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Let religious groups work among themselves to restore sanity

COMMENTARY
By Henry Munene | January 16th 2016
Henry Munene

If there is one thing I would rather be caught dead than trying to do, then passing judgement on other people’s faith would be it. I am a firm believer in freedom of worship and other God-given liberties that our bold 2010 Constitution guarantees. But I am also painfully aware that our people have a creative, if self-defeatist knack for stretching the limits of freedom to serve some very atavistic ends. Take for instance the Church. While we all have a right to be atheists, Christians, Muslims or whatever, we live in dangerous times when fundamentalists of all hues have arrogated themselves the right to either bulldoze and assimilate others into their faiths or hypnotise whole populations with folksy gobbledygook fashioned as faith. I have no problem if an adult decides to worship a tree outside their hut, or to sell land they bought if they smoked something and heard voices saying the world ends tomorrow.

It, however, becomes my business and the business of other conscientious citizens when such adults decide, even before a mental check-up, that they will never take their children to hospital when malaria strikes just because their pastor prohibits it. In that same vein, I take great exception to cases of one man waking up one day and saying he is a deity, even when he suffers obvious foibles and infirmities that dog us hapless humans to the grave. It is what causes the nation endless agony when such a guy leaves a whole generation stranded when they die.

Make no mistake, though. I do not support the proposals by the State Law Office to have pastors get certificates of good conduct from the police. Actually, I have, after many years of holding onto dwindling faith in the police, come to conclude that if you want to streamline any sector, leave the Sh50-hungry cops out of it.

You can quote me on this one, but asking pastors to get a certificate from the police is as good as introducing a bribery angle to an already big problem. Then of course demanding that pastors have certificates when their business is a matter of psychology and faith would only serve to spawn proliferation of phony colleges offering courses in theology, the same way the tender madness bred two-bit colleges offering supplies management and procurement courses, of course with eyes on easy graft money.

The best way to rein in rogue preachers, in my view, would be to ask religious organisations themselves to go to a retreat and come up with proposals on how miracle merchants in their midst should be smoked out.

In that notice, they must be told in no uncertain terms that church organisations must cease being short-cuts for lazy crafty guys to buy city plots through contributions from suffering citizens. It is hopelessly immoral for someone to be gallivanting around town in a fuel guzzler with an engine the size of a chopper’s, when the people fuelling it are scrounging in dump sites for morsels and selling family inheritance to get ‘seed’ money to induce the pastor to pray for them to get a job, husband, wife, children and other things we pray for.

Thus, while we have many men and women of the cloth faithfully preaching the good word, the healthy sapling of religion, with apologies Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, seems to be “concealing within its clutch the moss-backed toad” of conmanship.

The State, on its part, has its own failings and cannot claim any no moral high ground, but we must exorcise the ghost of miracle babies and cash for prayers as a society.

We need to guard against churches being used to launder blood money and draw a line between places of worship and confidence tricksters who prey on mass suffering; selling antidotes to joblessness, lack of spouse, bad blood at the workplace and other ludicrous deals. In a word, freedom of worship should be no meal ticket for those hell-bent on ‘stealing in the name of the Lord’.

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