The Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) has taken the decision to ban “lay preaching” on all its buses, according to the company’s Managing Director, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin. The decision has proven controversial as many christians have condemned the move as an attempt to “secularize the country” while “denying people their right to freedom of religion”. Many have gone so far as to suggest that the JUTC is seeking to prevent “the spread of the gospel”. It appears to me that an assumption has been made on behalf of all JUTC passengers; that assumption being that we all want to hear preaching on buses. Let me be very quick to point out that nothing could be further from the truth.
The decision to resume Sunday horse racing at Caymanas Park has attracted significant national attention over the last few days. The collective christian church in Jamaica has come out swinging, staunchly opposing the decision. Recently I gave my thoughts on the matter, albeit in a general manner; I wish to consolidate those thoughts. This is a classic case of the church vs the state, and I will attempt to deal with the issue in a substantive manner, now that I’ve thought about it and researched the issues at play.
I’ve always questioned the priority we place on religion and it’s formal institutions. As a country, we give a significant amount of latitude to the christian denomination and I for one have never fully understood why. There seems to be this assumption that every single citizen within a so called “christian nation” shares the ideology and value systems of christians. This is fallacious at best.
Recently, the General Manager of the Urban Development Coorperation (UDC) was quoted as saying the state would perhaps need to claim lands, currently owned by the Anglican church, in furtherance of plans for urban expansion and development. To my utter dismay there has been condemnation of the General Manager’s comments. From what I gathered, persons are concerned that there was no dialogue on the matter and the government seemed to be taking a unilateral approach to seizing lands. Having listened to the arguments of those opposed to such a move, I’ve concluded that the real issue is not that the state is being unilateral, but rather, we are having a hard time accepting that the institution of the church is being subjected to the same treatment that so many other entities within the society have had to face. You see, for so long, we’ve placed the church outside of the rule of law, we’ve exalted and exempted the church from so much, that we cannot now see the wisdom in the UDC’s proposal.
It was barely two days ago that I posted [The World Is Ending...Again] and voiced my opinion on the whole judgement day saga. It then came to my attention that one Michael Lewis, no relation to L.A. Lewis guys, would be on Ian Boyne’s Religious HardTalk; defending and promoting the end of the world. I decided to tune in.
Quite apart from his obvious lack of confidence in his armageddon message, evidenced by his stuttering and general posture and appearance, Mr. Michael Lewis did Christianity a great disservice last night. Not only were there glaring inconsistencies in his basic premise, the logic was laughable.
For whatever reason, human beings have always been preoccupied with the final judgement, doomsday, end of time, world’s end; whatever you wish to call it, we’ve always occupied ourselves with that moment. Now apparently, that long awaited moment is at hand. The date has been set (May 21, 2011) and the countdown is underway. The world is ending.
Or is it?
The last serious judgement day was January 1st, 2000. We should all remember the crazed rush to be in a place of worship. By all accounts, computers would crash, time would stop and that great trumpet would have sounded and we would have seen the Christ coming on the clouds of heaven, in all His glory. Needless to say that didn’t happen. And many of us now regret spending our New Year’s Eve in church that night.
For as long as there has been art and religion, there has been controversy about how art portrays the sacred and the divine. From Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting “The Last Supper” to Madonna’s song “Like A Prayer”, there has been continued debate about hidden messages in art and allegations of witchcraft and wizardry against the artistes; whether they be sculptors, painters or musicians.
The latest addition to this list of controversial figures is the infamous and much celebrated Lady Gaga. Often eccentric, Gaga has been the subject of much discussion; from her choice of clothes to her lyrics. Her latest single titled “Judas“, released in the holiest period in Christendom, celebrates the figure who is largely held to be the reason why The Christ was crucified. The song flies in the face of all that christians hold to be holy and sacred. Listening to the song, one gets the impression that Gaga is making a mockery of the betrayal, denial and crucifixion of Christ. This of course raises the very important question, does she have a right to do this? This blog says yes, she does.
The bus is hot. Packed. A young man plays the latest Movado from his cellphone (not even a Blackberry enuh…pffffft). The school children are shouting and screaming. The smells. The sweat. I’m patiently counting the stops until I am able to get off this bus and then I hear it, “Good evenin passingerz, I ham ere wid a werd fram God.”
I searched my bag desperately for my earphones to block out the impending message of the apocalypse and of the fact that Jamaica’s crime problem was a direct result of our “wickidniss”. Alas, my earphones were not with me. I would have to suffer the abuse of preaching on the bus.
As I listened to the preacher’s message from God, I began to question why preaching on buses was even allowed. Why do we excuse religion for so much that we would condemn others for? For example, would we have been so accommodating if someone had come to preach against God? Or in favour of oral sex? Or in favour of homosexuality? Why is religion allowed special privilege? Why is a particular belief system given such leeway? I perhaps should say Christianity and not religion but whatever.
Having paid my $80, I was expecting a ride home without being intimidated by this “Messenger of God”. Not only was his message hateful and illogical, it was clear he had a limited grasp of scriptures and the English Language. His sole point of biblical reference would be John 3:15. At one point I even wondered if he himself understood why Jesus came. Though he referenced the scripture passage, you would have thought the whole island was already condemned to hell, he didn’t see Jesus’ redemptive work. He painted God as a vengeful and almost murderous being.
Why are christians so judgemental? Christians are the first to cast stones and sometimes I wonder if most have ever read the book which they quote so often. What about tolerance? Love? Patience? Seriously, what about these things?
As he continued shouting himself hoarse, he turned to the children and proceeded to frighten them with his hateful message. I’m sorry, but I think that’s just fundamentally wrong. A child should not be subjected to that kind of thing and that preacher’s message did nothing but disturb the already uncomfortable situation in the bus. The fact that it is a public transport vehicle should mandate that no one be allowed to be so loud and disruptive.
Christian or no christian, no one should be excluded from that general rule of thumb. If I want to hear your hateful and illogical message, I’ll visit your church. I don’t need you spitting and shouting at me. That’s not what I paid $80 for. Yes! Bus fare is $80! If I ever I’m in a position to legislate, that’s the first thing I’ll ban, preaching on buses. Yup, I said it.
After what seemed like years, the bus arrived at my destination. As I stepped off the bus, the preacher could clearly be heard saying “…if anyone wants to give me a donation now…”
Shouldn’t his “donation” come from heaven? It is, afterall, God’s work.
The recent allegations of child abuse against clergy within the Roman Catholic Church has alarmed many individuals the world over. Many persons view the abuse as a betrayal, of the worst kind, by men and women who were entrusted with the innocence of children and no doubt; some of these individuals will never quite be the same having endured years of abuse. Many persons are now seeking someone to blame for not having protected them from the horrors which they endured and understandably so. However, I view with disgust the current campaign which is being waged against Pope Benedict XVI. I want it understood that I in no way support or endorse the heinous crimes perpetuated against these children, but there comes a point where we must not allow the sensationalization of the media and the weight of public opinion to cloud our rationale minds. Lawyers in the United States and Europe are now initiating legal proceedings against the Vatican, naming the Pontiff as defendant for ‘negligence and crimes against humanity’; this is according to the Catholic News Service of America. Some of these lawyers, in the U.K., are now seeking to ascertain whether the Pope can be arrested when he visits the United Kingdom this September, while the Vatican is pleading that the Pope is diplomatically immune from any such attempt at prosecution by virtue of his role as Head of State of Vatican City.
With my limited knowledge of international jurisdiction and sovereign immunity, I wish to question the practicality of hauling the 82 year old Benedict before courts to stand trial for crimes he simply did not commit. This is rubbish and these lawyers should be ashamed of themselves. While it would please the media hype and the gossip to have the Pope sentenced to prison, let us remember that the Church is not a multi national corporation, nor does it operate like any such organization. The Pope has spiritual primacy over the Church, I concede that. However, every Bishop is individually responsible for the Diocese entrusted to him. Maybe it is more practical to subpoena Bishops who have covered up the allegations of abuse, let them answer for their actions, but let us not attack the Pope simply because he heads the church.
Is it that we are now at a point where we are so bent on revenge that we cannot see the attempts of Pope Benedict to make amends? What will prosecuting the Pontiff accomplish? He has come out publicly, in his pastoral letter to The Church of Ireland, condemning the acts of abuse and urging church leaders to refraining from covering up the allegations. He has asked the perpetrators to submit themselves to the law and allow justice to take its course. What more can he do? What more would you have him do? This is a church of some one billion people, he is one man. Let us be rationale and fair. There are many who will be quick to cite the allegation that while a cardinal, he allowed a priest guilty of abuse to continue to serve, but I ask you, is he not human? Is he not fallible? Is he not prone to mistakes, just like the rest of us?
Then there are the calls for his resignation. At a point where the church is deeply wounded and divided and many persons are perhaps now questioning their faith; is it practical for the Pope to resign? What message would that send to Catholics across the world? Now, more than ever, the church needs strong and sustained leadership. Yes, mistakes were made. Yes, crimes were covered. We all want those guilty of these crimes to be brought to justice. Still, we do not support a witch hunt. I urge all my Catholic friends, do not be shaken or moved by the attempts to demonize our Holy Father and our church, remain steadfast in your faith. Finally, my heart goes out to all those who have suffered at the hands of priests and nuns and it is my sincere hope that somehow you will find comfort and peace. We must find a rationale and practical solution to the problem we face. In short, leave the Pope alone.