Modern look at ancient book

...Citizenry, health and welfare


Sunday, November 10, 2019

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THE year is 325 AD — centuries after Jesus lived. Constantine, Rome's great leader, commissioned a 300-man religious council to sift through a pile of writings so as to emerge with a book of sacred scriptures.

Millennia after this Council of Nicaea — where the founding fathers ratified these books into what we now know as the Bible — the ancient book has, from time to time, been brought under modern spotlight, insofar as relevance to our modern, civilised era is concerned. Especially poignant is this given the current of topical issues — namely abortion and the undying excesses of the church locally and internationally — added to our Jamaican reality of being one of Earth's most religiously dense territories, where few of us can deny early affiliations with Sunday school, meetings, or a religious service of sorts in our childhood years and, for some, even now.

As Jamaica becomes an increasingly difficult place in which to live, where sky-rocketing stress levels and negotiating the dynamics of life become more and more complex, one asks: Can the principles of this ancient book furnish a modern look at life's problems — our reality — in effect, issues touching our health, welfare and duty as citizens?

The Golden Rule,

Many suffer at the hands of thoughtless and self-centred people. Truth be told, we may individually contribute to this caucus of selfishness. In so doing, some adopt the mantra: Do unto others as they do unto you. Few would deny the perpetual breakdown in human relations and of law and order that this precept causes.

Still, others feel a better ethic is: What you do not want done to you, do not do to others. While this principle is arguably better than the first, one cannot help but get the idea that you stay in your lane and I stay in mine — which little helps our cause as citizens in a global space.

Rather than people simply not doing bad to others, Matthew 7:12, in the famous Sermon on the Mount, emphasises doing unto others as you would have them do to you. No wonder, India's great leader and non-Christian, Mahatma Ghandi, is known to have said: “When your country and mine shall get together on the teachings laid down by Christ in this Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems not only of our countries, but those of the whole world.”

This is because the Golden Rule privileges actively pursuing the doing of good to others, cultivating a healthy respect for others, treating them fairly and honestly, showing genuine concern both for their welfare and well-being. Who wouldn't welcome this in our island State at this time? For a certainty, crime and crime-related health issues would be zero in the face of the Golden Rule. So, too, would the issue of suffering due to a lack of food be solved when the haves help the have-nots.


Law-abiding citizens

As to our fellowman, we have a responsibility to the State. Matthew 17:24–27 recounts a story wherein tax collectors ask the apostle Peter if Jesus pays the tax, in reference to the customary two-drachma temple tax at the time. Jesus says he does, and instructs Peter to go to the lake, the Sea of Galilee, that is, throw out his line and to take the first fish he catches; Upon opening its mouth, he found a four-drachma coin to be given to them for Peter's tax and his.

The issue of tax evasion is a chronic one in our country, but if he who calls for the tax gets the tax, just imagine how great a boost for our country this would be, especially if he who gets the tax spends it in the spirit of honesty that the giver gives it.

Our issues, however, are broader than tax evasion and encompass general law and order, but, if criminals, including criminal lawmen, were to take a page out of this book that demands obedience to the status quo, Jamaica could be well ahead of its game. In this regard: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities…”, according to Romans 13:1 and, in light of Hebrews 13:18, “we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things”.

Employers, employees, government, citizens, parent and child, far from being outdated, these are principles, values and attitudes that serve to build a nation from the core, and produce law-abiding citizens — results that can only enhance the welfare of all.

These constitute just a sampling of the rich outlay of principles contained in this book.

Napoléon Bonaparte, French emperor, opined: “The Bible is no mere book, but a living creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it.” Why not give this ancient book a new look, if you haven't already done so, and see, in our day, if centuries after this great statesman pronounced on it, we can tap into this power that conquers and benefits all.


Warrick Lattibeaudiere (PhD), a minister of religion for the past 22 years, lectures full-time in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Technology, Jamaica.


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