Religious organisations need the cash, source notwithstanding, to run schools, hospitals and cater for overheads
ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi at the weekend revisited an incessant pet theme; challenging churches to reject contributions from leaders perceived to be corrupt.
What he, in essence, continues to stir is the age-old debate on so-called tainted money and if giving money suspected to be dubiously acquired could amount to cleansing the same and appeasing a possibly conflicted conscience.
Speaking at the Kenya Assemblies of God Church in Buru Buru at the weekend, a couple of weeks after firing similar salvo at another event, Mudavadi pointedly said: “The Church should be careful with these people masquerading as being wealthy and giving out money they have stolen from public coffers.”
No prize guessing in whose garden stones were being thrown and indeed, in quick rejoinder, Deputy President William Ruto shot back, wondering why his sense of obligation to give was pricking Mudavadi and as if to validate it all, pledged to continue making donations to churches.
While donating to a church in Kayole Nairobi in July, Ruto taunted critics thus: “There are people who sometimes shock us by asking why we donate towards church projects. But if you investigate these people, they spend their money on witchcraft.”
Media reports say the DP, a self-professed hustler who sold chicken in his youth to make ends meet, lately likes to take a dig at the so-called dynasties and people he says have much more than himself; the subtle implication points to leaders who are scions of former leaders (Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel arap Moi, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Moses Mudavadi et al).
Ruto has in less than a year reportedly donated Sh60 million in harambees, according unconfirmed media estimates, mostly church and school donations with Mt Kenya region benefitting most.
Going by the figure, this is at least eight times more than his salary over the same period.
However, backing this bout of generosity, former Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, who is also a strident foe-turned-supporter of Ruto, challenged Mudavadi to also give, instead of criticising the DP.
Khalwale was rebutting claims by former Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who during a TV discourse charged that Ruto’s wealth is ill-gotten and that it was common knowledge.
And also leaping to Ruto’s defence, Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said the DP did not start donating money this year and that his giving has nothing to do with 2022.
Those better served by their memories might recall earlier this year Catholic Archbishop of Nyeri Anthony Muheria when confronted by the issue of tainted money ventured that there was no way of differentiating whether money was legally earned or otherwise.
This is how his Eminence put it: “I wish I had PH test that I could conduct on the money to establish if it 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 and material obligations?
Tainted money and morality dichotomy also emerged in the run up to last year’s election and split the clergy with senior clerics taking conflicting standpoints.
Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, who then had just vacated stewardship of the ACK and now chairman of Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC), was strident that church leaders were stronger in faith, keeping distance from what he saw as manipulative political leaders who might come dangling goodies to win backing of the clergy and flock.
And while Muheria’s predecessor, Peter Kairu, a man considered a giant of the faith, concurred with Wabukala that clerics must be careful when accepting donations, another top ACK prelate 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. Material dictates notwithstanding, many are resigned though, over what makes money good or evil and are resigned to considering it (money) a tool that can be used for good or for evil.
From the diverse positions of our top clerics, it is obvious there is lack of clarity on the moral philosophy since the issue does not appear anchored on clear scriptural position for in the same Proverbs 11:24 it is said; One gives freely yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”
The interpenetration of religion and economics, faith and capital is nothing new and was the theme over a century ago, by playwright George Bernard Shaw who in a play Major Barbara explored the morality and money dichotomy.
In Major Barbara, a down to earth, if brash and cynical arms manufacturer Andrew Undershaft, who arguably comes across as Shaw’s hero, is a man with scant moral scruples whose wealth is drawn from the sale of weapons which moralists consider instruments of death. Shaw is the 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, nonetheless, must raise money to run rescue centres where the downtrodden can have shelter.
Our churches which Ruto contributes millions to have to run schools, hospitals and overheads to take care of. Undershaft offers generous cash for Barbara’s noble cause but the idealistic and moralist daughter rejects dad’s offer.
Now if Undershaft comes across as the antithesis of Mudavadi’s disposition, then Ruto’s stance is easier to liken to Major Barbara’s supervisor who overrules her thus: “We’ll take money from the devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hand into God’s, a stance that leaves Barbara horrified.
Kenya is of course saddled by debilitating image of graft perpetrated by those in positions of power and responsibility.
The NYS, contraband sugar, Kenya Power, Pipeline, maize scandal…it’s virtually an inexhaustible list yet this is a country with Christian majority and one of the highest per capita church presence. But we are hopelessly shackled by quest for illegal extractive and self-serving frenzy.
Mudavadi, whose own moral configuration has barely been subjected to scrutiny, raises a valid but inconclusive moral issue. Valid in the sense that as a country, the reality is that those in positions of advantage tend to conduct themselves like shoals of piranhas and keep wanting more.
Just check latest demands by our legislators who had no qualms diluting into irrelevance, Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity!
How many fabulously wealthy people have established foundations to benefit causes of charity?
Tainted money stance is also rendered morally inconclusive because as Archbishop Muheria said, one can not subject cash to PH rating to the extent of (toxicity)how tainted. And because churches need the cash from Ruto and anybody else for that matter, how can they (Churches) reject any money?
As Major Barbara finally concedes in Shaw’s play by the 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!
Perhaps Barbara might also have taken heart from the quote; “Thank the Lord that you can give instead of depending on others to give you”— Anonymous. —[email protected]