Whenever I tune in to Sunday evening TV news, chances are there will be a blaring story headlined from a church. Usually it's not about an uplifting sermon, or acts of charity and faith. Expect a politician politicking from the pulpit and attacking his rivals with angry words.
These days the Church has hardly any true priests or pastors. What we have are political brokers and merchants. Hypocrites, all of them. Totally fixated on power, money and worldly riches. They have made religion to be no longer about God, but a business.
If Jesus were to reappear today, he would do exactly what he did when he stormed the temple in Jerusalem and chased away the money changers plying their trade in the holy sanctuary. ("My house shall be a house of prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves" - Matthew 21:13).
Sunday church services have become no different from political rallies. Politicians take control without shame or pretense, right inside the sacred space of the Church. With the clergy sitting attentively in the background, nodding in a conniving way, the politicos push their agendas and promote their political parties brazenly. With the ban on political rallies in place because of Covid-19, the churches became the most-sought-after venues for the politicians to sell themselves.
Money is the quid pro quo
The fact that these politicians will hop from one, two, even three different religious services on any particular Sunday tells you their timetable is not primarily about worship.
Money is the quid pro quo the cunning clergy extract for handing away their churches and pulpits to the politicians. By the way have you noticed the odd spike in church fundraisers since Covid hit? You think it's a coincidence? It's a ploy to ensnare a certain wing of the political class that is most consumed with these "worship"-cum-fundraisers?
And did you notice the hysteria from the churchmen (especially the Evangelicals) back when the government decreed a Covid lockdown that shut down church services for a spell?
This inevitably closed the cash taps. Church offertories dried up. Big public fundraisers could not be held. This was an intolerable time for the churches. It didn't matter that they had the option of zooming virtual worship services to their online congregants.
Money is dear to these Holy Joes of the Church. They don't give a hoot about it's source. It could be what we colloquially call "wash-wash" money. Yet the clergy have shown a complete lack of concern that the millions they are bought off with by various politicians could be corrupt loot being laundered in God's name.
God goes to meet Mammon
They probably suspect this, but their greed gets the better of them. And when their politician-benefactors take too long to visit their church shrines, they get impatient and organise pilgrimages to their official homes in Nairobi. You see, the dynamic has changed. God now goes to meet Mammon. Not the other way round.
It is against this background that Anglican Archbishop Jackson Sapit issued his brave directive against politicians bringing their politics into his church. It was the noblest of gestures. God bless him.
The Catholic Church followed suit with an edict signed off by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. The National Council of Churches of Kenya, representing the mainstream Protestant denominations, chimed in too.
Still my question is, why did they wait so long as their churches were being desecrated? Aren't they the same folk who fed and nourished this Beast, until it ran out of control? In fact the Catholic Church has long had a no-politics-in-church policy in their rule book. However, indisciplined priests in the parishes have routinely been flouting the guideline. Some bishops, too.
I was astonished to watch a recent video clip that went viral of a Catholic bishop from a Mt Kenya-area diocese gushing from his pulpit about a certain presidential candidate in a manner that was more reverential than he would reserve for the Pope -– or perhaps Christ himself. I wondered if that particular bishop got reprimanded by the Catholic Church hierarchy.
Not all the mainstream churches are ready to abide with the new ethic. The Methodists flatly refused to impose any restrictions on politicians. Their presiding bishop, Joseph Ntombura, gave a twisted explanation.
Political campaigns in church
He argued that banning politicians from addressing worshippers was tantamount to stopping them from participating in church services. What? Since when did conducting political campaigns in church become synonymous with worship? Later, the bishop claimed to have been misquoted, saying that what he meant was that politics was a "science of distribution." Please...anybody who can make sense of that? Frankly I couldn't.
I am sure there will be even less agreement among the Evangelical churches, never mind that Pastor David Oginde, representing this Christian wing, released a statement that enjoined itself with the new-found fad of Church leaders of deploring the politicisation of Church ceremonies. The fact of the matter is that the Evangelicals are a motley crew. True, there are the respectable Oginde types. Unfortunately many others fall in a murky zone that is full of charlatans, snake oil salesmen and outright crooks.
Kenya has one of the highest numbers of registered churches in the world. Most are dubious one-man shows. Their practices and preachings compare with voodoo. This is where you find the "kupanda mbegu" and "prosperity" preachers who promise wealth in return for "sadaka". Others hawk fake miracles for cash.
There are enough weirdos in these dark holes to keep Mathari hospital psychiatrists busy for a lifetime. Remember a chap from Bungoma called Wanyonyi who proclaimed himself "Jehovah" and won quite a following? He has since died and, presumably, reunited with Himself. Alas.