church and judiciary is diluted to a relationship between a cult and a system of illusional and optional laws, the soul of a country is lost.
A judiciary without integrity and a church without an ounce of truth is poisonous and equivalent internecine. A fracture or disconnect in the relationship between church and judiciary creates a chaotic confrontation between spiritual and national sovereignty.
Put together, the Church and the Judiciary are meant to provide citizens a safe haven from the many forms of injustice and complex sum of threats, where they arise.
This is why some countries prescribe national religions to create a conscious harmony between faith and law. One other country above all, Saudi Arabia, simply made their holy book, the Quran equivalent to law.
Most other countries simply find some cautious balance between the religious text and jurisprudence in terms of prescribing conduct. The Vatican is a close show of a religious state that applies religious order to the conduct of citizens.
In the Zambian scenario, the harmony of church and judiciary is canvassed in the constitution to the extent that law is not infringed by faith, or church. The declaration of the country as a Christian nation is not canvassed as a matter of public interest but as a national identity.
The balance itself does not impede the action of law nor supposes an imposition on the law by biblical text, it is a high calling of a collective soul of a nation.
That soul of a country will treat the people and its leaders with peace if it is honored. If not, nations deteriorate without understanding why.