Category Archives: Christianity & Not

Love, Hate, Democracy and Christianity

Bahamian pastors, I have a question for you. 

What did you preach about yesterday? It’s the first Sunday since the referendum, so I imagine that many congregations were engaged in praise and thanksgiving for the Bahamas’ rejection of changes to the status quo that might allow for gay marriage. 

But it was also the morning of a massacre. Did you preach about that?

If you did, was Christ your example? Did you, in your rejoicing, spare a thought for the families of the 50+ dead in Orlando? A prayer? Did you lead your congregations in prayers for the wounded in Pulse nightclub, or did you (God forbid) offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the shooter?

These things matter. 

I’m asking because we are responsible for the stands we take. We’re responsible for both the positive outcomes and the negative ones. We can never know how our words will be taken when we utter them, and when they leave us, but that does not make us any less responsible for them. Words are not children; they do not have consciences of their own. But they do have consequences.

A choice was made by a significant proportion of the Bahamian Christian community during the lead-up to the Bahamas referendum. It was a choice I did not understand, and a choice that I would not have made myself. As a result, significant portions of the discussion that surrounded the referendum focussed on a “gay agenda” that had to be defeated at whatever cost—even the cost of not affording equal rights under the constitution to Bahamian women. 

When challenged, many of the people advancing that position insisted that their stand was not against individuals. Christians love homosexuals, they said; it is the homosexual lifestyle they do not love. For the sake of argument, I will accept that position, though I did not see a whole lot of love being shared. I didn’t see too many pastors sitting and engaging with Bahamian gay rights activists, or embracing members of the Bahamian transgender community. I heard a lot of aggression and a lot of judgement, though. Plenty wrath. Not so much gentleness.

Well, on Saturday night, a real blow was struck against the “gay agenda”, and it was struck with bullets and with blood. More than fifty homosexuals were removed from this world by a man who was taking his own personal stand against their “agenda”. Now I am in no way linking that shooting directly to any Bahamian Christian. I am well aware that the shooter was an Afghani-American. But his intent seemed all too familiar here in The Bahamas. And some of the responses appearing in Bahamian social media—which rejoiced in his actions, which threatened the same here—sickened me.

Hence my question. Pastors, what did you preach about yesterday? Did you remind your congregations that, no matter what your stand in principle about same-sex marriage and homosexual lifestyles, the slaughter of actual human beings was wrong? Did you remind them of Jesus’ words about judging others, about turning cheeks, about loving neighbours as yourself? Did you condemn in advance the outpouring of hate that was certainly about to come from people who used your stance against the proposed amendment to justify their personal homophobia? Did you, in short, accept responsibility for your position on the referendum, recognize the links between yesterday morning’s shooting and that position, and work to explain the difference between a principle and an action? That your call to righteousness is not a call to murder? That the freedom of speech, of expression, or of opinion, are not the same as the freedom of action? That the shooting of people in a nightclub catering to LGBTI people is certainly not what God is calling His people to do? 

And beyond that, what have you written about it? Where are the words that you will use to help heal this hate? I am not condemning the position you took on the referendum, though I disagree with it, and was saddened by it. We live in a democratic society, and democracy guarantees you the right to hold and defend your personal convictions. But that right comes with responsibility. You are responsible for the words you used in this fight. I am holding you responsible for the words you will use from now on to spread the love of Christ, as well as judgement. 

You are our pastors. You can lead us astray, or in the paths of righteousness. I’m waiting.

PS: Check this out. 

Democracy, Belief, and Belief in Democracy

BahamasPrideFlag-AranhaThere’s a petition circulating right now. I’ve signed it. I’m also promoting it. And I’m apologizing right now to those people for whom my promotion of the petition is problematic. I recognize the dilemma you might be facing. It’s not my dilemma, but if it is yours, I respect it. I even apologize for not allowing the issue to go away.

But I’m not going to allow it to go away. Because discrimination is not right, and I will not support it in whatever form it takes.

Here’s the issue:

“ATTORNEY General, Allyson Maynard Gibson said yesterday the Constitution should be amended to end all forms of discrimination, except discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (Tribune 11/06/2013)

Amendments to existing law or introduction of new legislation (whether constitutional or statute) should include provisions for the protection and free expression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the Bahamas.

—————–

Original story: http://www.tribune242.com/news/2013/jun/11/end-discrimination-except-over-sexuality/

“I Have Been Discriminated” ~ Erin Greene:http://www.tribune242.com/news/2013/jun/12/i-have-been-discriminated-against-my-sexuality/

And here’s the petition:

To: Allyson Maynard Gibson, Attorney General

Sincerely,
[Your name]

I believe that in a democracy, one citizen should not be any less equal than another citizen. If we are removing discrimination from our constitution, let us remove it altogether, even if the process of making everyone equal may open up challenges to our personal convictions. It is that equality under the constitution that guarantees us our right to hold our convictions.

If you agree with me, consider signing the petition. Let us stand for democracy together.

Evangelicals Looking Beyond a Literal Interpretation of Genesis?

According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam’s rib.Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It’s a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.

But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account.

via Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve : NPR.

First of all: wow.

Second of all: welcome to the Christianity of the post-industrial world, guys.

Third of all: time to start teaching literature so that the reading of sacred texts can be approached in such a way that meaning can be gained without having to believe that every word written is literally and completely true on the human, physical plane. Time to start understanding some symbolism.

The article is interesting but doesn’t go nearly far enough. First, it assumes that evangelical Christian theology is the core of Christian thinking. Second, it takes the position taken by many evangelicals that the literal story of a man, a woman and a snake in a garden whose existence has a geographical place and a historical time is crucial to Christian belief, but is it? And third, it misses a point that has rarely been discussed in all the heat generated by “creationism”, the only Christian philosophy that really requires the existence of a literal Adam and Eve for its existence—that the moving away by certain evangelical intellectuals from their indefensible scientific position that rests on the creation of the earth and of humanity in seven 24-hour days also implicitly allows for the rise of a neo-Darwinism among those same intellectuals. The danger inherent in the American evangelical movement’s acceptance of the symbology of Genesis (rather than its literal truth) lies in the fundamentally political (and economic) expression that American evangelical Christianity has always had. I have never been convinced of the theological soundness of that strain of Christianity, as its manifestations have been peculiarly political. This change can also express itself politically; and I would not be surprised if it took an even more fascist turn than it currently has.

Just sayin’.

A little meditation on faith

you only get anywhere near the truth when all the easy things to say about God are dismantled – so that your image of God is no longer just a big projection of your self-centred wish-fulfilment fantasies.

What’s left, then? This is the difficult moment. Either you sense that you are confronting an energy so immense and unconditioned that there are no adequate words for it; or you give up. From Paul to Luther, George Herbert or Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Hitler’s prisons, there are plenty who haven’t given up; and they haven’t given up because they see their experience in the light of something like this understanding of Gethsemane and the crucifixion.

via The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman | Books | The Guardian.

Womanish Words: Teach the Children Well

Hear, hear, Lynn.

It upsets me when I hear the little children I know and love speaking in the the racist/religious/hateful language of the local Bahamian press/the moneyed elite/the generally ignorant. There are probably more than a million orphan children struggling to get through the day today in Haiti. It is natural for children to want to help. That natural inclination in our children is at risk. It is hard to hear a child you love speaking about Haiti with no compassion, no natural wanting to help. We Bahamians who enjoy wealth and privilege (and that means anyone not in Port au Prince right now with time and ways enough to read this blog) must wake up and face the fact that we were mis-educated when it comes to Haiti, stop defending the ignorance and selfishness and get on with doing some reading, some learning, some changing and transforming, and some GIVING. Because our innocent children are watching. Teach the children well.

via Womanish Words: Teach the Children Well.

Thoughts on Independence

I don’t know whether this is the best title for this post.  All I really wanted to do was to quote this paragraph from this post:

“Say nothing of my religion,” Jefferson once said. “It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”

This is exactly how I feel about myself and my religion, my own faith.

I’m thinking about it because last night we held the Independence Gospel Extravaganza at Arawak Cay for the first time since the 30th Anniversary, and naturally that got me thinking about God, faith, and so on.  

I do not worship as many of us do.  My faith is not worn on the outside.  I have never much liked the uniform.  I hope that my faith in God guides my life from within.

When I was nineteen, I prayed for integrity.  One thing I’ve discovered — one shouldn’t pray things lightly.  I also prayed once for patience, and was rewarded with a position in the government of The Bahamas! Integrity is something else again, and it comes with all kinds of burdens and responsibilities.  I don’t know about the rewards.  I’m not all that interested in the car and the house and the clothes that some people’s faiths seem to come equipped with.

Last night I was moved by the music and by the singing of almost all of the performers.  We were exhorted to get up and dance in the spirit.  I felt the same way I felt when I hear all good music; I find the Holy Ghost in the human creative spirit.  This is holy.

But really?  I feel as Thomas Jefferson did.  Not that I would read my Bible the way he did.  But I return to his comment about his own belief, and say it again:

“Say nothing of my religion … It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”

Shout-Out to Eemanee & Long Bench

Hypocrisy & HIV in the Caribbean (Eemanee)

Responses to HIV in the Caribbean are hampered by an entrenched hypocrisy, homophobia and false trotting out of “christian” values when convenient. meanwhile people continue to have sex, all kinds of sex, a lot of it unsafe.

We feel free to talk around sex, to joke about sex, to sing about sex, to simulate sex, to have sex but we refuse to really talk about it- to talk about power and pleasure and vulnerability. So JFLAG, the Caribbean’s most progressive gay rights group, has been blocked from attending a UN meeting on HIV/AIDS and Jamaica’s poster girl for the Ministry of Health’s HIV education programme has been fired for getting pregnant! The heads continue to suffocate in the sand!

As part of my job, i accompanied a group of young people all between 14 and 17 at an HIV Education workshop. Before the facilitators could begin one girl inquired loudly whether or not condoms would be distributed.

“No!”

“Well, how yuh supposed to protect yuhself without condoms?”

“That’s what we’re going to teach you today.”

 

When Women Violate The 5 Commandments (Long Bench) 

I’ve been thinking about sex a lot these days. And I’ve come up with the 5 Commandments that women are asked to follow here in Jamaica:

1. Have as much sex as you want.
2. Hide what you are doing at all costs.
3. Tell one ‘hole ‘eap a lie when yuh buck yuh toe an mek dem see seh yuh fall dung.
4. Expect all k’i’na fiyah fi bun fi yuh when backra fine out.
5. Lie dung an beg fi mercy like sey yuh a ‘ungry belly mongrel dog.

And those of us who, for all kinds of reasons, decide not to abide by all of these commandments – well, a pyere problems, yes? Kwame Dawes just wrote a really insightful piece in the Washington Post about Annesha Taylor, who was the poster girl for the Ministry of Health’s public education campaign about HIV/AIDS. Just like Sara Lawrence, the Miss Jamaica World 2006 who was the target of public scorn and hypocrisy when she disclosed that she was pregnant last year, Annesha was immediately disappeared by MOH when she disclosed that she too was bearing a child.

 

There are days

There are days, Mama, when there is far too much to do to do anything much at all.

This week has been pretty much like that.  It’s a week when I wish I was like earthworms or amoeba — slice me up and let me regenerate into six or seven mes.  (Biologists, don’t bother — leave me wallowing in my ignorance!)

So it was with some relief that I read the following post by Helen Klonaris, which pretty well covers some of what happened this week, and more:

Wellington’s Rainbow

Here are some excerpts.

The conversation about the rights of gays and lesbians in this country is stuck in a Christian fundamentalist scriptural war that cannot see gays and lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people as integral to the wide spectrum of human existence. And the few (read one or two) public spokespersons for the GLBT community who dare to engage in this conversation publically are time and time again hooked into a circular argument which begs the question: how can you ask for human rights if God says you shouldn’t exist at all?

And by presuming firstly that all Bahamians are Christians, and assuming, secondly, to know God as absolutely as they do, Christian fundamentalists not only reduce and limit that God, but reduce and limit the scope of what it means to be human. And I cannot help but see the metaphor: It is God lying in a pool of his own blood, head severed, and no one has been held accountable.

Hear, hear.

I am often struck by the raw hatred that we so often spew in the name of God in this country, so much so that I’m glad that I didn’t turn on my radio to hear the discussion about this crime today.  Homosexuals, after all, like Haitians (try not to be anything beginning with “H” in this Bahamaland, people, else we’ll toss another “H” your way), are easy targets.  In anthropology, we study the phenomenon of witches, who are not what we think they are when we see the word.  In anthropology, witch-hunting tells us far, far more about the society that is doing the hunting than it does about the objects of the hunt.  The salient point about the process is that societies create scapegoats out of individuals who fall outside the social norms, who make the status quo uncomfortable, and every bad thing that happens in the society is transferred to them.

When people call in to radio talk shows to talk about “them” (all those deviants beginnings with “H”) and invoke God and divine law and the Scripture, I always wonder where and when the Gospels fell out of their Bibles.  Like where these bits went, or this bit, or this.

But I don’t need to say a whole lot more.  Helen’s already said it.

Go read it for yourself.

Murders, Christianity, and Research

There’s a lot of fear going about out there. My mailbox lights up on a regular — almost daily — basis. I receive local news circulars, you see, and the focus of every one is violent crime. There’s one email update that keeps count of 2007’s murder rate; there are others that blaze headlines across their tops when you open them. And talk shows and newspapers keep us thinking about our crime rate.

The most common response to the murder rate, the crime rate, all the rest of it, is that we need to turn to God. Now I have to confess that I find this strange. After all, the same people who pontificate that God is the Answer to our Crime Problem are the same people who proclaim, loudly, that The Bahamas is a Christian Nation, that Adulterers and Homosexuals will not enter Heaven, that God Blessed The Bahamas, etc.

And yet. We have a screamingly high rate of violent crime. Paradoxical, no?

Well, here’s the thing.

At least two studies of religion and society suggest that the higher the religiosity of any society, the more violent that society is.

Continue reading Murders, Christianity, and Research

Amazing Grace: Corresponding with the distributors

Not wishing to wait for Galleria Cinemas to get back to us, the National Commission on Cultural Development (of which I’m the Deputy Chair) contacted the distributors for the film Amazing Grace to see what the story is on the release of the film to the Caribbean.

Now. Let me make my position clear here, lest people get sidetracked by the politics of the whole thing. I tend to agree with Frances-Anne about the reasons behind the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself, although I would go further and say that I believe that the abolitionist movement sprang from a genuine crisis of conscience. The fact that this gained political mileage when it did had plenty to do with power-struggles and economics, and the fact that the industrialists and factory owners who were gaining economic strength in Britain wanted to break the backs of their powerful predecessors, the land-owning aristocracy and the planters overseas. I don’t, however, discount the question of conscience.

The problem is that conscience is often compromised by prejudices and bigotry, which are often so unconscious that they are invisible to those who practise them. The release of the film Amazing Grace provides a fascinating study in the juncture of bigotry and conscience — if indeed there are no plans to release it in the Caribbean.

This is one fact I’m still investigating.

So here is the email sent by me on behalf of the Cultural Commission to the distributors:

Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 3:04 PM

Subject: Amazing Grace – Limited Release?

I am writing from Nassau, Bahamas, to inquire about the release of the film Amazing Grace in The Bahamas.

I currently serve as the Deputy Chair of the National Commission on Cultural Development, a government-appointed group whose purpose is to monitor and oversee cultural activity and development for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. One of our main foci in 2007 is the Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Countries throughout the former British West Indies are observing this Bicentenary, which has fundamental significance for our populations and for our nations.

As part of our commemorative activities, we wish to urge all Bahamians to view the film. However, it is not currently screening here. Inquiries of the Galleria Cinemas, the only distributor of mainstream movies in the nation, revealed that the film is in limited release and is not available to The Bahamas for showing.

Given that the Abolition Act championed by William Wilberforce and his Abolitionists directly affected the British West Indian colonies, of which The Bahamas is one, we find the unavailability of this film, which provides an account of his struggle, beyond our comprehension.

The National Commission on Cultural Development for The Government of The Bahamas wishes to invite a response from the distributors of the film regarding the screening of Amazing Grace in The Bahamas, and would be grateful for any light you might shed on this matter.

Sincerely,

Nicolette Bethel

Deputy Chair, National Commission on Cultural Development
Nassau, Bahamas

I received the following response from Roadside Attractions, one of the distributors (there are two – Samuel Goldwyn’s the other):

Unfortunately, we don’t hold the international rights to the film. Any inquiries about the Bahamas should go to the film’s producers Bristol Bay Productions. They can be reached here: www.bristolbayproductions.com.