In (Catholic) High School, my Religious Studies teacher once told me the story of a Priest who had been called to the Royals’ Castle so that he might hear the Queen’s confession. When he got there, the Queen was seated, as opposed to the tradition which demanded that the Priest be seated and the Confessee standing. Unashamedly, the Priest reminded her of this fact; however, the Queen insisted that because of her station she was justified in sitting. To end this all the Priest calmly replied,
‘I am the Confessor, and you are the Sinner….so you will stand as tradition dictates!’
It seemed like a harsh teaching back then, but I understand its importance now. The notion of (Catholic) confession may not be something that everyone understands, but the act of submitting to someone whose authority dwarfs yours is a Cultural Universal. This is why the penchant of Kenyan politicians for commandeering all manner of religious services (especially Funerals) and converting them into ad hoc political rallies to discuss the politics of the day is an extremely embarrassing affair.
I remember about 8 years ago that my paternal Grandfather passed away, and so I accompanied my mother as she made arrangements for his burial at the village. At the town centre where we wanted to rent chairs, some fledgling politician insisted that he would ensure the chairs were rented to us at a cheaper price so long as we allowed him to address the funeral congregation. My mother flatly refused and got the chair at full price, no-strings-attached. Would you believe that idiotic politician still had the gumption to show up to address the congregants, dishonoring my Grandfather’s memory.
On the one hand, as the village level, I can understand that funerals bring the community together, therefore they can serve as useful venues for the local administration to discuss issues of public welfare (sanitation, clinics, nutrition, etc.); BUT, it serves no purpose whatsoever to have the occasion turned into a fanfare, discussing issues totally unrelated to the moment at hand. As far as I’m concerned, the deceased person, and the bereaved (particularly closest family and friends) take centre stage.
Unfortunately, this misbehavior is not confined merely to the villages; it is spread far and wide, from villages to cities and from funerals to Sunday church services. As my sister puts it, at her church - which a prominent politician also happens to attend - the church leaders will invite him to the podium to ‘greet’ the congregation. So, in this case, the church is wholly complicit in having the politician appropriate the ceremony for the sake of the perceived prominence he imparts to the church.
Something is terribly wrong here, and the sooner the multitudes realize it, the quicker we can set about remedying the problem. A pastor/priest’s responsibility of guiding the flock is divine and distinctly recognized by society, and should not be encroached upon. In much the same way that a non-doctor cannot superimpose himself on a doctor’s diagnostic work, or a non-Engineer place himself over that Engineer’s professional dictates… or even a non-Mechanic bulldoze the work of a competent professional Mechanic, it is just as wrong to encroach on Pastoral work.
If we continue to let politicians run roughshod over religious ceremonies, we risk turning the Church into that debacle listed in James 2:1-13. When I sit in a congregation and a politician happens to be in attendance, there is no difference between Him/Her and me… end of story… it is BIBLICAL! Any contravention of that fact (clearly stated in the latter parts of the New Testament) is an outright sin.
And so my lesson from the ‘Queen and her Confessor’ has come full circle. The moral is TO KNOW YOUR PLACE, and to stick to what pertains to that station, regardless of who you are in this life.