Orville Taylor | Less prayer and more fire
In the past, I have refrained from endorsing prayer breakfasts and national marches by the 'people of faith', and nothing will make me hug up the Heal the Family, Heal the Nation service which was hosted by The Power of Faith Ministries International, in collaboration with the Jamaica Umbrella Group of Churches last Wednesday. Oh, not that I am against prayer or religious rituals. Far from that, apart from the different meaning that Miss Ivy would add to Boxing Day, Elder Taylor and the myriad Catholic priests who schooled me would turn over in their graves.
The fact is, we have been having these religious gatherings for more than 30 years. Simply put, Jamaica is not short on prayer; we are short on being honest and calling a spade a shovel. This is not a reaction to the mealy-mouthed responses from the church over the case of the clergyman charged with having sex with a child, or the silence of the lambs when the well-known gay priest allegedly buggered little boys, or the inexplicable verdict of the jury of his peers, exonerating the transnational pastor, whose body fluid provided seminal evidence of his sexual contact with little girls.
On the contrary. It is just that 80 per cent of us declared in the census that we belong to a church. One out of every nine Jamaicans is Seventh-Day Adventist; making for approximately 12 per cent of Jamaicans declaring that they keep the Sabbath. But we gamble on Saturdays and shop like it is going out of style. We are a praying nation; but we are less a nation of doers and workers.
The fact is, Jamaica's social problems are not caused by a lack of prayer, and therefore an increase in the quantum of prayer will not produce the results. Indeed, the Bible itself is ambiguous on the subject of prayer because in Mark 11:24 it declares, "Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive, and ye shall have." And Matthew 7:7 states, "Ask, and it shall be given you..." While John 14:13-14 reveals, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." Furthermore, the template in Matthew 6:9-13 unequivocally demonstrates that "thy will be done...." Because "thine is the kingdom, power and glory." So pray till you 'clyde', if Massa God say no, you won't get it.
Yet, at the very same prayer breakfasts and in particular on Wednesday, our political leaders called for an adherence to the Lord and a rejection of area dons. When the prime minister said it, I immediately reprised, 'Call it Andrew, call it!!' But he didn't quite do so. We live in a country that has seen a consistent decline in major crimes, including robberies. However, homicides have climbed back up along with shootings.
And if we use a GIS analysis of the victims and the perpetrators, certain patterns emerge. While it is not a perfect relationship, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and his opposition counterpart, Portia Simpson Miller, can easily look at the correlation between the origins or residences of the murderers and murder victims. It is not rocket science; there are enough people in both the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) who remember when the so-called garrisons were nothing more than poor communities. Andrew was a toddler, Peter Bunting a prep school child and security minister Bobby Montague was still sucking breast when the dons were being cultivated, groomed and massaged by green and orange hands.
Andrew must 'burn fire' and publicly distance himself and his political party from any imagined association with gang leaders, and Sister P and her successor must do likewise. There is no prayer without confession and going down on collective knees and begging the Lord's forgiveness for being part of parties whose members gave guns to young men to kill each other in their name.
Tell me also, where are the fearless religious leaders who instead of blazing fire, tow the political lines and even accept the highest government title? The men and women in white collars must face down our political leaders and say, 'We know what you did and how you helped to create this demon which we are trying to exorcise.' The parties are Beowulf and the young shotters are Grendel. This reference is not biblical but it is just as true.
Although misused by Christians to think that it applies to them, 2 Chronicles 7:14 instructs, "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." When the political parties do this, then they have the moral authority to criticise and even pontificate regarding how police handle or fail to handle crime.
This present administration, with a very vocal security minister who seems to know what he wants in a commissioner of police, must first recognise that apart from its historical travesties in creating this crisis, it has done a few things recently which damaged our stature as a law-abiding country. One needs not rehash the entire Manatt-Dudus saga or the furore regarding a sitting parliamentarian, but Holness must demonstrate in no uncertain terms that he and his security minister are and were not part of that debacle, which caused our corruption perception index to drop to the 30s. It must be both speech and action. They themselves must be brave enough to stand up to the corrupt and possibly criminal elements who wear green shirts and say, 'Not in my cabinet and not in my party!'
Don't be fooled. Just as when the public knows that a policeman is a crook, they know 'What You Did Last Summer!'
- Dr Orville Taylor, senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI and a radio talk-show host, is the author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.