Since independence in 1963, Kenya has been a classic personalised patronage state, run by a corrupt elite for its own benefit, as became tragically evident in December 2007's stolen election and its aftermath. Kenya is also said to be 80 percent Christian. Under the bland label 'Kenyan Christianity', several different overlapping realities can be distinguished, and it is these which Gifford investigates in this book, relating them to the country's politics and public life. The politically engaged form that challenged the dysfunctional one-party state in the early 1990s is given due prominence, but Gifford contends that today the mainline churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are marked less by such political engagement than by their involvement in development, in which foreign missionaries and global networks play a huge role. The theology of Kenya's mainline churches is consciously focused on African culture, as a non-negotiable foundation, and the Catholic church has an additional agenda - to Africanise its religious congregations.Kenya is also noted for its rich variety of African indigenous Churches, all originating in a defence of Kenyan cultures, while in recent decades countless Pentecostal churches have also sprung up. They range from affluent middle class churches to refuges for the poor, but nearly all are characterised by a stress on power, success, achievement and prosperity that prioritises modernity rather than traditional culture. Gifford discusses their deployment of the media, crusades, organisation, theology and use of the Bible, and above all the economics that has made this phenomenon possible. Yet another distinct form is an enchanted Christianity in which demons or spiritual forces are deemed responsible for almost everything. All these Christianities relate to Kenya's situation, so all are thoroughly contextualised, but equally almost all are thoroughly domesticated into Kenya's socio-political structures, thus reinforcing rather than challenging the country's dysfunctional political system.
Christianity, Politics and Public Life in Kenya by Paul Gifford was published by C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd in August 2009. The ISBN for Christianity, Politics and Public Life in Kenya is 9781850659341.