In This Review

Christianity, Politics, and Public Life in Kenya (Columbia/Hurst)
Christianity, Politics, and Public Life in Kenya (Columbia/Hurst)
By Paul Gifford
Columbia University Press, 2009, 276 pp

A longtime observer of Christianity in Africa, Gifford has written a keen survey of the ideas and actions of Christian organizations and their leaders in Kenya. After analyzing the Catholic Church and mainstream Protestant churches, he examines the newer, lesser-known faiths making inroads in Africa, from the various Pentecostal churches to the syncretic churches that combine Christian and traditional African spiritual views. One of the book's main findings concerns the extent to which religion is linked to politics in Kenya. The mainstream churches' major role in promoting democratization in the early 1990s, it turns out, has been the exception. For the most part, the churches have been complacent about the country's social and economic ills, their laudable focus on the provision of social services notwithstanding. Gifford writes convincingly about the nature of Kenyan theology and various doctrinal issues, but the more notable contribution of this first-rate study derives from his focus on churches as social and political actors.