RELIGION FUNDAMENTALISM

OCHIENG’: Why Kenyan Church should read Bishop Tutu's writings

it was morally wrong for some Christian fundamentalists to brand a presidential candidate as someone against the course of Christianity in Kenya.

In Summary

• During the heated campaigns, one of the presidential candidates commented on how the colonialists lifted Christianity above other religions in Kenya.

• This sounded sour in the ears of some Christian zealots, who decided to develop a baseless narrative.

ODM leader Raila Odinga in Machakos on July 29,2022.
ODM leader Raila Odinga in Machakos on July 29,2022.
Image: Raila Odinga/Facebook

The Church in Kenya played a pivotal role in the 2022 General Election, more so on the presidential bid.

During the heated campaigns, one of the presidential candidates commented on how the colonialists lifted Christianity above other religions in Kenya.

This sounded sour in the ears of some Christian zealots, who decided to develop a baseless narrative. No wonder, I think, we should read world-class writings of Bishop Desmond Tutu, more so, what he titled God is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations.

Somehow, it was morally wrong for some Christian fundamentalists to brand a presidential candidate as someone against the course of Christianity in Kenya. It was also sinful to use it as a campaign tool to gain political mileage. There is estimation Kenya is 80 per cent Christian nation. Therefore, you know why this lie lived. Ideally, it was one of the cheapest lies my fellow compatriots who are of the Christian faith bought.

Yet — when you examine the context of the utterance made — you will discover that the intention was not to attack people who profess the Christian faith like the weaver of these words.

Christianity, a religion associated with Jesus of Nazareth, has stood the test of time. From its provenance hitherto, various powerful people have attempted to block its proliferation, but they have always failed flat.

No wonder, it is laughable to think a politician can end Christianity in Kenya. Fellow Christians should never forget that being pious and prayerful does not make someone to stop thinking logically. Let there be a clear demarcation between faith and foolishness.

The church in Kenya, led by the clergy, should not drive a wedge between people using pointless propositions. Instead of forming unholy alliance with the crass political class, whose tongues are glib like glass, the church should champion for piety, peace, integrity, morality, reconciliation and healing.

Christianity is not about lies, insults, hatred and hypocrisy. Christianity abuts on pillars of justice, peace, unity and love. Mahatma Gandhi observed, “There is no way to love, love is the way.” In 1 John 4:8, we read: “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Fellow Christians should read and practise Biblical teachings. Then, see sense in sermons and speeches of ArchBishop Desmond Tutu, the South African cleric who bagged the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

In 2009, he scooped the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal, by Barack Obama. Thoughts of this African patriarch, remains relevant. More so, at a time we have a sheer shortage of bold bishops who can express their views powerfully and honestly, showing connection between faith and politics.

The episcopal championed for Ubuntu ― the correct concept of shared humanity: I am because we are. In his heroic book titled God is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations, Archbishop posited that most of us need our understanding of God deepened and expanded. We should be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone have all the truth, and that somehow we have a corner on God. Christians do not have a monopoly of God. This points out to the urgent need of inter-faith tolerance.

We must accept that we have several religions in the world alongside Christianity such as Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, et cetera. Although Christians are the majority in Kenya, we must be mindful of the minority. For even if we do not profess the same faith, we are all Kenyans. For me, I happily remain a practising Christian. Albeit, I do not see myself to be better than those who subscribe to other religions.

Ideally, I see a problem in some fellow Christians who have embraced extreme beliefs, where we see ourselves as superior while others as children of a lesser God. Yet — in case we read about the hero of the Christian faith — Jesus of Nazareth, we realise that he had a soft spot for even those who were not in His tent. In Luke 19, he happily visited and shared a meal with Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was not in good books.

Again, in Acts 17, Apostle Paul of Tarsus reasoned with philosophers at Athens without judging them. In Acts 17:28, he acknowledged the God that their poets alluded to umpteenth time. Quoth he, in Him we live, move, and have our being. As some of your poets have said, we are all His offspring.

Therefore, fellow Christians should know that even when we want to call other people to join our tent it is foolhardy to disparage their religions. For that is poverty of discretion, discernment and judgement. It also manifests scarcity of tolerance as a soft skill. For it is not easy to evangelise people we see as Satanic. We should also embrace ecumenism, and acknowledge ― whether saints or sinners — we all belong to God.

In a larger sense, God is not petty per se. Jesus condemned this self-righteous attitude in the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector documented in Luke 18:9-14. This self-righteousness or holier-than-thou attitude, I am cock-sure makes God cringe while sitting on His regal thrown wearing His royal crown.

The writer is an editor, orator and author

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