Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is the Kenyan Church Leadership Sincere on the Draft Constitution?

Isn’t it amazing that most of us “men of the cloth” almost always pretend to speak on behave of the “voiceless”! As Gayatri Spivak asks, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” During the current constitution debate in Kenya, the “voiceless” ought to speak-out for themselves!

The Church in Kenya has trivialized constitution making by zeroing only on two "minor" issues without considering the whole document. While the issue of religion in most occasions raises people’s emotions that we at times are unable to think rationally, it is important for all people of good will to recognize that the GREATER GOOD must prevail for the sake of our REPUBLIC and not just for some religious disagreements.

In my opinion, the problem with the current stand taken by the Kenyan church leaders on the draft constitution is a psychological one. Psychologists refer to it as compensation or simply passing the buck. In this case we fail to acknowledge our own failures and simply blame it on the pro-abortionists and Muslims. Has anyone noticed the kind of lifestyle lived by the ministers of the Gospel? One needs to visit his local pastor's home and then visit a couple of the ministers' parishioners and you will be surprised by the economic disparities thereof. Ministry is no longer a calling or a passion but a lifestyle. No wonder our Christian leaders are quick to blame the Kadhi courts and Islamic expansionism for the rapid rise in Islam mainly in our poor communities such as Kibera.

I also think it is insincere for the Church to dismiss the inclusion of Kadhi courts in the draft constitution, without proper understanding of how Sharia Law (which most Christians are quick to quote) is practiced in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Northern Nigeria? How does it compare to the Kenyan situation? I must also add that Kenya is not a Christian state and neither is it Islamic even though from colonial days Christianity has always been the favoured child. Christians are afraid of losing this privilege and that is why I still maintain that the current church's position on the draft constitution is more political than religious.

Therefore, when I read such ultimatums as the ones given by church leaders, I see political mischief in the guise of Christian activism. The Christian leaders’ perspective is based on limited knowledge, misinformation, ignorance of constitutional making and prejudice. Their position is backed by half-truths and misrepresentations. It compares to fear-mongering evident in America today - which is basically championed by the American Religious Right. Christian fundamentalism is as dangerous as Islamic fundamentalism! The current Christian leadership in Kenya is behaving as though it was the left wing of the Jihadists in Somali or Nigeria only this time clothed in cassocks and holding Bibles (instead of wearing turbans and holding guns).

Although Kenyans’ amnesia is astounding, one does not need to seek far and wide to read this political mischief. Before 2007 general election and the violent events that followed, most of the Christian leaders now marshaling support against abortion and Kadhi court were busy rallying their troops behind candidate “A” (mainly the one from their tribe) while opposing the “enemy” of their candidate. But did the Christian leaders answer to their higher calling? The IDPs are still languishing in hovels and abject poverty. The Church seems to have lost its moral voice. Unimagined scale of violence continues to bother every right thinking Kenyan; people are being murdered at will; Mũngĩkĩ killers who are now hailed as Christian converts remain free – and what have the Christian leadership done about these things? Your guess is as good as mine.

What is my point? It is simply this, before we can accuse others of the speck in their eyes, we must first take care of the log that continues to hinder our beatific vision of the Kingdom of God. We need to wear sackcloth instead of mourning the expansion of Islam. We need to return to the God of old, who still demands that we walk upright, love justice and walk humbly before Yahweh. God cannot be mock! Kenya’s destiny is in God’s hands and no Kadhi court or Islamic scholar or Muhammad’s sword can sway the hand of Yahweh. Let us do our part and let God be God! God will take care of God’s own. God is the Author and the Finisher of our Faith! We should not be casting stones at Islamic fundamentalism while we ourselves live in glass houses. The God I worship has no time for such “righteous” grandstanding. God is interested in a humble and a contrite spirit - a spirit that bears the Spirit of the Living Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the one whom the Father raised by the Power of His Mighty Hand.

Kĩriakũ wa Kĩnyua

The Making of a Constitution

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Epiphany: Fulfilment, Conflict and Contrasting Images.

Matthew 2:1-12 and Isaiah 60: 1-6

Now that the excitement of the highly commercialized Christmas is over, let us consider one of the least recognized days of the Christian calendar - i.e. January 6 in which we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord.

The meaning and the purpose of Epiphany have been contested in many circles. Nonetheless, the generally accepted definition is that - Epiphany is a feast that celebrates the “shining forth” or revelation of God to humanity in human form. Just like Christmas, it offers a story of God’s new action in the world through the conception of Jesus Christ which is also the manifestation of God’s saving presence. The Epiphany, in a world dominated by sin and evil, reminds us of God’s purpose to restore creation to the original intentions of the creator.

As such, the Epiphany is a story of fulfilment. It brings forth good news which ushers in that which was promised through the prophets. The story as recorded in Matthew 2 locates the birth of Christ in Bethlehem as a fulfilment of a prophecy recorded in Micah 5:2. Matthew adds to the prophecy 2 Samuel 5:2 giving Bethlehem a geographic precision, prominence and relevance. Jews expected the Messiah to be born in Bethlehem. The narrative of Jesus’ birth is thus located at the very center of God’s purpose which involves the formation of a people for whom God intends blessing and life.

The Epiphany also reveals that God’s purpose is constant and faithful. Those who recognize this and commit themselves to follow Christ, live in a blessed world because God is at work in it and God will bring to completion all that God has intended.

However, the Epiphany is also a constant reminder of the onslaught against God’s action. This onslaught started with Herod, a vassal king, together with the Jerusalem elite who made desperate attempts to thwart God’s work. Herod is believed to have been an Idumean (a non-Jew) appointed king of Judea by the Roman senate in 40 B.C. and was in full control by 37 B.C. Although he is positively remembered for the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, a project he initiated in 19 B.C., Herod is also remembered for his ruthlessness and his murderous actions. He murdered his own wife and his three sons. He also killed his mother-in-law, his brother-in-law, an uncle and the babies of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16.)

Herod’s actions ought to remind us that the birth of Christianity was a painful one. Mourning and wailing became a hallmark of the early Church as opposed to the ultra-modern image of a wealthy, kingly Church. Lamentation expresses pain, sorrow, and outrage. Having said this, however, the Epiphany highlights the fact that though Herod’s actions may have been brutal and painful, Herod did not have the final word. Epiphany brings with it a message of hope - God will liberate his own.

The final thing that Epiphany reminds us of is the contrasting understandings of Christ. As a result different, groups throughout Christian history appropriate different images of the Christ. Some of the contrasting images that Epiphany brings to the fore include:

In the emerging narrative, it is the Magi (gentiles) not the chief priests (aristocratic temple priests) or scribes (writing bureaucrats) who received the initial revelation of the “shining forth” even though the latter had the prophetic and historical facts of where the Messiah was to be born. Many Christians have interpreted the story of the Magi in the context of power and glory (Isaiah 60:1- 6.) They connect Bethlehem with Davidic kingly lineage – Hollywood style – Christendom. This interpretation's emphasis is on the Eschaton (one who comes as the King of kings, Lord of lords, Supreme Judge to judge and rule the world with all splendour and glory.) They see the three wise men as referring to three kings who brought wealth and worshipped the King of kings.

Yet in the Epiphany story there is another image: that of a child; of parents; of simplicity; of the unsung heroines – Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Tamar. Basically, Christ is born into a family not a palace. The humble, the suffering and the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized easily identify with this image. The Epiphany offers them hope and they see themselves as the people of God (Matthew 1:21; 4:23; 9:35.)

What message does the story of the Epiphany of our Lord brings to you?