Politicians have always used religion to appeal to certain demographics and lend divine legitimacy to their campaigns, but what is happening in Kenya’s presidential race right now is more extreme.
The candidates are tying themselves to specific biblical characters like never before. The level of religious rhetoric in Kenya has actually “disturbed many religious leaders and scholars,” according to Religion News Service.
Supporters of President Uhuru Kenyatta, the 56-year-old incumbent from the Jubilee Party and a Roman Catholic, compare him to David, as in the slayer of Goliath. They point out that he likes music and is left-handed, as many believe the biblical David to have been.
Well, by this logic, I have more of a claim to the title of “King David” than this guy. I’m also left-handed, and I enjoy music, plus my name is actually David. So unless this guy bought his wife for 100 Philistine foreskins, then I don’t see the connection here.
Kenyatta, for his part, has been kneeling on church pews and receiving blessings from church leaders.
Early this year, in central Kenya, Kenyatta’s short prayer for rain was followed by a heavy downpour. His supporters praised him as a prophet.
This is where things start to get scary. He isn’t just using biblical names and allusions — he’s acting as a prophet acting on behalf of God. That mentality, throughout history, has proven to be dangerous.
Kenyatta isn’t the only one trying to portray himself as someone of biblical fame. Everyone is getting in on the game.
Kenyatta’s challenger, Raila Odinga — an Anglican who leads the opposition National Super Alliance — has referred to himself as Joshua, the Israelite who succeeded Moses and delivered the people of Israel to the Promised Land.
A lot of Kenyans are eating up the religious rhetoric, but not everyone is falling for it. Rev. Wilybard Lagho, the Mombasa Roman Catholic archdiocese vicar general, said no one should be fooled by the false claims.
“They want their supporters to believe this is a divine call, which is not. I think they are manipulating their supporters.”
This is exactly why separation of church and state is so important. Jesse Mugambi, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at the University of Nairobi, agrees politics and religion shouldn’t be mixed this way.
“The objectives of the two discourses are very different. This is worrying and misleading.”
“But the abuse of religion is common across the world and Kenya is not the first,” he added.
The reason they are doing this is obvious: it works. In a place like Kenya, where 80 percent of the population is Christian, tying yourself to a well-known biblical figure is a good way to get religious fundamentalists to vote for you. The same can be done by non-religious politicians who simply beat the “God and Country” drum over and over again. Good thing that never happens in the United St–never mind…
(Screenshot via YouTube)