By KES Lewis
In the next 20 to 30 years, the Caribbean would move from being a mainly Judeo-Christian region in terms of religious practices, laws, social norms, and politics to an American-tinged, socialist-liberal, anti-church one, unless the Church does something to reverse this course.
The institutional, moral, and religious trends are ominous. Advocacy for the removal of laws that are termed anti-discriminatory are thinly disguised attempts to fashion legislation that would expand hate speech and hate crime offenses, which will curtail diverse voices, and biblical preaching, and curb religious practices and expressions in numerous Caribbean states. Based on what has been seen throughout Western centres of higher education, our regional universities which explored the unique Caribbean experience and civilisation would be gradually forced towards adopting current Western European values.
If this nudge continues, unabated our regional universities would become less of a marketplace of ideas and more like a re-education camp. Politically, the Chavez-Castro brand of socialism driving some regional governments will be replaced by a Bernie Sanders type of American-flavoured socialism that often laughs in the face of logic and reason. What this will do is open our countries to the darker influences of an ideology, contrary to its claims, which does not promote the best interest of the population. Note that I am not endorsing socialism in any of its current manifestations.
The moral decay of our region is increasing at warp speed. Social media garbage blown through the islands from our northern neighbours occupy and distract the minds of our populations, to the point that rather than using the platform for good it has become a tool for polluting impressionable minds and giving space for immoral excesses. For a good reference point, check out Cal Newport on reasons for avoiding social media. A creative industry that produced the likes of Bob Marley, Derek Walcott, Barrington Watson, Franck Etienne, and George Lamming now chugs out lyrical masterpieces like “Lick” under the torpid banner of self-expression. This is a sign of the decay taking place.
The church, too, has contributed to this decline. Progressive and materialistic theologies have stripped it of its uniqueness, or better yet, “saltiness”. The tendency toward creating separate camps, even among the like-minded, has added to the general fragmentation of the church. The prime minister may have done the church a service when he highlighted and weaponised this lack of unity in his response to the infamous vaccine mandate letter. At least no one should have any doubts anymore about where things stand as it relates to the church’s ability to change a politically-driven course of action.
Additionally, the church has not helped itself with its continued fascination with having access to the halls of political power. While it rightly prays for the nation’s civic leaders and promotes obedience to authority, the church has gotten too intimately involved with party politics and lost sight of national concerns. Immoral leadership does not create trust in the mind of the average bystander. The preoccupation with platforms has moved church leaders away from faithfully proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ toward crafting talks that resemble Tik Tok soundbites. The result, people are manifesting (modern-day name-it and claim-it) and affirming (the grandchild of the self-esteem mantra) more than they are praying and rooting their identity in what is said in the Bible.
As bad as things are now, there is hope. There is a lot the church can do right now to halt this trajectory and reverse these trends. A post-Christian Caribbean is not only bad for the church but it is bad for its people. The first thing the church should do is:
Practise strong, bold preaching that is consistent with the Bible. Practise worship that is consistent with God’s self-revelation in nature and through the Bible. Enough of the concerts. Promote an accurate view of the Trinity. Engage in spirit-filled, scripture-based prayer. Stress personal piety and habits of revival. Promote and provide theological training for all first, second, and third tier leaders. Pursue corporate spiritual renewal.
Take a proactive posture towards social issues. Institute and promote social programmes that tackle institutional problems like homelessness, job loss, and lack of classical education in the schools. Incorporate community activism alongside evangelistic outreaches. Foster partnerships with others locally and internationally. Practise helping other local assemblies to be better at what they are doing. Engage in national discussions. Support the effort around mental well being. Understand how to use “activistic” tools to gain the right resources. Marches bring attention to issues, but laws and regulations create meaningful change in a non-theocratic democracy based on legislation. In other words, understand how laws work and work to see good-for-everyone laws put in place. Practice public humility and good neighbourliness.
Reemphasise integrity as a personal and corporate mandate for leaders. Undertake relevant reforms around polity. Root operational practices in the Bible rather than denominational preferences. Change the way resources are utilised. For example, use land for farming or constructing low-income homes rather than building large structures that go unused 80% of the time. Allocate monies towards helping members live above the poverty line by creating a micro-enterprise fund and other poverty alleviation schemes. Examine closely the purpose of certain ministries and do not be afraid to kill the sacred cows. No more “we always did it like this”. Be honest about the motives behind certain actions. Prune where necessary.
A lot has to be done, but if the church starts now it can stop the spread of dissipation that is on the doorsteps of the region. By doing so, it would have helped to preserve goodness, peace, and prosperity for all.
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