I COULDNT AGREE MORE WITH THE PROFFESOR . AN INTERESTING READ .
By Makau Mutua
The backgrounds of prophets – real and fake – are misty and mystical. Their birth, parentage, education, and pedigree are shrouded in mystery. The obfuscation is by design.
That’s the case with Prophet (for that is what he calls himself) David Owuor, Kenya’s most celebrated “diviner”. The man claims to have a serious academic history. I couldn’t prove the negative, and so I will let that rest.
But I will say this – Dr Owuor is well spoken. That’s where my compliments end. Anyone who claims to communicate with God – if you can wrap your head around the concept – has lots of questions to answer. That’s why we need to establish whether Dr Owuor is simply a smart guy, or a man possessed of extraordinary – godly – powers.
Religion is the art of the sublime. Believers are intoxicated with the spell of faith, a phenomenon that can’t be subjected to the rigour of reason. For the kernel of faith is blind obedience. That’s not to say believers are irrational people, or intellectual simpletons.
No – it’s to acknowledge that faith is a matter of personal conscience, and is therefore inviolable as a basic right. But it’s not to pronounce one way or the other whether religion is based on an unarguable truth. That’s to say we are free to believe – or not – whether God exists. Which begs the question – what’s a society to do with false prophets, or those who cloak themselves in the divine to extort society?
It’s often true that the poorer a society, the more pious it’s likely to be. People who have fewer life opportunities – and meager material possessions – tend to be more religious than elites. During the 2008 US presidential campaign, then candidate Barack Obama caused a furore when he said that in poor de-industrialised small-town America, folks “cling to guns and religion” because of bitterness.
His point – which was valid – is that religion can be a spiritual opiate for poverty, bigotry, and exclusion. It’s on such ground that the seeds of false prophets are sown. Charlatans arise to promise a better reality. These religious “hustlers” and “pimps” leech on the poor. Your misery is the source of their livelihood.
Let’s be honest. Most Kenyans today subsist on less than two dollars a day. Our country is teeming with rural and urban poor. The cost of foodstuffs is sky high. Education is unaffordable. Health care is a luxury only the rich can afford. Insecurity is everywhere.
Corruption has become a way of life. Everyone – from the elites to the street hustler – is out to make a quick buck. The poor look on – helplessly – as the elites get richer. I think prophets thrive best in this morass of despair and seediness. And so Prophet Owuor’s message of “repentance” or “damnation” feeds the soul with hope. His “prophecies” of the coming blight scare the wits – bejesus – out of the poor.
What has been shocking to me is how so many leading politicos purport to take Dr Owuor seriously. I say “purport” because I don’t think they “actually” take him seriously at all.
But politicians have a “political nose”. They want to leverage Dr Owuor’s hapless masses and thronging crowds for political gain. One particular spectacle is etched in memory – when leading presidential contenders joined Dr Owuor “in prayer” before the March elections.
Notable at that fete were CORD leader Raila Odinga and TNA honcho Uhuru Kenyatta. This is my free advice to Kenyan political leaders – steer clear of quixotic mystics from whomever and be careful not to mix politics and “streetwise religion”. This is a mockery of established religion.
Dr Owuor has the gift of gab. He dresses in “saintly” flowing fare. In his eye is the glint of a man who is at once possessed, but also seems afraid of being exposed. I watched his interview with star host Jeff Koinange studiously.
The man of God evaded every question that Mr Koinange posed. Mr Koinange asked several questions in multiple ways, but the prophet cunningly punted all of them. You would think a real prophet – like Jesus of Nazareth – would look you straight in the eye and give an unequivocal response When cornered, he kept on telling Kenyans to repent, repent! I was exhausted just listening to his meandering, mealy-mouthed platitudes to God. Mr Koinange was perplexed and unamused.
To be sure, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of a true prophet. But think about it – when was the last time a true prophet appeared on Earth? Thousands of years ago. Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last prophet. That doesn’t leave “Prophet” Owuor with much argument for legitimacy.
Methinks we should beware of folks who claim to be messengers of God, or to speak for the Almighty. That’s why I would retreat to less exalted rhetoric if I was Dr Owuor.