Why Runyenjes MP Eric Muchangi will never swear on the Bible
As the National Assembly convened on September 8 for members to be sworn in, it was not lost on keen observers that Runyenjes MP Eric Muchangi did not lift the Bible as he took his oath.
Not that it was significant, as the law gave him three options – to lift up the Koran, the Bible or simply his hand – but it was odd.
Odd in that Mr Muchangi is a Christian of the Akúrinú faith who goes about his life wearing a white (the colour varies in different doctrines of the Akúrinú faith) headgear. For this, he has been christened Karemba (in the Gikuyu language, the headgear is called kiremba and karemba is its smaller version), a name derived from the MP’s young age.
He is the only Múkúrinú in Parliament. He was born in 1984 and he won a second term with 80 percent of the votes cast in the August 9 elections.
In his Christian faith, the Bible is the centre of reference on all issues and it bonds all who subscribe to it to cherish and revere it in exercising loyalty to the Holy Trinity and the belief in life after death.
That is why Mr Muchangi being seen on national TV and in the House boycotting the Bible in his swearing-in was bound to raise eyebrows, especially among Mt Kenya residents who subscribe to the holy Bible's doctrines.
"It is nothing and it should not worry you. This is the second time that I was avoiding swearing on the Bible during a swearing-in ceremony. Even in 2017, when I was first elected, I did not use the Bible to be sworn in. I cannot and I will never," he told Inooro TV on Thursday.
He said he grew up in a family where his mother warned him to never use the Bible or any other object to swear.
"My mother, may she rest in peace, told me that swearing should be a matter of self-belief – that if I expressed a yes stand or a no without swearing, I should be able to live per my decision and conviction using my heart …," he said.
Mr Muchangi said he loves and believes in God and referred those raising eyebrows on his Bible boycott to James 5:12: "But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment".
Mathew 5:34 also reads "but I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne".
The only disconnect in Mr Muchangi's demeanour, pundits say, is that while his declared stance on oaths bars him partaking in them, he went ahead and took his parliamentary one.
"It is interesting that he says that the Bible condemns taking an oath,” said Pastor Simon Nduati of New Revival Church in Kangema.
“But because it is the law that all elected and nominated leaders take the oath of office, Mr Muchangi suspended his faith to first fulfil the demand of the law of man but insists that his God frowns upon the same – it is an interesting clash."
The parliamentary oath reads: "I ... having been elected a member of the Senate/National Assembly do swear (in the name of the Almighty God) (solemnly affirm) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the People and the Republic of Kenya."
"That I will obey, respect, uphold, preserve, protect and defend this Constitution of the Republic of Kenya; and that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge the duties of a member of Parliament. (So help me God)".
Pastor Nduati argued that fearing taking solemn vows on the Bible is a good safety measure to escape God's wrath if the swearer fails to fulfil the vows to the letter.
But Mr Muchangi said participating in the parliamentary procedure did not put him in conflict with his faith, arguing that "by raising up my hand to swear, I acknowledged my presence and commitment but did not invoke the powerful and holy Bible in the exercise".
Mr Muchangi has a bachelor’s degree in education arts from Kenyatta University and a master of arts in public administration from Mt Kenya University.
He first vied for the Runyenjes parliamentary seat in 2013, losing to Cecily Mbarire (now Embu County governor). He vied again in 2017 under Jubilee and won with 59,447 votes against his closest competitor’s 5,184. In that election, Ms Mbarire contested the governor’s position but lost to Martin Wambora.
In this year's election, he was at it again under UDA, winning a second term with 50,519 votes against his closest competitor Steve Munene Simba of The Service Party who got 11,000 votes.
The Akúrinú community in Embu County celebrates him as "our son who put us in the national and global limelight".
"We have prayed for this man and God has answered our prayers," said Rev Salesio Rutere, the bishop of Holy Litany God Healing Church.
He said he approved the MP’s "wisdom in avoiding swearing with the Bible".