The Friday night when President Uhuru Kenyatta was announced the winner of the presidential election was a conflicting night for me. Even before the certificate was given, I heard screams and cheers of celebration on the street outside our apartment. The celebration became louder once the final announcement was made. I went to the gate to witness the celebration and it was intense.
I have never seen so many people on our street at night, most of them in red. They shouted, screamed, sang, made all kinds of noises to make sure the message was heard, that their candidate had won. Motorbikes, lorries, matatus hooted as they were driven up and down the street. I did not realize that I live in a Jubilee stronghold until that night. The celebrations went on and on, I actually remember still hearing noises at 3am when I finally went to bed.
On the same night I was chatting with a friend who was in Kibra. A protest had broken out and my friend was in a group that was protesting. I was very much concerned for his safety since he was in danger especially after he told me that the police were shooting at people. I could only chat with him since calls were not going through. He sent me pictures of what was happening (some of people who had been shot) and I kept pleading with him to go home or find a place to lie low, just to be safe at all costs. I slept at 3am because I had to wait for him to tell me that he was home.
So it was a conflicting night because on my doorstep fervent celebrations were going on while in Kibra my protesting friend was in grave danger.
The way we celebrate
What people say and do when they receive good or bad news will tell you a lot about them.
When I went to the gate to see the celebration, I was keen to hear what people said as they went up and down the road. Some were just singing and shouting but some were saying things that I cannot repeat here, things said with a lot of pride and meant to ‘rub the wound’ of the losers. My friend in Kibra was also writing me some messages that I did not agree with and had to measure my response to him since I was concerned about his safety first.
Season 2 of the elections is coming before we have even had time to debrief from what happened in August. I have never seen division of the magnitude that I saw in August in this country. I have never had to exercise self-control that much. I had to hold back a lot from responding to people spewing hate and propaganda all over the place. I have never seen people speak with so much bitterness. We may not have fought much physically but we surely committed a lot of murder in our hearts.
It was a sad state of affairs, the saddest part being that it did not end there.
People were been removed from WhatsApp groups, workmates stopped talking to each other, neighbours differed, families were wrecked, random conversations reveal deep seated frustration and anger, all because of politics.
Division in the church
And if you think this was just happening out there, you will be shocked to know that people have left churches because the pastor was insensitive in addressing political differences in the church. Some church small groups are divided because of political differences; people are not talking to each other.
The Sunday after the announcement was a particularly sensitive one. I was praying that preachers and pastors would take the high road, address that issue without implying their partisanship or avoid it altogether. The following Monday a colleague at work told me she will not go to a certain church again. Reason being the pastor asked the congregation to celebrate the re-election of Uhuru Kenyatta and give thanks to God because their prayers had been answered and it was ‘God’s will’. I will let you judge for yourself if my colleague or the pastor was right in that situation.
The way winners celebrated and the way losers mourned has revealed a fault line in the church in Kenya.
Pertinent questions arise, is politics really this important to us? Is it Ok for Christians to be so divided politically? Shouldn’t Christians speak with one voice? What informs our political decisions? Are our tribes more important than our faith? What is our default?
I wondered why Christians in this country reacted so differently. Bishop Oginde of CITAM captured this sentiment very well in his sermon on the Sunday after the election. He talked of how Kikuyu and Kalenjin Christians were celebrating while Luo Christians were mourning. Do we serve different gods (the jubilite and the nasarite gods), Bishop asked.
Did God speak to kikuyu Christians to vote for Uhuru and to Luo Christians to vote for Raila?
Voting as a Christian
But maybe we need to examine this thing, maybe we did not vote as Christians (informed by Christian values as outlined in the bible). The evidence seems to support the fact most Christians triggered their tribal instincts as they approached the voting booth.
If most Christians in this country voted for candidates from their tribes, then it raises a very serious concern, whether or not we identify ourselves with our tribes first (Kikuyu, Luo, Kalenjin, Luhya and others) or with our belief in God first. Basically, what is our default position?
What informs our decisions? Do we serve people of our tribe better in offices? Do we recruit people of our tribe even if they are less qualified? Do you feel like your tribe is more superior to others? If so, then you are running on a tribal state of mind and mostly likely that’s what influenced your voting decision.
To such a person, Christianity is a badge that they can wear and put down whenever they want. It is only worn on Sundays, complete with a smile and a ‘praise the Lord’ on the side.
Depth of faith
But it shouldn’t be so, our belief in Jesus needs to change our lives, to renew our minds, to transform our decision making process and make us more like Jesus in the process. Unlike our tribes, we chose Christianity; we yielded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and confessed Christ. We were not born with it; it was not forced on us, we made a conscious choice to follow Christ.
And what we have a choice over has more significance than what we do not have a choice over.
Our faith should mean more than our tribes.
Our tribes are just means that God used to introduce us into this world. He could have chosen that you be born in any other tribe, even the one that you don’t like, but he did not because there is a purpose for you being born in your tribe.
Our faith, the one that we choose, is what is most important. With it we find reason for living, we understand our origin and we also know where we are going.
Our faith needs to inform our decisions more because spiritual life is the most important aspect of all life. Actually, all things were spiritual before they were physical.
And that includes how we vote and how we react after our candidate wins or loses.
View of God
Some of us view God like we view an international elections observer, coming only to check on the general exterior of things and not interested in the nitty gritty. God wants to take over the process, to influence our innermost being and guide us in his ways. He wants to be involved in the decisions we make, social, emotional, financial and even political ones.
If you believe in Jesus then you are a Christian first because from God you came and to Him you will return. Whatever identity you carry in this transition period called life on earth is only meant to prepare you for what is to come, and I believe political kingdoms are not part of that.
Invest more in the kingdom that will know no end.
If you have to fight now, then fight for peace, for righteousness, for love, for justice, for unity, for equality. Fight for these things not the way you see fit, but on your knees first and then in action, reaching out to your ‘enemies’ and pointing them to Jesus.
Remember a divided church can never produce a united nation.