When two political combatants keep invoking the name of God to win sympathy and score political points, confusion reigns and there is a blurred line between good and bad intentions.
Such is the prevailing scenario where President William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga have closely associated with sections of the church sympathetic to their causes to justify their standpoints.
And in times eerily similar to David Yallop’s investigative book ‘In God’s Name’, where some senior clerics at the Vatican planned and killed the Pope in the name of God, the Kenyan Church appears split.
In the bestselling book seeking to unravel the death of Pope John I, the accounts contradict the official position by the church that the Pope died of heart attack and came up with a theory that he was murdered after serving for only 33 days.
Those who planned for the death of the Pope, the book suggested, were doing it in the name of God while those who requested the author to investigate the death, were disturbed by a cover-up of the true circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Pope’s body, hence In the name of God.
In Kenya, a section of the church is supporting President Ruto’s administration while another supports Raila’s position that he was denied his victory, all in God’s name.
During campaigns, the President presented himself as the godly candidate and was even accused of appearing to monopolise Christian worship, compared to Raila.
President Ruto rallied the faithful with donations for construction of churches, fuel guzzlers for the clergy and contributions to church Saccos.
His rival demanded to know the source of funds and even discouraged the church from receiving money without probing its source which he said was corruption proceeds.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
The bible carrying, verse quoting Ruto knelt down in churches and at times shed tears. He wore religious garbs of different sects and even became the butt of jokes online, earning the moniker Nabii (prophet).
Evangelical churches under the Association of Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches of Kenya hired trucks and campaigned for Kenya Kwanza claiming it was the only one that could respect the church.
The association also entered into an Memorandum of Understanding with Ruto on allocation of land, appointments to State corporations, foreign missions and the Cabinet.
Kenya Kwanza promised to establish registrar of religious organisations and a Cabinet docket on religious affairs.
The association’s Secretary General Bishop Daniel Kabono said the church had to decide to vote for either their destruction or advancement of Christianity.
“We felt insulted by other political leaders and we decided to take a stand to guide our people but as we did that we sought assurance that the administration would respect and protect religion,” Kabono told The Standard then.
Raila’s statement that Christianity had been elevated above other religions by colonial ideology and that his administration would end that, was interpreted to mean he was against the church.
His running mate Martha Karua’s jibe to Ruto that “Jesus Christ has no deputy… stop pretending to be his deputy on earth, he belongs to all of us,” was also interpreted by Ruto supporters to mean that Azimio was not for the church.
After elections, President Ruto said he was ‘prayed to presidency’ and has now embarked on thanksgiving ceremonies every Sunday vowing to crisscross 47 counties.
The spouses of the President and Deputy President, Rachael and Dorcas are pastors. Rachael launched a prayer altar at the Deputy President’s official residence in Karen.
After occupying State House, the President asked 40 preachers to consecrate his new residence saying he was dedicating it to God for “hoisting me to presidency.”
Huge prayer sessions
And he has since conducted huge prayer sessions in different counties to ostensibly pray for rain and he would later declare that owing to prayers, the doors to global money lenders have been flung open, putting the country on the path to economic recovery.
It is also during these prayer sessions that Ruto has fired salvos at Raila and ridiculed him for stoking rebellion against his government.
Raila and his brigade have also engaged the church in his peoples’ forums who are in support of his clarion call that he was denied victory since the ‘heavens’ had picked him as the president.
On Wednesday, February 22, Muslim and Christian preachers gave Raila and Karua a mixture of water and sand to symbolise taking over authority and power in Kenya.
While supplicating to the heavens, the clerics also declared Raila and Karua were taking over the country.
Spiritual leaders and political pundits have raised questions over the involvement of the church in politics, observing that they should be independent arbiters.
ACK Diocese of Mt Kenya Central Bishop Dr Timothy Gichere called on the church to have a balancing act even as politicians and elected leaders attend church.
“The clergy should not fall prey to playing politics. We should pray for leaders and provide solace to those who did not make it in elective positions without bashing them. We should also not disregard institutions such as IEBC and Judiciary which arbitrate election disputes because doing so would incite our congregants and lead to anarchy,” said the Bishop.
Nyeri Catholic Diocese Archbishop Antony Muheria cautioned the clergy to recognise and respect leaders but educate them when they visit places of worship by not allowing them to turn the sacred grounds to places of political rhetoric.
“It’s good to attend church every time but genuinely and honestly. Their encounter (politicians) with God in places of worship must not be used as instruments or platforms for political gain or political messaging,” he said.
However, Bishop Stephen Maina, chairperson of Murang’a Bishops Forum, maintained the church is mandated by the Bible to support the government of the day.
The Full Time Winners leader said nobody goes to the throne except by the will of God and therefore those clergy supporting Raila should retrace their footsteps and support Kenya Kwanza administration.
“Those supporting the shenanigans of the opposition are misguided. Romans 13 commands that everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established,” said Maina.
Prof Gitiile Naituli has criticised the church saying they have left their cardinal duty of spiritual nourishment and have gone back to times when the church in South Africa supported the apartheid policy.
“The church is now quoting the Bible selectively to justify their selfish moves aimed at getting money. They are following some verses such as Joshua 9:21 on the hewers of wood and drawers of water where Gibeonites were condemned to servitude under the Israelites,” said Naituli.
He opined that a section of the church that was supporting Azimio were only airing their grievances to the Head of State that they have been left out by their colleagues enjoying State largesse.
“The church should be the centre of alternative authority, it is an important arbiter but by joining political camps, they have lost their mandate and could plunge the country into a quagmire should it reach to a point that it requires their intervention,” he said.