It’s Foolish to Pray for Kenya

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The Kenyan General Election is around the corner, just 42 days away, and I am curious, when did you last pray for your country? If you did, what did you say in that prayer? Did you pray for any specific political leader? What did you say to God about President Uhuru Kenyatta? Did you pray for him to win? To lose? Did you pray for him to act on the rampant corruption in Kenya and were you specific about what he ought to do?

What about opposition leader Raila Odinga? Did you pray for his victory in the coming election or did you pray for his defeat? If you live in Nairobi, what did you tell God about Senator Mike Sonko? What about Governor Kidero? Did you pray against them or for them?

Prayer can be a touchy subject in the public square, especially where politics is concerned. An increasing number of people believe that Kenya does not need our prayers but our actions. Many Christians have been accused of being “too heavenly minded that they are of no earthly use.” When a Christian suggests prayer as one of the solutions to the problems facing our country, he or she is more often dismissed or ridiculed into submission.

Kenya is steadily becoming a secularised nation. Religion is becoming more and more unpopular among the intellectual and economic elites of this nation. Even when political leaders crowd churches with their entourage every Sunday, the act is received with great skepticism (and rightly so, more often than not).

We all know that they are showing up to church for “pragmatic” reasons, right? They are not really that spiritual or religious, right? Because how then do we explain the surge of politicians in churches in the weeks and leads leading up to the election only to be followed by their disappearance from churches to focus on “building the nation”?

It is therefore not surprising that many Kenyans think it both foolish and futile to pray for the nation today. Even some of the Kenyans who are believers in Jesus Christ and who pray regularly seldom pray for Kenya. They feel the country is “too far gone” for God to do anything about it. A growing sense of apathy has gradually scraped away politics from their prayer lists.

Christians have received too much bashing after their insistence on prayer that they have retreated to their caves. Some have been told that Kenya needs practical solutions and not impractical prayers. Many have therefore abandoned prayer rallies and joined lobby groups and other political activist causes in the name of being “more practical citizens.” Others became disillusioned by unanswered prayer that they resorted to prayer-less action rather than the cognitive dissonance of believing in a prayer-answering God who doesn’t actually answer any prayers.

It is easy to understand why anyone would quit bothering to pray for Kenya. It seems too foolish, too out of touch with reality, too impractical. And so, many have reasonably and rationally stopped praying for this country. Yet here I am, urging us to get back down on our knees and plead with God for the reformation of this country.

Here I am calling on all Christians to lift our leaders up to God in prayer, to pray for their decisions, their actions, an most fundamentally, their hearts. I am calling on all faithful Christ followers to pray for Kenyan leaders to do what is good for the citizens, to put country before self and, if it pleases the Lord, to save their souls.

I do not believe that the only way God can get Kenya out of the depths of corruption and hatred into shallower waters of the same is through the salvation of its leaders. Our leaders don’t ned to become Christ-followers for Kenya to get better than it is today. The God I serve has been known to cause great public choices even in those who curse his name in private. I pray for the former, even while I pray against the latter.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”¬†Jeremiah 29:7

Looking at my country through the secular, modernistic, liberal lens that is in the telescope of many Kenyans today, praying for Kenya is indeed a foolish action. It seems counterintuitive. It defies all the apparent laws of logic and reason that rule the day. To steal from the words of Apostle Paul, praying for Kenya and its leaders is “foolishness to the Gentiles.” They don’t get it (and can’t get it), and that is why they will always ridicule and dismiss it.

But we, who are called by the name of Jesus Christ, know better. Or to be politically correct, we know different. We know that prayer is not the sole call of a Christian, but the fuel behind all of the practical callings of a Christian. Prayer is not an alternative to action, but the path to actions that are both faithful to the truth of God’s word and the reality of God’s world. Prayer is not a call to inaction but a call to right action, or rather, a call to actions that are not guided by the myopic needs of the flesh but the ultimate glory of God.

So yes, prayer is indeed foolish to those who do not know God. When the Bible says “the fool says in his heart there is no God,” those words sting the hearts of atheists. Those words are offensive to them because they think themselves very wise and their knowledge quite superior in a world without God. In the same way, Christians will feel offended when called “foolish” for believing in God, but we shouldn’t, because we know better different.

Christians should not be surprised when those who revile religion speak against prayer. Christians will always be misunderstood by non-Christians. The Bible has already said this. The nature and purpose and power of prayer will always be misrepresented by non-Christians. As Jude once said,

“These people slander whatever they do not understand, and the very things they do understand by instinct–as irrational animals do–will destroy them.” Jude 10

So take heart, dear Christian, for your Father in Heaven saw this coming. Take to your knees, dear Christian, for only your Father in Heaven knows where your nation is headed. Don’t let the devil take away the only weapon guaranteed to bring real and lasting change to this country and, yes, this world.

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I am Walter Menya

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When the story broke on Sunday evening, the “facts” were scanty. I put the word facts in quotation marks because, as the story unfolded, the word would become less and less relevant to the narrative.

Sunday Nation’s reporter Walter Menya was arrested for apparently soliciting a bribe in order to “kill” a story implicating Kenya’s civil servants actively involved in Friends of Jubilee Foundation.

In a statement on Sunday, Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet said: “He has been demanding for money severally to kill the alleged story. At different times he has received a total of Sh35,000 through M-pesa (mobile money transfer) and today he was arrested receiving Sh20,000.”

Later, “unauthenticated” phone recordings revealed that the journalist was in communication with a Kennedy Koros who had apparently given him the story and wanted to pay Walter to publish the story “on the front page”.

This, mind you, was in direct contradiction to what Mr Boinnet had said earlier, that Walter was demanding a bribe to kill the story. But few people cared about the devil in the details of the story at this point.

Walter was eventually released two days later, although his laptop and flash disks remained in police custody pending a separate determination. The details of the reasoning behind that decision were also scanty. All we know is that the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko directed that the journalist be released on a free bond without being charged.

Since then, the conversation has mostly been about how the government is suppressing media freedom. For some reason, no one seems interested in the facts of what actually took place. They seem irrelevant.

What we know so far is that Walter Menya was “baited” by a Mr Koros, although there is currently no evidence that he actually received the alleged bribe. What Mr Koros did was clearly wrong, but what about what Mr Menya did? Who gets to tell the story of the fact that the journalist still took the bait even if he never took the actual money?

It is my personal belief that accepting a fake bribe is a statement about the moral and ethical culpability of the person taking the bait. To that extent, I think Mr Menya still has much to answer for, even if the law of the land is not the entity he owes that explanation.

To Walter’s credit,¬†he wasn’t being paid to kill a story or publish a fake story, contrary to the I.G.’s initial statement. He was being bribed to do his job. This is not something new. But it is something worth further pondering by those in the media fraternity.

In my brief stint in the newsroom (where I worked closely with Walter), I was severally approached by news sources who had legitimate stories with legitimate evidence and still wanted to give me money to write the story. Oftetimes the story was good and the evidence strong and I would have written it whether or not I was “incentivised”. This is what makes Walter’s situation so perplexing.

Some people may look at the fact that he seemed to accept the proposed money (if not the actual money) as proof that he would be willing to do the same to write a fake story or suppress a true one. But there is no way of knowing this. If someone wants to give me money as an incentive to do what I would have done anyway, I am not sure accepting that money is evidence of my susceptibility to moral or ethical compromise.

This is a tough ethical quandary. Journalists should not brush off or dismiss it so easily. This is also why I think I am Walter Menya in this story. I also believe many good journalists who would never take a bribe to kill a story or write a fake story would have taken this particular money.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the episode has told us little, if anything, about the state of journalism in Kenya. It has told us practically nothing about who Walter Menya is and whether he should be trusted as a journalist. If anything, it has only revealed the extent some political forces would go to compromise good journalism.

I happen to think that this episode was a classic case of a red herring being used to distract us from the story that Walter Menya actually wrote. Perhaps the people behind Kennedy Koros figured out the story would be damaging to Jubilee, and the only way to distract people from making noise about it was to divert attention to the journalist’s ethical standing.

Someone probably figured out that the story would get out anyway, so why not be the one to give the evidence and compromise the one journalist who would write the story?

Clearly, its a jungle out there. I am sad that Walter had to go through all this. You didn’t deserve it, my friend. However, let this serve as a lesson to all of us with the opportunity to tell our stories on national platforms. It is easy to be a pawn in someone else’s elaborate scheme. May we be diligent enough to spot the bait and resist it when we can.

Science and Myth, an Unlikely Friendship

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I love science. I like to understand and explain every day phenomena and I find science shows and publications the best place to satisfy this curiosity. In fact, some of my favorite Podcasts are science podcasts. RadioLab tops the list. Others include Invisibilia, Hidden Brain, The Naked Scientist and BBC Radio’s The Why Factor… just to name a few.

In a recent episode of¬†The Naked Scientist,¬†the team of scientists attempts to answer the question, “why do cats have vertical slit pupils rather than the usual circular pupils?” A scientist named Max explains that since cats need to see well both at night and in daytime, they need a more precise way to regulate light entering their eyes. The slit pupils are therefore best designed to achieve this.

The conversation then drifts into why some carnivorous animals like lions and leopards have their eyes at the front of the head while herbivores like cows and rabbits and antelopes have eyes that are more to the side. The explanation is that cats need the slit and front-placed eyes for better depth perception and focus when hunting, while herbivores (which tend to be prey) need a wider field of view in order to see danger approaching from all sides.

The scientists then go on to tackle other questions such as whether clouds defy gravity, why people have road rage and others. I have listened to numerous explanations of phenomena by scientists for years, but it is only the other day that I made the connection that scientists are some of the best mythologists we have today. Let me explain.

Almost all explanations that scientists give for animal and human behavior or physical traits today can be traced back to one major theory: Survival for the Fittest proposed by Charles Darwin in the 19th century. Consider the following examples picked from this site:

  • In an ecosystem, some giraffes have long necks and others have short ones. If something caused low-lying shrubs to die out, the giraffes with short necks would not get enough food. After a few generations, all the giraffes would have long necks.
  • Deer mice that migrated to the sand hills of Nebraska changed from dark brown to light brown to better hide from predators in the sand.
  • Sharks are colored white on the underside and blue or gray on the top. This is their camouflage as the top blends with the water color to someone looking down into the water and the bottom blends with the light coming through the water from above.
  • Because of its long body, the moray eel‚Äôs mouth did not produce enough suction to catch prey; so, it adapted and grew a second set of jaws and teeth.

The examples sound reasonable enough, scientific even. But the one thing that is often assumed and has increasingly become forgotten is that all the above statements are suppositions, or hypotheses. They are theories, not a record of something that was observed in history. It may as well turn out that the moray eel has always had two sets of jaws and teeth; or that the second set grew for a different reason and not the one given.

What we know for sure is what we can see, that the moral eel has two sets of jaws. Anything further is a step into speculation. In other words, any explanation for what we see now is a story that has been created to explain it. The fact of the matter is that scientists literally “invent” stories that best explain phenomena they see today.

In fact, the scientific way is to invent several stories until they find one that “best fits” as an explanation, one that best answers most of the questions related to the phenomena. This has always been the way scientific “laws” are discovered.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a myth as: “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” Would it be unreasonable to suggest that the definition be edited to include “typically natural beings and events?” I suggest we do so.

The fact is, science thrives on myths. Of course, experiments are good aids, but they are not the final verdict. Now, these myths may not be about supernatural beings or events, but they are myths nevertheless. In other words, they are works of fiction, not based on any observed history or eyewitness records. Furthermore, scientists would relegate to “the supernatural” those phenomena that they are yet to (yes, yet to) find a myth that best fits as an explanation.

As it turns out, science and mythology have more in common than many of us have often assumed. In fact, science needs mythology to be coherent and communicable. When evolutionary biologists talk of the early man (or the cave man) and what he used to do or why he made certain choices, you may almost think they are reporting recorded history.

But the reality is that it is not even reconstructed history. It is all myth, “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon.”

Of course, many science junkies reading this will argue that it is always more complicated than I have presented here. True. But you get the basic point. I hope. Or what do you think?