If there is one place that is driven by newness it is the market place. Companies are always launching new products and if not new products, they are re-launching old ones. We are bombarded with https://cdn.standardmedia.co.ke/images of newness all the time on television, newspapers, radio and on the web. Companies do a lot to persuade us that even their old products are somehow new and superior to previous versions. The more I consume the https://cdn.standardmedia.co.ke/images of new product launches, the more I ask myself: how much do we invest in renewing our people? How much does our community invest in creating women and men of improved character?
Softie, a film on photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi, captures the sad reality where Kenyans expect money from political aspirants as part of the luring process. They describe him as a good man without money. Some sing praises of other competitors who always give them money. Good policies and good heartedness are not forefront qualities in the winning equation. All that bad people need is big money. The money then becomes the sustainer of evil and not a tool for good. How can people unlearn this?
I recall from my high school Geography class a concept called river rejuvenation. When a river is streaming down the Aberdares, Mount Kenya or the Mau it will usually carry clean water with hardly any dirt. It is young and therefore bubbly as it gallops fast down the mountain. As it flows on, it is joined by other streams – tributaries –making it larger. As it is joined by other rivers, the size slows it down. The increase in the volume of water makes it lazy and the water gets dirtier because of the soil and other debris the river has harvested as it heads to the ocean.
But this ageing river can get a new life. How? If on its path it meets a sudden sharp change in ground level with a lengthy fall the result is a waterfall. The waterfall makes the ageing monotonous river a spectacular site. People travel from far to see not the lazy river upstream, but the long, misty waterfall. Because the massive volume of water drops with a mighty force, upon hitting the bottom it automatically gains speed, making the river bubbly and vibrant again. The waterfall makes the old river young again.
Similar is the hope spirituality brings to a people. God promises renewal to meaningless and messed up lives. But truth be told, newness is often disorienting and even threatening, especially because it uproots you from familiar ground and gives you a new mission. Renewal sometimes is so radical that it even drops your earlier name – you are no longer just Size 8 but Size 8 Reborn.
The story of Size 8 Reborn is very inspiring. From a pit of self-confessed vice to the pulpit of Good News. Rev Linnet Munyali Muraya of the Mateke fame has been public about her reformation story. Before her transformation, she thrived as the queen of secular music. She was as secular as secular can get and pushed the limits to unveil thicker layers of the night. But a widely publicised encounter with God made her life take a sharp turn towards the light. Her conversion experience coded in her Mateke song implies an aggressive disengagement with a life of sin, which results in “uhuru” – an experience of freedom. Some may argue about the “Mateke” theology but it is hard to argue about her vivid transformation. God is still radically changing people!
This is a story you would best read from the Gospel narratives. Some may have wanted to lock her in the life of night. But light has converting power too! Some may have wanted a lukewarm transformation where she can play hot and cold. But light is radical too! Her transformation is a sharp critique of vice-driven lives. Many will be following her priestly career in search of slip ups. But let us give her a chance.
Rev Linnet Muraya is a loud exhibit of the potency of the church and spirituality. This experience of radical transformation needs to be expanded beyond personal transformation and find application in the larger cultural reforms of the community. This potency is universally applicable even in the realm of politics where both politicians and citizens need a thorough transformation. Prodigal politicians need to come to their senses and embrace a form of politics in which deception is unnecessary. Citizens too need a radical perspective where principle-based voting paralyses voter bribery. Some may preach that such radical transformation is not possible, hoping to clip radical ambitions. But a good look at divine interventions affirms the validity of dreaming the impossible dream. If only the church and its priests could find a consistent way of invoking the power in the truth that “nothing is impossible with God”!
Walking around our neighborhood recently, I passed by a construction site where a building was being pulled down to make way for a new construction. Heavy machinery was tearing the old house down and what caught my eye was a sign at the construction gate that said “demolition for progress”. Sometimes soft adjustments will not move us – only radical changes will shift us. Where it takes radical only radical will do. There are times change comes by giving a house a new colour. But sometimes it comes by demolishing it and building up a whole new structure. Let us not paint what we are meant to demolish.