Competence Based system delay

Posted in If I was... on December 13, 2018 by Kyama

I support the delay and perhaps the revisiting of the CBC system Kenya intends implement. While I am critical of 844 having gone through, it and taken my children through it, I am all for thorough reflection before implementation of the system.
Here is my why.
Education systems are (should be) dictated by the future socioeconomic environment the students will live and work in. Only economically privileged societies have the luxury to experiment with other models.
Early stage, (or recovering economies), with high population, aiming for high growth rates, with economic inequalities and income disparities – thrive with education systems that attempt to level the playing field with the limited resources they have. Such systems tend to be rigorous, exam based, aim to develop basic skills and promote merit based evaluation systems (read exams). The myth is that such systems are not student based. Actually they are, they just start with the fact that the student will face an uncertain future for which they will need certain standard skills, along with their peers. These are the heavy workload, exam based systems. Such education systems favor student’s comfort later, in adulthood, not now.
Socioeconomic systems which are more equal, lower economic pressure, lower population and with no need for high economic growth rates, can now focus on present student comfort.
Nordic countries (Sweden, Netherlands, and Finland – with ‘the worlds best education system’) are in that category. After decades of exam based systems, in 1970s/80s after achieving high GDP per capita, supported by mineral (oil/gas) wealth, low populations, relatively slow growth rates they could now focus on such issues as family comfort, maternity incentives and, pertinently, student comfort. (Gdps 30-60k, almost stagnant population, economic growth below 4%, one of those countries even gave all their citizens a $5k bonus! Just for being citizens!) Such countries can afford non conventional approaches to education because they literally can afford to solve the labour issues differently. Please note that UK, US, Russia are large western economies which still keep more standard education systems. Like Brick, countries they don’t tick all those boxes.
China, India, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore are all strong yet emerging economies that maintain a form of rigorous merit based economies. They have the opposite challenges of say Finland. They are aiming for >5% growth rates, are dealing with inequalities, are aiming for non mineral based economic sustainability. They are also populous. These countries all have make or break exams at several levels.
The question we must ask ourselves is – on which lane should we be? The facts/numbers speak for themselves.
One system says we aim for the students comfort in the future. The other system says, future is sorted, let’s make the kids have fun now, after all they are such few of them anyway, and after all we have the cash.
I can feel some of my middle class friends hyperventilating now. Why all this neoliberal vybe of commoditizing our kids as cogs for Kenya’s future? Good question. 2 quick answers.
A. We can’t afford the CBC system for all of Kenya. We have issues threatening the sustainability of our economy. Universal education is one solution. We have to find a different way of addressing ‘non standards’ competencies. Singapore, Malaysia, and (especially) south Korea have figured work arounds for this. That’s what we should be looking at.
2. I am concerned that contrary to what it claims CBC will promote economic and social inequalities. As it stands now, only private schools have, and will continue to have capacity to fully implement CBC. Our government already has among the highest proportion of budget allocations for education in Africa. It won’t hack this thing. Take it from me. Once again those with money will benefit from a good system that we can’t afford to implement.
With current system, a kid in Turkana has a better chance of competing on same level in say Math, English, Swa as a kid in Nairobi (regardless of the other non conventional competencies both have)
In CBC, a gifted artist in Turkana can’t compete with their contemporary in Nairobi. The resources required to level that playing field are simply not there.
I rest my case.
By the way, I do think that non conventional competencies (artistic, intellectual and otherwise) are critical for the future of this country. We need artists, musicians, sculptors. By the way we need philosophers, theologians as well and CBC doesn’t even begin to deal with these non conventional either…

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Martin Luther still speaks today

Posted in If I was... on November 2, 2018 by Kyama

Every October 31st, a number of Christian traditions celebrate Reformation day. It is the day protestants remember Martin Luther who, together with others, laid the foundation of Protestantism. At a time when many church leaders were abusing their positions of power and authority to commit various sins, among them getting rich by extortion, Luther’s reflections helped redirect the church back on the path of right belief and right practice. [Orthodoxy and orthopraxy]

Luther based his objections on his knowledge, understanding and reflection on the Bible. From his thoughts we find the encouragement to return to such important concepts as faith, grace, and scripture. [Sola Fide, Sola Gracia, sola scriptura]. In his mind, Christ came to the centre and all was to be done for the glory of God. [Solus Christus, Soli Deo Gloria].

The vibrant expressions of the Protestant church we see in Africa today, directly and indirectly, drew from these elements of Reformation thought. We see in Charismatic/Pentecostal Christianity how the priesthood of all believers, talked about in the New Testament and emphasised in the Reformation, opened up the space of participation to create a rapidly growing, highly participatory Christian environment.

As Andrew Wall’s the Scottish historian and missionary argues, the beauty of the gospel is its ability to enter into every context and become so much at home that people may even forget what the context looked like before Christianity. The gospel comes with power to challenge the status quo. It challenges power and wealth, by pointing its followers to the way of the cross, which is a way of self-denial.

The gospel doesn’t stop there. It also challenges poverty and despair. The same gospel that scolds privilege and power also speaks into poverty and despair offering hope, provision, blessing, healing and victory for the vulnerable and weak. This is not a contradiction. It is the power of the gospel to speak life, abundant life, into every situation.

The gospel must speak life, hope, blessing, provision and victory. This aspect of the power of the gospel finds much resonance among believers on the continent. Not just that, it is a word of hope that is much needed in the midst of much suffering [Heb 6:18-19, Rom 12:12, Rom 15:13]. After all where else can we find real hope, given the track record of man [foreign or local] on the continent? However, it is here that some of my fellow pastors have erred royally. They could not resist tapping onto this powerful aspect of the gospel and turning it for their own gain. This isn’t dissimilar to Luther’s day.

As of October 31, this week, it is 501 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 arguments on the door of a church in Germany. As an introduction to his arguments he wrote:

The 95 Theses (Die 95 Thesen)

“Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.” [The 95 Thesis]

If Martin Luther came back to life today, as a reflective, perceptive pastor, living in the midst of a vibrant growing church which has many positives but a growing issue of sin in the form of greed, what would he say? Would he have a word from the Lord to us as pastors? Would he have an objection to a section of this exciting movement of Christianity that his thinking [along with others], helped found?

Reading the 95 theses, I am of the conviction that he does not need to come back to life. [At least not before the rapture]. His words are clear, and his arguments sharp. One only needs to peruse the arguments to see that Martin Luther does have something to say to some of our preachers today. Here are some thoughts from a few of the arguments. [For reference, Martin Luthers' specific arguments are in brackets]

Preachers are in error who say that one can receive blessing and deliverance in exchange for a gift mediated through the minister. [21]. Such promises are deceptive and are the evidence of a more humanistic approach to spirituality. [24,27] The transactional nature of this type of spirituality, especially involving money increases the propensity for greed and materialism. [28] Only God can deliver the preacher and his or her faithful because He alone is above sin. [28,30] Repentance can go out the window the moment cash becomes a substitute for genuine discipleship. [31]. In fact, the moment someone thinks they can pay God in exchange for blessings then this begins a slippery slope of separation from God. The slope is made more slobbery the moment a man or woman of God assigns themselves the mediator role for such blessings. [33]

At the centre of the conversation should be discipleship through the gospel, and not receiving blessings and deliverance, though these are important, nay crucial in any context. [35, 52] After all God’s goal is reconciliation with his people first. [36, 48,58] Besides, God has already released his blessings upon his people through and in the person of Christ. [37] Maintaining the balance between genuine discipleship, repentance, God’s blessing and deliverance is not easy even for the most learned, theologically -inclined Christian. [39] The more the reason why addressing these issues needs to be done with care. [41] Christians ought to learn about the value of material blessing, especially its role in impacting the vulnerable and needy. The believer is blessed to be a blessing to others and not to themselves. [43,45]. It is wrong for Christians to misappropriate family resources to give men and women of God who demand them in exchange for blessings. [46,47] God is the deliverer himself, a gift given cannot deliver or bless. [49]

Genuine God-fearing people would be grieved to the core if the full extent of the inaccuracies and theological errors of some of these preachers were to be revealed. [50,51,52] It is a grave error to the Body of Christ, and especially to Christ himself, to limit the preaching of other biblical truths at the expense of preaching some of these teachings. [53,54,55,56] Staying true to the gospel isn’t as attractive, popular or convenient as some of these other ideas. [63,64] The value of the gospel is in its invitation and challenge to men of wealth. [65] The value of the gospel is not in its invitation to gather the wealth of men. [66] What is so suspicious about some of this preaching is its promotion of gain for the minister at the expense of the faithful. [67] Obscuring the truth about the dangers of these perspectives is an invitation to God’s condemnation, while those who wisely and graciously point out the inconsistencies invite blessing. [71,72, 73, 74]

To build the brand of the man or woman of God instead of promoting the Cross of Christ is to make a mockery of the Gospel. [77,78,79] God will hold accountable senior church leaders, and opinion shapers who do not caution pastors in their ranks about these things. [80] One of the real problems with these quid pro quo teachings is that they do such a disservice to the true meaning and value of the gospel, that it makes it harder for even well-trained people to speak to others about this gospel. [81] Many faithful are raising concerns, but to shut them up by invoking the power of the man of God, without giving a reasoned response brings disappointment and exposes the church to ridicule. [90] At the end of it all the most important thing is following Christ, through the blessings and the tribulations of life, through the challenges without seeking a short-cut route of ‘buying’ blessings. [94, 95] In any case isn’t it much better to be assured of obtaining eternal life with Jesus the right way, than to have an uneasy security because of having taken a short-cut?

Martin Luther speaks to us today. Many will do well to revisit the Scriptures and evaluate ourselves against what we find there. The reflective ones among us must apply themselves to find out how best to navigate the power of the message to bring hope and God’s material deliverance while safeguarding ourselves from the greed which that very power exposes us to. The long-term future of the church’s effectiveness on the continent is contingent on the outcome of that reflection.

Read for yourself the entire set of Martin Luther’s arguments here http://www.luther.de/en/95thesen.html

Bretton Woods to the rescue? Not again!

Posted in If I was... on February 27, 2018 by Kyama

Classical Economics, Capitalism and Kenya: There are three key internal actors in Kenya’s present economics debate. The Banks, the Regulatory framework, and Wanjiku. By regulatory framework, I include here the Central Bank along with the Parliamentary mechanisms of control. Classical economists taught us that if you operate everything like a market, a free one, then the market forces will regulate the economy – and we will live in capitalist bliss. Here everyone’s labor is rewarded according to the value they generate and the market’s demand for it. In other wards, let everyone do what they want to do, and the market will decide. The best of the lot will make money, the worst of the lot will fizzle and die – in an epic Darwinian battle. Competition will keep the prices down so long as there is enough of what people want.
Keynes and the Real World of Money: After the Great Depression in the largest capitalist economies, an observant and intellectually honest John Keynes noticed that supply and demand were at times erratic in their behaviour, in a macro-economic scale. The market wasn’t perfect. It never was. He suggested that monitoring and careful monetary and fiscal control could help stabilise the erratic economy to avert national or global crises. Large Western economies today are led by, and largely subscribe to similar wisdom of Keynesian economists. Interest caps plus some of the monetary and fiscal policies emerge, in part, from this thinking. These are the work of the regulatory framework, whose most far reaching, and controversial event in Kenya in the last 3 years was to cap interest rates. Omni_Moun_Washington_Resort_Bretton_Woods_Overview_Left
Banks do not like regulation. Largely because in a free market they can charge whatever they would like, in order to achieve a profit. This is especially if they are able to wilfully or inadvertently act like an oligarchy [a greedy monopoly of not one but a few players]. Their main goal is often opposed to that of the regulators. Regulators want to stabilise the economy, and in some instances protect the poor and weak [ read individuals and SME companies]. Banks want to make money. A noble objective gained usually at the cost of the marginalized.
The Common Woman and Man: Wanjiku is the third major player in the economy. She represents the majority of the population from all over the nation that has no money, and thus no real economic power. All she wants to do is survive. When there is economic instability, inflation goes up and Wanjiku suffers. When [through regulation] the economy is subdued but predictable, she weathers the storm to live, grateful for another day. As an aside, my untested thesis is that Kenya survived the extended electioneering period of 2017 largely because of this regulatory act. Without it, even more businesses would have closed, inflation sky rocketed and only God knows what we would be staring at now. Economic crisis is a security risk.
In a macro scale, only the regulator can help Wanjiku. Unless of course she goes to the street and fights both the regulator and the banks using stones, guns or her vote. The first two options produce two kinds of banana republics. The last option is more unlikely when the regulator and the banks have a choke-hold on Wanjiku, and both their hands are in her almost empty purse. The Bank’s role is to facilitate the economy while eating off it, but its goal is often not to help Wanjiku.
Enter IMF: The International Monetary Fund is a major player from the outside. They are a bank that essentially lends to countries to facilitate development work. The rationale for their existence since world war two is to humanely mitigate global crises by assisting ‘selected democracies.’ [Remember economic crisis is a security problem] Like other banks, they justify their existence by making money in the process. IMF tries to control many things globally towards their cause – some of those things include perceptions – which any businessman or economist would know means a lot. Poor perception of an economy can destroy it. IMF recently with held Kenya’s access to a fund thereby influencing perception. Access to this fund is now predicated on the change of a law to remove the interest cap.bretton-woods-cryptocurrency-696x472
Interest Capping: The Banking Act, Banking (Amendment) Bill 2015 pegged the Bank’s interest rates to no more than 4 percentage points above the CBK rate. This means that since 2016 banks have only 4% plus their ingenuity to work with in order to be financially viable. Banks have struggled, shutting branches, laying off workers and issuing profit warnings. That has been hard for many, especially the Bank workers for whom my heart goes out. I am still yet to hear of a bank that actually closed because of the Act. They found a way to survive!

The net effect of removing that interest cap, is that small business just managing to pay debt will be pushed to the brink. Banks will lend only to those with secure businesses, and who have deep enough pockets, or prior investments that can pay. Banks can make more off those who can pay, and auction off those who can’t. Small and fledgling businesses will collapse, jobs will be lost, inflation will rise and what is a hard economic space will be even harder. Wanjiku will suffer even more than she has already.
We saw this kind of assistance-with-strings-attached help in the SAP era of the 1990s. It didn’t work and the World Bank has a pile of reports to that effect. [Doubting me, read THIS] The entire country [together with other nations] was pushed to the brink, and their poor suffered terribly. I am not ready for a similar Bretton-Woods rescue.
What to do? I would say leave the interest rate cap where it is for now, and lets wait for a reason other than the IMF to change it. I think Kenya’s economy will do just fine. In any case, even Bretton Woods knows that things work better when people arrive at their own decisions. [Again if you doubt me check THIS]. This was our own decision lets stick with it and change it when we need to on our own terms.

After all, the US economy has been going strong with minimal interest changes policed by hawk-eyed managers, regulators, and very interested cliques of Keynesian economists. Granted, its a larger economy but the principles are the same, and the human pain from crises cuts us all in the same way. If they don’t predicate their economy on it, why should we then prejudice Wanjiku by going classical now? Wouldn’t it be a moral failure to uphold the desires of powerful economic players at the expense of those who carry the economy on their breaking backs, are seldom acknowledged, and are pushed further to the margins by those they look up to?

Can Kenya become a nation, or melt: A Response

Posted in If I was... on December 28, 2017 by Kyama

This article is a response to Rev. Canon Francis Omondi’s very insightful article which you can find here: Can Kenya become a nation, or melt into an apocalypse?

Thank you Canon for your article. I appreciate the balanced approach as you point out to the issues. I also resonate with the allusion/illustration/teaching from Joseph in Genesis.
What are missing, in my view, are some practical next-steps. You are right we’ve all been in danger of oversimplification. Metanoeo is a heart matter, but it also is accompanied by practical things – I will pay back four-fold what I took, I will break the alabaster jar at Jesus feet, I will get baptised…

What does repentance look like for Jubilee, NASA, even those of us in the church… (As I speak to you I’m also speaking to myself)

Could it be that –
Jubilee
– for the sake of the nation, needs to admit that unfair legal and inordinate law-enforcement means have been used to entrench their position in power.
– needs to step beyond the rhetoric and actually invite the opposition to the table, first to listen.
– in the same way they submitted themselves to the court in the August election Supreme Court Decision, needs to submit themselves to a process of dialogue mediated by others to find a solution?

NASA
– for the sake of the nation needs to admit their role in the pursuit of justice that has had a needless human, property and economic cost.
– needs to show a greater commitment to truth, than to power by inviting Jubilee to the table to air their views
– model to the nation that real opposition is about the nation, not about acquisition of power. A place to start is to outline what the issues are, and show a consistent commitment to pursuing truth and change in these issues.

That neither Jubilee nor NASA were existent 15 years ago, is testimony that this nation will outlive the transience of political outfits. I have stated elsewhere that our democracy as envisaged by the 2010 constitution leaves much to be desired in achieving justice and equity. Our system dictates that the more votes one has the more justice and equity there should be. For good [and ill] our current ethnic and economic realities affect the numbers, leaving the unhappy situation we find ourselves in. There will be a large group with the votes, and another with less – whichever way it goes. Also, we have not yet learnt how to consistently turn a legitimate [or illegitimate] loss into a firm moral position to build a credible case for upsetting the status quo. Is it time to revisit the constitution with this in mind? Is it time to start talking about a different kind of democracy – a negotiated democracy?

Jubilee have the mandate as it stands now. I believe that there is much more they could [must] do to demonstrate that they can carry that mandate for the sake of the nation. I would accept an admission, for example, that the effort to change the electoral law [which needs changing…] was ill timed. Going forward the onus is on Jubilee to be the ‘bigger man’ to show an effort to be national. That effort begins with the President. Let it be that concrete overtures were made but there was no response.
It is disappointing though to see the many opportunities lost by NASA to keep us focussed on the main things. Our institutions need close scrutiny, and in some cases total overhaul. The debate on secession and swearing in, while promising short lived supporter satisfaction and forcing the issues, serves more to distract from the real issues. Most occasions to present a morally strong argument to strengthen institutions for the future of the nation, seems to have been blown in the wind by strong arm tactics that seem to echo what those in power are already doing.

I finish with a thought from 1 Sam 23-24. David was being pursued by Saul and escaped in the cave of Adullam. It so happened that Saul needed to relieve himself and, as fate would have it, went to that same cave. This presented David with a once in a life time chance to kill Saul, avenging his persecution and at the same time projecting him to the God given position of power.
David did not kill Saul then, to the chagrin of his elite battalion.
David opted to stand on a higher moral ground, choosing to respect God’s constituted law and order for the day. His argument hardly made sense to his battle hardened aides. However, in that choice David sacrificed expediency for irreproachability – which would serve him well in his eventual ascendancy. Saul literally self destructed paving the way for the Israel’s golden age under David’s reign.
We are in an interesting season where in their own ways, for historical and political reasons, both NASA and Jubilee have a legitimate claim to being David. In this double enactment, the dual election season is our grotto in Adullam. What they do in this cavern will be important for their long term political survival. In many democratic moments the value of morality, ethics, constitutionality and other God instituted forms of order tend to be underplayed, assuming sole human agency. This moment is not much different. What happens in Adullam will be important for David’s political future, assuming as I do, that God has a say in it.

Presidential Election Petition: What’s a Christian Response

Posted in If I was... on September 3, 2017 by Kyama

This has been a busy, tension filled week. We have become an IT expert nation, plus we now know a little more Latin than we did before – courtesy of our lawyers.

The ruling came out on Friday – the Presidential election was nullified. With it came mixed reactions. Some of us are elated, others are disappointed, still others are concerned about the future. The stock exchange reacted, people celebrated, Facebook posts were vindicated, others were vilified.

In the midst of these mixed reactions, I have been wondering what my Christian response should be. The supreme court ruling has many effects on us. It showed that the judiciary can make bold decisions for the sake of justice. IEBC is now under pressure to deliver a second election in two months. The winning side, did not win. The other side, has an opportunity to have another go.

What then should my response as a Christian be?

As I thought and prayed about it, I found a passage in Micah 6:8. Incidentally, it is found within a dialogue which is set up like a court case, with a petitioner, and a respondent. God is the petitioner holding Israel, the respondent, accountable to their behaviour towards him. The prophet Micah, is in this instance, Amicus Dei, the friend of God. He concludes that “court” section by advising Israel, the respondent. This is what he says –

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Justice: God is interested in Justice. The thing is Justice is not always convenient. When we pray for justice, what this ruling reminds me that there are many ways in which God may respond. Justice will come at a cost. Our role is to seek obedience by applying justice in our spheres of influence.

Mercy: God is not obligated to give a second chance. When he gives that second chance it is an act of mercy. We have a second chance as a nation to do elections properly. We have a second chance to exercise love, patience, concern as a nation in the process of an election. This is an act of mercy, for which we need to be grateful. It also is a chance for us as Christians to redo what we did right, and to correct what we did wrong. Let us be grateful for that act of mercy, and be good stewards of it.

Humility: Humility is required of us, not just to each other, on whatever side of the divide, but we need to be humble before God. Humility does not mean silence, or acquiescence to injustice. Humility does not mean anything goes. Humility means that we are all under God’s sovereign power and we must act in obedience first to him, before anyone else. Over the next 60 days and beyond, how will you live out your life humbly before God, being a godly citizen.

What to do? Social media is the platform of choice for many of us to exercise our opinion. It is our place of influence, as a literate community. I challenge you to evaluate your communication on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter against these three values. When you express yourself, are you advocating justice, affirming mercy and demonstrating humility. The next two months will be critical – this is where we must be salt and light for the sake of the Nation God has given us.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Presidential Election Petition: What’s a Christian Response

Posted in If I was... on September 2, 2017 by Kyama

This has been a busy, tension filled week. We have become an IT expert nation, plus we now know a little more Latin than we did before – courtesy of our lawyers.

The ruling came out on Friday – the Presidential election was nullified. With it came mixed reactions. Some of us are elated, others are disappointed, still others are concerned about the future. The stock exchange reacted, people celebrated, Facebook posts were vindicated, others were vilified.

In the midst of these mixed reactions, I have been wondering what my Christian response should be. The supreme court ruling has many effects on us. It showed that the judiciary can make bold decisions for the sake of justice. IEBC is now under pressure to deliver a second election in two months. The winning side, did not win. The other side, has an opportunity to have another go.

What then should my response as a Christian be?

As I thought and prayed about it, I found a passage in Micah 6:8. Incidentally, it is found within a dialogue which is set up like a court case, with a petitioner, and a respondent. God is the petitioner holding Israel, the respondent, accountable to their behaviour towards him. The prophet Micah, is in this instance, Amicus Dei, the friend of God. He concludes that “court” section by advising Israel, the respondent. This is what he says –

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Justice: God is interested in Justice. The thing is Justice is not always convenient. When we pray for justice, what this ruling reminds me that there are many ways in which God may respond. Justice will come at a cost. Our role is to seek obedience by applying justice in our spheres of influence.

Mercy: God is not obligated to give a second chance. When he gives that second chance it is an act of mercy. We have a second chance as a nation to do elections properly. We have a second chance to exercise love, patience, concern as a nation in the process of an election. This is an act of mercy, for which we need to be grateful. It also is a chance for us as Christians to redo what we did right, and to correct what we did wrong. Let us be grateful for that act of mercy, and be good stewards of it.

Humility: Humility is required of us, not just to each other, on whatever side of the divide, but we need to be humble before God. Humility does not mean silence, or acquiescence to injustice. Humility does not mean anything goes. Humility means that we are all under God’s sovereign power and we must act in obedience first to him, before anyone else. Over the next 60 days and beyond, how will you live out your life humbly before God, being a godly citizen.

What to do? Social media is the platform of choice for many of us to exercise our opinion. It is our place of influence, as a literate community. I challenge you to evaluate your communication on WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter against these three values. When you express yourself, are you advocating justice, affirming mercy and demonstrating humility. The next two months will be critical – this is where we must be salt and light for the sake of the Nation God has given us.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

[delay +14 hour]

Why should Christians participate in Politics?

Posted in If I was... on August 8, 2016 by Kyama

Should they? Political leaders in Kenya famously told Christian leaders to stick to their Christian sphere and not interfere with politics. Are the two mutually exclusive? Does Christianity have anything to do with politics and political leaders? If politics is, a “dirty game” should Christians have anything to do with it? The separation of church and state has been a topic for constant philosophical debate dating back over a century. If the church and state should be separate, what business do Christians have voting? What authority, if any, do church leaders have to comment on political issues of a nation such as Kenya?

I believe the Christian in the African context has a God-given mandate to actively participate in the political life of their country. Christians have a role to play in every sector of leadership and governance living out their faith in Christ as they do so. Here is a short summary of my reason why.

Church and stateA Biblical Mandate: God has invited His people to extend his influence over the world. The physical, social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of our world suffer the effects of sin. This sin is evident in the brokenness we see in many aspects of human society. (Romans 8:19-22) This brokenness is addressed when God’s people live out their mandate. (Romans 8:19) This mandate covers all areas of human life including politics and governance. It is a continuous effort that began at the fall of man. (Genesis 3) It stepped up to a higher level when Jesus became God incarnate, teaching about the Father’s Kingdom. He then left his followers to carry on the work with the help of the Holy Spirit. That work will conclude when He comes back at the end of time. (Revelation 11:15) Throughout the Bible we can see evidence of this mandate among God’s people.

In the Beginning… The mandate for God’s people began in Genesis where God invited his people to “be fruitful and increase; fill the earth subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28) God invited Adam to exercise delegated authority over His creation. (Genesis 1:28) This call was repeated and extended when man got the authority name all creation, influencing the identity of the things that God created. (Genesis 2:19-20) In this way God’s people use their delegated authority from God to become agents of growth and even influence identity in God’s world. This mandate continues throughout God’s word. It is a foundational principle that governs our understanding of where Christians get the authority to participate in politics, governance, and leadership generally.

What about the Law? In the books of the law, the nation of Israel was presented as an initial model of God’s relationship with his people. Here, God presented an elaborate structure of what it means to live as a society under God’s rulership in that context. God gave a framework that touched all aspects of Israel’s life providing tangible examples of how God’s values and justice apply in human society. The rules covered most of the areas of Israelite personal and public life. For example, the life and priorities of a King in Israel were outlined in the law. (Leviticus 17:14-20) Many justice and legal systems in the world today, including the Kenyan one, can trace their structure, and origins to this law. Mostly, legal systems exisbible-law-gavelt to provide reasonable order and wholeness to human society. This is a God instituted value often called the “Shalom.” Though human legal and political structures have evidence of human brokenness, we still have a duty as Christians to establish them, reshape them, and serve under them, exerting God’s values as we do so.

Stories of Leaders and a Nation: The extensive narrative section of the leaders and prophets provide stories of the, often erratic, relationship God had with His people. The prophets arose, filled by the Holy Spirit, to speak the mind of God to generations of His people. Their voice arose both when the people did the right thing, or did wrong. In the same way,a Kingdom perspective gives Christians, and especially their religious leaders, the unique role of speaking the mind of God to their generation. In doing this they inform, remind, and reinforce God’s values in our political context. The following are some examples we find in scripture.

Of Kings and Prophets: Moses and Aaron demonstrated how leaders strive to depend on God as they gave direction in a season of terrible oppression in Egypt. Their journey documents what leadership looked like for them in a time of transition great uncertainty in the desert. (Exodus) Samuel directly participated in the selection and the inauguration of leaders at the early stages of Israel’s monarchy. (1 Samuel 8) His warning about the potential perils of earthly authority were pertinent at the time and remain relevant for reflection today. (1 Samuel 8:10-22) Nathan became God’s voice pricking King David’s conscience and explaining the consequences of his moral failure on his own family and the fledgling Kingdom. (2 Samuel 11-12) Ezekiel issued a challenge for God’s people to become the moral conscience of the society. He modelled this challenge in his own life as he explained his role as the watchman for the nation. (Ezekiel 33:1-20) This prophetic role, and the attendant responsibilities are as relevant today as they were then.

Amos taught that complacency had no place among religious leaders in the face of societal injustice. (Amos 5:18-27) Amos was vehement in his condemnation against systemic injustice in the society at the time. (Amos 5:1-17) When eventually Israel went into exile, Jeremiah gave direction to God’s people, encouraging them to exert positive influence and maintain their hope even under a potentially oppressive regime. (Jeremiah 29)

daniel_den_lionsNormal People, Extraordinary Influence: Others in the Bible became models for modern Christians through the lives they lived in exile, or under oppressive regimes. They were otherwise ordinary people who stepped into opportune moments in time, exerting God’s influence in making extraordinary decisions. Daniel became a civil servant, an agent of God’s influence through multiple unbelieving regimes in foreign lands. Esther was a unique example of influence that she exerted behind the scenes to ensure God’s purposes for His people prevailed. Deborah and Jael, in the book of Judges, overcame gender stereotyping to fill a glaring gap in national leadership at a critical time in Israel’s life. Each of these, and other Biblical role models, carried out their mission often at great personal cost, and despite their human weaknesses. Their lives and subsequent achievements are attributed to God’s influence over human affairs through the obedience of His servants. In the same way, God’s people acting in obedience to His Word can exert God’s influence over human affairs.

Jesus and Politics: Jesus Christ, God incarnate, provides the most comprehensive understanding for us of what a Kingdom perspective entails for God’s people. He taught that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. (Matthew 5:17) This statement comes with reference to His call to establish God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 5:19) His mission was to preach about the Kingdom of God, modelling its values with his own life. He instructed his followers to preach this Kingdom as well. (Matthew 10) In his life and ministry Jesus also spoke boldly and prophetically to the authorities of the day challenging the status quo. (Matthew 23) He then sent the Holy Spirit to teach, and empower the believer to be a witness to this Kingdom. (Matthew 23) Jesus had an expectation that his followers would do these same things and even more in their lives as His witnesses, and agents of God’s Kingdom. (John 14:12-14) Christians have the power Holy Spirit and Christ’s intercessory backing to effect God’s influence on earth through prayer and bold action.

Activ(ist) Apostles: We can see the dual effect of prayer and bold action in the apostles and the early Christians. In the book of Acts, we can see Paul-Silas-Jailerhow the Apostles became agents of God’s Kingdom as they influenced the world of their day. The Apostles began by living out God’s values within their community modelling God’s Kingdom to that society. (Acts 2:42-47, 4:32-37) Their lives demonstrating God’s love, sharing and community were a contrast to the society at the time. This was a powerful witness in and of itself. The Holy Spirit in some instances led the believers to power encounters that were noted by the authorities. Two notable examples are Peter’s miraculous healing acts that captured the attention of the authorities, and Paul’s dramatic prison release. (Acts 4:16, Acts 16:25-34) Peter was instrumental in the conversion of Cornelius, a military and political leader of his day. (Acts 10) Using different strategies, energized by the Holy Spirit, Paul, and his companions challenged the institutionalized idolatry of Ephesus, and the pagan philosophies in Athens. (Acts 19, 17:16-34) Like the Old Testament prophets, the Apostles’ lives were not without challenges. The authorities persecuted them for their beliefs. This was especially because of the way their Kingdom values upset the status quo. (Acts 4,7, 19) Still, they remained steadfast in being Christians implementing God’s Kingdom on earth. This same mandate to exert God’s influence in society remains in force over Christians today. God the Father has given his people the mandate to exert His influence over the earth. This mandate extends beyond the personal spiritual arena, into all the structures of human life. These include politics, governance, and leadership.

So should I vote, or become a politician (instead)? With this understanding of their mandate, Christians should vote. They do so with their Christian perspective, with their conscience, while exercising their responsibility to be agents of God’s influence on earth. Their voting choices must come out of their understanding of God’s values. In this way, by voting, Christians affirm the values they believe in. They exercise their minds, finding the right leader who best fits and represents God’s Kingdom values. Their vote is thus a personal duty of obedience. The result of the vote is outside the dictates of the individual, but within the realm of the omniscient and omnipotent God.

Similarly, Christians with the passion, call, qualifications and the networks also should go for electChristians in Politicsive office. They will work within the government structures to evaluate, enact, and propagate legal and governance structures that ensure God’s values of justice and equity for all. The same applies to civil servants who, like Daniel, should use their opportunity to serve in these structures to bring about God’s Kingdom values. Both politicians and civil servants have a high call to create structures and live such lives that will be a testimony to both believers and non believers of God’s power, righteousness, and justice. At the same time, they will be watchmen standing guard against God’s retribution against nations that harbour structural and systemic injustice.

Christian debate in Government? Opposition? Whether voters, politicians, civil servants, or other participants in national leadership governance structures, all have a duty to actively try to understand what the issues are and what their role is. Christians should engage their God given intellect to engage with the issues, making use of the diversity of experience and opinion that God has provided. This gift of diversity blossoms when Christians from different political persuasions, ethnic perspectives, professions, and experiences come to the table to passionately, exhaustively, and yet respectfully engage each other on issues.

There is a dire need for Christians in the government, in the opposition, in civil society, and other spheres who are bold enough to challenge others, and themselves on the best way to establish God’s wholeness and peace (“Shalom”) in the society. Where there is difference then temperance and respect should prevail. Where there is agreement then each should be honest enough to rise above the rhetoric for common good.

What if? Where existing leadership fails in aspects of justice and righteousness, then Christian leaders and their congregations should act. Such action does not invite or condone wanton bloodshed. However, such action is firm, clear, and driven by the Kingdom perspective that comes from God’s Word. They will systematically work within the existing God-instituted structures to address evil. There will also be instances where like the Apostles, Christians should oppose the authorities, respectfully yet firmly, challenging them at the risk of their personal lives. Whenever obedience to God is pitted against obedience to the propagation of systemic bloodshed and idolatry, then like Daniel, obedience to God must carry the day.

The-Christian-VotegsAnd those Bishops and Pastors? Christian leaders must teach God’s Word and its application beyond personal spiritual life. God’s word is powerful and effective for the individual, and it is also applicable and powerful for national and global issues. Christian leaders, like Old Testament prophets, must be prepared to fearlessly speak the mind of God to their generation. In some instances, Christian leaders may use their spiritual authority to intervene and quietly give direction where leaders have erred or lost their way. The authorities might have invited them, but in other instances, like Nathan, they will act unilaterally under the compulsion of the Holy Spirit. On occasion, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and in concert with the wider body of Christ, leaders may also rally their followers to decisive public action against political, economic, or other forces that thwart God’s justice, equity, and righteousness for all. To effectively carry their mandate, Christian leaders must take their instruction from God’s Word, and their inspiration from the Holy Spirit.

So? Should Christians be involved with politics? Yes, they should by all means participate, at all levels according to their calling, station, and gifting in life. Such involvement is by virtue of being children of God the Father and followers of His Son Jesus. Their involvement is inspired by the Holy Spirit and informed by God’s Word.

What does this mean for clergy and top leadership in the church? Christian leadership have a duty to teach about political engagement from the corporate gatherings, to the house churches, weaving this thinking into a holistic understanding of the Gospel. Christian leaders, and their followers should also constantly evaluate the extent to which national governance and political leadership relates with God’s influence on earth. Where it fails then they should call it to account, and commend where it does well. Church leaders should learn to manage the tension between their personal position on politics and the biblical foundations for a just society effected through political means. Where there is a conflict then the church leaders’ political opinions must give way to God’s vision for his nations. The leadership should also encourage deep Christian reflection from within the incumbent government as well as the opposition. The church leadership should model how to engage in honest, respectful debate both in private and in the public, for the common good of the nation.