Point of order, information and clarification. Yeah it feels like we’re right back in debate club. Many people have spoken against the church and I am here to defend them. This heat is a result of the church’s position on the Proposed Constitution.
Let’s get this clear: Who is the church? My bible, and all we were taught in Sunday school and in C.R.E class, tells me that the believers, the followers of Christ are the church. We feel slighted and offended, when church leaders, the so called clergy, declare the stand of the church as a whole when they have not consulted us and our fellow brethren. Very many Christians, myself included, are in favour of the Proposed Constitution. Various pastors that we have spoken to, and my priest as well, are in favour of the new law, and for good reason. But before we get into that, let’s talk about these self proclaimed leaders, and others in history that have been like them.
It was such church leaders who had Copernicus persecuted and prosecuted when he brought the world the truth about, well, the world. They are the same ones that persecuted that brilliant soul known as Galileo, when he enlightened us about our planet. These same church leaders were the ones who led the Crusades in Europe, inciting and directing the mass murder of innocent people who would not convert to Christianity. They waged wars in the name of God, in the name of Christ. The Dark Age was largely in part due to them, when they kept the population in fear and superstition, through tactics such as burning ‘witches’ and ‘heretics’ at the stake. These same leaders caused the rift in the Catholic Church, as the Reformation came about due to their excesses. To mention a few of these excesses: they believed that no one could or should question them, they were above the law, and saw themselves as the only ones fit to interpret and deliver the word of God. For Heaven’s sake (pun intended) they sold letters of forgiveness, letters that would guarantee your entry into paradise.
Let us not forget that it was these same church leaders who persecuted Christ Himself, and failed to believe in Him, even when His teachings and miracles were so clear for the pure of heart, and even the not so pure, to see. Even when a powerful messenger had come before and informed them of His arrival.
They are the ones who now tell us that Haiti’s catastrophes were caused by a pact they made with the devil. Really? So what caused the tribal clashes we have had for so long in this country? What caused the bomb attacks we have had? What caused the post election violence? Where was the clergy when we needed them? Where was the clergy when the colonialists were murdering and enslaving us? When Tom Mboya was assassinated, when Ouko was murdered? J.M Kariuki. Pio Gama Pinto. Where was the clergy? When corruption reared its ugly head again and again: Anglo-Leasing, Goldenberg, AIDS fund scandals, Education fund scandals etc, When students were shot right outside the university. Where was their voice then? When this country was tearing itself apart, where were they?
So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. If today’s church does not recapture the spirit of the times and the needs of its flock, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust. If it is not relevant it is just a matter of time before people realize the truth. It’s all right to talk about “streets flowing with milk and honey,” but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. Poverty and corruption in this country have ruined far more lives than abortion and the clashes we have had. It’s all right to talk about the New Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preachers must talk about the New Nairobi.
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of this struggle, for which many patriotic Kenyans have given their blood, sweat and tears for.
Let us rise up with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make Kenya what it ought to be.
This article was written in 2007, during the run up to the referendum on a new constitution for Kenya. The ‘Yes’ side won, and Kenya now has a new constitution. The constitution making process was hailed as one of the most consultative in human history.