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Six million reasons why the church must help deliver credible election

By Edward Buri | October 3rd 2021

The recent wrestling back of the altar by the church from the capture of the politician is indeed sober, bold and prophetic. Though the act has been celebrated and acclaimed, the church should be careful not to be drunk with the inertia of victorious feelings. That the blinding happened in the first place spells the regaining more as an act of repentance than conquest. It is more a sigh of relief than a sign of relieve. The church must beware that politicians are schemers and capable of imagining comeback avenues. They may retreat now to raid later.

Taking back the altar should mark a beginning, not an end. The people’s appetite has been whetted as they await what the altar serves next. The church-kitchen should not disappoint. The zeal for the house of the Lord is directly connected to the zeal for God’s plan for the people. That the church by God’s own design is a ‘house of prayer’ means that it is simultaneously a house where prayers are answered. This makes it a house of freedom.

The pulpit is not restored simply to save the image of the institutional church. Image is nothing if it is not reflected in improvement of Wanjiku’s reality. The potency of an altar is directly proportional to the empowerment of the people it serves. It must therefore speak to power with power. 

Give us the ballot

Martin Luther King’s 1957 speech Give us the Ballot is a must-read by every Christian leader. The speech puts the church at the centre of proclaiming the power of the vote as a key to improved living. It says in part: “Give us the ballot, and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill and send to the sacred halls of Congress men who will not sign a ‘Southern Manifesto’ because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.”

The speech was delivered amidst shouts of ‘Hallelujah!’ and ‘Amen!’ As a champion of justice, the church cannot take a position on the fringes. That is not where her master places her.

The political alphabet of the church in Kenya suffers few letters. The consequence is hesitance and intermittency. Though its narratives are sometimes pointed and sharp, they are disjointed and with a low generation of new ideas. Innovation in political involvement is scattered.  The question of ‘how far is too far’ delays the pronouncement of ‘enough is enough!’

But to the extent that the church is a Calvary-manufactured agent of salvation, caution is not faithfulness. This truth should awaken the essence of the church as the dictionary of freedom vocabulary. She is tasked to run the race, not walk it. The possibilities packed in the realisation of ‘Your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ should drive the church right in the middle of emancipation street. 

God is free to use any institution to deliver the divine plan. This should prompt the church to vacate a monopoly stance and actively partner with other formations of goodwill. The church may have said no to politicians mounting her pulpits, but she should consider saying yes to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) setting up in her premises.

Divine call

That the IEBC has intentionally reached out to the church as a partner in delivering a credible election should not evoke a sense of indispensability. Instead, it is a divine call for the church to play its part in putting a ballot in the hands of six million new voters.  

These six million young Kenyans are not only potential voters but a possible power to effect a long craved for transfiguration. Six million is not only a swing vote but can also serve as salve to heal a sin-sick Kenya. To veteran politicians, this number excites just as much as it scares. The six million would draw even more attention if the church targets it with a converting message. This possibility is an invitation for the church to put on her thinking cap.

A shallow, passionless and old rhetoric will only serve to expose a non-creative church. The old message of ‘do not be used by the politicians’ is unattractive given its negative, undermining undertones. A sharpened empowering voice for young people is inevitable. This will take discernment and research. Young people would rather hear the positivity of their status as prime change carriers. Churches with a well-rooted youth ministry stand a good chance to crack the six million code.

Distinctive message

In Things Fall Apart, Unoka’s skillful flute was unmistakable as it rose distinctly as the village band played. All lessons the church has learnt in past elections must come together to unveil a voice distinctive enough to be picked out by the six million new arrivals.

Political persuasion has parallels with spiritual conversion. In their messaging, church leaders should acknowledge that planting persuasion in their followers takes toiling. General passionless commentaries will not do. We are in an intense season and only intense voices will do.

Having a converting message means wooing voters, which inevitably positions the church as a competitor. As an influential actor, the church must be ready for her ideas to be challenged by politicians who would not want the priest–the one who said ‘No!’ to their speaking in churches –to win the day. Literally, it is a case of sheep among wolves. Not even the mystical, shiny and multicoloured religious garb will insulate the church from vicious critique. Just as its Christ was called evil, the church should not expect saintly treatment. To come clear and guide the electorate is a risk. But to take that risk is to love the people.

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