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Why Nietzsche would likely declare that God is dead in Kenya today

Elias Mokua
 A police officer takes cover after lobbing teargas at protestors during Saba Saba demonstrations in Kisii town. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The ongoing maandamano (demonstrations) provide the sad reality that a country that worships God is degenerating into chaos. Has Moses overstayed up Mount Sinai and left us in the desert all alone? Are we losing faith in God who promised us life, life to the fullest?

The Old Testament story of the Israelites becoming impatient with Moses because he had taken too long to come down from the Mountain resonates well with our situation. The Israelites quickly gathered themselves and made gods since the God of Moses was too far away for their comprehension.

They made idols and worshipped them. When Moses came down with the two tablets in which the 10 commandments were written, he found the people had moved on. They had abandoned their true God and resorted to worshipping idols because that was the only way, so they thought, they would make meaning out of the harsh desert experience they had found themselves in.

Just like in the case of the Israelites, the unfortunate running battles between the police and the citizens in Kenya remind us of the fragility of human life. On the one hand, police are on duty executing commands as given.

On the other hand, are citizens some of whom have, sadly, lost meaning in their lives. They are in a state of self-destruction. In other words, they are deep into nihilism. Nihilism is a state in which one cannot find reasons to live for.

Unlike animals that do not need reasons to live for, human beings need reasons to wake up, work and get back to bed looking forward to the next day. Animals and plants do not commit suicide because they are spared the burden of making sense of why they must live.

Whatever the grievances, one thing we must never lose is to allow or make belief that life is not worthy living. God who gave us life will ensure we have what it takes to live a meaningful life. Even in the darkest hour, we have reason to cling together.

Now, I must be realistic. The cost of living is squeezing people into a tight corner. As the saying goes, if you hear a squirrel squeaking, it has reached the end. It cannot run anymore. But, isn’t this exactly the point at which faith plays a critical role? Isn’t this the moment when reason cannot justify why the police have to clobber demonstrators? Isn’t this the moment when people lose the meaning of life and therefore throw themselves at anything that justifies their perception of meaninglessness in life?

Great scholars have grappled with situations like the one we find ourselves in. If Friedrich Nietzsche were to be in Kenya today, he would confidently say that God is dead. And, as if to echo St Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, Nietzsche argued that God is dead because the people of his time had killed him.

Paul, told his countrymen that “this Jesus whom you had killed” is resurrected. The chaos in Kenya today are a manifestation that Kenyans are behaving like the Israelites or have killed God. We are putting our trust in our capacity to forcefully resolve our social and political differences.

In order to pull together as a people who, desire justice and peace, the philosophy of Soren Kierkegaard that to have faith is in fact to lose one’s mind in order to get to God is relevant. He called this the “Leap of Faith”. Our rationality alone cannot make sense of the chaos we find ourselves. There are no sound justifications to explain why a prosperous country like Kenya descends into meaninglessness. We must make that leap of faith to find answers.

Once we have made that leap of faith, we come back to our senses and realise that those of us who have the power to stop the demonstrations and those of us who have the right to demonstrate share the same destiny. Those of us standing should lift those raising their hands to be lifted out of hopelessness.

Dr Mokua is Executive Director, Loyola Centre for Media and Communication

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