Jehova Wanyonyi resurfaced a couple of nights ago! We all know who Jehova Wanyonyi is in this country but for the sake of being a dutiful student of journalism, I will explain. Jehova Wanyonyi, until last year lived in a village at the boundary of Uasin Gishu and Kakamega Counties. He was a self-proclaimed god who was reported dead by government authorities last year. But his followers still insist that he is alive and it is your problem if you follow government reports that say he is dead.
So here is how he resurfaced: there was another female prophet who showed up on the Citizen News last night (19/5/2016) and said that she met Jehova Wanyonyi somewhere in Turkana (where Jehova Wanyonyi now lives) and he has sent her to his people “The Lost Israelites” as a prophet. In the interpretation of Wanyonyi’s followers, the coming of this woman is the fulfilment of one of the age-old prophecies in the bible. This (new) prophet was received with mixed reactions among the believers and to tell you the truth, this news piece left me in stitches. I felt as if with all the bad things happening in the world: tear gas, plane crashes, crumbling buildings, killer floods and so on, the Citizen news crew had gone out of their way to get something to humour the audience, you know like make us momentarily forget the difficult things in the world. Keep your ears on the ground for I am sure the Jehova Wanyonyi saga shall continue.
If you are like me, however, you are wondering how this Jehova Wanyonyi (and many other people like that who declare themselves gods) manage to marshal a following. How did belief get us to where we are at in the society today? Just what leads to the creation of bizarre religious beliefs that have no biblical backing but which people strongly uphold?
- When you grow up in an environment where the subject of religion is not open for discussion you are likely to fall for a Jehova Wanyonyi who bears a different name.
Unlike most people that I have spoken to, I have never had a crisis of faith. You know the way you wake up in the morning and you suddenly have so many questions about God? I have not had that and I think it is because I grew up in a home where parents were willing to debate me about my faith, about the churches we worshipped in and answered my questions about things that I did not understand such as why we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December yet it is not written in the bible. This opened my mind and I knew I could comfortably ask whenever I didn’t understand something in the bible or in church.
I remember I shaved my hair when I was in class six because there was an overzealous C.R.E teacher who made me believe that I would go to hell if I kept long hair. We later had the conversation with my mother and she confessed that the reason why she jumped at the opportunity for me to shave my hair (before she made me understand the relationship between long hair and going to heaven) was because I was not good at keeping my head clean, anyway.
- If you have young children, let them understand early that it is not a taboo to ask questions about their faith.
The normal practice is that if you are born and find yourself in a family of Catholics for example, there is no way around it and your reasoning about faith must conform to what your parents think. If you have an inquisitive child who has questions about the vicar and the deacon and the nun or why people dance so much in the church you go to and why they did not dance so much when he went to his aunt’s church, reason out these things with the child.
I remember there was a joke at home about the registers in heaven not being arranged according to family names and that everyone had to make an individual effort to make heaven. This prepared me first hand for the importance of understanding my faith personally, own my faith and be responsible for my belief in and being right with God.
But reasoning out with the followers of Jehova Wanyonyi might be very difficult because the believers (from what I saw on TV) are not entitled to their own analysis and reading of the bible that is the basis of their belief. To do this is to question their god, something that is tantamount to blasphemy.
And this is not to say that it is only in small sects that pastors read the bible on behalf of their followers. How many times have we heard about pastors leading their flock into doing strange things all in the name of faith?
It all boils down, in my opinion, to the effects of not opening up the channel of discussion and allowing people to actually read their bibles and dissect the messages that their pastors preach to them in relation to what is written down.
- Is there a relationship between a lack of education and a blind faith?
I almost got tempted to give a categorical yes to this but I remembered that these strange pastors and sect leaders are not just patronized by the uneducated who mostly live in remote villages or in informal settlements in urban areas. But what I cannot completely rule out is that there is a relationship between an unwillingness to think critically and blind faith. When as a Christian you would rather not read your bible and understand it, then it comes completely as a non-surprise to me when I read about Christians being duped in church or being fondled by their pastors. How does this even happen? Are we sure that it is not normally an agreement between the woman and the pastor? Or do these pastors use some charm on their believers? How can someone who is not a doctor or husband be touching your breast and you still call it a spiritual process? I honestly think some of these things are pre-planned.
Spirituality is a very complicated and a very personal thing. We cultivate our relationship with God (or whatever one holds Holy) so it might be difficult to say that your neighbour should change their way of worship to suit your own. However, it is imperative that we all use our brains for what they are meant for – to think!
I rest my case.
Here are some further readings about the strange reports from churches: