How politicians court God in vote hunting

It is my hope that even when battling for votes, let’s place God where He belongs and maintain our place in the Christian faith. [File, Standard]

A casual visitor to Kenya during this electioneering period would easily be convinced that God is a voter and is affiliated to a political party. He is carried to political rallies and to churches where politicians use Him the way they want.

So that, today, there is a widespread misrepresentation, distortion and misuse of religion to exploit the sentiments of the people to capture political space and perhaps stir up ethnic hatred while using God as a legitimate weapon of war. Lest we forget, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru once campaigned with a credo that she was winning Starehe for Jesus.

So far we have seen how political class are cleverly able to brand parties that are godly and those that are ungodly. ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio is increasingly being considered as secular and Mr Odinga himself depicted as mganga despite his constant talks of "tunaenda Kanani" (we are going to Canaan). On the hand, Deputy President William Ruto's Kenya Kwanza is portrayed as sacred. Dr Ruto himself is placed at the centre of a spiritual sanctum.  This toxic mix of religion and politics poses a challenge to our pluralistic society and inclusive democracy.

I believe the failure of the State in discharging its obligation of controlling the mushrooming religious sects has largely contributed to the misuse of religion by politicians as a vote hunting device, leading to excessive ethnic and sectional divisions and lack of trust among Kenyans, various religious groups and their adherents.

During the Mungiki crackdown some years ago, a UN report indicated most of these members were turning into and masquerading as Christians to avoid police arrest. On the other hand, when President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto came back after the hearing of their cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC), they planned a series of national prayer rallies across the country to cleanse and sanctify their names while using biblical imagery and metaphors.

A stellar example of how we use and misuse God can be found in Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria's homecoming and thanksgiving ceremony held last month, which he turned into a political rally. Having spent months in hospital and crying for God’s mercy, appealing to the whole country for prayers and receiving goodwill visitors locally and abroad, he came back healed but spitting fire and spewing ungodly things to his political opponents and making the matter worse for those who had visited and prayed for him while in hospital.  

It is my hope that even when battling for votes, let’s place God where He belongs and maintain our place in the Christian faith – a God-hungry Kenya, where churches provide the answers to spiritual and social needs. Where Christ is the answer, where preachers are forthright and know neither fear nor respect of men; a country where worship is lively and vibrant; where Kenyans are constantly aware of their dependence on God – and God’s laws –regarding their personal behaviour; where public meetings normally begin and end with prayers.

Dr Chacha teaches at Laikipia University.