Captain Kung’u Muigai, Retired, is known for many things. He is a nephew of Kenya’s Founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, and a cousin to the current president. Recently he was in the news as the main celebrant during the enthronement of House Speaker Justin Muturi as the ‘spokesman’ for Mount Kenya, etc.
The most impressive aspect of the man is his oratorical prowess; in my opinion, Captain Muigai is a spellbinding speaker. Unfortunately, when I sat down to listen to him, the two instances were during funerals where he eulogized the deceased; the late General Nkaiserry and Bob Collymore.
While eulogizing his friend, General Nkaiserry, Captain Muigai made a statement to show how ill-prepared Nkaiserry was when he first plunged into politics. The good captain said that soldiers aren’t allowed to talk or even think about politics. This is a widely held view, and it is also wise since the militarization of politics has never produced positive results for the citizenry anywhere.
General Dwight David Eisenhower was a soldier’s soldier. He rose to become the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War. Eisenhower probably had the most historically consequential command on his shoulders since the military greats like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hannibal, etc.
After the Second World War, the general returned to the United States as a conquering hero who vanquished Hitler and the axis. The Americans elected him president. One of the famous quotes attributed to him was that politics should be the preoccupation of every citizen in a democracy. He said,
“Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.”
Eisenhower’s involvement in politics defied conventional wisdom for two reasons. He was a soldier and a committed Christian.
Many politicians in the country and around the world often don’t share Eisenhower’s noble view of politics and the role of citizens in it. Most of the political elite would prefer to keep people who don’t agree with away from politics.
Among the groups whose participation in politics is most frowned upon are Christians. Recently, the ODM leader, Raila Odinga, stated categorically that the church should leave the BBI debate to the politicians.
Mr. Odinga’s statement is freshest in our minds, but the assertion by politicians that the church should leave politics to them didn’t start with him. At best, there has always existed some ambivalence on whether politics is good for Christians. This is why I indicated that Eisenhower defied the expectation to eschew politics twice as a Christian soldier.
Here in Kenya, President Moi once derisively asked Archbishop David Gitari to “concentrate on taking people to heaven” and leave politics to the likes of him (Moi).
This view of things is faulty on two fronts. The first ground is that it seeks to deny the clergy and the church, in general, their right to express their views as free people and to keep them from performing their duty as citizens.
Secondly, these assertions are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the church and its place in the world today. I have to admit that many of the people who seek to keep the church out of public discourse identify as Christians, an indictment of the church’s effectiveness in casting its vision as commanded in the Bible.
But then a question arises,
What Does Politics Have to do With the Purpose of the Church?
The Lord Jesus Christ made some statements that may be considered His last will and statement. One after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem before his persecution and crucifixion and the other after his resurrection.
Luke records these important statements in Luke 19 and Acts 1:18. Some variations of these statements are recorded in the other gospels. In Luke 19, He gives the parable of the minas where he asks his disciples to occupy the world until He comes. At His return, He will judge the work of each disciple based on how productive they had been with what the master gave them.
He was giving them the parable to disabuse them of the notion that he was about to reestablish the Jewish state. Acts 1:8 happens after the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples again ask whether He was about to establish the kingdom; he gave them the mandate to be witnesses through the Holy Spirit.
These parables show that Christians are here to prepare to go to heaven, not to wait to go to heaven. This preparation mostly involves showing the love of God to His people through preaching the Gospel, charity work, among other things. Politics is the context within which we can take the most effective action to help our neighbor, and it, therefore, behoves the church, both the clergy and the laity, to get involved.
Why is Church in Politics a Good Thing?
Politics has always been about identity. Every politician that ever succeeded in history had a political base, a critical mass of people who identified with them as their kin either in relation or in world view. In Kenya, this identifier has been the ethnic community since the pre-independence days of KANU and KADU. This faulty foundation causes everything good we try to build to crumble; when the foundations are faulty, no superstructure built on it can endure.
Unfortunately, Kenyans have never found a way of moving past the tribe as their main identifier. Ethnicity has remained a major impediment to our efforts at nationhood. I believe that Christians can become the critical mass that forms an enabling foundation of our nationhood. There are Christians from every part of the country; they have a common worldview, common past, and aspirations.
Having a Christian voting block shouldn’t make anyone feel apprehensive. While Christianity depends on proselyting, all conversions are voluntary, and there can never be a forced conversion. What is more, love for all people is central to the Christian faith. A proper Christian voting block would take care of all people equally.