an ode to silence: the church’s abdication of its role in society

This article appeared in a local internet publication, the elephant.

It is my contention that the thesis on which the article is founded is faulty. First, however, I agree with Francis that corruption presents a problem to the survival of the nation. I think naming it corruption instead of theft was a clever trick. When you say so and so is a thief, there is some social stigma associated with theft but not so for corruption. I think naming sleaze of public purse corruption was a way to make it acceptable and here the neo-liberals won a big victory. But I digress.

Francis says the law is very clear. I have come to distrust the clarity of the law. The law is as clear as the lawyers and judges interpreting it and to what power wants. And as the elephant has in its byline, speaking truth to power, I expect, at least, an acknowledgement from them that the law is never so clear and power manipulates the law to meets its ends.

Francis writes

the Kenyan Church is abdicating its unique and vital role in society.

but does not qualify what this role is. For those students of history, we know the organised church has almost always been on the side of the oppressing class. It supported the colonialists or made people pliable and when they (colonialists) left, the church as a body was in bed with the state. However, people within different churches did stand to speak.

Referring to Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, he says the role of the church in the political sphere is to educate. He continues to note

“The Church must awaken man’s receptivity to the truth, to God, and thus to the power of conscience. It must give men and women the courage to live according to their conscience and so keep open the narrow pass between anarchy and tyranny, which is none other than the narrow way of peace.”

which leaves me asking what truth? To what god? Does the church encourage its congregation to question the nature, existence of god? If this is taken for granted, the first and greatest deceit, what truth is man to be made receptive of?

It is curious, though, that the first corruption the church is involved in is not paying taxes. They are thus able to influence public policy, laws, lobby legislators while not paying any taxes. Maybe churches, before they can lecture others on corruption should start with this anomaly.

While it is public knowledge that the following

On the frontline of Kenya’s individual Church activism during the Moi era were the Anglican Church’s Bishop Henry Okullu of Maseno South Diocese, Bishop Alexander Muge of the Diocese of Eldoret, Bishop David Gitari, the Anglican prelate of Mt. Kenya East diocese, and Rev. Timothy Njoya, a moderator in the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA). These clerics triggered the much-needed change in the country through their political engagements.

risked limb to protest the Moi government and Muge paid by his life, though, this only after whitewashing Moi. And I am allowed to ask why Njoya who is still around lost his voice? Was the struggle won? I don’t know.

And while

“Sacrilege is defined as taking something that belongs to God and using it profanely. But the worst kind of sacrilege is taking something and giving it to God when it means absolutely nothing to you.”

sounds like a serious indictment, it tells us nothing really. The christian believes god is the maker of everything, that everything is god’s will. It is a contradiction to even say that somethings don’t belong to god.

So when Francis writes

How do I answer my friend Joe Kobuthi’s query: “What does it mean when the Church goes quiet or turns a blind eye to corruption to the extent that a politician like Ruto can claim his contributions to churches to be ‘investing in heaven’”?

he could tell the friend to choose the way of schism as Martin Luther did. I see no difference between the indulgence the catholic church was collecting for forgiveness of sins and Ruto’s claim of investing in heaven. It’s the same thing. Indulgences were sold depending on ones’ ability to purchase. And many people left endowments to the church as a way for buying insurance for heaven. It’s been the church’s business t sell heaven to any bidder.

While I must say, I like the sound of Francis’ closing remarks that

It is not freedom from corruption, but rather the freedom to take a stand against it, that we must all pursue. If the Church is to retain its credibility and relevance, I believe it needs to utilise its eminent position to influence public opinion on matters affecting the nation. I would like to believe that, sooner or later, it will recover its earlier prophetic fervour for the sake of the public good and provide the moral leadership we so desperately need today in the epic fight against corruption.

One must ask if religion has any influence on morality. The last census places the religious in the country at over 90%. It is these numbers that make the church. They occupy positions in government agencies, private sector and everywhere. They are in the police service, army and everywhere else you can imagine. Why have they not come out as a group and said no. It cannot continue.

For my part, let the organized church remain quiet. Let religion remain a private affair. Let us a people mobilize, organize and start by sending the corrupt officials home. Let us call it theft. Shame all of them. And not just politicians. But everyone stealing from the public purse.

We must also begin to demand changes to our education system. We must decolonize our spaces. Educational, social, political.


Further reading

(Colonial) Christianity has made Africa(ns) stupid