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.

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 Scientistthe 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’s 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?

The Shocking Names Kenyan Parents Give Their Children

Did you know that the Kenyan constitution gives every child the right to a name?

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credit: nationalgeographic.com

The Bill of Rights in the Kenyan Constitution (Article 53) clearly outlines the rights of children, including the right of every child to free and compulsory basic education, the right to basic nutrition, and the right to shelter and health care.

But the first item in the list of almost a dozen rights is an odd one — every Kenyan child has a right to a name. Why does the right to a name have to be included in the Constitution? Whoever heard of a child without a name?

The first fundamental right of every Kenyan under general “rights and freedoms” is the right to life, but when it comes to children’s section, their first right is their claim to a name. Which leads to a more important question, what names do Kenyan parents give their children? And what do these names say about those children?

I am not so much here concerned about all the Kenyan children named after Barack Obama or the Air Force One. I am not even talking about the newborn who was branded “Donald Trump Otieno” months before the new US president was elected, or the boy whose birth certificate has read “The Beast” since 2015. My concern is with an entirely different list of children’s names.

I am talking about the names parents give their children as they grow up, the names that will never feature in the children’s birth certificates or school IDs. Yet, these names become the lens through which children see themselves. I am talking about names like “Good for Nothing”, or “Disappointment” or “The Clumsy One”. These are very popular children’s names with many parents.

In fact, such names are more powerful because, unlike birth names, children grow up believing that they have earned these names. They think they deserve them. The truth is that, when parents give their children cheap, hurtful names, those children will grow up to live cheap, hurtful lives.

It doesn’t help that these names tend to be very memorable. The names, or labels, stick to children. They follow follow them around. They define them. They become who they are. They are like the jestful “Kick Me” sticker that naughty kids put on the backs of their peers in school, only more destructive.

A recent report by Childline Kenya revealed some shocking numbers in terms of reported incidents of child abuse in Kenya. Over the last 10 years, more than 33,900 reports of child abuse were made through the helpline. Of these, 13,878 were reports of child neglect and abandonment, 7,832 reports of sexual abuse were made, followed by 7,317 report of physical abuse. Only 1,025 reports of emotional abuse were made.

However, do not be deceived by the dismal number of reported incidents of emotional abuse. Sadly, many people do not think emotional abuse is worth reporting. An even larger number of Kenyans would not recognise emotional abuse if they saw it. The numbers above tell a shocking story, but they also tell an incomplete story.

The numbers tell us nothing about all the destructive names that parents give their children and burden their lives with. The numbers don’t tell us how children tend to internalise the labels that parents and even peers project onto them. The numbers don’t reveal how children begin to become the label and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Names have a deep and lasting impact on how children feel about themselves. Names are the first labels for what children believe about themselves and the images they carry of themselves. The names we give our children become their ‘brand.’

The Constitution has given every Kenyan child the right to a name. However, it would appear that some children are better off without a name than with the names their parents burden them with.
In the unfortunate event you witness a child being abused, call the helpline 116 or WhatsApp Childline Kenya on +254799873107. You can also email 116@childlinekenya.co.ke (Twitter: @childlinekenya)

Is Satan a Christian?

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Are you a Christian? How do you know? Are you sure? What criteria do you use to tell if someone is a Christian or not? What are the “essential doctrines” or “fundamentals” that one must agree with and believe to be considered a true convert? And one more thing: Does the devil possess any of these “Christian traits”?

I went through my Bible for some examples of the things that the devil believes and does. I wonder if these traits are enough to render him a Christian:

  1. Satan reads and has memorized his Bible. He drops verses like a pro when tempting Jesus.  (Matthew 4)
  2. Satan believes that there is one God. (James 2:19)
  3. Satan can perform signs and wonders (2 Thess 2:9)
  4. The demons (Satan’s minions) know and acknowledge that Jesus is the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24)
  5. The same demons also acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. (Luke 4:41)
  6. It appears Satan has access to the presence of God and converses with God (Job 1:6)
  7. He knows that he can do nothing without God’s permission (Job 1:6-12)

Are these “facts” enough to render Satan a Christian? And if not, what are those things that would disqualifies him from being one?

My answer is that there is at least one thing that the devil neither seems to know, BELIEVE nor ACCEPT. There is also one thing that the devil never DOES, and the reason why he doesn’t DO the latter is because he doesn’t BELIEVE the former.

First, what the devil doesn’t BELIEVE:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]

Secondly, what the devil doesn’t DO:

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” [1 John 3:14]

In other words;

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  [John 13:35]

The devil does not love God and he does not love his neighbor. His loveless actions are the evidence that he does not believe the Gospel. However, the devil does claim to love people and care for people and look out for the best interest of the people. The difference is that his love, care and concern is not expressed in ways that explicitly honor and give glory to God.

Now that we know a few things that set the devil (with all his knowledge, beliefs and works) apart from the true children of God, the more important question is this: What sets the devil apart from you? Do you believe the Gospel? And has this belief caused any change in your love for God and neighbor? Doe your love for others show others that you are acting out of gratitude for what God has does for you?

I implore you to examine your heart and prayerfully consider this.

Revised and Updated: Should Women Be Pastors?

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credit: telegraph.co.uk

We have all passed through that stage. We didn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t let us sleep over at a friend’s house, or why we had to brush our teeth, or eat our vegetables and make our beds. All our confused and pained “whys” were quickly silenced by mum’s firm “Because I said so”. Of course, now that we are older and we understand about neighborhood feuds, cavities, good diet and grooming, we can appreciate these formerly oppressive commands. Hindsight is always 20-20.

In retrospect, we can see that our parents had nothing but our good in mind. Even though we were too young to understand the “whys”, our parents were old enough, and that was enough for the time being. No, we did not enjoy the pain and darkness surrounding those commands. Deep down in our hearts, we were convinced that our parents were just plain mean, sometimes.

While a similar case can be made for why God gives us certain commands and instructions, the parallels do not always fit. Analogies are helpful, but analogies can only go so far. Even so, there is something to be said about some seemingly “pointless”, “oppressive” and “irrelevant” commands in the Bible.

OFFICIAL CAPACITY

I would like to zoom in on what I can only describe (for lack of a better description) as official commands in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the adjective official as “of or relating to an office, position, or trust.” To say that someone is official is to say that he or she is to be recognized and treated in reference to the authority or office they claim to represent.

Whether that person has the intrinsic talents and abilities to carry out that official role is irrelevant to the fact that they already have that role. This is why Christians are commanded to submit to all earthly authorities (Romans 13), even those that are oppressive and definitely fail to qualify for that office. We are not commanded to submit only to good leaders or qualified leaders, only to people in leadership, their CVs and character notwithstanding.

At the risk of belabouring this point, consider two friends working in the same office. One friend is the supervisor or manager of the other. If one day the subordinate friend came to work late, the supervisor friend may have to deal with her in her “official capacity” and dish out the required discipline. This is fairly easy to understand in our various “official” interactions with friends and family in life. However, we are not so quick to recognize similar rules when it comes to the Bible and the different “Biblical offices.”

Consider this controversial passage:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [1 Tim 2:12-14]

THE PASTOR’S OFFICE

I say that this verse is controversial beforehand because it speaks to an issue that is quite divisive and hotly contested in the church today — the issue of women as pastors and elders in the church.

Some of the arguments raised against having women as pastors include the claim that Paul was speaking to a specific cultural problem and context, and that the command is not universally applicable to today’s society. This is probably right, but there are passages in other parts of the Bible that make it difficult to use this line of argument as the conclusive proof that the issue of women in church leadership was only a cultural one. Even so,

I will not be dealing with that argument today. What I am concerned about is a different line of thought. A line of thought that may actually render the whole “this was a cultural issue” debate irrelevant to the bigger picture. As already revealed in the beginning of this post, I am here dealing with the argument of “equal worth” and “equal capacity/giftedness” in men and women. This is what is commonly referred to as egalitarianism.

Basically, the argument states that “since women are equally capable and equally gifted to teach and lead, then there is no reason why they should not be pastors.” Here is my contention. Are women able to teach? Yes. Are women able to lead? Yes, of course! Are women, more often than not, better teachers than men? Definitely! Are women arguably more intuitive and better able to multitask than men? Yes. So, should they be pastors and teach the church congregation on an official capacity based on their abilities? No. Why? Because God says so, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, because the LAW says so:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” [1 Corinthians 14:34]

As a child, I was perfectly able to go over to my friend’s and spend the night. I was perfectly able to skip eating my veggies and brushing my teeth. But my parents knew better. They had reasons that my childish reasoning capacity could comprehend, let alone accept. So I obeyed them. Yet, this is also where my analogy fails.

As an adult, I am now able to perceive the direct evil consequences that could have resulted from disobeying my parents’ instructions. A visit to the dentist is one very effective way of driving home the message. However, it is still more difficult to think of any good reason why a woman being a pastor would lead negative consequences. This is probably because many of us are wired to be consequentialists: We only categorise some actions as bad when we can clearly see the negative consequences of doing them.

This is why the reasons Paul often gives for why women should not teach seem strange, offensive even, to many of us. However, if our understanding of sin and morality is guided by the Bible, then we should be able to acknowledge that sin is not bad primarily because it hurts people, sin is bad because it is against God’s order and commands. In other words, sin hurts people because it is bad (and even when we cannot see how it hurts people, it is still bad because God said so). This is why some actions like my parents not letting me sleep at a friend’s house on a school night is good, even though it hurts me at the time.

Pain is a poor determinant of right and wrong.

So, when Paul, in 1 Timothy, says a woman should not assume authority over a man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve“, we are tempted to find another special reason for this command. It just doesn’t sit well with us. It just doesn’t seem like a strong enough justification for forbidding women to lead a congregation since “we can see all of the benefits and none of the losses” if they did.

EGALITARIANISM AND THE TRINITY

In conclusion, let us briefly look at the offices that men are commanded to hold and how qualified they are to do it. Consider this verse:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]

Keeping in mind the case laid out above, is there anything in the man that makes him intrinsically more capable and more fit to be the head of the house or the head of the woman? No. Then why don’t we oppose this passage using the same argument of consequentialism? Perhaps this argument  sounds less offensive because it appeals to the headship of God over Christ, and the headship of Christ over man.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I have sat under many a female “pastor” and gained truths about God that many male pastors could probably not have taught me better. I have listened to many sermons by women “pastors” that were solid and biblical and I gleaned treasures worth an eternal spot in my heart. Many of these women pastors are good friends of mine. Women indeed do make excellent teachers.

Yet, consider this: Can Christ do what God (the Father) can do? Yes. Does Christ know what God knows? Yes. Does Christ have all the attributes that God, the Father, has? Yes. So, should Christ play the role or serve in the office of the Father? No. Why? Because God says so. Because God has ordered (arranged) and ordered (commanded) it so!

May we learn to rest in God’s sovereign wisdom, even when we don’t get it.

Did Gloria Muliro Steal Chris Tomlin’s Song?

Controversy seems to follow Gloria Muliro wherever she turns, like an unshakable stalker.

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The latest has to do with her song, Follow You. The singer has been accused of stealing/plagiarizing/sampling (whichever term seems most appropriate), not only the words, but also the tune to the chorus/verse from Chris Tomlin’s song, I Will Follow You.

Now, people will throw out accusations all the time at celebrities. What matters is whether those accusations are true, reasonable, justifiable or simply unfounded. What makes Gloria Muliro’s case even more noteworthy is the fact that she responded, by denying all charges of stealing/sampling/plagiarizing the song [both consciously or sub-consciously].

She further added that the contentious lyrics were inspired by the Bible and any similarity with Chris Tomlin’s song is purely coincidental.

It is this denial that makes her case worth examining, especially if you’ve listened to the two songs. Here are the links to the two songs: Gloria Muliro and Chris Tomlin. Give them a listen before you proceed. The first 30 seconds should do it.

Now, a few details concerning the controversy:

FIRST, the words in the contentious verse in both songs are [almost] exactly the same. The only difference is that Chris Tomlin uses the word “when” instead of “where” in the second to last part of the verse [underlined]:

Muliro: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, where you move I’ll move I’ll move, I will follow you”

Tomlin: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move, I will follow you”

SECONDLY, Gloria Muliro was recently interviewed by Buzz concerning the controversial song. This was her explanation for the apparent similarity between the songs:

Buzz: Okay, make us understand why you are accused of stealing the song ‘Follow You’ by American singer Chris Tomlin word by word.

Muliro: Let me make it very clear. My music is inspired by the Bible. The words in ‘Follow Me’ are in the book of Ruth 1:16. Check and you will see. If today I preach the sermon from John 3:16, that will not prevent somebody else to preach the same verse in Russia. We are all guided and inspired by the same Bible.

THIRDLY, if you’ve listened to the choruses in both songs, the tune is more or less the same. But I will leave that one up for the reader’s/listener’s determination. It could be that all songs sound the same to me. I’m a lyrics guy, after all  🙂

Anyway, my focus in bringing this controversy to light is not to determine whether Gloria Muliro did sample Chris Tomlin’s song (though I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing). My major concern is in the way she responded to the accusations, considering her claim to be a Christian, and therefore expected to live (or at least speak) according to certain standards.

In the excerpt above, she told Buzz that the words in the song are in Ruth 1:16. This could be true. Ruth 1:16 says, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” However, the verse does not have the “where you move, I’ll move” part. I could be splitting hairs here, but it seems Gloria Muliro’s song has more in common with Chris Tomlin’s song than with the Bible (her alleged sole inspiration).

I have tried to give her the benefit of doubt. I have even considered what a friend suggested on Facebook, that this could be a case of Cryptomnesia (This is when “a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke…” ) I was willing to grant that, but upon closer examination of the song, I realized that the similarities are too detailed to be merely incidental.

Some similarities in the internal message in both songs is striking. Yes, a person may sub-consciously sample a chorus and plagiarize a few lyrics, but is it possible for one to subconsciously translate those lyrics into Swahili? That seems a little bit hard to pull off.

In the first verse, Chris Tomlin says, “All your ways are good, All your ways are sure….” and in her first verse, Gloria Muliro says, “….Njia zako hakika (all your ways are good), Mambo yako sambamba (all your ways are sure)…” Maybe I am just cherry-picking lines to prove a point. So, let’s go all the way to the last verse and see what we can find there. In Chris Tomlin’s song, there are phrases such as, “…In you there’s joy, unending joy…” and in Gloria Muliro’s song, “…kuna upendo tele kwako (in you there’s unending joy), furaha kwako (in you there’s joy).” Is this still a coincidence inspired by the story of Ruth and Naomi? Maybe it is. Who knows? God works in mysterious ways.

But an even more important question is this, do you think those are sufficient reasons to make people think that Gloria stole/sampled Chris Tomlin’s song? I think they are. Gloria Muliro doesn’t seem to think so. When asked whether the accusations against her were unfounded, this was her disturbing response:

Buzz: So why would people think that you stole the song, in your opinion?

Muliro: People are just jealous of my success.

Dear Christian artistes, we are called to be above reproach. This does not necessarily mean that we will never fail or try to cover up our failures. It means that we should always be ready (and willing) to bring those failures to the cross. It doesn’t help anyone to keep holding onto our “righteousness” when it is clear before God and before men that there is reason and cause for repentance.

Christianity is not about never falling, it is about always rising up after the fall. Our faith is best displayed in our admission of our falleness (and in our proclamation of Christ’s sufficiency to forgive and raise us up again). No, the world will not be won by our outward cloaks of perfection and self-righteousness, it will be won by the display of our utter dependency, for therein lies the reality of the Gospel in our lives. We are all desperate beggars before God’s throne of grace.

It is my prayer that Gloria Muliro will come to the realization that Christian artistes are not saints misunderstood, but sinners forgiven.

Soli Deo Gloria