Fri | Dec 3, 2021

Mark Wignall | When religion goes crazy

Published:Saturday | October 23, 2021 | 12:08 AM

“Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really because they believe that this is what God wants them to do; going all the way back to Abraham...

“Many people do simply awful things out of sincere religious belief, not using religion as a cover the way that Saddam Hussein may have done, but really because they believe that this is what God wants them to do; going all the way back to Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac because God told him to do that.

“Putting God ahead of humanity is a terrible thing,” said the late Steven Weinberg, physicist and Nobel laureate.

The tragedy that took place last week involving the Pathways International Restoration Church is an example of religious extremism on a high wire.

Some have suggested that the COVID- 19 pandemic has been the worst stress for us. Some have weathered it well; others are badly broken.

The very name of the church is a dead giveaway. The more lofty the name, the easier it is to see the con job approaching.

Let us face it! The man representing the Church in Jamaica, Crown Bishop, His Excellency, Dr Kevin Smith has obviously grown tired of the divinity he says he represents. He has now completed one of the main passages to religious extremism. He has become bigger than his God.

His every behaviour is accepted as law to overcome all that went before because he has gained total control over those who have allowed others to think for them.

The entire congregation of Restoration Church was simply an extension of the worst of Kevin Smith’s ego.

In the late 1970s, a group of white-clad uptown people used to gather in places like Half Way Tree. The Jamaican women were wearing white smocks while the men wore white shirts and loose, white trousers.

A sister of a friend of mine became taken in with this Children of God cult. Soon, she left the comforts of her Kingston 8 suburbs and relocated to a community in the same very uptown settings.

It mattered little how much effort her brothers put in to convince her to move back home and complete her university education. She was unmoving, always telling them that her sole loyalty was to ‘Moses David’, a shyster out of California.

One day, the brothers lost their patience. They simply barged into the premises, grabbed her, slung her across a back, and brought her back to a reality that normal people face daily.

RELIGIOUS CONMEN

I must confess my bias and admit my confusion as to why sensible people find logic in religion. Every school I attended had a very strong religious base. I allowed that very base to build me where necessary and allowed the rituals to exist as mere whispers.

The good people who stand atop their congregations in Jamaica know that existing close to them are religious plunderers whose existence is based on the booty.

I am constantly appalled that the good leaders in the religious community have never seen it fit to call out the impostors, that is, outside of the generic ‘false prophet’s teaching.

Maybe that position is widely taken because deep down they all know that they represent different approaches to religion’s great singularity. Faith over fact.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to declare that many Jamaicans are in their own unique spirals of economic pain.

In such times it is useful for our political leaders to recognise that charlatans at all levels will seize their own bits of power.

Gang members will do it. Religious whack jobs will step up just before they drown in their own power.

It seems to me that the Government, through its finance ministry, knows that it matters little how much financial assistance to the poor is dressed up. In reality, it is simply a competition for the soul of the people most at risk from maligned players in the system.

EASE OF CEMENT SUPPLY

The one bright spot that shone through even at the country’s most painful episode in 2020 was construction. As it has continued its rise in 2021, hardware stores throughout Jamaica have been placing limits on how much they sell to one customer.

The recently announced decision to grant a new player a licence to import 50,000 metric tons of cement will be a game changer. The new player is WT Limited, trading under Growth Tech Special Projects.

The imports will be strategically taken in at the same time as the Caribbean Cement Company increases its manufacturing output over the next year at least.

Many hardware stores will be looking forward to seeing this company led by Garth Walker fulfilling an unwritten mandate in the sector by bringing stability to the supplies of cement

It is of primary importance at this time.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and mawigsr@gmail.com.