Why Kenyan churches are banning politicians from pulpits.
Kenyan churchgoers are accustomed to seeing well-dressed politicians arrive in flash automobiles for Sunday services, frequently with photographers in tow.
They usually arrive laden with monetary donations – which their managers carry in shoulder bags – that may be used to build enormous churches and buy loud music systems.
In exchange for this generosity, a politician climbs to the pulpit midway during the service, when the congregation becomes a captive audience for their message, which frequently has little to do with the bible. These frequently appear on TV news bulletins to feed an insatiable desire for information on the maneuvering ahead of the next election, which is still nine months away.
Some go about looking for new congregations, which has resulted in some tensions within churches, with politicians accusing each other of invading one another’s territory.
Priests have also been reported to be summoned to politicians’ houses to discuss “development matters” as part of efforts to resolve turf battles.
There have been claims that some of the gifts are the result of ill-gotten wealth, which have been refuted.
The established churches leaders have had enough. Politicians have been barred from preaching, accusing them of making “divisive and unedifying” statements that “desecrate the church.”
“Partly, priests are to blame for the political takeover of the church. “It was necessary to restore the ritual to its original purity,” Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria told the BBC.
Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, the head of the Anglican Church in Kenya, agreed that giving politicians latitude in churches was a “mistake” in the first place.
“I own it completely.” But we can’t keep making the same error indefinitely. When the suspension was imposed last month, he remarked, “A moment of contrition — a turning – is required.”
Some people have applauded the action, particularly the churchgoers I met with in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
“To be honest, it was a nuisance.” Eunice Waweru remarked, “I’ve been waiting for church leaders to deal with it.”
“I’m delighted the decision was taken since politicians are greedy people,” Janet Nzilani concurred. They aren’t there to instill hope or rally the troops. They have no regard for others. Pastors should only be recognized for their presence [in church].”
According to Florence Atieno, politicians should be handled with respect, acknowledged by a pastor if they are present, and permitted to visit worshippers after a service.
“My only problem is when they start campaigning and abusing each other in church,” she said.
But these women all attend evangelical churches whose clerics may not necessarily agree with the pulpit ban.
It is being led by the Anglican, Catholic, and Presbyterian churches and is facing resistance from those ministries where allegiance to self-proclaimed prophets and faith healers is huge.
Kenyans are largely Christian, with 85.5 percent of the country’s 50 million residents attending evangelical churches, according to the 2019 census. The second most prevalent religion is the Catholic Church.
The religious economy is an enormous business, and a successful fundraiser with the right politician may transform a church’s fortunes.
As a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, many churches have been left cash-strapped, so it’s no surprise that some evangelical priests are opposed to a universal pulpit ban.
“I don’t think it will take hold because we have opportunistic churches seeking for politicians to give them money, and sometimes they even invite them themselves,” says the author.
Many followers, according to religious studies researcher Josephine Gitome, may not be upset by the politicians’ actions.
Most Kenyans may attend church, but they are not very religious on a daily basis: “There is anxiety about whether their behavior from Monday through Saturday corresponds to their behavior on Sunday.”