David Oginde’s article on cremation failed to address some critical issues



A cremated body at Kariokor Crematorium, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Reverend David Oginde is a leading thinker on religious and denominational issues. As the founder of Christ Is The Answer Ministry, CITAM, he has a huge following and is often invited to participate in national events where he carefully throws opposing barbs at the ruling elite.

After the death and cremation of Ken Okoth in 2019 and Charles Njonjo in 2022, Oginde asserted that the refusal of burial was essentially anti-God or contrary to the fundamental principles of being African, of being Islamic or of to be a Christian.

Cremation, he believes, is abominable. Of the world’s major religions, only Hinduism and its Buddhists advocate cremation and the scattering of ashes. The other prefers burial in part because of religious beliefs in the eventual resurrection of bodies and the final judgment as to where one obtains permanent post-earth residence.

Expecting judgment after death is a matter of governance for people to be good on earth lest they be judged harshly in the world beyond.

It is an ancient belief rooted in pre-unification Egypt before 3200 BCE, Hebrew teachings, Persian Mithraist injunctions, the symbolism of Jesus crucified and risen, and the governance of Prophet Mohammad bin Abdallah in Medina. Burial therefore implies belief in the physical resurrection of the body; cremation involves the destruction of that body. That being so, Oginde’s argument challenges prominent “Christians” who apparently were religious but had little faith because they rejected burial.

And it sounded like an “Anglican” thing. Religiously, Njonjo was a devout Anglican, but by choosing cremation he showed he had little faith in Christianity.

Similarly, Anglican Archbishop Manassas Kuria chose cremation over burial which Oginde said was anti-Christian. Likewise, Kenneth Matiba, another devout Anglican, surprised his followers by choosing cremation over burial. Safaricom boss Bob Collymore also chose cremation over burial. And South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also rejected burial in favor of acquamation which, like cremation, turns the body to ashes.

Cremation, however, is not just an Anglican thing; it is increasingly accepted in Catholicism, with some procedural restrictions. In 2019, the Vatican issued cremation guidelines that prohibit the distribution or scattering of ashes that it says should be kept in sacred places. Some Kenyan Catholics such as Wangari Maathai and Gilbert Kibe have also chosen cremation.

In his comment, Oginde forgot to address two things he should probably consider. These are first socio-cultural and then theological. The cremation of influential people, whom the public admires, tends to be both anti-socio/cultural and downright disappointing, as it denies the public the right to mourn.

Theological relates to the importance of post-cremation memorial services/Masses on faith and beliefs. If, as Oginde says, cremation is anti-religious, do post-cremation services/Masses become futile exercises? For example, did the post-cremation public memorial events for Matiba and Collymore have something “religious” about them or did they simply serve political or socio-cultural needs for the living?

Speakers at these memorials made “evil” statements aimed at earthly concerns. Would the theologian Oginde explain if churches that hold memorials after cremation are “abominable”?

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