The openness of Ross Douthat explains how America became a nation of heretics gives me a good understanding of the decline of Christianity. Although is difficult to relate to the American experience of Christianity through the years there are segments that many African Christians can relate. For many years, the evangelical main line churches had a great influence in the life of the citizen in Kenya, even in the political realm. In the 1960s and 1970s when the country was a decade old, the church was seen as the moral voice and was always depended upon as the voice of reason. This has changed and many church leaders not viewed as honest. The latest scandal is of a self-proclaimed bishop who claimed she had a doctorate from America and wants to run for the governor of Nairobi county. She was disqualified from the race because it was shown that she did not complete high school let alone sat for any doctoral classes. She is an elected member of parliament in one of the constituencies in Nairobi and is very popular with the poor in the slums. He church ‘The Glory is Here’ preaches the prosperity gospel and she had built and large empire from the proceeds of her church. I am working in a church which is in her strong hold and many people believe that as much as she has enriched herself, she has used her wealth to help the poor. Since she is not eligible for an elected seat, she has been nominated to the senate.
As I read the chapter on ‘Pray and Grow Rich’ I realized that I am more aware of the personalities mentioned as proponents of the prosperity gospel more than the evangelical leaders in America. Pirated DVDs and CDs of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes and recording from Trinity Broadcasting Corporations are available in the street because of their popularity. The church is therefore under pressure to preach and teach a message that people will resonate with, a message of prosperity, pray and you will grow rich. Are there check and measures to counter this popular teaching? Is anyone brave enough to question the impact of this gospel on the long run? With the proliferation of prosperity church with names like ‘Helicopter Church of God’ which promises rich and planes on national television on Saturday and Sunday mornings, the desire of many young people is to be a politician (to receive kickbacks and bribes) and to be a TV preacher (and make money from tithes, offering and seeds sown in the form of money).
Another similarity in the prosperity gospel preachers in Kenya is their investments in real state and the latest cars and all the trimmings of wealth. They get a larger following because people seem to believe in church leaders who practicing what they preach. They preach riches and money and they are rich and have a lot of money. It is common to find church calendars that have a month long emphasis on how to grow rich, who to reap your earthly riches, become rich and royal, say not to poverty and many other topics that will carry the message that God wants you to be rich. In a country where 80% of the population leaves below the poverty line, this message appeals to many. On the other hand, the crime rates and insecurity are real problems.
Who will regulate the church activities? There has been a proposal for the government to form an independent commission to regulate the work of church to ensure that people are not fleeced by con men in the name of preachers.
The comments by Douthat that “This is where the union of God and Mammon goes astray, ultimately: it succumbs to a naïveté about how riches are often accumulated and about the dark pull that money can exert over the human heart. And its sunny boosterism leads believers into temptation, equipping them for success without preparing them for setbacks— which in turn makes failure all the more devastating when it finally, inevitably, arrives.” No one is preparing the church in Kenya about the consequences of having an obsession on riches and wealth.
Douthat, Ross (2012-04-17). Bad Religion (p. 207). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.