More Context for Sarah Palin’s Exorcist, Thomas Muthee: In May of 2008, FOX News Reported on Witch Hunting in Kenya

I’m surprised that Fox News hasn’t taken this down from its website, but here is its report (posted in May of 2008) on a witch hunting incident in Kenya:

A group of up to 300 young men have burned to death 11 people suspected of being witches and wizards in western Kenya — in some cases slitting their victims’ throats or clubbing them to death before burning their bodies, officials said.

The gang moved from home to home through two villages, identifying their victims by using a list with names of suspected witches and wizards and the kind spells they were believed to have cast on the community, said Ben Makori, a local councilor.

“The villagers are complaining that the (suspected) wizards and witches are making the bright children in the community dumb … These (suspected) witches are not doing good things to us,” Makori told The Associated Press on the phone.

Deputy police spokesman Charles Owino said the gang hunted down the eight women and three men in the western Kenya villages of Kekoro and Matembe. Most of the victims were between 70 and 90 years old, Owino said.

Senior administrator Njoroge Ndirangu said the gang hunted down their victims Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

In some cases the gang pulled the victims out of their homes, slit their throats or clubbed them to death, said a police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

This report accorded with one done at the same time by the BBC (see here).

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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9 Responses to More Context for Sarah Palin’s Exorcist, Thomas Muthee: In May of 2008, FOX News Reported on Witch Hunting in Kenya

  1. Guringo says:

    So this is context on Palin’s Exorcist? Let’s see, he’s a pastor who probably saved that witch’s life by giving her a choice between leaving town and converting to Christianity. She left. This report describes mobs performing their own minority-cleansing.

    Muthee was a guest pastor at a church Palin stopped attending regularly 3 years prior to said blessing.
    Rev.Wright on the other hand spewed his venom for close to 20 years without Obama finding any of it repulsive until caught in the headlights, stuttering. Tell me who’s in greater need of spiritual ex-lax…

  2. santitafarella says:

    guringo:

    Let’s be clear. Muthee accused a woman of being a witch. The moment he did this, he set this woman’s life in mortal danger.

    He might have taught his followers tolerance for religious traditions different from their own, and not exploited their basest superstitions and fears to build his movement.

    It was an irresponsible gesture for a man in a position of power.

    And the context the above article provides is this: encouraging people in magical thinking can lead to hysteria and scapegoating.

    It’s exactly what happened to Mama Jane, and it’s what happened to the unfortunate people in the Fox article.

    And with regard to Mama Jane, Muthee was responsible.

    It was an injustice—and clearly violated her basic human right to practice her religious beliefs, however repulsive to Muthee’s group.

  3. TNO says:

    Thomas Muthee’s Word of Faith ministry has an assembly in Kisii, the town where 11 people suspected of being witches were recently burned to death, but I haven’t come across any evidence suggesting that Muthee or his church were involved in the violence.

    Hmm… I was going to post a link to the WOF church webpage listing the locations of all the WOF church assemblies but the information has been removed. Anyway, here is a cache of the page…

    http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:Pb0KtU1CW_wJ:www.wofchurchke.org/regions.php+wofchurchke+kisii&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us

    Word of Faith Kisii – Contact Person: Pr. Makori Peter

  4. santitafarella says:

    TNO:

    I had also heard this, but not having evidence, I did not include it in the original post.

    One can only wonder what religious group those who murdered these unfortunate people were from.

    Muslims have a history of witch hysteria also. Contemporary Catholic priests try to tamp down these types of superstitions among their parishoner, but it doesn’t mean that they can stop it entirely. And, of course, fundamentalist sects, including Muthee’s growing “spiritual warfare” cult, encourage belief in, and a fear of, pagan practice and “witchcraft.”

    But it would be very interesting to discover whether a group connected to Muthee’s was responsible for the death of these people.

    It certainly is within the realm of probability.

    Keep digging. Keep asking questions. That’s what they don’t want.

    –Santi

  5. Guringo says:

    Santi,

    You’re trying to have it both ways by isolating one from the other;
    What religious beliefs was she practicing? She was peddling the very magical thinking and the practice thereof, that, as you said, leads to hysteria and scapegoating.

    Muthee, on the other hand, doesn’t endorse or encourages but opposes said magical thinking and its practice, he doesn’t accuse her of being something she doesn’t claim for herself. While the only point in contention is whether or not her practice ‘harms’ the community, why hold his actions to standards far removed from the cultural reality they took place in?
    Contextually-framed and perhaps otherwise too, Pastor Muthee is much more enlightened than Rev.Wright for the latter’s anti-American, anti-White fiery sermons in Chicago, not exactly the heart of American darkness -and for a presidential candidate to waddle along in such a hate-stream for all them years begs the question yet again, which candidate is more deserving of spiritual ex-lax?

  6. santitafarella says:

    Guringo,

    Far be it from me to defend Obama’s ex-pastor.

    I’m happy to concede your points on Wright’s fundamental irrationality—and even mendaciousness.

    But with regard to Muthee, what do you mean by Kenyan “cultural reality”?

    Is this your way of saying that Kenyans aren’t going to respect individual autonomy, and tolerate diverse religious practices, in a way similar to America?

    And thus Muthee, as a Kenyan, had to have a magical thinking “convert or leave” confrontation with this woman?

    Isn’t this shifting the blame from Muthee to the culture?

    Muthee, it should be recalled, was formally educated in Scotland.

    He is not a fool. He knows what he is doing—and the superstitions that he is manipulating.

    I am simply less impressed with Muthee than you are.

    I think that he is, at bottom, a charlatan exploiting the magical thinking within his culture.

    He may not be doing this entirely cynically—he may believe what he teaches. But he is also, conveniently, enriching himself and building a religious empire on the magical thinking and superstition of the profoundly poor.

    And at least one scapegoat—Mama Jane—may have died as a result of his shinanigans. And that makes me mad. It is an outrage, in the 21st century, that any woman, anywhere, should be demonized as a “witch” and have her life destroyed because of it.

    The Jesus who stood between the men about to cast stones at the adulteress would have stood between Muthee and Mama Jane.

  7. Guringo says:

    Santi,

    I’d say cultures are our meta-parents, and some are just better than others, albeit, depending on one’s own definition of ‘better’. From a humanitarian standpoint, perhaps we can agree that what would constitute a better culture, per se, boils down to attaining a certain maturity, and that in turn requires a lot of socio-economical fostering with plenty of education -and for religion to lighten the hell up.
    As such, Kenyans are not going to be Oregonians, at least not in the foreseeable future, but as it happens to be, they already might just be the Oregonians of Africa. Parts of Nairobi can be charming, insofar as cities everywhere are cosmopolitan-enclaves, and as such rarely ever reflect the reality beyond the city-limits. And while individuals come in every flavor, for Africans on the whole, or Kenyans in particular, to show tolerance for ‘diverse religious practices’ that they deem to bring woes to their communities, however nonsensical the allegations, would be akin to asking New-Yorkers to embrace cannibals as next-door neighbors.

    Some 8 years ago, I spent a few weeks with a tribe in Cameroon, participating in their annual, 9 day long, initiation/ritual/ceremony, and I was ill-prepared, among other things, for the naked aggression that passed for water-cooler chit-chat between the many wannabe alpha-males. Every day, for hours on end, I would endure this spectator’s sport of ludicrous flare-ups over politics and other such things, that surprisingly, never came to blows or chops, for all the many machetes laying about… At one point, however, at the peak of the ceremony, I had to break away from them, and this was construed as an act of desecration. Some 8-12 of these guys wanted to drag me into the jungle and hack me to pieces. The shaman, a greedy, lying, thieving man, had to humor them for some 2 hours that I had to cold-sweat out. Following that ordeal, while I retreated into the longest/darkest night of my life/soul, a young girl’s sudden shriek brought the entire tribe running; the baby she was checking in on had passed away. I was literally next door, my mind racing between fight-flight-crap-my-pants, but what happened next just blew me away, a single woman just shut her up, along with everyone else, with a scolding ‘So she’s dead, what are you crying about?’ So because of the high infant mortality rate, the mothers don’t get attached to their newborn, and the care-taking is delegated to such girls, infants cry their lungs out for hours on end, the kind that I never even thought possible, escalating to a rage I never suspected babies capable of, and in fact, I’ve since come to believe that such nonattendance greatly contributes to the mortality rate, while they might be under the belief that it fortifies them. And perhaps we’re both right, but that’s what passes for normal over there. I for one would not expect Africans to shrug off their cultural beliefs to embrace our tolerances and whatever other values we’ve come to hold as self-evident. There’s no ‘morality’ independent of a commonality and those, at times, can be very warped, at least by western standards.

    Having said all that, Muthee’s Scottish education does surprise me, even while his beliefs don’t. And for the record, I don’t like him either. Then again, they hang homosexuals in Iran, including teenage girls for alleged promiscuity, while Ahmadinejad gets a round of applause, and a hug, for delivering a hate-speech at the UN. And in spite of hundreds of requests by the Vatican, Coptic Christians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world are persecuted when they’re not discriminated against as second-class citizens. And when abandoned children in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas (squatterhoods) formed roaming street-gangs, terrorizing the population with unprecedented savagery, cops, in an unofficial stint, resorted to hunting them down like wild animals. Back in Africa, brown Muslims massacred black Muslims in Darfur, but the ‘Left’ forced the US to back off from intervening, they wanted Kofi and the UN to handle it, except impotent as they are, they never did. Ooops. Were you to ask those that managed to flee, who tried coming to their aid, they’d tell you; only the Americans*. And I am not an American, btw.

    So we live in a fucked-up world – hold the press – but you, well, I thought you were a guy, and then I read up on you, and I half-regretted, half-lmao at my insistence you take my exlax challenge, but nevermind that, let’s say I know your heart’s in the right place and with all due respect; and for all the difference between physical and reputational violence, wouldn’t Jesus also stand between you and Sara Palin?

    sincerely, Guringo

    P.S. ‘John Frum and the Cargo Cults’, it’s a short, fascinating article that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
    http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=788

    * documentary; The Devil Came on Horseback.

  8. santitafarella says:

    Guringo,

    Your post above was fascinating and sad—reminiscent of book 5 chpt. 4 of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov (if you’ve never read that chapter of the novel, you might want to have a look. It’s about the suffering in the world).

    As for Palin, I accept your observation that I have been tough on her, but I think that scrutiny of those in power has to be tough. Palin would be far tougher on vulnerable segments of the population than I am on her (such as gays and the rights of women). Palin is an authoritarian, a liar and a fool. I’m sorry to be so blunt. And it angers me that McCain could subject the country to such an ordeal. I was completely comfy with a McCain presidency until he put the country in literal danger by putting a know-nothing dominionist fundamentalist on the ticket with him.

    I also agree that Ahmadinijad needs much more mocking. I am strongly pro-Israel and believe that we must fight vigorously against anti-semites and Holocaust deniers—and not let rogue nations get WMD.

    Any forms of fascism or ur-fascism have to be struggled against (I think Palin is a representative of ur-American fascism). Ur-facism is an Umberto Eco term. You might Google it with Eco’s name and see how he defines it.

    Based on your above post, here’s a book I recommend for you: “Evil in Modern Thought,” by Susan Neiman. Check it out and let me know what you think (should you get the chance to read it).

  9. Guringo says:

    thanks, Santi, I’ll check out “Evil in Modern Thought”, it happens to be right up my literary alley…and I’ll be checking in on you from time to time…

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