Some of the most evil acts ever done were done by ministers of faith. Kenya has had its fair share of false prophets but it seems that ever since we asked Baba Moi aende retire, ministers of faith have picked up more bad habits than we had even imagined. It isn't enough that faith-based organisations happen to rival Government and one or two prominent families in land ownership, but that their leaders have become the epitome of greed, murder and mayhem that the political classes once were.
We are a snobbish people and classify faith-based organisatiosn based almost entirely on their antecedents. If their forebears were Western European or North American, then they are kosher. If their forebears are Black Kenyans, then they are to be distrusted on sight - unless they can persuade a North American caucasian evangelist* or a Western European canon* to sanctify their existence with an endorsement. It is why mainstream* churches such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church are treated as respectable and one-pastor* churches like the Salvation Healing Ministry are seen as no more than the fly-by-night operations designed to separate the faithful from the contents of their wallets.
In recent years, though, the mainstream* churches and the fly-by-night ones have been losing out to another church altogether, helmed, if that be the right word, by charismatic ministers of faith who have taken the prosperity gospel to its logical extreme end. These ministers of faith are flashy and, despite one or two gauche flourishes, have a devoted following. They can do no wrong, not even when they live in the lap of luxury while their congregants make do with the squalor of day-to-day survival in this Kenya of the twenty-first century. They can get away with murder.
It is quite an astonishing thing to see a minister of faith with a police bodyguard and a police escort whenever he or she travels long distances. The police sweep the road ahead of the man or woman of the cloth, ensuring that the road is clear of the hoi polloi and their livestock, so that the messenger of Christ is safe and untroubled. It is less astonishing if one pays attention to how ministers of faith have infiltrated political circles, promising captive vote banks for politicians and asking for material accommodations in return, including unofficial police bodyguards and outriders.
So it comes as no surprise that even when things go tragically wrong and innocent Kenyans are killed because of the acts of these godmen, this web of patronage and influence that they are a part of swings into action, smoothening the path to judicial sanctification. It may be a few months but sometimes that is all it takes for witnesses to recant their testimony, for evidence to disappear, for prosecutors to inexplicably make catastrophic errors and, finally, for judicial officers and to make the right determination given the peculiar circumstances of the case. More often than not, though, tragic events are never investigated or prosecuted.
The inherent hypocrisies of systems founded on myths that make no sense are almost always exposed when ministers of faith behave badly. In Kenya, they have parlayed their notoriety into political power and untold wealth. And it matters not that they are mainstream*, fly-by-night or charismatic evangelists: all of them will slit your throat in a second if it meant more money, more power or both.
*It is interesting how titles conceal so much bad ish, isn't it?