'We are living too loose'
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
According to the St Mary-based theologian Phillip Washington, young Jamaicans can improve their lives by following one simple instruction, and some of the Christian world's biggest problems are caused by Christians.
As Bible teacher and chaplain at the Seventh-day Adventist preparatory and secondary school, Port Maria High in St Mary, Washington, 29, works closely with young people from across the parish and believes many of them would benefit from following his simple, three-word directive.
Speaking with Family and Religion earlier this week, he explained: "The one thing I try to tell young people is 'Stop and think'. Most times, we're living kinda loose, just heading down a path, not contemplating much or reading any signs.
"With some of my classes lately, I've been asking questions like: 'Where are we from and what's our purpose here?' If we are to really answer some of these questions, we will definitely meet up and have to come to terms with that God element.
"I hope young people, especially in this politically-hyped time, really stop and consider their actions and the consequences of their actions, and know there is genuinely a better way to experience life."
The small town of Port Maria is home to more than two dozen churches, but Washington notes that although most residents claim to be Christians, their actions and behaviour suggest otherwise.
He said: "Religious apathy is a major problem. The truth is, we have not genuinely lived by the principals and standards embraced by those who took part in the reformation process. For many of us, we are just Christians by name, but not by practice.
"We care about our orthodoxy, but not orthopraxy. We care about getting the doctrines right and letting others know what should be right, but we don't do what is right. Some people have suggested the greatest threat to Christianity is Christians (laughs), because those who say they are Christians do not live up to Christianity's good and wholesome tenets.
"And I'm not talking about people who are trying, but those who just blatantly decide they are not following, which devalues the religion. So that's the challenge. We want to get our doctrines right, but when it comes to practising, we are following way short."
To resolve the issue, Washington proposes that Christians become more community-focused and take greater responsibility for previous misgivings.
He said: "People want politicians, bankers, lawyers and the police to find and tell us the truth, but they don't want to know the whole truth when it comes to Christianity and spiritual issues. To be honest, I believe our Christian churches on a whole have contributed to this.
"Instead of focusing on the development of our institutions and people, we have sought to gain from them somewhat. Once we start focusing on the people, and I think the same thing applies to the politicians, we'll start to see improvements."
Looking ahead, Washington hopes that in the future people will spend less time thinking about money and entertainment, and more time spiritually nurturing themselves. He said: "I just wish people would come to grips with the God factor.
"There is a God to be worshipped and praised, but let's not do it because we fear Him and know judgement is coming, but because God is great. In other religions, people have to die for their God, but for Christians, our God died for us; that's the beauty."