The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes – Part 41 – Kenya: Religious Extremity and Exploitation

Transposing emblem by Kenn Mwangi

Since the majority of the Kenyan population identifies as Christian, Sundays hold a special place in their lives. Every Sunday without fail, millions of Christians from all walks of life throng to their favorite places of worship. We come together eager for a chance to commune with the man in the cloud. Each worshipper is driven by personal reasons often revolving around five main categories – expressing gratitude, asking for forgiveness, seeking blessings, reinforcing their faith, and reserving a place in the afterlife.

As is the norm with religious upbringing, most people were indoctrinated into Christianity as children to revere God and all that he stands for. We have been taught that God is kind and loving to all those who believe and venerate him. He is bountiful with his blessings for those who follow his teachings unquestioningly and those who love him unreservedly.

It is with this understanding that we sing our little hearts out during the moving praise and worship sessions and sit stiffly in the hard pews during lengthy sermons. It is the reason we’re generous with our money. We give unreservedly during the offering, tithe faithfully with each paycheck and any other time we’re called upon to fund God’s work.

Nairobi, Kenya – On the street – Authentic Travel

Blessed is the hand that giveth.

Preachers are quick to delve into the benefits of giving generously to the church. They will reinforce their messages with the appropriate bible quotes that all conclude with god loving a cheerful giver. The congregation will hang on their every word and loosen their purses further when called upon. After all, these men of god understand and make it clear that the size of your offering is directly correlated with the amount of grace that will be bestowed on you in heaven. After all, who doesn’t need or love grace?

But what does grace really consist of?

Every believer making a beehive for the church could use a little more grace in their life. At best, grace is an amorphous term whose meaning varies from person to person, assuming any form of positive human experience. Thanks to Christian teachings, we’re are led to believe that God channels his grace to us through his servant – the clergy. As such, Christians swallow every word that comes from the servant’s mouth, believing it to be pure and divine. We are required to take the word of the clergy at face value and obey it unquestioningly.

Rusinga Island, Kenya – Hanging out – JL Warehouse

And that’s where the problem lies. The clergy has since risen to become a privileged bunch that is venerated to the point of being regarded as demi-gods. Realizing that they are above reproach, self-styled religious figures have seized the opportunity to abuse this privilege. Since the turn of the century, independent churches have sprung up all over the Kenyan landscape, with splinter groups emerging in just about every Christian denomination.

Money and power more than the need to spread the gospel is the primary driving force behind these developments. Churches and faith-based organizations are legally not required to pay taxes. Most religious figures have realized that churches are excellent money minting machines and have moved in for the kill.

Nairobi, Kenya – Downtown – Billy Miaron

A growing number of people hungry for grace makes the perfect target market for the prosperity gospel. Silk-tongued independent pastors have honed this message down to an art form. The sermons no longer dwell on eternal rewards in the afterlife. Instead, they now focus on reaping material rewards in this life – also referred to as the prosperity gospel.

The message revolves around having unshakable faith in God and giving generously to him in exchange for divine favors. These preachers are the perfect embodiment of this philosophy. They live in lavish houses that cost millions of dollars, drive a fleet of high-end cars, fly out for holidays and conferences, hobnobbing with the rich and powerful. They are living the kind of life that we can only dream of – further reinforcing the need to rekindle our faith in God.

Mombasa, Kenya – Trading shops – Fotogrin

However, if one was to dig deeper into the perfect life of these flamboyant men of God, huge cracks and inconsistencies begin to appear. You would realize their primary source of wealth is the offerings that are collected from their faithful. Their eloquent, well-crafted and moving sermons draw huge crowds each and every Sunday of the year. As the groups grow larger, church services are spread across the day – no one is turned away.

To shore up the offering collections during each service, preachers reinforce the need to match your offering with the amount of grace you’d like to receive in exchange. Systematic offering collection methods ensure that every member of the congregation makes a beehive for the collection plate. And so, the size of the Sunday collection soars.

Nairobi, Kenya – At the festival – Billy Miaron

So great is the generosity on Sunday that churches resort to hiring armed services to transport and guard the Sunday collections. Sunday services generate anything from hundreds of thousands to millions of shillings. Some churches announce the sums collected publicly while in some that’s a closely guarded secret. Either way, the congregation is happy to receive their weekly grace.

Meanwhile, the preachers are left with a jackpot that runs into the millions, and they put it to use. Most of them use it as seed money to create highly successful business empires as they use their position and influence to turn their congregations into paying customers. Since they have the necessary funds, these religious figures can afford to hire the best brains on the market to run their investment. For the mundane chores, they are quick to offer unpaid positions to a cross-section of the congregation who are only happy to be doing God’s work.

Machakos, Kenya – Rural farmers – James Karuga

And so, the cycle continues with rich and flamboyant preachers creating satellite branches to tend to a growing congregation eager to hear their message. As the number of branches swells, so does the amount of money they generate with each passing Sunday collection. We watch in awe as they create mindboggling business empires that cement their place among the rich, mighty, and powerful. All the while insisting that the key to leading a successful life hinges on having unshakable faith in the Lord and giving generously to the church to fund God’s work. Since we do not see as impressive results in our lives, we endeavor to increase our faith and donation to the church with each passing year.

Kenn Mwangi

Credits

Snapshot 1: Kadzhiado, Kenya – Headed off – Sergey Pesterev (Unsplash)

Snapshot 2: Nairobi, Kenya – On the street – Authentic Travel (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 3: Rusinga Island, Kenya – Hanging out – JL Warehouse (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 4: Nairobi, Kenya – Downtown – Billy Miaron (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 5: Mombasa, Kenya – Trading shops – Fotogrin (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 6: Nairobi, Kenya – At the festival – Billy Miaron (Shutterstock)

Snapshot 7: Machakos, Kenya – Rural farmers – James Karuga (Shutterstock)

Cinemblem voiceover: Nathan Jackson

Locations

Home: www.perypatetik.net

Social: www.facebook.com/Perypatetik

Cinemblem: Perypatetik youtube channel

The Syncretion of Polarization and Extremes

Ahmed, Amina. Growing up with Abuse: A Life of Extremes – Lebanon. April 2019.

Alencar, Joana. Lack of Social Trust – Brazil. January 2019.

Antonyan, Hayk. Polarization Does Not Equal Extreme – Armenia. September 2019.

Awdejuk, Pawel. Pole-arization – Poland. June 2019.

Baccino, Alejandra. Polarization within Ourselves – South America. January 2019.

Bondarenko, Evgeny. What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Ukraine. May 2019.

Cannarella, Daniela. A Past-Present Dicotomia – Italy. June 2019.

Casas, Marilin Guerrero Casas. Balance – Cuba. May 2019.

Cordido, Veronica. Hanging by Extremes – Venezuela. January 2019.

Dastan, S.A. Polarization and the Epidemic of Extremity – Turkey. August 2019.

Deiana, Sarah. The Unbearable Weight of Being a Woman – Italy. September 2019.

Escandell, Andrea da Silva. The Illogic of Extremes – Uruguay. May 2019.

Escobar, Christian. Between the Sky and the Earth: Looking for Love – Columbia. October 2019.

Gomez, Javier. The Canyon Inside Us – Argentina. July 2019.

Hernandez, Jonay Quintero. Extremism Is Now the New Hype? – Spain. February 2019.

Husseini, Maha. Bilingual Par Excellence – Canada. August 2019.

Israyelyan, Mania. Polarized Within Ourselves – Armenia. June 2019.

Julber, Lillian. Difficult to Understand – Uruguay. July 2019.

Kanunova, Nigina. Role of Polarization in the Life of an Individual and Society – Tajikistan. July 2019.

López, Virginia Sanmartín. Why Live on an Edge? – Spain. August 2019.

Montano, Osvaldo. Progress in the Face of Polarization – Bolivia. February 2019.

Pavicevic, Nikolina. The Law of Silence – Montenegro. September 2019.

Protić, Aleksandar. Linguistic Balkanization as a Means of Polarization – The Balkans. June 2019.

Ranaldo, Mary. Social Polarization – Italy. April 2019.

Ray, Sanjay Kumar. At the Crossroads – India. August 2019.

Romano, Mavi. Censorship and Cultural Survival in a World without Gods – Spain. January 2019.

Çakir, Peren. Needing a Sustainable Future in the Midst of Political Polarization – Argentina and Turkey. September 2019.

Sariñana, Alejandra Gonzalez. Student Movements – Mexico. March 2019.

Sekulić, Jelena. The Polarizacija of Serbian Culture – Serbia. June 2019.

Sem, Sebastião. Brandos Costumes – Portugal. July 2019.

Sepi, Andreea. A World of Victims and Perpetrators? – Germany and Romania. February 2019.

Sevunts, Nane. The Era To Close – Armenia. March 2019.

Skobic, Alexandar. The Loss of Identity – The Balkans. April 2019.

Sitorus, Rina. Polarization in Politics: All a Cebong or Kampret – Indonesia. March 2019.

Spirito, Julieta. A Thought about Polarized Insecurity – Argentina. April 2019.

Valenzuela, Monica. Adults and Children – Peru. April 2019.

Vuka. Extreme Immunity to Functional Tax and Judicial System – Serbia. March 2019

Wallis, Toni. Walls and Resettlement – South Africa and Angola. February 2019.

Williams, Jazz Carl. Unfinished Episodes – Spain. May 2019.

Zakharova, Anastasiya. Feminism – Russia. August 2019.

Forthcoming

CW 42 – Pakistan – Muhammad Kashif Shahid
CW 43 – Tunisia – Sarah Turki
CW 44 – Estonia – Margot Arula
CW 45 – Ghana – Kwasi Amankwah Awuah
CW 46 – Dominican Republic – Aura De Los Santos
CW 47 – Montenegro – Nikolina Pavicevic
CW 48 – America – Talia Stotts
CW 49 – Philippines – Kristian Uusitalo
CW 50 – Italy – martha Corzo
CW 51 – Hungary – Zoltan Monar
CW 52 – Syria/UAE/Egypt – Ahmed Ibrahim
Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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