When Jesus charged his disciples to preach the gospel globally, he couldn’t have imagined how church would pan out in Kenya, says Josaya Wasonga.
A God-fearing nation. A Christian nation. A Church-loving nation. These are some of the epithets bandied about when describing Kenya and our religiosity. Here’s another that springs to mind: a churchianity nation.
The jury’s still out on who it was that coined the word churchianity, but Wiktionary’s definition is spot-on: ‘Practices of Christianity that are viewed as placing a larger emphasis on the habit of church life… the quality of being too church-focused.’
‘Church life’ – as in concentrating on neo-gospel glam, instead of Christ’s credos.
‘Church-focused’ – this one’s a breeze. Why, it’s the fundamental tenet of many preachers who are, ahem, ‘called to open a church’.
In September 2007 The Standard reported Kenya’s then-Attorney General, Amos Wako, as saying there were 8,520 registered churches in the country, with 6,740 applications for registration waiting to be processed – and 60 new applications filed each month. If the registrar was able to keep up with the demand, roughly 10,000 churches would have been registered by the close of 2009.
This is 2013. Man, you’ll need to ask the number-crunchers to do the maths. No wonder it’s claimed that Sunday morning is the most divided time of the week.
It’s the names I love. The pie goes to Helicopter of Christ Ministries. This always makes me picture Christ returning in haloed choppers, flying in formation.
I came across a kiosk church called Akisema Amesema. Which is Kiswahili for, literally, ‘if he has said, he has said’. Some weird handle, seems to me. What’s the message? Get creative, Holy Joe, or get your boring butt outta church parade.
In Kenya, a church isn’t just a building for public worship, but – if recent unscriptural shenanigans are anything – it’s also a public limited partnership where ‘investors’ flog shares. Shares are measured by flock numbers. Megachurch equals – ker-ching – megabucks.
Here’s how I picture the salesmanship, Kenyan-style…
“Dying for a pad on the other side of Uhuru Highway? Don’t sweat it. Just buy this handful of anointed soil from the ’burbs, say ‘I receive’ like you believe, and you’ll be chilling out with the Joneses, chop-chop. Speak to your mound of dirt!”
“Desire instant blessings? Send your M-Pesa donation of 390 bob – it’s what the Lord hath commanded – to the number below on your screen.”
“Down for whatever? Buy my anointing oil. But – uh-oh – watch out for counterfeits. Trust only my bar-coded stuff.”
Badger, open a church, and you’ve opened a can of honey.
This morning, as I write this, I watched Kenya’s media-darling prophet, the shaggy-bearded Dr David Owuor, on NTV, dishing out his post-poll prophecies and reading churchians the riot act.
I also have a prophetic message: “A churchianity nation that preys together, stalls together.” Did I hear someone question my spiritual stripe? For the record, I’m no prophet. So who the heck am I?
Saints and ‘ain’ts’: my name is Joe Soap and I approve this message, sawa?