Betrayal in the city: The Bishop's double-edged identity is blunted

Furious Televangelist Bishop Margaret Wanjiru (2nd left) of Jesus is Alive Ministry wipes her tears as she leaves the church in Nairobi on March 6, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Betrayal in the city it is. Bishop Margret Wanjiru thought she was an insider until she found herself in the cold. Neither her politician blanket not her priestly duvet could cover her. The public would expect that if the rescue call she makes as a politician does not go through, the one she makes as a priest certainly would. But this double-edged sword could not cut – it has lost its sharpness.

This was that one day in life when all goes wrong - her colleagues and bosses were unreachable.  While calls to points of power remained busy, the government boys on the ground were busy on duty.  No call came to call them off. The honourable bishop’s double-edged identity – bishop and honourable – was not strong enough to help her.  When she expected to withdraw a dividend from her investment in the government of the day, the cheque bounced. She was exposed to the public, her fellow pastors and church workers as helpless. Humiliation par excellence.

But Bishop Margret is not one who shrinks! She fought back by invoking a spiritual dimension which, from her press address, is greater than the highest power in the land. Her words were “You have started a fight that you cannot fight…” The extent of the fight is such that they who did not answer her calls for help will at some point need help that only her can grant. Well, we can only wait and see.

If you have lived in Kenya long enough you know that even the most passionate statement by a politician can be reworked, reinterpreted and smilingly revoked. She referenced Pastor Benny Hinn – who according to her, was sought to clear a curse over Kenya. But she now pronounced a curse of her own that only her can lift. What her fellow priests who are close to power and political bosses make of the Bishop’s unfavourable words only events will tell. To the extent that the government of the day is passionate about making things right for the sake of justice we give it up to them – that is the Kenya God wants. But the notorious Kenyan way of targeted discriminative maneuvers while numerous illicit situations remain protected because those involved are too powerful must be called out.  These are the calls that State House chaplains must be placing to the powerful incessantly.  A curse need not be pronounced in a press conference, it can be actively be earned by how one handles citizens – the children of God.


There is such a thing as ‘cross-pollination’ pollen from the priest enriches the politician. Pollen from the politician enriches the priest. This symbiosis degenerates into parasitism – with the cross being the bigger loser. In the parasitism, the politician can only gain and has little to lose. But the church’s functionality is anchored on a good reputation. Too close an association with politicians risks that reputation. The priest is likely to suspend sacred regard and fall into the temptation of tasting and even getting addicted to partaking of the Sh2-billion-a-day loot. For a politician, conquering the altar is pure gain. They leave a trail of pollution which a compromised priest cannot clean because they are part of the dirt – part of the curse. The cursed cannot undo their own curse.

Sharp teeth

The priest-politician interaction does less to spiritualise politics and more to politicise spirituality. The politician’s sharp teeth gnaw at the cross, adding to its ruggedness. Sadly, sometimes the priest is the unrepentant thief – an altar peddler. With the deal done and the loot safe in priest’s treasury, the politician’s goods must be delivered. When a priest owes a politician a favour, the prophet is dead. Cross-pollination degenerates into cross politicisation. The politician gets unfettered access to the church. They even bring in their own microphone to ensure a clear broadcast with an uncensored content that mocks the sacredness of the very place they stand. God then has to reclaim the altar by Himself for His name’s sake. This is a battle the politician can never win. The government of the day must be very careful about cheapening the church and scheming to use it for selfish purposes. The church - however vulnerable - is the bride of Christ. Watch out for an angry Groom who comes to protest the abuse of her bride!

The church still reaps dividends from the works associated with such names from the past such as Archbishop Ndingi Mwana A’Nzeki, Bishop Henry Okulu, Dr Timothy Njoya and Bishop Alexander Muge. There is always an unspoken imagination that though the church may appear rained on, the roar from the past may just suddenly resurface. Even politicians feel and fear this haunting shadow. They know that an emboldened church can be dangerous. They therefore do not mind an extended tenure of the lukewarm version!

In the expanded democratic space, the dictatorial machinery used to silence vocal priests is not easily engaged.  But even with this advantage, the present church leaders have an adhoc attitude towards political engagement. As the government is daily enforcing policies that frustrate the people, these agents of the divine voice speak once in a lengthy while. Reading their lips, they are trained to conduct masses and not called to speak for the masses.

There is an urgent need for pulpits mounted on the high hills of this country with a corrective voice as their daily mandate. The curse is that present-day priests are not able to rise from the waters of their denominational baptism. They are unilingual and only speak in denominational accents. Denominationally-restricted prophets are short-sighted and cannot find their way to the Universal Church. They confuse their denomination for the ultimate institution. Their evangelisation is market-minded and therefore driven by the thinking that increased numbers mean more money which makes their congregation more competitive, better positioned and better regarded among the sea of churches. That is why politicians always carry money to the church upon which the pastor prays for them and the congregation claps loudly for them. Such empire thinking stands in the way of prophetic imagination.

Politicians are first vote-hunters before they are faith keepers. They are liberal in that they will go where votes are.

To the politician, the church is one among many suitors to pursue. Their persistent visits are not an acclamation of the church’s mission but an interaction with a low-lying fruit they would not want to miss out on! Such are the ‘spiritics’ of politics.