BARUA YA BARAZA:
From the Curator’s Desk: How I Lost My Faith in Church⛪️, Blogging Competition🏅, WWF Media Grant💰
This week’s newsletter is continuing the tradition of inviting members of our community to write From The Curator’s Desk, and for this edition, I’m happy to hand it over once more to Eddy Ashioya, a newspaper columnist, bathroom singer, and a creative storyteller.
Please send your guest writing pitches for this section to email@example.com if you’re interested in writing this section and you have something of interest to share to our community — a trend you’ve noticed or something you’d like us to think about. (Baraza Curator Christine Mungai is away on extended leave).
~ The Baraza Team
How I Lost My Faith in Church
By Eddy Ashioya
I just moved houses. The landlord forgot to mention the small matter of a Legio Maria church right under my balcony. And you know how it goes these days as they shout joyful praises to the Lord.
Now, I don’t know if the Lord knows this, but I am now one of the captive audience, absorbing the brunt of the hallelujahs and the hosannas and the hail Jesuses meant for Him, and in much higher decibels than those that reach Him. And the brazen church elders address my protests with a sneer; they claim this as their place, and I am the imposter, what I like to call kwani utadoism.
I’m not a fanatic of religion, but I am no atheist either. Neither am I a misotheist – I don’t hate God at all. Contrary. I like God—or the idea of God. But do His people have to be so loud?
And why is it always the hoods that have the loud churches? Ironically, they also grapple with the highest crime rates and on a square mile of Kawangware, Congo and Amboseli areas, can-cheat-can-die, you will find no less than twenty-something churches, assaulting every ear in the vicinity. If the Protestants don’t get you, the Adventists will. Contrast that with posh areas where the hum of opening gates ushers in visitors while terrestrial walls cut off the clatter of the city and the signs`Controlled Development’ silence even the most fervent of evangelists.
In my neighbourhood, participant-by-proxy church services that would normally take, at best, two hours, are extended to accommodate politicians who – four microphones in hand, or God-forbid, a megaphone – promise “sitaleta siasa kanisani”. And then proceed to do just that, politicking from the pulpit, preaching water as they castigate their opponents, and then taking wine as they bellow their own feats. The congregation, meanwhile, is cast under the spell of these latter-day Sadducees and Pharisees, ululating, dancing and stamping their feet – not to cast out the devil but to celebrate the 100K, 200K donation from the politician. These churches have chosen Caesar over God, and on my scale, are found wanting.
People adore Jesus when he promises them good things. However, when Jesus becomes the adult in the room and says “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” they turn away. The church doesn’t call out bad behavior by leaders and congregants in the way Jesus did. It merely suggests, barely instructs. I’m not asking for much, not even that they throw anyone back into the Sea of Galilee and separate the good fish from the bad. Just some God-like consideration when they pray.
Stories, like the Parable of the Rich Fool or the Tale of the Lost Sheep paint Jesus as a buddy-leader, shooting the breeze with anyone and everyone, the prostitutes, the tax collectors, those on the wrong side of the narrow path.
Now politicians and church leaders have replaced the “Almighrrryy Gaaawwdd” (as my twenty-something year old choir leader pronounces it) as the pinnacle of Sunday nit bits. God used to be the ultimate, the sterro, the otero, the Makmende of the service.
So many from my generation have left and no longer follow those who use the Holy Word but prefer Hollywood. The spirit that possesses us is bottled in 250ml, 350ml and mzinga measures and it’s not an invasive spirit; it leaves on Sunday mornings or afternoons, depending on your portion.
I still have ecstatic memories of being in church. The preacher, part voodoo evangelist, part drama master, and self-indulgent beyond measure, calling himself the mighty man of God rather than the man of the mighty God. I have experienced what keeps the congregation in their seats and the coins in the offering basket. In a sense, it’s no different than the spirit in bottles—one numbs the body, the other numbs the soul.
But I stopped going to church after campus, in the year of our Lord 2018 and Covid, like Pontius Pilate, nailed that coffin for me.
I know that the church means different things to different people. To some it is refuge, to others it represents hope as they show up for service with prayer items in tow praying for healing, deliverance, blessings. To me? It’s embodied by the church below my balcony; a building filled with noisy insensitive people, serving questionable ideals and people.
It’s very hard to separate the signal from the noise.
Jesus used to be box office, the anchor and the draw to church. People obeyed Him or said they did. You know; Jesus is Lord. But ever since politicians and a new generation of church leaders climbed the mountain, saw churches in the promised land, and prepared to harvest, I silently mourn and send up my own request. Lord, I pray, please protect me from your followers.
In the meantime, here’s:
What We’re Reading:
Architectural design inspired by termites. Recognised around the world for his award winning sustainable designs, the architect from Benin, Diébédo Francis Kéré says his design for an education campus in Turkana County, Kenya was inspired by the tall termite mounds he saw dotting the landscape. This year Kere became the first ever African and Black winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for architecture. We visit the Startup Lions Assets Kenya, a building he designed to be respectful and operate in harmony with its environment.
What We’re Watching:
Vuta N’Kuvute (Tug of War). The subtle story line of this 2021 film weaves between forbidden romance, political resistance and the corroding impacts of corruption and nepotism. It centres around a runaway Indian-Zanzibari bride and the strong bond she has with a young communist and is set in the winding, white washed alleyways of British colonial Zanzibar. Love and resistance escalate in their personal struggles for what they love and resist the most. Catch the final show at Unseen on October 4.
What We’re Listening To:
Why doesn’t Africa have a permanent seat at the UN Security Council? Kenya is serving out the last days of its two-year term (2021/2022) as a non-permanent member of the UN security Council before making way for another member state and there are no guarantees it will be from Africa. The 55 African countries, like all member states of the United Nations, are obliged to comply with decisions of the Security Council on matters of international peace and security but do not have permanent representation on the body. Is it time to restructure the Council for greater inclusion as many regional bodies are demanding?
Curator | Baraza Media Lab