Stop believing in myths …
By Kennedy Karuga
Since the Attorney General proposed regulations to ostensibly tame rogue preachers (are there preachers that aren’t rogue?), the Church has stirred every delusion of persecution to paint itself as a victim of a state conspiracy to muzzle it. Never mind that this government has done more than any previous government to put the church in its pocket. On a K24 morning show, one Bishop even went as far as to accuse Harrison Mumia and AIK of having played a part in the creation of the proposed regulations. And while we must admit that some of the regulations are decidedly silly, notably the requirement that clergymen hold degrees in theology (exactly how this is supposed to make them less predatory has not been explained), the Church’s alternative is nothing short of a joke. In a phrase, the Church wants Kenyans to believe that it is capable of ‘regulating’ itself. Never mind that it has thus far proved totally incapable of anything approaching self-regulation.
The Evangelicals suggest that instead of taking the legislative course, the government should invest blanket organizations such as the Evangelical Alliance of Kenya with the authority to register and deregister churches. This authority currently rests with the registrar of societies and the NSIS, but Evangelicals argue these entities are incapable of proper judgment given their lack of theological grooming. The Church wishes to return to the regime that prevailed until the late 1990’s, where Umbrella bodies had to offer recommendation to religious organizations as a precondition for registration.
There are several problems with this proposal. The first and most obvious is that while the Church leadership decries the loss of religious freedom under the AG’s proposed regulations, its alternative no less limits religious freedom. Umbrella bodies would have the authority to determine -quite arbitrarily- what constitutes a “legitimate” Christian organization and what does not. Clearly, the umbrella bodies would be imposing their theological persuasions on churches that differed with them. If, for example, the EAK decides that it is not theologically proper to preach that hell does not exist, it could on this basis deny registration to a church that preaches the non-existence of hell as one of its tenets. This is a clear violation of religious freedom, as it subjects the entire Christian establishment to the theological leanings of a few theologians.
The second problem with self-regulation is that it presupposes moral rectitude on the part of the clergy, which has done a lot to undermine this premise. From cover-ups of systemic sexual abuse to the endless scandals about murder, rape, extortion, and embezzlement, the church is hardly a byword for moral integrity. It is a mystery why anybody would count on any institution with such a dismal moral portfolio to keep itself in check.
The real reason the Church wants a free hand is obvious to any keen person. The Church realizes better than anyone that desperation is its bedrock. It has long been known that the more destitute a society is, the more amenable it is to religious indoctrination. Their ability to exploit the desperation of those who occupy their pews is what enables preachers to pad their wallets, wear costlier suits and drive larger vehicles. They also realize that mass media is the most powerful instrument for peddling their evangelical snake oil to destitute Kenyans. Taking away their ability to sell hope to millions of hopeless Kenyans at once spells economic suicide to evangelical barons who have for years been happy to ride the gravy train of televangelical fortune-peddling. However disparate our views on the suitability of the Attorney General’s proposed regulations might be, the atheist community should not be lulled into the gullibility of believing that the Church is capable of keeping itself in check. We can expect business as usual if the Church gets its way.
And that is not a good thing.
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