It’s a Sunday which means I’m in my second home; church. The place I get nourished and prepare for heaven because “what does it profit a woman to gain the world and lose her soul?”
The monthly afternoon service is a big deal probably because of the human need to have for validation, restored hope and assurance. This was a most special service because God would speak directly through his prophet or directly speak to me: A day I would be called to the podium and declared relevant by the deity.
This Sunday literally marked two days to the 2013 general elections and the church leader was adorned in a red flowing sparkly dress, red lipstick and on her head, an equally red fascinator. She was a charismatic powerful woman with an aura of mysterious wonder. Politicians sought her out due to her influence among Christians across the country. The 2013 elections were very significant because both the Presidential candidate and his deputy were facing charges at the International Criminal Court on Crimes against humanity for the post-election violence of 2007-2008.
About 1,000 lives were lost. People were locked up in a church and burnt to death! Those that tried to escape bear deep scars. Children witnessed their parent’s bodies being cut to pieces. Women and girls were raped and men were maimed. More than 600,000 people were displaced and a nation moved on like this was all a fictional episode. Those who survived these atrocities were left deep in trauma and unimaginable loss. Diana who is one of the survivors was present at this service.
She noted how quickly the tone of the service changed from justice, judgment and finally to mercy. The Nation was expected to be on its way to healing because the two rival communities were now united. How can the people responsible for the massacre of her entire family be the ones anointed to lead the nation? No one was talking about actual justice or reparations. Diana was expected to move on. Silence was the price she had to pay for peace. Justice to her meant that everyone responsible was going to be put behind bars and that she would be compensated for everything she lost. She was told that vengeance was the Lord’s and she was told to forget it all because behold, God was doing a new thing.
One of the things I find unforgivable about religion is its ability to suspend you in time by forcing you to forget your past yet at the same time convincing you how the present does not matter. There is zero intention of fighting to end oppressive systems that cause harm to the worshippers. Only focus is heaven. The church’s glorification of suffering is probably the reason we are dangerously passive in the face of oppression and poor governance as a country. The more we are oppressed, the harder we pray just like in the case of post-election violence where prayer was assumed able to cleanse injustice.
The service should have been dedicated to the survivors of the post-election violence. We must all commit to holding space for each other to grieve without the need to hurry, silence or numb each other’s pain and grieving process. The service moved on to an altar call for sick people in need of a miracle and financial breakthrough. People made their way to the front. Those who could not make it to the front stood on aisles yet the problems that continuously drove us to the altar were not spiritual.
We were about to elect individuals who had been accused of committing crimes against humanity and it was accepted without question because obeying the “prophet” was more important than interrogating who was being elected. The political environment has a direct bearing on the socio-economic environment. In a country where everything is regulated and controlled by the government, it goes without saying that the quality of our individual lives begins and ends with the quality of leadership at the government level. It is a combination of personal responsibility and leadership. Nothing works without the other. A majority of young people dancing on stage were jobless, struggling to pay school fees, some had dropped out of school and life was a jungle.
What if these young people embraced the table turning, foolishness whipping spirit of Jesus to fight for better services from public institutions? Would that not be a true revival? Instead, we pray for leaders and remain silent on their role in the dysfunction. When Jesus talked about being anointed to preach the good news to the poor and setting the captives free his mission was to comfort the oppressed and make the oppressors uncomfortable, but the oppressors got so uncomfortable that they crucified him. If your sermons don’t make you crucifiable, who are you really comforting?
Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist