As we mark Easter, a lot is happening that Jesus would not approve of

Nairobi Archbishop Philip Anyolo gives sacraments to the faithful at Holy Family Basilica during Easter Sunday worship on March 31, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The 2024 Easter Season is a miserable one for the eight billion people on Earth. Things are going wrong almost everywhere as oversize egos overrun common sense. Leaders abuse state and religious offices, terrorise citizens, and still talk of law and order. Arising misery is pronounced in the Horn of Africa, Gaza, Ukraine, and Haiti during this year’s annual religious ritual.

The ritual, about 3200 years old, started in Egypt with one ‘Moses’ causing Egyptian firstborn baby boys to die. Since the spirit of death, around 1200 BCE, ‘passed’ over selected houses, the memories of that ‘saving’ became a Jewish annual religious ritual to remember escape from Egypt. It was later linked to gross injustice involving a religious revolutionary named Jesus, who disrupted the entrenched trading interests of existing religious authorities in a Jerusalem temple.

The injustice was in Governor Pontius Pilate’s failure to uphold what he believed to be right. He was so weak and confused that he washed his hands as he released a criminal, Barnabas, in order to crucify innocent Jesus in the Passover season. Jesus' followers, later called Christians, continued with the Passover ritual but adjusted its stress to be commemorating the crucifixion, called Easter, which took a life of its own for the next 2000 years.

A grand strategist, Jesus had long-term plans and probably anticipated the ongoing misery. He taught using simple language, knew he was upsetting religious authorities, and talked of building a kingdom elsewhere other than on Earth. He instructed his followers always to eat and drink in his memory while waiting for him to come back.

By not specifying when he would return, the expected Jesus' return evolved into a religion hinging on a promise that became an article of Christian faith. This was reinforced regularly through the annual Easter ritual to remember death, resurrection, and Jesus' promise to return. Over time, an assortment of influential people shaped the future of Christianity.

Saul, the persecutor who became Paul, universalised the new faith by removing ethnic and nationalistic restrictions. Constantine, after seeing a cross, helped to define and make Christianity part of the state. Sceptical Aurelia Augustine defended evolving Christianity, explained just war, and insisted on the importance of reason in everything. Max Weber, in his ‘Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism’, justified acquisitiveness as a Christian good.

In the process, Christianity lost its original character and split into various competing entities such as Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Evangelicals. Although they never disagreed on the basic Easter message of death, resurrection, and the Jesus promise of return, they quarreled over which version was more ‘Christian’ than the others and who should be propagating where.

Christianity became a tool of imperialism and cultural destruction outside the West. The number of Western preachers running to ‘evangelise’ Africans rose. In post-colonial times it rose so much that it created friction between Western missionaries and the Africans.

American Evangelist Billy Graham, for instance, was displeased by Kenyan Presbyterian minister John Gatu’s call for a moratorium on Western missionaries in Africa. When it seemed like good business, the number of pastors, bishops, apostles, and prophets skyrocketed to compete for likely converts and earthly ‘prosperity’.

In competing to outshine each other, ‘churches’ lost their purpose, became instruments of earthly political power play, promoted genocide, and increased the amount of global misery. Each camp lines up evangelists, pastors, bishops, apostles, and prophets to invoke God’s favour for, or wrath against, “in the name of Jesus”. Christian ‘leaders’, orthodox or otherwise, make the Easter season miserable; condoning genocide in Gaza, testing new weapons in Eastern Europe, and fueling global underdevelopment through targeted geopolitical disruptions. Would Jesus approve this behaviour?