The Kenyan church is ungovernable, it needs its own opposition

Catholic faithful follow mass service at the Holy family basilica church, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The Kenyan church needs opposition to call it out on its internal infractions

We have done it on our knees!”  “We were interceding day and night!” “This is what the power of prayer can do.” “This is purely by prayer.”

Such and similar phrases are used by some sections of the church to explain the victory of political candidates they supported. Many candidates are using similar spiritual language to explain their victory. This association of winning and praying tells of a state of competition that defied paper strategy and demanded the manipulation of benevolent spiritual realms.

It is significant that Chief Justice Martha Koome asked for prayers too as judges retreated to write their judgment. Many on both sides of the competition have been heard to say that because they prayed, the will of God has emerged.

Interestingly, what was the prayer of some people has turned out to be the will of God while others are left praying to the same God for help in processing loss. Important to underline is that when God’s will seem to favour some, it does not mean that God has ceased loving the losers.

Cautiously, as a section of the church praises itself as having driven some winners into power, humility must be injected in this claim. Muslims and other religious people in the winning movement prayed too – a lot. It is prideful for one spiritual house to hog all the congratulations and leave out the other praying players. In an event as public as a General Election, answered prayer cannot be attributed exclusively to one institution. As the church rejoices, it must remember that the mosque, the shrine and the temple are players in the praying too. 

Matrix of values

It is interesting to observe that the section of the church that supported the wining coalition is regarding itself a winner too! “We won!” some clergy men and women are heard stating publicly. The church has baptised itself a winner! The implication is that they are critical partners of the ruling coalition. As a co-winner, the church also implies a stake in the glory of the new government. As a joint winner, the church injects itself with a political needle releasing a political concoction to colour its identity for the next five years. This winner brand needs scrutiny. 

One of the pillars of the church’s involvement in politics is that it provides a matrix of values that reflect a sound leader. Christians are encouraged to elect leaders who mirror the prescribed chart of ideals which are majorly around integrity, sober track record, moral uprightness, sound spirituality, laudable character, firm family values, proven management capacity and compassion. The question that follows is: what happens when those regarded as insiders in the faith and friends of the church actually win the political contest? True, there is a reason to celebrate because there’s a crack in the dark that grants righteousness a chance. But such celebration should not grow to become entanglement. The church maintains its identity by deliberately maintaining a distance between itself and the State, a distance large enough to allow prophetic conversation.

When a section of the church is openly dancing with the winners, reason asks:  who will check a church that has taken sides and joined government? One answer is that the church needs a structured opposition to call it out on its internal ills.  Some call it self-regulation but we can call it spirit-introspection. Such an arrangement would work to create a situation where not all the church is “swallowed up in victory.”

Corrective responsibility

When “brothers and sisters” ascend to power, they need to be checked too. Sisterhood and brotherhood should not be an excuse to dim the lights of scrutiny. For the very reason that a person in power professes Christianity, frequent evaluation is a critical tool to enable standards that reflect an answer to the section of the Lord’s Prayer that says “Your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is heaven.” This evaluative and corrective responsibility places the church permanently in the opposition. The church is in the deep opposition because it checks not only the government but also the government’s opposition. To play this opposition roll well, the church needs to have a structured internal experience of opposition.

When the church-related persons get into power, they suffer the pressure of perfection. Secular systems are on watch to find fault in the persons and ultimately in the church. One faltering step and guns go blazing “This born again people are just fake! The church makes perfect thieves!” People still expect a type of Christ in the born again leaders. But while Christ came to serve, many brothers and sisters go into political and public offices for self service.

Christ was sacrificial from the beginning, but sisters and brothers are in for self-preservation. Christ sacrifices even His own life for the people but brothers and sisters badly want to live and live large! While Christ performed miracles for all, brothers and sisters tactically and politically neglect and underfund development needs of their competition so that the opposition suffers shame and a decline in popularity among their people.  While Christly standards put Him in a lone category of sinlessness, brothers and sisters are permanent members of the clinic of mercy.