Of sexuality, spirituality and dressing

I have keenly followed debate on chief justice nominee, Dr. Willy Mutunga’s studs. Granted it is not always that men wear jewelry, this is not to say there is anything wrong with it or is un-Christian. Remember the story of the prodigal son: Luke 15:22: But the father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.’ Religious leaders have raised their voice again, this time to condemn Dr. Mutunga’s nomination: “We warned you! That’s why we rejected the draft constitution. See who they are giving us now!” I guess they meant, a ‘non-Christian whose sexual orientation is denoted by his manner of dress.’ One politician is on record as saying the country needs prayers if the next chief justice will be turning to his studs to consult the spirits!

This debate brings two things into my mind. When, as a young primary school girl, I pierced my ears using the traditional method of needle and thread, I hoped my mother would not know but she did when the ears got infected. Not only was I forced to remove the thread, so the holes closed, I was also reprimanded with words that still ring in my ears: “How can you do things that are done by acenji (non-believers) when you are a Christian. If you continue to do those maundu ma ngoma (devilish things) you will have to cross the road to Gaitumbi (a village across the road) separated from the ‘holier than thou’ Christian Waiyaki family of which I belong.

Because of my childhood indoctrination, for the longest of time I thought God was happy with me as long as I went to Church every Sunday, dressed in a long skirt and didn’t braid my hair or wear earrings. This did little in personal inner self-growth, which of course is what God sees. 1 Peter 3: 3-4: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

The other thing I am reminded of is a picture that hangs in my mother-in-law’s house of two young couples and their babies (read my in-laws, their best couple and my husband as one of the babies). This beautiful picture has these two tall handsome men in smart dark suits and polished shoes standing behind their wives who are holding babies on their laps. What you notice immediately are the bare feet of the women, with toes sticking out, as if deformed by many years of walking barefoot. When I asked my father-in-law why he could not buy his wife shoes, he told me women who wore shoes at the time were deemed as prostitutes!

That we are discussing Dr. Mutunga’s way of dress in the 21st century in a country that has passed a new constitution that guarantees individual freedoms, including freedom of dress, and judging him accordingly, says a lot about our fears and hypocrisy. We are behaving like the Pharisees rebuked by Jesus in Luke 11:39: “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?”

You cannot judge a book by its cover. You need to open the pages to see what’s inside. Those judging Dr. Mutunga by his mode of dressing want us to believe he is a non-believer of questionable sexuality. I guess the same judgment would be passed on my daughter who wears tattoos on her body, and has a small gold nose stud, in addition to two (or is it three?) earrings on each ear. Or for that matter on me because I do not always conform when it comes to dressing.

Who are we to judge Dr. Mutunga? Does his way of dressing, or of any other person for that matter, give an informed platform to make a judgment on one’s sexuality or spirituality? Dr. Mutunga is on record as saying he does not wear his earrings as a symbol of his sexuality but his spirituality, which gave religious leaders a weapon to attack him, as obviously they equate spirituality with religion.

What is spirituality? Is it synonymous with religion? While many people get their spirituality from their religion, if you don’t have a conventional religious belief it does not mean you are not spiritual. Spirituality is based on the idea that something exists – be it a state of mind, a being or a place – that is outside the experience of our five limited senses. Spirituality is all about clarifying our connection to all things – understanding we are part of a whole. It is finding true joy and happiness with all around you and allowing the feeling of inner security, contentment and unconditional love to exist within you. Practicing spirituality does not have to mean going to a church, synagogue or mosque – it can be private and personal.

In Dr. Mutunga and Nancy Baraza we have two people with the right credentials including those of reform, scholarly contribution to the legal reform, integrity and moral aptitude. They have what it takes to lead Kenya’s judiciary to the next level, of course guided by the new constitution.

Let’s not judge them from their dressing or religious affiliation or lack of it. Let’s not judge them using their marital status as a yardstick. It is these two individuals who, after a rigorous public exercise, convinced the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) out of many candidates interviewed that were best suited for the job. I am glad JSC officials were not petty to deal with personal issues such as religion, dressing, sexuality or even marital status. If they were interviewing for a bishop or chief Kadhi, perhaps those would have been relevant.