It was C. G. Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who penned the words “Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes”. It is critical then for us as a church to look inside if we are to be better and do better. I say church broadly because I do not believe that this is a problem for just Wesleyans or Adventists or Anglicans or Pentecostals but the church in general as we have become too silent on issues that matter. It has caused those who do not refer to themselves as Christians to look on in disbelief and to disabuse the utility of the church today. This article purports to show how the church needs to find its voice as it relates to politics, its positions and its philanthropy.
There was once a time when the Evangelical Association and the Christian Council in both islands were active in having a voice in politics but sadly that voice has gone quiet. The church must be highly commended for being part of drafting a Code for Politicians and Christians for elections in 2010. The church was also active in the past in ensuring there were observers for elections to bring some probity to the process. We recently had a local election in Nevis and there were to my mind no independent observers of the voting process. Over the last 18 months the conduct of the parliamentarians in the house has been extremely distasteful. I have not heard the church speak to the importance of the parliamentarians and the Speaker of the House conducting themselves like the role models they should be especially in full view of the public. Another Federal election looms but there is some ambiguity as it relates to the boundaries.
It appears that there may be another boundaries commission. Shouldn’t a member of the Christian Council or Evangelical Association be included to bring some transparency to the process? Is the church minded to speak out about the fact that government after government says in their manifesto that religious instruction will be included in the education curriculum if they win but we still have no religious education today? What is the church’s view on having a fixed election date or flying in people to vote or having non-citizens voting in our elections? Does the church have any position on constitutional reform or do they see the constitution as presently constructed as best for the people of St Kitts and Nevis? Indeed these are issues the church should consider as they find their voice.
The Church must not just see themselves as set apart from the world and jettison its role as the moral conscience of the nation. If we look throughout St Kitts and Nevis we will see that a number of our pre-schools, primary schools, high schools and in some cases medical institutions are run by the church. The church also has its members involved in all strata of society, government and NGOs alike. I do not believe we are there by chance but there to give a voice. The church must be able to speak out on the increasing nudity of the revellers during Carnival especially even when non-Christians have stated their disgust with the costumes. Interestingly enough one entertainer on Facebook posted words to the effect that he was surprised that Inception was going to be held on a Saturday night in the Park and that “we know how powerful the church is in this place”. However, again the church said nothing. The Government of St Kitts and Nevis has set up a commission to look into the decriminalization of marijuana. What is the position of the church on this? We have seen immense violence against women which has been concomitant with a steady increase in murders in the Federation over the last two years but again the church has been silent.
I believe the churches have said things from their pulpits but they need to make their positions public since the church also has an obligation to the general public as its moral compass. According to a 2016 report by Transparency International, the countries in the Caribbean were increasingly corrupt over the last twelve months. The report stated that “bribery represents a significant barrier to accessing key public services, particularly for the most vulnerable in society”. The organization identified one of the main corruption challenges facing the Caribbean include “collusion among business and political elites affecting procurement processes”. The report further went on to state the need for “removing political immunity for corruption related cases, strengthen the police investigative capacity” among other things. While the report did not single out St Kitts and Nevis, it certainly did not exclude it. Who is better to lead or join the campaign for transparency than the church? Indeed there is enough precedent in the Bible for social activists like Amos and Micah who were quick to speak out about injustices in society. It is for the church to let its voice be heard in the country by ensuring its positions are known and acted upon.
The church has also been cast in a bad light because the public presupposes that it is not involved in helping people or doing its best to stymie crime et al. The truth is the church in general has spent quite a bit of money and time in being an agent of social change and a beacon of hope to so many but does not speak about it. A number of churches for example have paid for their students to do exams, buy uniforms, pay for medication and groceries, text books, find housing for its people and provide jobs in many areas. My church for example as part of our REACH Program is partnering with the NHLDC to adopt a playfield in the Shaws Road Area and provide play equipment for a Children Park. I know the Anglican Church has been keen in leading the Charlestown Scouts and the Basseterre Wesleyan Holiness Church wrote a grant to partner with the European Union under a Program called Operation Save Our Youth (SOY) which was aimed at providing home work help for many children of the Basseterre Area in Camps and Shadwell among other things. These are just a handful of the programs done by various churches but again the church is too quiet about it so people wrongly presume that the church does nothing. If more people know that the church is providing real practical assistance to the community then more people will be encouraged to attend the church and speak of its propitious endeavours.
I believe that the church must realise the “fierce urgency of now”. While the church in general and various churches in their various denominations must deliberate on what they think is best for the church to speak on, I believe this article provides some options for it to choose. This article seeks not to dictate to the church what it should speak on but I am to hope that it catapults the church to action. Selah.