When faith kills: From church farm to the deathly graveyard

A victim of the Shakahola cult being rescued by the Kenya Red Cross society in Shakahola forest ,Kilifi. [Marion Kith, Standard]

Shakahola survivors will still seek to die if flawed doctrine is not reversed

The devil is alive and well. He masquerades as an angel of light - even dresses in impeccable white. Just like a lizard finds its way into the palace, demons find their way into church.

Theirs is only a mission of death. They kill people -literally. They also kill the church by corroding its reputation.  The choir of demons is heard as mockers of God and haters of the Church toast to the soiling of Jesus and his people. Scriptures do tell of false preachers. Now we know that they do evolve into devilish versions.  False teachers offer deviant doctrines of living. But who prescribes ways of dying? Devilish teachers do. 

The dying in Shakahola are not martyrs. They are not heroes of faith. They are victims of false faith. Matyrdom involves an externally sourced execution specifically because of the faith. But when it is self-driven, it is something else. Shakahola deaths are not suicides either. The deaths are based more on a spiritual persuasion and less on life frustration. Because of the inherent faith motivation, the deaths can be described as spiritually assisted deaths.  Faith-based euthanasia. That it is a form of assisted death makes it illegal from the start.  This faith-ignited euthanasia is incited by the pastor.  It is twisted because the pastor wants disciples to die. While the benefit of dying is described as “meeting Jesus,” the benefit to the pastor is unclear. But we can speculate and say that only a very dark benefit can come from strategized deaths.  

Another hidden part is the pastor’s capacity to persuade his followers to choose death. Again, a dark element is present to achieve this conviction.  Where evil is, the devil must be. Since the devil is not of the human realm, earthly responsibility lies with the dying deceived and the deceiving pastor.  The reality of the die lie is evidenced in the indignified disposal of the dead.  What should be triumphant disciples are thrust into shallow and mass graves. Shouldn’t spiritual “victors” who have fasted themselves to death in the name of the Lord be buried jubilantly? Burying them like dogs tells of a resident evil from the start.

The prosperity gospel has been on the chopping board for a while.  It can now sigh with relief with claims that at least  its victims are still alive – only broke! Makenzism - a form of extreme extrabiblical asceticism – takes both wealth and breath. It impoverishes and then kills. It is not merely giving up a lifestyle so as to serve God but giving up yourself so as to meet God. It is not about being a living sacrifice – you need to be a dead one, literally. It is not just following Jesus but bringing forward the meeting by induced death - dying to meet Jesus – literally.

Shokahola is a concoction of doctrinal errors. When devotion becomes extreme, cultism is inevitable.  Jesus does not require one to take their lives to meet him.  He will come for His own in His time. What’s the Shokahola hurry? Even those who die do not meet Jesus immediately. There is a chronology of events before the heaven experience. God does not glorify death. He died so that those who believe can live.

Shepherds take care of their flock to the end – without accelerating their death.  Though this world is filled with trials, God does not urge people to “get out!” He assures them of His presence. There is abundance on earth even as a glorious future is awaited.   Practices of faith – such as fasting – are not organized to kill you but to lift up. The fruit of the labour of a sober prophet is joy, peace, hope and improved life. If we assess  Pastor Mckenzie by his fruit, the exhumed corpses of his followers speak openly of a man on the devil’s payroll.  Still, if he really was sincere about his doctrine, he would have led the way. But as it is now, as followers are dying, their leader is planning his earthly future!

If the Shakahola horror had not been busted, it would have easily turned into a haunted death farm, known bodies of people “planted” in its soils. The Government has a duty and a right to protect its people from all kinds of harm, including false teachers.  The key responses the government is making are rescuing the living, prosecuting the guilty and proposing regulation for the church. Shokahola is evidence of a church that has failed to self-regulate. If this function was up and running, the dead would be alive.

Self regulation is complicated by the intensity of denominational competition. Some formations are dominant and smaller churches feel demeaned and rebel against domination. Some churches are older others newer. The newer ones feel they will be prevailed over by the older ones. Doctrinal differences also make churches perceive each other as spiritually deficient, with some marked as canal and spiritually famished. This internal rivalry is a stubborn barrier that makes self-regulation a battle of prides.

Compounding this is the possibility of government regulation. Some church leaders see this as a highway for haters of the church to effect systemic persecution. But there is no brighter green light than the shock and horror of Shakahola. With the church’s self-regulation dysfunctional, the government should not wait for another massacre to invoke regulation. 

This comes at a time when the current government is openly Christian with a heavy leaning towards the charismatic movement. Regulation is likely to generate cries of betrayal since the charismatics see themselves as having played a significant prayer role in aiding the present administration into power. Political consequences are inevitable. It is a delicate balancing act but action cannot be avoided. There comes a time when loyalty is to the right thing even if allies cry betrayal. 

On the prosecutions, public opinion will be split between those who see the horror pastors as criminals and those who understand the prosecution as Christianity on trial.  Some church clusters will get jittery and fearful that they may be caught in the melee. Overall, the prosecution casts a dull shadow on the church as unable to handle its internally generated mess. This shrinks the respect of the church as a transcendent entity to the delight of those who see the church as hypocritical.   

The law is the exorcist of the government. It applies external measures to restrict, jail and ban to effect reformation. But a more express “interior ministry” is required to cast out the Shokahola demons. The Makenzi victims will not be rescued by bread alone. The resistance of delirious dying followers points to a need for another rescue – a doctrinal rescue. Who will rescue them from the false convictions? Who will flash out the toxins that have poisoned their faith?

Rescued at a time when they were just about to receive their “breakthrough,” they see the rescuers as interrupters from Satan preventing them from seeing Jesus. The church needs to be on the frontline of this operation. Para-church organisations are well poised at this time because they are perceived as neutral and not exploiting the opportunity to “steal” members. Without doctrinal reversals, the rescued may return to life but remain desirous of death.