THIS IS A TREATISE ON CHURCH AND POLITICS - A KENYAN EXPERIENCE
|"The Church at Crossroads – Search for Political Power"
"It is difficult enough for modern evangelical Protestants to self-identify within the Protestant tradition, because of our ignorance of history and anti-intellectualism within our ranks." (Mark S. Ritchie)
This past week was really an eye opener for the church as it were, barely a year ago this time last year the church was well aligned with the ODM function vilifying the draft constitution. At Uhuru Park, Bishop Margaret of the JIAM Ministries graced the thanks giving ceremony together with the ODM movers, while Esther Wahome of the "Kuna Dawa" drowned the crowds with the lyrics thereof.
Najib Balala could not hide his anger against the church for refusing to support ODMs minimal reforms call some days ago. Najib Balala was heard angrily lambasting the church and telling the church that it should not engage in politics, for this is not its turf. But like always, our local media forgot to remind him about last year. In fact, last year during the ODM celebrations, the church after being used by the politicians it became but an appendage in the in the so-called revolution.
Barely two weeks ago in our sister paper it was reported, that the Venerable Bishop Margaret Wanjiru has decided to throw her hat in the ring as it were in the competitive and sometime turbulent political fray. There is nothing sinful or morally wrong about engaging in politics as it were. However, as we touched about the issue in our last week's treatise, there are a lot of issues that need to be looked at before a Church Minister decides to enter into the fray.
There is a thin line between politics and religion and whenever that is crossed changes occur that are by themselves loaded with implications. This is because, historically, religion and politics have been strange bedfellows and throughout history whenever the two come together unfortunately extremes are noted.
Ever since the rise of the nation-state, humanity is yet to grapple with the full implications of religion and politics.
For instance it is important to understand that the Hebraic political system historically is theocratic in nature, this can be observed clearly in the Judaic religious writing in the TanaKh (Torah Nabiim Khitubim).
Moses the greatest lawgiver, himself a prophet and a leader of the Hebraic people had to dabble with the issue. Actually what happens is that Moses dexterously or rather inadvertently discovers along as he went and of course with the help from the so-called 'pagan wisdom' from his father-in-law Jethro, he is given one of the greatest leadership principles – that of delegation.
It is at this point in time in the Judaic leadership paradigm that non-religious leaders are actively involved in the decision making process; and of course without forgetting the tribe leaders whose clear mandate is not penned in the scripts though alluded to.
The priestly class with the help of the Judges or magistrates as it were continues for centuries till the time of Samuel who is the last prophet-priest-judge of Israel. The priestly ruling class in the Hebraic paradigm for some reason or the other seems to have not been able to manage political leadership to its optimum; instead it fumbled in abuses of all sorts.
It is for this reason after the failure of the religious leadership that prophet Samuel is drowned with the calls for a Hebraic monarch after the order of the surrounding communities. This of course has Samuel distraught but, his children who were both religious and civic leaders as it were; were corrupt beyond words. Samuel finally takes this call by the masses for a monarch to Yahweh, who in turn calms Samuel and tells him, 'do as they ask you to do.'
Christendom is what becomes of the mingling between politics and religion in the European sub-continent. The Edict of Milan 313 AD when Emperor Constantine "converted" to Christianity a radical change occurred in Christianity. Christianity carried over all the political encumbrances of the Roman Empire; Intrigues and shenanigans become the order of the day. The 'thirty years' war, lynching of those who differed in belief and practice, torture and the infamous inquisitions in the European sub-continent and the crusades became the part of Christianity.
The current hedonistic secularism that is rife in the European sub-continent and the Western world in general is a response to the religious intrusion into politics. Martin Luther and John Calvin the main social reformers in Europe were unable to bring together in the right mix religion and politics.
For some reason they were unable to understand the 'Anabaptists' social political construct that separated politics and religion. Anabaptists were those who regarded any mix between religion and politics as anathema they rigidly conservative in their relationship with the 'world.' They believed in total non-participation of believers in the political systems. While this view remains extreme, it does seem to be closer to the Nazarenes view on the relationship between religion and politics. The same can be said of the Islamic social religious system that does not separate as it were religion and politics.
Keith Cauthen in his treatise on Church and State, Religion and Politics observes, "Religious beliefs have moral and social implications, and it is appropriate for people of faith to express these through their activities as citizens in the political order. The fact that ethical convictions are rooted in religious faith does not disqualify them from the political realm. However, they do not have secular validity merely because they are thought by their exponents to be religiously authorized. They must be argued for in appropriate social and political terms in harmony with national values."
There seems to be a lot of intolerance in any religious system that is. And especially the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths for this matter; whether Christian, Islam or the polytheistic religious system such as Hindu or Buddhism and the African Traditional Religions. Intolerance and even persecution for those believing differently can be seen in the following countries that pursue theocratic systems: Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal, Sudan and Parts of Northern Nigeria.
How does one deal with these statements from the Teacher of Righteousness? One in the presence of Pontius Pilate and the other in front of a crowd; while the last one is made in private company with his inner circle as he prays for them - "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here"? "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."
The above referred to statements from the Nazarene seem to suggest that the inter-link between politics and religion is limited to certain parameters. He says that his kingdom is not of this world, hence his servants cannot take the sword and fight for him. It is clear that He understands the role of the current political setups. That they will ultimately use the sword where and whenever there is need.
It is interesting to look at the happenings just before and after they went on the Mount of Olives in the Garden of Gethsmane. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors', and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me . . . The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied." (Luke 22:36-37, 38,49-52) later on at the one of the disciples asks, "Lord should we strike with our swords?" And one of them struck the servant of the High Priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him."
From where I stand, it is not that easy for Bishop Margaret Wanjiru and other Church Ministers who would wish to join raw politics as it were, but I guess each of us has a different calling and wherever that calling takes us we will go. (Interactive: firstname.lastname@example.org)