Those accustomed to fighting despotic, repressive regimes are frequently reminded by their detractors that they are fighting a losing battle. Yet those who persist in the struggle are only too aware that they can only do their best without any illusions about impact or success. We are only planting seeds that will produce a harvest at a time we don’t know but we trust that God knows.
That is not to make little of our efforts. An image that theologian Walter Winks frequently uses is that of the church – or change agents if you like - as a bulldog that sinks its teeth into the hind legs of the elephant. It will never bring the elephant down but it can so distract the elephant’s attention that if fails to notice the elephant traps and falls in.
Every repressive, corrupt regime regularly digs an elephant trap for itself. Marcos and Pinochet called elections that led to their own downfall and Joseph Kabila is about to do the same in DRC. The National Youth Service (NYS) could be regarded the elephant trap of the Jubilee regime. Designed and projected as the government answer to the youth unemployment problem it has instead become a honey pot for the kleptocrats that run the country. Having been caught with their hands in the cookie jar, however, should have led to the downfall of Jubilee I. Instead it gave birth to NYS II and NYS III is in the making.
Limits the damage
These defining moments or trigger events frequently come to nothing if there are no people prepared to capitalise on the blunders and crimes. The trigger events are wasted when the people are not prepared or willing to exploit them.
We have missed a glorious opportunity with NYS, National Cereals and Produce Board, Sugar, Kenya Ports Authority and many other scandalous revelations that have emerged in the last month.
Jubilee have opted to circle the wagons for their own preservation rather than oversee their internal implosion; while the decaying and declining opposition have decided that it might be easier to change things in neighbouring countries than in their own backyard.
Where then is the church? The image of the biting bulldog is hardly fitting for the current leadership and Jubilee knows it. Where are the brave prophets that can repeat the words of Amos?: They have sold the virtuous man for silver and the poor man for a pair of sandals; they trample on the heads of ordinary people and push the poor out of their way (Amos 2: 6-7). What image best befits the churches of today? The warden leading the elephant away from the trap; the guardian that limits the damage of the trampling elephant or the turn boy hoping to catch the droppings that fall from the elephant’s rear end?
The most frequent recent criticism of religious leaders is their willingness to invite to fundraisers individuals whose wealth and its origin are at best dubious but at worst stolen public funds. Recently, the Catholic Bishop of Murang’a, James Wainaina stated the church would not accept money that they knew was acquired by graft. He qualified this by saying that it was difficult to know the source of some money. However, he did not explain what he does when unsure of how clean the donations are.
Put another way, when was the last time a church turned down politicians’ money? Mr Ruto was pictured last weekend with Cardinal Njue at another fundraiser up in Embu. It was all too familiar and uncomfortable for those who have been questioning the source of the DP’s funds. The church cannot discharge its divine calling by cozying up to the powers that be.
When 35 per cent of the national budget is looted each year by the political and thieving class, the chances are that every donation made by a politician or senior administrator has been stolen from the public coffers.
By inviting and accepting donations from the accused class, the churches are legitimising their loot and in the process failing in their spiritual mission to delegitimise an unjust and ungodly system. They are mere turn boys of the ruling, corrupted class.
A church that is hated by the ruling class is probably one that is most faithful to the Gospel message. Corruption according to Bishop Kivuva is a national crisis. We have all assumed the name of corruption fighters but how many are willing to pay the price? Because we want integrity with half a heart and half a will we will continue to miss defining moments for change.
- [email protected] @GabrielDolan1