Zambia was declared a Christian nation by the then Republican President, late Frederick Titus Jacob Chiluba (MHSRIP) in 1991. The declaration stemmed from the late President’s Christian background; like many, having ascended through the social ladder to become a Republican President in a life that culminated into his spiritual rebirth and influenced the declaration.The declaration did not influence law and/or national policy at the time. But whether it was initially intended to do so is a matter of inference. Clearly however, the declaration was intended to shape the country’s national identity in replacing the founding President’s philosophy of humanism – which theologians deem to be of pagan origins (David Paulson, Unlocking the Bible; A Unique overview of the whole Bible). The declaration equally implanted a behavioral expectation among Zambians to conduct themselves in a manner exemplary of Christian believers.
After a protracted course of national debates for constitutional reforms, the Christian-nation declaration finally found itself enshrined in the national Constitution in 2015. Among the contentious issues proposed for inclusion in the constitution was the Christian-nation declaration. That, “we the people of Zambia, acknowledge the supremacy of God almighty, declare the Republic a Christian Nation while upholding a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion”, provides a strong preambular opening to the national constitution. The late President Chiluba (MHSRIP) would definitely be satisfied to see his religious aspirations for a Christian national philosophy coined as part of the constitution’s preamble. In a legal sense however, the preamble provides strong insights into the spirit (purpose) of that particular law (Emily Finch and Stefan Fafinski, Legal Reasoning).
Under such national philosophy therefore, biblical tenets of Christian life become imperative right from conception of life itself. “I have known you, chosen you, ordained you and called you by a name even from your mother’s womb (Jeremiah 1: 5, NKJV) you have been wonderfully and fearfully created in your mother’s womb, wherein I saw your reins and determined your life (Psalms 139: 13-16, NKJV). The normative expectation in a constitutionally-declared Christian nation is that such biblical underpinnings will influence national policy and law with respect to the sanctity of life right from its conception. However, according to the Laws of Zambia, the Termination of Pregnancy Act 1972, s3 medical abortion in Zambia is legal in the interest of primarily saving the mother’s life. Obstetricians are given legal mandate to determine and decide the grounds and need for terminating life in a mother’s womb that, according to their assessments, poses a life-threatening risk to the mother. Essentially, doctors can decide to violate the religious belief that life is ordained by God in a mother’s womb from the cited scriptures.
A parallelism is created between normative Christian expectations and the reality of medical care among the Christians themselves. From a Christian perspective, the sanctity of life is in God’s hand (Psalms 31: 15, NKJV). Meanwhile, law places conditional power and duty to determine the sanctity of life in the hands of obstetricians. And rightly so, for the sake of an antenatal mother’s health, but not necessarily for the unborn child’s sake. For if it was for the unborn child’s sake – predestined by God the almighty (Ephesians 1: 4-5, NKJV) – abortion would not be the applicable term for such a life-saving measure.
That a religious ethical underpinning is strongly coined in the object of the national constitution raises philosophical questions about abortion in a Christian-democratic nation. How does evil become an instrument for achieving a good cause? On the other hand, why should a good performed on a woman be deemed evil when it ultimately saves her life? But if God the almighty ordains life before conception in the womb, isn’t He almighty enough to save the same life together with the mother carrying it? If, for instance, a fetal deformity threatens the life of the mother, isn’t it the hand of God at play according to scripture? (Proverbs 19: 21, NKJV). This woman could be a bible-believing Christian who has to give medical consent for termination of her life-threatening pregnancy at the expense of battling with a post-surgical penance for having gone against God’s will? Meanwhile, her democratic right to freedom of conscience to give abortion consent is guaranteed in the constitution.
While this may sound like a legal conundrum against Christian ethics, it narrows down to realities of the implications of a constitutionally-declared Christian nation in a democratic republic. How then do we reconcile our Christian values strongly based on the will of God for His people, and the democratic values strongly based on the will of man, by man in a post-modern scientific society? Either of the two principles will inevitably need to be compromised in order to engender the other. For even the Christian constitution itself (the bible), says you cannot serve two masters at once; either you will be faithful to one and disloyal to the other (Mathew 6: 24, NKJV). Therefore, is a Christian-democratic nation practical in reality?
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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