Insults before and after prayers expose hypocrite politicians

Deputy President William Ruto walks past President Uhuru Kenyatta to make his remarks during National Prayer Day at Safari Park hotel in Nairobi on May 26, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Kenya’s political elite class has, this week, had its 19th National Prayer Day. This annual high-level fiesta has the character of a blank ritual. A wide berth exists between the solemn bluster of the day and the conduct of the political class.

The prayer day starts bordering on a hollow copycat event, an empty isomorphic mimicry. For, it was borrowed from offshore without the philosophical underpinnings of the original. 

Barring a few exceptions, our political class is a corporate irreverent community. It is a phony class that begins and closes every worldly meeting with prayers. In the spirit of unbridled worldliness, it fills up the time and space between the two prayers with ungodly insults and curses.

Its trademark insolence on the stumps speaks of hearts and minds thick with hate. They put God away when on the stumps, only to wake up to piety in prayer forums. On Sundays, they sully Christian shrines with rudeness. They worship an on-and-of deity.  

As a student of divinity and philosophy of religion, I have learned that you don’t pigeonhole God. Piety is a way of life. It is not something you engage in, in some environments, and go back to business as usual in others. This column has said before that God is not desperate for worship. The devout abracadabra and sundry tantrums we throw at God, disguised as prayer, can be offensive.  

I commend the Biblical book of Isaiah to those who would pray.

Have they not read this book of books? Have they not seen where the prophet cautions about the almighty God, where it has been said, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood that since the foundation of the earth? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth; its dwellers are like grasshoppers.” 

His glory is such that he does not need pretended prayers. When royal princes affect to worship God, they do well to remember where the prophet has said, “He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.”

Above Isaiah cautions people like those in Kenya’s political class, “I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”

If this class cannot walk the talk, it should consider sparing the nation vacuous rituals disguised as prayers. This election campaign is the perfect occasion to audit the country’s leadership, to see whether it is serious in its pious Safari Park supplications and oblations. The words “forgiveness, transition, renewal and “peace” kept coming up. We are praying for peaceful elections. 

You would imagine that elections descend upon societies like thunderstorms from angels of mischief on Mars. Elsewhere in the world, people approach elections with optimistic anticipation. It is time to either validate the ruling government and give it another lease or, alternatively, time to sack the ruling team.

The Kenyan situation is confounding.  The country gets increasingly restless with each cycle of elections. We stop all the clocks, hold our breath and wait for the curse to pass. It is testament to the true character of the ruling class as a profane community, urged on by a hypocritical ecclesiastical class that is afraid of looking sin in the eye and calling it by its name. 

Hence they would play games with Isaiah’s God, “He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

It was Martha Karua who challenged the political assembly in Safari Park on Thursday this week to align their actions and words in prayer forums with their behaviour elsewhere. The world is watching. 

Dr Muluka is a strategic communications advisor.