Church leaders as political and tribal prelates

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Henry Okullu and Timothy Njoya are among Kenya's last politically morally conscious clerics.

By David Onjili

Jesus Christ was not a centrist. His message to his disciples was clear: they had to bear their cross. And the price of discipleship came at great personal sacrifice; one had to leave all one had and follow Him.

There are no three ways in Christianity as David Oginde puts it, wrongly so if you ask me, in his Dichotomy/Trichotomy of Religion sermon. For one to be a follower one has either to carry the cross or leave it; any religious leader talking about a third way is preaching their own gospel.

Centrist religious leaders want to tell us that there is a third way but in truth, this third way is compromise, and this is exactly what bedevils the church in Kenya today. Men of the cloth are heavily compromised, and the word of God has taken a back seat as they preach their gospel of prosperity.

When Ezekiel Kemboi was disqualified from the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil at the 3000m steeplechase race following an appeal by French Athlete Mahiedine Mekhissi who had finished 4th in the same race behind him, the appeals board sat and reviewed their race rules and it was concluded, based on video evidence, that he was at fault. The rules state, “…runners cannot step on the inside edge of the track when running around bends.” This apparently small error disqualified him, and saw him stripped of his Bronze medal. It then beats me how clergy in Kenya now want to compromise the gospel when its parameters are very clear. The way to heaven is straight and narrow (Mathew 7:14); there is no in-between, and so any man of cloth trying to subvert this should be reminded of the rulebook, The Bible, and disqualified from the race.

Sadly, the Kenyan church is so compromised that men of God see it normal when they seek middle ground – and their flock follow blindly – when an athlete is denied a medal for simply stepping on the wrong line. Alas, many of our clergy have run the entire lap on the wrong track!

Communications consultant Barrack Muluka prides himself with being an Anglican by birth, baptism and faith and he has no kind words for religious leaders either. Describing them as worldly, compromised and failed institutions, their sole agenda, in his words, is to pursue wealth and earthly pleasures and privileges. The existing bishops are afraid of preaching against societal evils like murder of innocent civilians by the police, political assassinations and corruption because they are afraid of losing worshippers who bring them the money they so cherish.

Romans 12:2 (American King James Version)

“And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”
Because politicians require guidance from men of God, religious leaders must, at all times, remain the soul of the nation. Like the compass North, it must not lose its bearing at any cost. Prophet Nathan was sent by God to go speak to King David as depicted in 2 Samuel 12. God’s message was simple: there was a rich man and poor man who lived in a certain town, when the rich man had a visitor, and rather than slaughter sheep from his vast flock, chose to go after the one sheep that the peasant had.

Clergy and false prophets, including one who claims to resurrect the dead, are testament to this decay. The man, who claims to restore life and heal untreatable diseases, walks with a ring fence of bodyguards around him. If he has so much anointing to raise the dead, why does he need the security detail? Can’t he just pray or be secured by the “spirit” he possesses to “resurrect” lives

When King David heard of this, he burnt with anger only to be reminded by the prophet of God, Nathan, that the greedy rich man was himself and that God was angry with him for killing Uriah and taking his wife. God was angry and the prophet was bold to let him know that. Nathan risked his own life to go pass the message at the King’s doorstep, well aware of the personal consequences that may have followed. This pricked the King’s conscience and he retreated to seek the face of God by praying and fasting, and although the son they bore with Bathsheba died, God later forgave him because David acknowledged his wrong deed and turned to God in remorse. Later Bathsheba bore him a son, Solomon, who would become the wisest ruler on earth. Afterwards, God even said of David as a man after his own heart.

Kenya is a sinking ship with an exit route headed the Somali way in the next decade, as many observe. Politicians have failed and the academics and clergy who should stand up to the politicians are not helping. Tribalism and political correctness has taken root in society – look for a job and you will get my point. Religious leaders themselves are full of hate, founded on ethnicity. A Kikuyu bishop hates Raila Odinga and a Luo bishop reciprocates that by hating Uhuru Kenyatta. Forget their carefully scripted sermons, and listen to their prayers, idolizing their tribal leaders, and you will understand where their hearts truly are.
It is with this in mind that president Uhuru Kenyatta should not credit his recent win to God, and neither should Raila Odinga, in case his prayers in a petition to the Supreme Court are granted.

Hosea 8:4 (New International Version):
“They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval. With their silver and gold they make idols for themselves to their own destruction”
Ever cared to listen to the clergy attending political rallies and the prayers that worship the politicians they say? Little wonder that the very politicians being prayed for seldom say “amen” in response.

| Religious leaders haven’t spoken out about State-sanctioned police brutality.

How many Kenyans will it take to die for the church to speak? Lawyer Willy Kimani, Jacob Juma, Chris Musando, Samantha Pendo (a 6 month old baby a victim to police brutality) easily come to mind.

The church has left spiritually poor Kenyans who listen to them poorer, with their tribal sermons clearly crafted to appease their ethnic bases. The word of God has been kicked out and replaced by jokes; the ordained do not draw their congregants closer to God but rather abuse the pulpit they stand on to preach.

Clergy and false prophets, including one who claims to resurrect the dead, are testament to this decay. The man, who claims to restore life and heal untreatable diseases, walks with a ring fence of bodyguards around him. If he has so much anointing to raise the dead, why does he need the security detail? Can’t he just pray or be secured by the “spirit” he possesses to “resurrect” lives?

Roman soldiers subdued Jesus Christ himself, after betrayal by his disciple, to fulfil Scripture; to prove that he was not an earthly leader, when one of his disciples drew a sword and cut off one of the soldier’s ears in self-defence, Jesus rebuked him before restoring the soldier’s ear. His message was simple: he was not after the earthly kingdom that is protected by swords and chariots, but after the Kingdom of God in heaven. What we have presently are clergy who are frightened of losing their worldly touch. They drive in their top of the range cars and enjoy security details like those of politicians because to them the earthly kingdom is the ultimate. They feed the prosperity gospel of earthly wealth to their gullible flocks where we must have heaven down here whether it means compromising on the spiritual principles Jesus professed.

The run up to the 2005 constitutional referendum was a defining moment. The clergy showed their true colours, when they abandoned their spiritual calling to engage in political campaigns. Everywhere you look, men of clergy are shamelessly shaming the Gospel of Christ, with anything from corruption to sleeping with women from amongst their congregations.

As an Anglican myself, I was privileged to have attended some of the late Bishop Henry Okullu’s sermons at Kisumu’s St Stephen’s Cathedral. Despite the fact that I was very young, my parents never tired of reminding me what a remarkable man of God he was. I also recall that whenever we squeezed ourselves through the pews to attend service, journalists would flock his sermons just to report what he had preached, and he never disappointed. He called out the oppressive Kanu autocracy without fear, which made him an enemy of the State.

The likes of David Gitari and Timothy Rurere Njoya are names that come to mind when we are reminded of a time the church never dined with the State oppressors. John Gatu of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) will always be remembered for his book Fan into Flame, an encounter he wrote on how founding President Jomo Kenyatta was severally mentioned as one who led the Mau Mau in oath taking ceremonies in Mount Kenya region. He never shied from reminding president Daniel Arap Moi of the corruption and excesses of his regime then.

Today, we cannot speak of one religious leader who has spoken out on the excesses and tribal appointments that have characterised the Jubilee government? When innocent Kenyans have lost their lives, the church have conveniently remained silent save for a few clergy like the Reverend Stephen Kewasis of ACK Kitale, Bishop Cornelius Korir of the Eldoret See, and David Waweru of the ACK Nairobi Diocese are just the only remaining hope. But even these are lukewarm.

The fervour with which retired Anglican head Eliud Wabukala started talking about corruption towards the end of his stint at the church seems to have been a cleverly crafted exit strategy because soon he was appointed the head of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission; to date he has nothing to show for meriting his appointment. How opportunistic can a man be? And the least that is said about Cardinal John Njue of the Catholic Church the better, for never has a powerful man of the cloth been so silent in the face of evil. Cardinal Njue has never been known to condemn corruption, tribalism, extrajudicial murders in any forum; he simply seeks peace of any kind in his sermons.
When elected leaders of a country are rotten and the clergy compromised, it is easy for the population to seek guidance in false prophets and give up hope.

When we judge and respect individuals on their ability to consume rather than produce as a nation we are failing. When I am judged and celebrated or treated as a leper because of my ethnicity then we should wake up. When politicians appear in church with huge cash donations yet they are shrouded in legal battles of corruption and clergy cheer them, we are losing it. When we put up church buildings funded by individuals of suspect morality, then we must cry.

Whether we like it or not, Kenya is our country, and we either live together wisely guided by the foundations of morality or sink as one.

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