Bible and money

Father Pessa additionally warns congregants to be wary of leaders who ask them to give their money, promising to deliver miracles.

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How religious charlatans brainwash believers

What you need to know:

  • As far as religious brainwashing is concerned, religious leaders agree that it is morally and integrally wrong on all levels. Among them is Bishop Jackson ole Sapit from All Saints Cathedral and Father John Pessa from Holy Ghost Coptic Church Kisumu.

Britannica, a general knowledge English-language online encyclopaedia defines brainwashing, also called coercive persuasion, as a systematic effort to persuade nonbelievers to accept a certain allegiance, command, or doctrine The term is more generally applied to any technique designed to manipulate human thought or action against the desire, will, or knowledge of the individual.

As far as religious brainwashing is concerned, religious leaders agree that it is morally and integrally wrong on all levels. Among them is Bishop Jackson ole Sapit from All Saints Cathedral and Father John Pessa from Holy Ghost Coptic Church Kisumu.

“God does not ask us to transfer our assets or money to the church. If you wish to do that, it should be out of your free will, free from coercion or persuasion. You should not announce it as well,” says Bishop Sapit.

He explains that he has heard about churches that ask their congregants to take copies of their pay slips to church so that they are allocated an amount to give every month. Others, he stated, coerce and manipulate their congregants to give money in exchange for ‘miracles’.

“I once heard of some church that told its people to give money depending on the size of the problems they had. Others were told that to stand or sit closer to the man of God, they had to pay money. That is essentially like bribery. And because some flock know no better, they are forced to literally buy their space,” said Bishop Sapit.

“Any religious leader that employs malice or deceit to obtain money from their congregants is a person on the road to self-enrichment. And I can tell you for free that brainwashing is a concept that is anti-bible and anti-Christ,” he said.

What usually happens, he explained, is that malicious religious leaders read and interpret the scriptures selectively to suit what they want to achieve. Others are so malicious that they can hypnotise their crowds.

“There are some who will change the tones of their voices to be authoritative and unique. Then they will tell their congregants that the sound that they just heard was God’s voice. This can be overwhelming to some people and some even go into a trance,” he explained.

“What these religious people need to know, however, is that what they are doing is wrong and amounts to stealing. Second, they make their congregants believe that God is manipulative, yet God loves us genuinely, whether we give Him offerings or not.”

ACK Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit

Archbishop Jackson ole Sapit addresses members of the clergy at Kabarak University during the Anglican Provincial Clergy Conference on August 20, 2019. 

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

Financial struggles

Father John Pessa agrees that this amounts to theft.

“Taking money deceitfully from congregants is wrong. I have seen this happen in some doctrines. This is probably happening because most people nowadays are struggling with finances. The church has become an easy money making platform,” he said.

The men of God asked people to be on the lookout and protect themselves from being manipulated by religious leaders who want to reap illicitly from their pockets.

“The act of lying to people to get money is entirely wrong as it beats the purpose of free will. It is wrong for me and all religious leaders to live an extravagant life, driving vehicles whenever we want at the expense of the congregant that has none. How can I eat expensive food when my congregant sleeps hungry? Abandoning our family to help the Church is wrong, and the bible says that whoever does that is worse than an unbeliever,” said Bishop Sapit.

He quotes a scene in the bible where Jesus praised a woman who gave two copper coins as offering as opposed to rich people who were giving large amounts. The recognition was that she gave her offering out of good will and not to seek praise.

He explained that it is relatively easy to spot a person who has been brainwashed.

“Such people become fanatical, following what the leaders says without question. Others can withdraw into themselves, failing to talk to others. On the other hand, you may notice such people failing to read the bible on the premises that what their leader has said is the truth and cannot be opposed. In the latter cases, the leader usually has placed him/herself as the intermediary between the congregant and God,” he said.

Father John Pessa

Father John Pessa addresses journalists outside his Coptic Holy Ghost Church on October 14, 2020. 

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Money for miracles

Father Pessa additionally warns congregants to be wary of leaders who ask them to give their money, promising to deliver miracles.

“Some of these miracles may even be stage-managed,” he said. “If someone tells you to stop taking a sick child to hospital and instead take them for prayers, they are lying to you. Genuine men of God will tell you to get medication first. Anyone that tells you otherwise is insane,” he added.

He asked all religious leaders to rise up and condemn the vice and remind the culprits that they will answer for all their wrongdoings.

“Faith and reason should go together,” said Archbishop Philip Anyolo, who is also the chairperson of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. “That is why we emphasise the value of education.”

Bishop Anyolo explained that people should be informed about the social and civic areas of their lives to help them avoid traps such as brainwashing.

“People should look for proper information about their faith,” he concluded.

Bishop Philip Anyolo

Archbishop Philip Anyolo, who is also the chair of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a past press conference in Nairobi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group


Dr Cleopa Njiru, a psychologist at Chiromo Hospital defines brainwashing as using persuasion to remove power to make decisions from the victim to the perpetrator.

Brainwashing changes the thought process of a person, so that they begin to believe whatever they are being told. He explains that perpetrators of brainwashing may use various techniques.

The first technique, he states, is to repetitively make remarks, either positive or negative. This removes the power of decision making from the victim to the perpetrator, and gives the victim the impression that what they are about to be told is real.

“Some perpetrators first lower their victims’ self-esteem. This makes the victim believe that no one will save them or love them more than their perpetrator. This is exactly what happens in abusive relationships and cults. The person puts you down continuously, making you believe that you cannot do anything without them,” says Dr Njiru.

“In abusive relationships, you will find the victim apologising for things that the perpetrator has committed. This is because the abuser has made them believe, by repetitive words, that the victim is a bad person and the perpetrator is a good person.”

Some perpetrators change their victim’s perception of reality, then tell them that when they carry out duties given by the perpetrator, they will get a reward.

He goes on to explain that once the victim’s mind is under control, they can also be told not to do some things, and they will obey.

“At such a point, you can tell your victim not to go to hospital, to school, or not to eat certain foods, and they will do exactly that. This is because they can no longer think independently and critically,” says Dr Njiru.

He explains that when one goes through brainwashing for a long period of time, their personalities may change.

“A persona develops through repeated experiences and habit. Once someone is brainwashed for as long as two or three years, the victim begins to see it as their new way of life, and sees nothing wrong with doing things that the ordinary public don’t and vice versa,” says the psychologist.


Self-brainwashing is also possible, he says. Just like brainwashing initiated by a second party, it starts with changing your way of thinking, perception and the way you look at things.

“You may find a student, for example, telling themselves that they need to say, go to church from morning to evening to pass exams. If a person has lost a loved one, they may find themselves believing that if they can do something, their loved one may come back.” says Dr Njiru.

Since brainwashing induces personality change, the effects can be as extreme as the victim developing a personality disorder.

So how do brainwashed people reform?

Dr Njiru states that the process of rehabilitating a brainwashed person begins with a change of thought, which in turn leads to change of behavior.

“When we handle such a person, we start by challenging their beliefs and giving them alternative thoughts. This helps their minds to slowly come back to reality. Once they have reclaimed their independent thinking, we expose them to repetitive real life events. The more they have new and repeated experiences, the more they rebuild their lost personas, and recovery is complete,” he concludes.