What you need to know:
- We have to look closer home and smoke out the other enemy who is hell-bent on dividing us.
- A church is a place of worship; it is a place where we are reminded that we all belong to one tribe.
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
These words, recorded in the sixth verse of the eighteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mathew, will form a foundation of what I will discuss in this article. Here, I will not dwell on the story of Ananias and his wife Saphira, who dropped dead near the pulpit after lying to Apostle Peter about the correct value they had sold their land.
Here, I will talk of a few of our monsignors who, like Achebe’s Ezeulu in Arrow of God, have become the greatest liars among men by deliberately misreading the holy writ to fuel ethnic hate right from the pulpit. This cabal of wayward preachers has ignored a cardinal verse in Christian verbiage of “love your neighbour as you love thyself”, exhibiting a great lack of spiritual spine, stinking poverty of thought, and hatred for others. We have blamed the political class for some time now, but we have to look closer home and smoke out the other enemy who is hell-bent on dividing us.
Illustratively, recently I attended a cross-over church gathering, like many of you, to commit 2022 to God, who has told us to take all our burdens to Him. I went there purely to seek God. After all, a church is a place of worship; it is a place where we are reminded that we all belong to one tribe. There is no Jew or Gentile, no rich or poor; we are all God’s children.
The man or woman of the cloth, in speech and deed, should epitomize this oneness, teaching us, the little ones, how to love one another. But in this congregation, I listened to our dominie pouring scorn and vitriol against specific Kenyan ethnicities. Holding a gigantic golden staff like the Biblical Moses, a well-kept Darwinian goatee, he went on and on spewing ethnic vitriol right from the pulpit.
So, of course, instinctively, I could occasionally gaze over my shoulder to see how the others were receiving the sermon. I could hear “amen” and hallelujah” from some quarters of the monumental building, with a humongous Cruxfix above its front door. And like Richard Mabala’s persona in the poem The Money Changers, “I couldn’t help trembling, and looking over my shoulder, wondering, when we would be driven out with a whip.”
Good people, for some time now, I have always wondered why a deeply religious country like Kenya become so volatile, kill one another, destroy each other’s properties during and after elections. Yet, according to the Kenyan Census figures, as of 2019, over 85.52 per cent of the population identified as Christians. This enviable percentage can provide the much needed socio-economic and political direction. But with preachers, who by deed, are Ezeulu’s reincarnate, we are doomed. Unless, of course, like people of Umuaro in Arrow of God, we critically evaluate, question, and reject some of rumour-mongering that is flung to us as Godly-inspired sermons.
I should remind you about the story of Ezeulu, the chief priest of the god Ulu, whose will is responsible for interpreting. But Ezeulu decides to use his god as a course of revenge to punish his people for being critical and threatening his power. To punish the followers of Ulu, he refuses to eat the sacred yams thereby condemning his entire clan to starvation and dislocating the natural cycle.
Although he justifies his actions by arguing that the gods sometimes use their priests as a whip, we know, from many examples in the novel, that Ezeulu is not only a liar but the most extraordinary liar among men. He is perfectly capable of lying about Ulu’s instructions.
The novel ends with the death of Ezeulu’s favourite son Obika, an act that scholars have argued was the Ulu’s retribution on his wayward priest. But unlike Ulu, who might have just been a creation of an ambitious fetish priest’s fevered imagination, God, whom the Kenyan men of clothes claim to represent, is a consuming fire able to defend his flock like a good shepherd.
Dr Stephen Mutie is a church elder and literary studies lecturer at Kenyatta University. [email protected]