Gordon Robinson, Contributor
Jamaica's traditional churches are in a tailspin. Sheep are leaving the pasture in droves. The Church's evil enemy is wreaking havoc and freeing members from enslavement. No, I'm not talking about Lucifer, Satan, Loki, the Devil or whatever you call Christianity's eternal bogeyman who's repeatedly blamed for the appearance of a worldly yang for every yin.
Sometimes I wonder, if it wasn't for the Devil, how'd the Church explain perfectly normal contrary forces in a relative world. The Church would have to invent him or admit God made an imperfect world. Don't forget now: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31). So God definitely didn't make anything bad. Right? It's the Devil's fault. Right? God knew you'd be able to distinguish good from bad without having to experience bad. Right? But that goldarned Devil, he went and filled the world with yucky stuff like temptation, sin and violence. Right?
But I digress. Satan isn't the Church's evil enemy. He works for the Church, ensuring you're frightened enough to attend weekly bowing and scraping sessions to keep him behind thee from whence you can't prove he doesn't exist. God, who's all knowing, all seeing and all powerful, could only manage to deport him from Heaven but can't prevent him from filling your thoughts with wicked intentions like coveting your neighbour's wife. And all that jazz.
God can't trump the Devil. But the Church can. For a small contribution as the plate passeth you, the Church can banish all thoughts of evil from your minds. Partaking in a communal little drinkie (with wafer munchies) can absolve you of sin. Not too much; Pastor will withdraw the communal cup quicker than it takes to bowl the West Indies out but, when no one's looking, Pastor's own drinking habits often resemble an early-childhood counting primer. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!
THE REAL ENEMY
The Church's real enemy is clear thought (o/c reason). With minds pried open by evil influences like the Internet (the Devil made Al Gore do it), persons are actually (gasp) questioning Pastor's dogma. And insisting on answers. Upon being fed irrational answers like Reverend Al's "The Church and its representatives who have a relationship with Christ are still the primary carriers of the mind of Christ in the world and it is through them that ... all men need to be guided ... . You cannot get around us, as we are the only true, authentic reps on the planet. I, for sure, and many others have the history, evidence, lifestyle and character to back it up ... ," clear-thinking seekers of truth kiss their teeth and walk away.
The Church and its representatives are "the primary carriers of the mind of Christ in the world"? Seriously? How'd they get that privilege? These are people who either went to college just like me but studied theology instead of law; or who built their own religious cults and called themselves pastors. When did this divine handover take place?
I hope all read Reverend Al's submission ('I'll chauffeur Gordon Robinson to spiritual truth'; The Sunday Gleaner, January 13, 2013). In that article, the supremely power-hungry arrogance of Jamaican pastors is most gruesomely exposed. Apparently, church leaders, including Rev Al, "are the only true, authentic reps on the planet". What does this mean? Unless you do as Pastor says; unless you find your way, by any means necessary, to their Church; unless you hear, absorb and regurgitate their truth; unless you give the prescribed percentage of your hard-earned wages to their church fund, you're damned for all time because there's no other "authentic" pathway to Jesus.
Who appointed Reverend Al one of the exclusive readers of Jesus' mind? God? Jesus? Or Reverend Al? Show me your instrument of appointment, Reverend Al, or immediately retract that inane, self-aggrandising drivel.
Among myriad unreal claims, the most liberty Reverend Al has taken with reality is: "I, for sure, ... have the history, evidence, lifestyle and character to back it up ... ." Good grief! It's so important that church leaders indoctrinate you into believing God speaks only to them that they'll say anything; do anything (including acting like herky-jerky jackasses with epilepsy while 'preaching'); all the while treating followers contemptuously in furtherance of this vital propaganda. Why? Goodman's Law: Don't ask if it's about the money. It's always about the money.
Be real, Al. You chose to chauffeur a fugitive criminal mastermind who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, gunrunning and associated evils. You chose to assist him in deliberately hiding his visage from police. That the police caught you in the act brought forth the sorry excuse you were taking him to the US Embassy - which, if true, is an admission of attempted circumvention of Jamaican law.
You've also been convicted of a gun-related criminal offence. By your own admission, your acts and/or omissions resulted in your gun falling into criminal hands. Your ignominy was confirmed by the Court of Appeal which dismissed your appeal against that conviction. But even if that appeal had been successful, it wouldn't have reduced the effrontery of your postulation: "I, for sure, ... have the history, evidence, lifestyle and character to back it up." What does your recent "history" back up? Ignorance? Stupidity? Carelessness? Criminal behaviour? Megalomania? Or the validity of your claim to be one of Jesus' few authentic representatives on Earth? Can we have a show of hands?
Our churches' problem is, as communications improve, formerly unquestioning flocks have alternative ideas, some actually based on reason, competing with Pastor's dogma. Even Booklist Boyne, in a lengthy treatise on February 3, recognised from whence the threat cometh.
"The Church isn't only failing to impact the society meaningfully and potently, it's also increasingly losing a number of its thinking people. I am getting more enquiries from thinking Christians who are actively contemplating abandoning their religion and becoming agnostics and atheists ... ."
So, Booklist recognises it's against thought the Church is fighting. It's an almighty struggle because thought and dogma can't coexist. Once you start thinking, you'll realise the Bible is a book written by men who put on trousers one leg at a time just like us; who lived in a time when the suppression of women was in vogue; who believed that and other cultural sensations (e.g., enslaving conquered nations; segregation; killing people who differed from 'norm', like homosexuals, adulteresses and heretics) were God's will.
These men, driven by the opiate of power and control, wrote down those cultural 'norms' as 'law'; some 'in commandment'. They began a centuries-long trend of brainwashing and, to drive home their point, their stories included fearsome themes like, if we broke their rules (oops, sorry, 'God's Law'), our cities would be burned to the ground; we'd burn in Hell for eternity; and God would consider us abominations upon which He would wreak the most savage vengeance. These men also advertised themselves as Earth's sole recipients of God's Word.
Modern Christians like Booklist, who believe answers to everything are found in books (especially the Bible), can't wrap their minds around what they derisively call atheism or agnosticism. It's simple, Ian. Atheism, unlike all religions, is a non-prophet organisation. Atheists reject the results of your crystal ball gazing. They won't believe in your obviously flawed concept of God, that grey-bearded old man behind a desk in the sky calling down fire and brimstone on us whenever we pass gas in a crowded room.
Atheists believe, like the great philosopher Bertrand Russell, that when we die, we rot. Now this has proven to be scientifically true for centuries. But is this all? Yeats put it best:
Nor dread nor hope attend
a dying animal.
A man awaits his end,
dreading and hoping all.
Why do animals not dread death but we do? Do they know something we don't? Agnostics continue to ask why. Atheists refuse to bother spending their short time on this earth looking for answers they're sure to get soon enough. In the meantime, what's common to both groups is that they treat religious dogma with the contempt it deserves. Atheists wait and see; agnostics want to find out now; Christians know it all already.
Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia.
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh ... oh-oh!
We gonna pray!
We gonna pray!
We gonna pray!
We gonna pray!
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh ... oh-oh!"
Like The Mellowlarks' big 1960s hit Time to Pray, Christians have a 'don't worry, be happy' philosophy. Girlfriend giving you 'bun'? Pray. Boss harassing you? Pray. The country going to Hell in a handbasket? Pray. And fast. Christianity reminds me of the story behind the great hit by Procol Harum, A Whiter Shade of Pale.
We skipped the light fandango
turned cartwheels 'cross the floor.
I was feeling kinda seasick
but the crowd called out for more.
The room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away.
When we called out for another drink
the waiter brought a tray.
Legend has it that band founders, lyricist Keith Reid and pianist Gary Brooker, argued whether lyrics or music was more important to a song. To settle the argument, they agreed to write a song with great music but unintelligible lyrics. Gary, whose haunting vocals and emotive piano playing was the driving force behind Procol Harum, believed in music. Keith believed songs without good lyrics were bound to fail. A Whiter Shade of Pale, a song about getting so high it scrambles your brains, proved Gary right.
And so it was that later
as the miller told his tale
that her face, at first just ghostly,
turned a whiter shade of pale.
Yet the brilliant jumbled references to Milton and Shakespeare proved the strange lyrics had some basis (not reason). Christianity is religion's whiter shade of pale. It isn't based on reason. The truth is plain to see. But followers, kept high on hype and fear, obediently keep their eyes firmly closed.
She said, 'There is no reason and the truth is plain to see.'
But I wandered through my playing cards and would not let her be.
One of 16 vestal virgins who were leaving for the coast.
And, although my eyes were open, they might have just as well've been closed.
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org