Personal Finance

Why people fall prey to exploitative churches

Good churches help you grow both spiritually and as a family.
Good churches help you grow both spiritually and as a family. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Q “I recently separated from my boyfriend whom I believe has extreme attachment to religion. He constantly spent his time on church matters and barely set aside some moment for me. I raised that with several of my friends and most of them feel he may be going through some psychological challenges. I still love him, but that kind of behaviour puts me off. Can this be reversed?’


About 10 years ago a man was brought to us by his wife and three sons. The dramatic entrance to the consultation room was all we needed to know that there was a raging battle going on in the family. Family land, it turned out was the cause of the problem.

The wife was a plus size woman with an angry but determined look who, it turned out had cut her teeth selling second hand car spare parts on Kirinyaga Road in Nairobi. Not all of them were genuine parts nor honestly obtained. She was not alone on this business model in her street.

The lady had made the appointment the day before and was in a hurry to accomplish her mission, which was to declare her husband insane that very morning in order to stop him from transacting at the lands office. He had, a few days before, applied to transfer a piece of family land to the local church.


When the wife discovered, she was not amused and concluded that only a man out of his mind could do such a thing.

Within a few minutes of entering the office, she was breathless on account of rapid speech, reminding one of an auctioneer at work. The three boys were scared and confused not sure whether to side with mother or father. They trembled in great fear and agitation as the drama unfolded. Then, entered the Bishop of the charismatic church who ordered all in the room to go on their knees to pray for the sinful woman who wanted to stop a transaction ordained from heaven.

The man went on his knees, the boys got an urgent need to pass urine and run off just in time to hear their mother land a slap on the rather diminutive man of the collar. The bishop took off muttering to himself and cursing with a promise that he would return. The woman turned to her husband and asked him why he had allowed himself to become the ‘wife’ of another man. They left as they had come, full of drama.

Like your former boyfriend, the man, it turned out had spent many hours at the church every day since the death, in quick succession of his parents. The bishop had spotted him in church and had offered prayers for him. At first, the prayers were free and without any demands, but in time he was asked to pay ‘something’ for the upkeep of the church.

In time the need for prayers became more intense and more expensive. After he sold his car to the bishop, the wife became very angry and suspicious. His pension had also been donated to the church. Next was to be the family land!

The man at the lands office brought the drama to an end when he called the wife to say that the transaction had been stopped and that the land was now safe. The little man was ordered home by the wife and we did not hear from them for a while. There was no need to confirm insanity.

Without prayers from the bishop, and living in a hostile home, the man became progressively depressed. One day after school, the boys found him unconscious on his bed. He was rushed to hospital and after a few days in intensive care he was sent back to us for further evaluation. It was clear that this man had a long standing depressive illness that had been made worse by the death of his parents. Retirement had come soon after bereavement, and for the first time in his life, he got up in the morning, without anything to do, not even the responsibility of looking after his elderly parents. Life had lost meaning, until he met the bishop.

To the delight of his family, his response to treatment was dramatic, and he was able to see how the bishop had exploited him and others in the church. There was much joy and relief when the bishop was found guilty of fraud involving a land transaction with another church member.

This rather long story is meant to get you to think a little broader about what might be going on with your former boyfriend. Many people have pathological relationships with the church because they have an underlying mental condition. It is such people that are often exploited by some churches. Before you give up on your boyfriend, you might want to explore this as a possibility. Good churches help you grow both spiritually and as a family. The one your boyfriend went to seems to have pulled him away from growth.