When Benny Hinn affirmed government as God-ordained, he lost the people

President William Ruto greets televangelist Benny Hinn during the latter's crusade at Nyao Stadium. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Shakahola heightened the suspicion of spiritual practices in Kenya. Kenyans have become theologically bolder.

The horrors awakened a sense of critique in Christians who were otherwise very trusting when it came to priestly instructions. Today, a big name and a slaying reputation are not enough. Kenyans have developed 'push' resistance. They stand their ground and are no 'pushovers'.

This said, Kenyans still fill stadiums to experience miracle-performing pastors. Overflowing stadiums tell of aspects of life that spirituality promises to cure. This yearning should tell priests that their services are still in high demand and that they should sanitise their craft.  

Benny Hinn was a beneficiary of an overflowing stadium. Skeptics may have hoped for a thinner attendance but it was just the opposite – bursting! For people who have listed lower attendance of crusades as one of the post-Shakahola effects, overflowing stadiums such as at the Benny Hinn crusade sent them back to the analysis desk.

Catholics and mainstreamers may have been in the congregation but their leaders were not on the dais. Hinn’s visit lay bare the divide in the contemporary Kenyan church. The split is both political and theological. The series of meetings were organised by the 'memorandum church' – the church that campaigns for the president and his crew. The rest of the church is considered critical of the government and therefore unworthy of involvement in such power-harvesting moments.

A question: Looking at the state of the nation, if Kenya were to import a type of spirituality, which one would best serve our present situation - the Pastor Benny Hinn kind or the Rev. Martin Luther King one? Hinn was 'imported' by an initiative steered by the First Lady, thus making him a State guest. Therein lies a tyre-puncturing pothole.

When a prophet is invited by a government, there is a latent expectation that he will assist the ruling system with a jolt of spiritual power that yields a political kick. As an imported prophet, Hinn’s State hospitality is pitched in a way to earn a favourable prophecy. To avoid such for-hire moral traps, a prophet is best when free.

Televangelist Benny Hinn leads faithful in praise and worship at Nyayo Stadium on February 24, 2024. [David Gichuru, Standard]

In their independence, they discern more authentically as God-sent agents and not State guests. The hosting overkill pressurises a reciprocity in which prophetic pronouncements are akin to a vote of thanks.

Protest is the sting of the priest. A priest who has lost his sting is paralysed – and is a number that does not count. Stingless clergy will not be spared from the sting of the king who, upon feeding them, will deploy them not for the Lord’s work this time but for the king’s work – especially image propping and voter mobilisation.

Prophet Elijah had no appetite for General Naaman’s gold. Prophet Nathan was not intimidated by the king’s sword or crown. All they cared about was delivering the message. Nathan called the king a sinner – and the king felt seen! When a king knows they are in sin and the prophet calls them righteous, the king feels unseen, covered, or lied to.

Pastors who are impressed by power will have a tongue to pray for the president but are tongue-tied when it comes to addressing him. The president addresses them instead. Their speechlessness before the king earns them low regard.

A true priest must have a perceptiveness that makes the president feel known even to a level of discomfort. A guessing priest has no standing and the best role they can get is a chorus leader. Authentic priestly power helps the king and also powerfully opposes him. This makes the most valuable priest also the most unpopular. In the zone of political power, a priest is primarily a protestor. But a high appetite for the food at the king's table ends up with bland priests around the table, collaborators who trade their sting for a bowl of soup. Unlike Elijah who rejected sacks of gold, such expect it – even demand it.

In one of Hinn’s meetings, the president told of how, at a conference in America, he received a divine message foretelling his presidency. From a spiritual angle, this expression is significant. It connotes that he is first a president of divine appointment before he is president by popular vote. Votes are just aligned to God’s will.

Divine appointment accounts for special happenings in his life, like the rare invitation for a state visit to the US. He seized a prophetic tone for a moment as he proclaimed that Kenya would become a lending nation. He proclaimed that just as revelation happened to him in America, special revelations would happen on Kenyan soil through the American preacher. Hinn went into full-swing affirmation of a God-ordained presidency in whose season the heavens will remain open.

A section of the crowd that graced Benny Hinn's crusade at Nyayo Stadium on February 25, 2024. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

A divinely appointed king can choose to go rogue, after all, 'mta do'? The king can also decide to humbly but passionately do the Lord’s work by loving the people and having their wellbeing at heart. A divinely appointed king can also choose to turn the appointment into a personal project driven by a selfish agenda. 

When Hinn affirmed the government as God-ordained, he immediately lost the people. The masses could no longer hear him. Instead of instilling confidence, the affirmation stirred helplessness. Kenyans will tell you the government is critically sick. Kenyans wanted him to be pro-people. To praise the State was to abandon the people. Just before he came on to speak, Hinn had to change into a white suit at the direction of the organising pastors. He should have come on with sackcloth – the attire of a weeping prophet and wail over a sinful nation. This way, the parable of the wardrobe change would have made sense.

Hinn highlighted that he was not the Benny of yesteryear – that he had been changed through a deeper engagement with the scriptures as well as happenings in his personal story. This was a handshake moment with Kenyans because Kenyans have changed too.

They expect an expanded array of miracles. To Kenyans today, healing means dismantling corrupt systems that mock people who are weeping over the shredded state of their payslips. They expect an altar call that will multiply the number of Okiyas in our midst so that the army of Omtatahs is vast and taking territory.

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