Everyone’s talking about the Trump victory. It’s not just the US for whom there are consequences; the US’ trade deals and foreign policy are all up for grabs, but there’s also a symbolic nature to the office Americans are so fond of calling ‘the leader of the free world’.
Here in Tanzania everyone’s talking too. Some like Trump, some like Hillary, but perhaps the biggest controversy is over neither. It’s over TB Joshua.
TB Joshua is massive in Tanzania. He’s a Nigerian pastor, televangelist and prophet. He’s got 2.5m followers on Facebook. And earlier this week he prophesied that Hillary Clinton would win the US election.
Now, you can be skeptical about his prophecy (I was!). After all, everyone expected Hillary to win, so it was a fairly safe bet. If he’d predicted Trump against all odds, that might have been different.
But when TB Joshua speaks, many Tanzanians listen. Whether or not they take on board what he says, his words become part of the conversation.
This is exactly what happened on the night of the US election. I watched Trump’s speech and Hillary’s live through the Facebook page of Tanzanian political platform Jamii Forums. There were live comments too, comments of congratulation or commiseration or interest or fascination. But I reckon at least one in five of these live comments would have referenced TB Joshua’s prophecy, asking what to make of it.
The discussion has continued, with some Facebook friends posting long defences of TB Joshua, many of them referencing Psalm 105:15 & 1 Chronicles 16:22: do not touch my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm.
One Tanzanian sent an email asking questions such as: Is it possible that this could be used for God’s purposes? What teaching do we have that is relevant? Is there a way the church can prevent or decrease the damage this will do to the church’s reputation?
The question of God’s purposes is critical for many. One friend replied to say that because Hillary won the popular vote, TB Joshua was in fact correct, but the electoral college system has obstructed her becoming President. In his view, the ways of humans have thwarted God’s will, but TB Joshua’s integrity remains intact.
A true prophet will welcome the weighing of his prophecies. He knows that he is flesh and blood but the Holy Spirit is perfect. If he does not welcome this weighing, he is not a prophet of God, but if he humbles himself to have his prophecies questioned, he honours God the Holy Spirit.
TB Joshua must direct us to the Holy Spirit. If his prophecy about Hillary was false, we throw it out, thanking God for showing us the truth. In the future when we receive a new prophecy, we test it again. We put our faith in the Holy Spirit, not TB Joshua. He is only a servant. God is good, may he be glorified.
Notice I don’t make a statement about the authenticity of TB Joshua’s ministry itself. But others were more direct. One guy noted that there are many with questions about TB Joshua’s prophecy and his ministry in general. He’s recently been in Nigeria talking with ministry leaders there, and hearing their concerns.
This is a live issue in our Tanzanian circles, because there are many who do love and follow TB Joshua.
Here are two lessons I think westerners can take away from this.
- Tanzanians are on a quest for truth. They ask these questions because they are interested in uncovering deception. We were taught this very early in our language and culture orientation, when a guy came to our house trying to sell perfume. Our language tutor had a long conversation with him about where the perfume was from and what its qualities were. Now, the perfumes were clearly fakes, and Arthur and I wondered what our language tutor was doing. Could he not see what we could? Later he explained: he knew they were fakes, but he wanted to catch the guy out. Tanzanians know that smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot, to use the words of Proverbs 26:23. They ask these questions not because they are gullible, but because they are savvy; it’s a sign of their pursuit of wisdom.
- There are Tanzanians who are well-placed to speak into their own context. I know Arthur and I keep banging on about this, but we will keep saying it until we westerners get it through our heads. I did not have to denounce TB Joshua because there were others who did. And they did it better than me, as a Tanzanian rather than an outside voice, without all the baggage that postcolonialism and western neo-imperialism bring. It’s easy to see the questions being asked and think that we have to give answers, but far better is to be a contributor or a participant, because it gives you the opportunity to see how God is at work through his people here, and to praise him for that.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.