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Christian factionism and nation-building

by Phillip G Washington

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

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The Urban Dictionary defines 'factionism' as a “mindset in which a person thinks only or mostly of the group s/he belongs to, sometimes to the detriment of others”. Regrettably, this mindset characterises much of the Christian community in Jamaica and has had dire consequences for national development.

Many Christian groups suffer from 'ecclesial narcissism'; they are so preoccupied with their own objectives that many have become theologically, sociologically and psychologically incapable of extended and extensive engagement with other groups. Churches can become so caught up in themselves that they can easily spend hundreds of thousands on a public address system, but require multiple meetings and a rigorous investigative process to assist a single mother and her children.

In an article from Christianity Today, dated April 4, 1999, Anthony Bailey, former pastor of the North Street United Church, lamented the “disunity and turf battles” among churches. How can the Christian community tell warring gangs to cease fighting when they engage in a similar war, but only on a different front?

This disunity has multiple repercussions; particularly, it hinders individual creativity and productivity as some amount of the intellect is absorbed in the maintenance of these ecclesial boundaries and sometimes causes social dysfunctions such work-related conflicts and domestic disputes relating to variance of doctrinal opinions.

Jamaica boasts of being the country with the most churches per square mile. This boast is akin to a man who possesses a large arable property, but whose family suffers from malnutrition. The spiralling crime, appalling social injustices, and deplorable conditions of necessary infrastructure shout at the Christian community to rethink their modus operandi.

The writer of the book of James tells us that real religion is the care “of orphans and widows who are suffering”. Real Christianity is 'other-centred' and not personally or communally self-centred it is concerned with ensuring justice for all. It has nothing to do with hierarchical structures, disputes over days of worship, luxurious worship centres, speaking in unrecognised foreign languages, or multimillion-dollar budgets that favour the clergy and burden the laity. The fact that an agency of the Government has as its slogan “A voice to the voiceless…to loose the chains of injustice” should cause sombre self-examination among those who claim to be believers in the historical figure named Jesus.

This is not a call for ecumenical effort, this is a call for real Christianity. Real Christianity, where service in the community is as important as the weekly worship service, where those of different sexual orientations find unconditional love and know more about Christian help than Christian hell, and where money is used to minister to the oppressed rather than make its way to God through an esoteric process.

Let us together “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows” (Isaiah 1:17) and make Jamaica, land we love, a better place.

phillip.g.washington@gmail.com

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