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Politicians must not abuse courtesy offered by Church

By David Oginde | September 5th 2021

The matter about politicians using church pulpits as campaign platforms has generated much debate recently.

Church leaders have especially borne the brunt of accusations – for apparently ceding their sacred altars to politicians. We have likewise been blamed for our apparent lack of control during funerals, allowing politicians to run everybody roughshod. To some extent, we as religious leaders – especially Church leaders – must bear the weight of this cross. We could have done and can do better.

Yet, the reality is that with political gatherings banned and many social events restricted, the only two major public platforms available for “free speech” are church services and funeral ceremonies. Politicians being who they are, have sought to exploit these to maximum benefit. With 2022 elections fast approaching, political leaders are crisscrossing the nation, finding any reason for attending Sunday services and funerals.

The major culprits are those eyeing the presidency. Obviously, they have the herculean task of endearing themselves to Kenyans. With no opportunity to organise their own rallies, these brethren seem to have tasked their orderlies to a consistent perusal of the obituary pages of the newspapers to mine data on where the next funeral or burial service might be. What is sad is that attendance of such funeral services, often have nothing to do with the departed or the bereaved.

Once on site, the pronouncements and discussions by politicians are often not only uncomforting to the bereaved and toxic to the audience, but irrelevant to gathered mourners. Furthermore, because they often come in large entourages, they habitually take turns to speak according to their carefully choreographed protocol. They thus take inordinate amounts of time ranting over their political woes, extending the ceremony beyond allowable time limits as per Covid-19 protocols.

The story is no different in church services. In election seasons, our politicians seem to gain a new sense of spirituality, ensuring they do not miss a church service. It is only that they have no fixed abode and no known Pastor. In fact, in many cases they can attend services in three or four churches a day. These are often carefully planned in advance.

I was recently greatly appalled by a digital poster on social media with pictures of an aspiring MP and his preferred presidential candidate, calling on people to meet them at a particular church on a Sunday. Clearly, the critical factor in this attendance of service is not worship, but an opportunity “to greet the people.”

Once granted the chance, the service is turned into a political rally, often in disregard to the set liturgy for the day. While politicians cannot and should not be barred from attending services, such practices are unacceptable.

In his 24 years as President of Kenya, Daniel arap Moi attended church every Sunday almost without fail. Yet, President Moi rarely spoke in church – and in most cases left without saying anything.

Whenever he was persuaded to speak, he did so outside the church after the service. But even then, he rarely addressed himself to political issues. At one point he even refused to be addressed as “His Excellency” while in church.

It is unfortunate that we have a crop of leaders that have absolutely no respect for the House of God. When they get into a place of worship, they take over and do as they please, with little or no reference to the leaders of the service.

We must point out that such conduct is disrespectful to the gathered congregation, who left their homes for spiritual nourishment but end up being fed with irrelevant political rhetoric.

It is also an abuse of privilege and dishonouring to the Pastor who may have granted you an opportunity to speak. But most importantly, it is absolutely irreverent to the God upon whose altar you stand.

We must remember that every place of worship – whether a crystal cathedral, a mud structure, a canvas tent, or the shade of a tree – is God’s House. He does not take it lightly when it is abused or desecrated by whoever for whatever motive. Let’s beware.

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