An interesting debate has broken out over President William Ruto hosting a Christian prayer service at State House on Sunday. The service, for some critics, served as confirmation that the Ruto State House is falling capture to religious zealotry, which might be worrying in the secular state that the Republic of Kenya is.
The Sunday service followed a previous event soon after the President took office, when First Lady Rachel Ruto received delegations of preachers from various African countries, including the variety that call themselves “prophets”.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with the President and the First Lady professing and proclaiming their faith. They have done so all along, and freedom of worship did not end for them once they moved into State House.
Indeed, if President Ruto feels that State House and Office of the President at Harambee House need cleansing of malevolent spirits the previous occupant may have left behind, so be it—if that is what will give him the comfort to embark on the arduous task of rescuing the country from the Jubilee administration’s mess.
Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua also took the precaution of having preachers around when he moved into his new office last week. If he also feels the Office of the DP at Harambee House Annex and official residence on Karen Road similarly need cleansing of whatever the previous tenant may have left, that is within his right.
This country might need prayers if it is to turn the corner and embark on the road to prosperity, development and justice for all.
If we all are to be cured of the national malaise of sloth, greed, corruption, tribalism and reckless disregard for each other and for our surroundings and environment, prayers will be welcome for those of us who do not believe we can achieve anything on our own resolve.
The religion that both Dr Ruto and Mr Gachagua profess is all about honesty, piety, sacrifice, humility and modesty. It is about sharing, caring for one another, surrendering what we have to those more in need, putting service to society above self, living modestly and not succumbing to the lure of wealth and power.
If those are the principles that will lift this country from the morass and create a new society of hope and opportunity, then prayers at State House or anywhere else are more than welcome.
That, however, comes with a big caveat. The President must take a close look at the preachers now congregating around him and determine whether they are of the calibre to help him deliver Kenya to the Promised Land.
Kenya has always had religious leaders who sided with the common man, with the ‘hustlers’, against dictatorship of the mighty and powerful. Clergymen like Timothy Njoya, Henry Okullu, Alexander Muge and Ndingi mwana a’ Nzeki bravely sided with the people against dictatorship, often at great personal cost.
They were instrumental in the fight against the repressive one-party Kanu regime and we all still owe them a big debt of gratitude for delivering us from evil and giving us all the freedoms we enjoy.
These include not just freedom of conscience, assembly, expression and association but also to elect our leaders, from Member of the County Assembly all the way up to the President.
I’ve searched and searched and searched but failed to spot the genuine Men and Women of God at the State House congregations. I don’t see crusaders for freedom and justice at those assemblies but only those who minister to the egos of the mighty and powerful, extracting their rewards right here on earth.
Many of those Holy Roller preachers specialise in the ‘Prosperity Gospel’, showing off their limousines, jewelry, designer attire and gilded palaces, while condemning the majority of their parishioners to eternal poverty.
They specialise in taking from the poor to fund their extravagant lifestyles.
Even as he prays, the President must be wary. He should keep one eye open for preachers who lie to him that his election was anointment from God; which could lead to dangerous delusions that he answers to a power higher than the voters who put him in office.
We live in a world where, all too often, leaders use religion as camouflage for all that is wrong. President Ruto must be cautious of preachers who will be out to divert him from the Hustler agenda and try to create for their own selfish ends a regime far removed from the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the common man.
[email protected]; www.gaitho.co.ke. @MachariaGaitho