State regulation of religion necessary

The state cannot blind itself to the reality of religious abuse in this country.

Ours has long become a country where anything that comes in God’s name is never subjected to scrutiny.

And whenever questions and concerns get raised relating to religious issues, men and women of the cloth easily take umbrage.

The recent religious delegation to State House to lobby President Uhuru Kenyatta to shelve proposed regulation of religious activities is certainly part of that reaction.

The fact that the state has come to embrace religion to the point where it is unable to disentangle itself from the shackles of the bad, the negative and even the obnoxious in the name of religion is not in doubt.

As the guardian of the common good, the state should independently scrutinize all religious activities and decide which pass as acceptable divine actions and those that are in breach of religious tenets.

Lobbying the state to withdraw the proposed regulation of religious activities is tantamount to blackmailing the government to allow the church have its way on matters that it has no power or capacity to control in the name of self-regulation.

In a country where religion has also become a serious secular occupation and a source of income for so many people, it can no longer be left to self regulation Lest I be misunderstood, there are genuine churches that engage in divine as well as secular activities that have had a profound bearing on shaping the country’s profile as a God fearing nation.

But let us face it. We have all been witness to acts of religious betrayal by people in our midst who profess to be servants of the Lord. Ordinary folks have and continue to be robbed in daylight in the name of planting divine seeds and getting molested and misguided by people who daily prey on them in God’s name.

Kenyans watch live on television screens as characters with dubious religious credentials force, push, shove and wrestle worshippers to the ground in the name of exorcising demons.

For a long time, the state has cohabited with the church to a point where it has become difficult to divorce one from the other. When it has suited it, the church has gone to the state to seek and secure favours. That is why the church has been listed as one of the institutions involved in illegal acquisition of land.

It is also for the same reasons that the state has, over the years, given special attention to all manner of pilgrim preachers and evangelists from all corners of the world with many of them easily gaining access to state house.

When it suits them, politicians have equally come out to join specially organized crusades ostensibly to pray for the state. In times of national calamity and misfortune it has been invitingly tempting for the state to mobilize such prayers and join ranks with all manner of individuals to seek divine intervention.

That is why politicians of different religious faith will have no qualms dawning Islamic regalia when they make political forays in Muslim dominated counties of Coast and North- Eastern regions or joining influential church leaders in times of political campaigns in search of secular leadership.

But what has perhaps made the most regaling drama on the pulpit is the often make believe acts of exorcising demons from worshippers.

Men and women have unashamedly been pushed and knocked down by men of ‘’God’’ and forced to engage in sorrowful gymnastics in what has often been choreographed displays aimed at luring more worshippers. Some church leaders have often loaded on worshippers by forcing them to carry them to the pulpit or even preach atop their backs.

It has also long become obvious that earthly wealth is central to the proliferation of Christian religious sects in the country. Indeed, in Kenya today, religion is a multi-billion industry with most successful evangelists living in utter opulence yet it continues to resist attempts to introduce regulation that seek to introduce basic accountability for their activities and the sources of their vast wealth.

God forgive me for engaging in this blasphemy, but I feel it’s time we faced this realities and dealt with this challenge of managing religion because shelving it, as we have done, does not only delay it but worsens an already bad situation.

The very fact that the state moved to draft regulations to guide religious activities is evidence of its discomfort with the current situation.

And bowing to religious pressure to shelve the proposals is admission of failure on the part of the state to confront this reality of religious brinkmanship.