By George Kimando
I call it ‘Church Business’ very deliberately, because that’s exactly what it is: business.
Let me put a disclaimer though. This is not a blanket condemnation of the church. We have seen the crucial role that the church has played in the socio-economic development of communities in Kenya. Indeed, there are places in this country that for years – to this day – people do not know of the government; the Church provides essential services such as health, education, water, hydro and solar power, etc.
Where the church has existed, social progress has been prevalent.
Among the best schools and hospitals in this country are set up and run by the church.
We can’t forget, indeed, the critical role the church has played in ensuring good governance and calling out misrule and dictatorships. The return to multipartyism and improved democratic space has a lot to thank the church for.
This is the church as we knew it. It has structures and systems of operation and accountability.
Barring the odd mad in the marketplace, the Church has been a trustworthy institution where people sought refuge at all times, spiritually and physically. When strife has hit us, the Church has been the first call of shelter for the distressed.
But this is not the Church am discussing here.
Over time, there has been an emergent breed of Churches that i dare call businesses of the Gospel, only they are not registered as such and they do not pay taxes.
Maybe it has to do with their origination, but they are businesses in every sense of definition.
The core message is always laced with fear and condemnation, especially where tithing and ‘giving to God’ is concerned. As such, many people do not question the edicts of the self-declared doctors, Apostles, and Bishops leaders of these entities, however ridiculous they are.
Many people may not know the genesis of these Churches. Some of us, though, remember the open secret (pun intended) funding of these platforms by the state in the 1980s to counter the mainstream Churches who were then considered ‘vichwa ngumu’ by the government of the day.
To this day, a major church exists in Mombasa that was set up to check the ‘radicalism’ by one Sheikh Balala at the height of multi-partyism agitation.
Long after the political tides changed, these churches have mushroomed unchecked, giving rise to the much-touted Prosperity Gospel, a complete distortion of the Gospel of Christ, as we know it.
I have a problem with a church that puts up a billboard advertising the pastor and his wife as an attraction to go there. Clearly, God has been pushed to the back burner and the pastors have replaced Him in those churches.
A church that is OWNED by individuals, mostly a couple, and has no accountability structures has no business being in business.
We have too many churches running shady businesses. Cases abound of desperate faithful being taken advantage of by rogue pastors. Yet, we still have the likes of self-styled pastors Kanyari and Njoroge (he of Mwende fame) running around in the name of freedom of worship.
Surprisingly, even the people at the top echelons of government have been captive of the silly thinking that heavens will fall on them if they took action against these rogue peddlers of the Gospel for personal gain.
Well, Rwanda recently closed over 6,000 churches, and they are making better socio-economic progress than us. We condemn China and the West for being anti-religion, yet we are forever there with begging bowls for never-ending borrowing missions.
We are spending more and more resources putting up more Churches for a population that could do better investing that money in income-generating ventures to feed themselves and their dependents.
The Church business has to be put to a halt, period! The government has to simply summon the common sense to realize we are doing grievous harm to society feeding people false hope in religious frenzies that impoverish our people more.
There is no freedom without responsibility; that’s anarchy. Unfortunately, that’s where we are as a country where ‘freedom of worship’ is concerned.
Maybe it’s time we borrowed a leaf from Rwanda. Close down those razzmatazz institutions calling themselves Churches and subject any new registration to elaborate scrutiny to determine its authenticity, and even the need for it to begin with.
Just like the government will arrest you if you tried to commit suicide (it doesn’t matter that it’s your own life!), perhaps it’s time we put stringent rules in place to ensure rational worship. The current cacophony simply doesn’t make sense.
Have a pragmatic Sunday, and a great week ahead.