‘Prayernomics’ will not grow GDP by any percentage

Saturday March 11 2023
Kenya prayers Nairobi

Kenya’s President William Ruto (2nd right), his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and their spouses during a prayer meeting in Nairobi on February 14, 2023. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG


Spiritual nourishment is important for the psychological wellbeing of human beings. No cultural group is without some form of religion. But modern states must keep religion out of government.

First, Kenya is multireligious and, therefore, no religious group should feel alienated from state affairs because another religion, by default or design, has taken the shape or appearance of being preferred by the state.

Second, religion should be a private affair. There are many people who go to church, mosque, temple or shrine on days designated as occasions of worship by their religion, but who prefer a secular approach to their work and the way they relate to their colleagues at the workplace.

Third, workplaces would transform into a veritable Tower of Babel if everyone practised their religion at work. Would it not, for example, spark suspicions of favouritism, were the boss and those of his religion to slip into a room to pray every now and then?

What if, because of the dictates of her religion, another boss spoke disparagingly of staff members who might dress a certain way?

These are ways in which resentment and even conflict at the workplace could arise if we all brought our religions to work.


Not a scientific proposition

But there is a more fundamental reason religion should be kept out of management of government. Religion is dependent on faith and belief. Religion is real to someone because they believe in it. Religion, therefore, is not a scientific proposition that can be verified by way of laws of physics or biology.

Someone’s belief establishes the truth of his or her religion. By contrast, matters of government — development, planning, trade, production, infrastructure, budgeting, etc — are functions of logic, economic science, empiricism, rationalism, and so on.

As such, when a badly designed road causes accidents, praying at the spot and sprinkling “holy” water will not bring relief. What will bring relief is redesigning the road, assuming that money for road maintenance has not gone into someone’s pocket.

Similarly, we can increase the number of National Prayer Breakfast meetings to twice a day, but our GDP would not increase by a single percentage point. At those meetings, we can pray for national cohesion till we are blue in the face, which would be quite a feat, given our pigmentation, but we would get nowhere without tackling political ethnic mobilisation.

Instead of praying for an end to drought and hunger, why don’t we devise better ways to harvest and manage water, and better responses to natural emergencies?

The announcement that religion or prayer will henceforth be at the heart of Kenya government is a fundamental shift in concept of government. We will be substituting an extra-scientific belief system for scientific mechanics of government.

Policy short-sightedness, thievery, and other ills will now be seen as matters requiring divine intervention. Which way Kenya? “Prayernomics” or developmental state economic model?

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator