Whether or not churches should reject money from politicians is a big moral question. It centres on the bigger question of relations between the Church and the State or God and the King or President.
The history of the Christian Church in Europe should guide us in answering this question. In brief, although followers of Jesus Christ were persecuted before the Roman Emperor Constantine became a Christian, the union between the Church and the Roman Empire after his conversion brought unprecedented suffering.
The Church’s unity with the State led to excesses of both the Church and the State. Examples included the sale of penitence and the suppression of opinion that appeared to contradict the orthodox views of the Church.
For instance, the heliocentric views about the universe as espoused by Galileo and other scientists were rejected by the Church which held that the earth was the centre of the universe. Books by classical philosophers like Plato and Aristotle were burnt. Knowledge production was thus halted. The Church did all these with the support of the State, which benefited from people’s ignorance.
The Church itself reciprocated the State’s support in getting finances by stating that everyone must obey the autocratic state and its King for they were both put in place by God. Christian Europe went through what is referred to as the Dark Ages. It was not until the Reformation that people like Martin Luther and others championed Protestantism that there ensued a separation between the State and the church, which led to the onset of the democratic process in Europe.
As in the post-Reformation Europe, most Kenyans today believe that the Church and God represent what is “perfect” in its goodness, value and people’s aspirations. In other words, the Church and God represent people’s soul, consciousness and freedom, which are metaphorically called Heaven.
In the minds of Kenyans, therefore, the question whether politicians’ money should be accepted by churches is the same as whether politicians’ monetary contributions should be the price and route to Heaven. Will God and the angels be happy lookers-on when we adore the plenitude of politicians’ money in the Church?
We should remember that the State itself is the march of God in the world. That is why Christians believe that Jesus will come back to our world a second time. That is also why, as Africans, we believe that our ancestors are constantly keeping watch over us. They do not want large sums of money to fulfil their holy duty of ensuring that we have a democratic State.
Albert Einstein, stated in November 1930: “The minority, the ruling class at present has the school, the press, the church as well, under their thumb. This enables it to organise and sway the emotions of the masses and make its tool of them”. Surely this is not the Kenya we want. Democracy requires that we must try to inject good morals into our politics rather than corrupt it with lots of money.
Further, democracy thrives where the secular and the religious are kept at safe distance from each other. Churches should not accept politicians’ big monetary contributions as these will lead to their control by the State as happened, with disastrous consequences in pre-Reformation Europe. Nonetheless politicians should make normal contributions like the rest of the congregation without making political capital out of it.