Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
Religious fundamentalism in Kenya

As religious fundamentalists in Kenya stress homosexuality to be 'ungodly', Audrey Mbugua asks 'so what?' Religious-based delusions paralyse 'otherwise rational people', Mbugua argues, and religious fundamentalism 'fosters criminal activities by coating them with spirituality and messages of madness'.

'The priests of the different religious sects dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight.' Thomas Jefferson[i]

A suspected gay man is rescued from Christian and Muslim criminals.

Fundamentalism refers to a belief in a strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. Fundamentalism is a multifaceted phenomenon and one of these many phenomenal is religious fundamentalism.

How can one identify a religious fundamentalist? Herriot (2008)[ii] has the answers:

1. They are reactive: Fundamentalists believe that their religion is under mortal threat from the secularism of the modern world … they have an enemy.
2. Dualist: They conceive of the world in binary opposites, God and the Devil, good and evil, etc. Such thinking aids the task of resistance, for it justifies development of an in-group versus out-group social dynamic and all that follows from such dynamics.
3. Fundamentalists believe that their book, through its interpreters or read directly, has supreme authority over what to believe and how to act.
4. Fundamentalist interpretation of the holy book is selective. They choose specific ideas from it and emphasise them, often changing their traditional meaning when they do so.
5. They hold a millennialist view of history, expecting God to fully establish his rule over the world at some future time. They believe they can hasten the arrival of this glorious event by fighting, literally or spiritually, on God’s behalf.

Religious fundamentalism has permeated the vast depths of modern Kenya by infiltrating our education, penal and health systems. It’s a cancer that is eating into our great nation. It’s the source of all forms of irrationalities, misery and social decay that bedevil our country. It fosters criminal activities by coating them with spirituality and messages of madness.

Earlier in the year, we witnessed Muslim and Christian adherents attacking anyone who 'appeared gay'. I don’t know what tests they did to ascertain who is gay and who is not, but it raised serious questions about where the line is between criminality and religious acts. In the same period, we witnessed 'religious leaders' and their followers rejecting the proposed constitution because it didn’t criminalise abortion for any reason.

And what were the reasons for all these? These actions are ungodly and unbiblical. The few people who had the cojones to counter these allegations swallowed the bait and the argument degenerated into something like 'God created us in unique ways and loves us all'. I will not fall for the same nonsense. My question is, so what if some act is ungodly? So what? So what if homosexuality is ungodly? So?

My second question is, why can’t God torment homosexuals and other unholy broods without 'using' these clowns? From the many characteristics that God possesses – he knows it all and is everywhere – you would expect all homosexuals to be wiped out in a fraction of a second. Is he running some other errands or did he forget to put on the alarm? Well, let’s look at what the bible 'says' with regard to exterminating homosexuals.

'Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them." Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, "No, my friends. Don't do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don't do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof."'

Well apart from knowing Lot was a homophobic bloke the bible tells a lot about what God’s chosen few thought of women and their role in their society. But the insanities did not end there. The angels blinded the gay men in that village and later on God poured burning lava on the village. While escaping the wrath of God, Lot’s wife looked back (contrary to God’s orders) and was turned into a pillar of cooking salt.

The habit of taking these delusions seriously is that they paralyse otherwise rational people in our community. Take a look at this statement: 'When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes' and the response you get from the human rights activist is: 'Oh it’s a lie, God loves us all'. But, let's for once agree that the throne of God shakes every time two men spoon. So what? What if it shakes? What does that have to do with humans? How can a god (capable of impregnating virgins and turning walking sticks into snakes) do such a shoddy job? If he created the entire universe, then how come he can’t create a throne that doesn’t shake whenever there is same-sex action? And, if the homosexual community will burn in hell, why torment them here on earth? Isn’t eternal damnation enough punishment?

Another thing: Why do religious people pretend to have superior insight into issues such as abortion, homosexuality and sex changes? What facts do these people use to oppose or propose ideas or acts? Do they carry out research studies to correlate homosexuality and volcanic eruptions? How did they come to know that Haiti experienced an earthquake because of the sins of Haitians and not as a result of tectonic shift? And for those prophets of dooms lying that Kenya will be hit an earthquake very soon unless we repent, could they produce tangible evidence to support their claims. Or is it not just a case of some people pretending to be God’s spokespersons?

Another issue that mystifies me is the problem of violence against sexual minorities and pro-choice activists meted out by religious people. How is violence going to stop people from engaging in same-sex activities? How is looting their property supposed to change people’s sexual orientation? Our minister of security should be sacked for sloppy work. The police have overwhelming evidence pointing at particular individuals culpable of the violence and looting of property that was witnessed in Kenya in the name of getting rid of homosexuality, yet they can’t arrest them. They arrested the survivors of those horrendous acts, leaving the culprits in our streets together with children. This also reminds me of the zeal our National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) has in apprehending those found to be breaking the noise regulation law – i.e., matatu operators – but they don’t do the same for preachers and prophetesses tearing our eardrums and showering us with saliva along our streets. Is it that these people are scared of God’s wrath or is it they are too devoted? Put these criminals behind bars. Is it perfectly legitimate to hack someone to death because of their sexual orientation but wrong if committed because of somebody’s tribe? Look at a blunder our president did, assuring a congregation of Catholics that his government would not legalise abortion. Why does he think the presidency has an obligation to appease the Christian community in Kenya? Why not say the same thing to a congregation of gardeners or mechanics or medical students? Why the church?

The problem with our society is that we grant religious people and beliefs privileged respect. Whenever I throw some missionary preachers out of my house together with their holy books and religious leaflets, they fight back claiming they have freedom of worship. No, I recognise that freedom but it doesn’t grant them the right to invade my privacy. Worship whatever you want including invisible and imaginary beings, maize cobs, pieces of wood and livestock but stop shoving your religious beliefs down other people’s throats. Dawkins (2006)[iii] comments that 'A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts – the non-religious included – is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offence and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other'.

If your powerful god is to something worth talking about, he/she/it should be in a position to send emails to people engaging in same-sex acts warning them of dire consequences. This sounds much better than playing around with tectonic plates resulting into devastating earthquakes.


* Audrey Mbugua is a member of Transgender Education and Advocacy, a Kenyan organisation formed to address social injustices committed against the country's transgender community.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.

[i] As cited by Vasu Murti. Secularism Means Religious Freedom,
[ii] Herriot P. 2008. Religious Fundamentalism: Global, Local, Personal, ISBN 0-203-92987 Pg 2
[iii] Richard Dawkins. The God Delusion. A Black Swan Book: 9780552774291 Pg 42