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The role of the church in society

Published:Saturday | January 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

The church in Jamaica has come under relentless scrutiny and assault in recent times.Indeed, the church has been the object of vitriolic diatribes from without its walls and from within.

I am one of those who have berated it from within.Just weeks ago, I pointed my finger at the church for its failure to play a more potent and transformative social role in the midst of the Gully-Gaza tsunami. I feel I have a right to offer such a critique from within.What I find fascinating is that those without have hurled their criticisms without mercy at this bedrock of Jamaican history and society.

As I thought about my critique and those of others, something dawned on me with respect to the church and society. It is not true that the church is not involved in nation building, as some might claim. It is not true that the church has totally retreated behind her four walls. I have come to the obvious conclusion that the church is struggling to live out its dual identity as an entity in this world that has 'citizenship' in another.

conservative theology

Many Christians embrace the conservative theology of heaven, what some might call the ideology of escapism, even while the church seeks to bring to bear in its current context the 'livity' of Jesus. The church's ambivalence and reluctance to engage in large-scale social engagement must be seen in light of this analysis.

Whereas I do not seek to absolve the church from blame where Jamaica's social problems are concerned, I would like to suggest something that should also be obvious. It is not the church's responsibility to focus on and deal with the problems of Jamaica.

role of government

As I reflect on biblical theology of government, I understand that it is the role of government in any country to maintain law and order, protect its citizens, and facilitate social harmony. Paul suggests in Romans 13:1-7 that government is "God's servants" to do good, punish evil doers, and govern. Pauline theology implies that national security and social stability are the domain and responsibility of the government.

What is critical though is that Pauline theology calls for the church to be actively engaged in paying taxes, giving respect and honour, and submitting to governmental authority. In essence, the church is there to support the government rather than play a major role in governance. This is what I see in the church's dualistic nature as being in this world but not of this world. Let us remember these considerations when we are tempted to bash this unique entity called the Church.

I am, etc.,