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Should the Church accept dubiously-earned money?

Nyeri Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria at the weekend stirred the age-old debate on tainted money when he challenged politicians and business people to avoid contributing money dubiously earned. 

It’s probably safe to speculate that at the back of the mind of the archbishop must have been the deluge of graft and extractive reports currently choking the country. Speaking from the Consolata Cathedral Nyeri,  His Eminence was, however, quick to admit that there was no way of differentiating whether such money was legally earned or otherwise.

“ I wish I had PH test that I could conduct to test the money and establish whether the money is corrupt or not.” And that is the massive dilemma; should Churches as society’s moral lighthouses turn a blind eye to the source of money they might critically need to enhance their spiritual obligations? 

The issue also emerged in the run-up to last year’s General Election and instantly split the clergy, with senior clerics taking conflictual standpoints.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala,who had just vacated stewardship of the ACK was strident that church leaders were stronger in faith, keeping distance from manipulative politicos who might come dangling goodies to win backing of the clergy and flock. Muheria’s predecessor Peter Kairu concurred with Wabukala while another ACK primate Julius Kalu disagreed.    

The Book of Proverbs with its reference to wealth of the wicked being laid up for the righteous and Mathew 27:6 on Judas and his bloody money… give conflicting standpoints.

Many are resigned though to the position that money is neither good nor evil; it’s just a tool that can be used for good or for evil. So is the issue one of individual cleric’s moral philosophy not anchored on clear scriptural position?

The thematic emphasis of what has been called the interpenetration of religion and economics, faith and capital is nothing new and was given cogent thrust over century ago by playwright George Bernard Shaw who in Major Barbara (1905) explored the morality and money dichotomy.

In the play, a brash and cynical arms manufacturer Andrew Undershaft, a man with scant moral scruples whose wealth is drawn from the sale of instruments of death, is the estranged father of Barbara Undershaft, a major in the Salvation Army.

Andrew, to the moral horror of his daughter believes poverty is far worse than his weapons of destruction. The Salvation Army must raise money to run rescue centres where the downtrodden can have meal and shelter. Undershaft offers generous cash for Barbara’s noble cause but the idealistic daughter rejects the offer.

When her supervisor hears of the offer, alongside another donation from a whisky distiller, he snaps them up with words that leave Barbara shattered: “We’ll take money from the devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hand into God’s.

Kenya is saddled by debilitating image of graft perpetrated by those in positions of privilege and responsibility. The NYS candal, contraband sugar, Pipeline, maize billions…it’s virtually an inexhaustible list. And this for a country with Christian majority,  but  with frenzy for illegal acquisition to boot! Archbishop Muheria raises a valid but inconclusive moral issue.   

  Our image is one where leaders conduct themselves like shoals of piranhas amid an ethical environment barely moored on any values. Looting public resources harms development, drains moral reservoirs and undermines security.

A stance by those supporting current onslaught on graft is that for President Uhuru Kenyatta to attain his Big Four agenda, that should anchor his legacy, graft must be fought. But this has caused turmoil and finger-pointing within leadership.        

  When he made reference to politicians, the primate need not have mentioned that among church givers are those who may have derailed efforts to enforce original provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity. 

Churches need resources to fulfill spiritual mission and material mandates; run schools, hospitals and cater for needy and vulnerable.     

As Major Barbara finally concedes in Shaw’s play by same title; “bringing spiritual wellness” to people who are endowed, might be more fulfilling and genuine than converting the starving in return for bread, what her supervisor summed up as …. taking money from the devil and turning the same into use for good. – [email protected] 

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