I write in response to the letter in the Jamaica Observer of October 31 addressing the country's religious affiliation. The writer is misinformed as to the advent of Christianity. Christianity is not the outgrowth of an "Ancient Egyptian religion" as the writer would have us believe.
In spite of any parallel rituals cited, there are no historical facts that would support such a claim. Christianity was founded in the first century by the followers of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who Christians (and a growing number of Jews) believe is the true Messiah. Judaism was the background in which Jesus lived his earthly existence and those rituals were part and parcel of his life here among men.
Circumcision is an Abrahamic institution ordered by God as explained in scripture that is a distinct symbol of Jewish culture. The health benefits cannot be questioned successfully. Most informed scholars believe that the Egyptians adopted it during the sojourn of the Hebrew people in Egypt. The fact that Islam assumed it does not make it ancient, as Christianity is older than Islam. Baptism is also a Jewish Levitical ritualistic cleansing which was adopted into Christianity because Jesus was Jewish and advocated baptism for all. It is recognised as an outward sign of an inward change.
I challenge the writer to show me where there was an institution of the paschal feast before the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt. Let me inform that the word "paschal" is inextricably related to the word Passover, the history of which is incontrovertibly part of the story of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. With regard to the concept of a supernatural deity, we should be quick to accept that even primitive people who had no exposure to organised religion accept the thought of an all-powerful being that is hands-on with the affairs of humanity.
I concede that syncretism is rife in many Christian denominations and that its appeal to the historical cultural background of an Afro-dominated population as Jamaica is, is just a natural consequence of this exposure. This fact is just one component in the leaning of some of the population towards a primitive esotericism. The phenomenon is much more complex than meets the eye and has much deeper sociological implications.
S Peter Campbell PhD