By Ruel Reid, Guest Columnist
I have been struggling with Jamaica's reknown for its church density while being notorious globally for crime and violence. We must, however, commend the missionaries who opposed slavery and colonialism and gave active support to the struggle for Emancipation.
The Church was also at the forefront of making education available to the mass of the people, doing so long before the Government took over schooling.
Post-Independence Jamaica has seen a remarkable retreat of the Church from actively influencing government policy on transparency, accountability, moral standards, economic development and justice. It is so clear, for example, that our justice system is deliberately inefficient. If it were a priority for successive governments, we would have fixed it long ago.
The Church has been quite content to live in the spiritual realm and being 'in the world but not of the world'. It has led prayer breakfast after prayer breakfast, but we have not seen a radical shift in our body politic, and political tribalism has triumphed.
I have said to fellow Christians that we seem more in love with our political parties than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Of course, some of us don't even vote, but pray that the Lord's will be done. We Christians don't want to enter politics because it's 'too dirty', so how are we ever going to clean it up if we don't have Christian leaders in politics?
How can our country have so much natural resources and human resources (world-beaters in sports) but yet be so relatively poor, with one of the highest income inequality in the world?
But we preach 'lay not up treasures on earth but lay up treasures in heaven'. The Church has preached a message of being content with whatever state we find ourselves in. Is this why we accept high crime, high incidence of rape, poor governance, poor growth rate, poor education resources, and even corruption?
The Church, the salt of the earth, has by default failed Jamaica. We have given the impression that all we have to do is pray and wait on the Lord or a political messiah, when in fact we must occupy, arise, build, produce, be productive.
And if we had an activist Church which understood, like the story of the talents - "occupy till he [the master comes] comes" - if we could use our leverage of 700,000 strong members to be independent voters, we would get governments to move and pass the types of laws that would bring law and order, justice and equity.
But the Church has retreated to its tabernacles or government boards and we really are not fulfilling the mission of the Gospel - to make men disciples and to take care of the poor and needy.
Can you imagine what we could get the Simpson Miller government - or a JLP administration - to do if it knew we would vote it out in the next election if it doesn't perform?
Power to change
We need leadership that can empower all our people through education and training and unleash the creative potential of our people.
Look how we could work to maximise the benefits from tourism with greater linkages with the economy. Look at the possibilities of alternative energy, creative industries, the logistics hub, with maritime industries.
Jamaica should be so productive that it, like Singapore, becomes a net importer of labour. Finding 40,000 new jobs per year for our young graduates should not be an impossible feat.
We already know that IMF or no IMF, we have to fix Jamaica. We have to bring our expenses in line with our income. If we carry through the tough reforms, Jamaica will be positioned to be a prosperous country as we occupy till Jesus comes again. Can I get the Jamaica Council of Churches to join me in this transformation?
As a start, we need two independent senators to represent the people of Jamaica and lead the way for social dialogue and partnership.
Ruel Reid is principal of Jamaica College. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.