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Religion

The Book of Life

When I was a teenager my mother would beat me to go to church. And not using the traditional belts with the iron buckle– oh, no, my mother was ingenious– hanger, shoes heel… broom… ply board. She was fearless. She beat to coerce not to harm but I was resolute, stubborn and proud. It was not until very recently, through the medium of YouTube nonetheless, that I became interested in the Bible, not as a medium through which to have a relationship with God– I’m still working on that– but as an interesting area of study.

For example, I just found out that Moses was an introvert that is why he was paired up with the more outspoken Aaron, proving that  both personalities are necessary for leadership. Wicked! But one of the more interesting things I found was that there are three beautiful books in the Bible: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Job, called The Wisdom Series that explain the meaning of life from three different perspectives. Please, if you have the time watch them on this amazing channel, The Bible Project. The site traces majority of the Bible’s stories through animation, revealing things about men and women and God that are frightening relatable. Quick lessons I learnt from The Book of:

Proverbs

Life rewards and punishes each man by the integrity of his actions. So, if you are evil you are finished, if you are good you are rewarded. Fair enough.

Ecclesiastes

however, says that this is a lie. Ecclesiastes teaches that life is broken down into three areas: chance, time and death. Good things happen to bad people because that is life: the newborn baby dies while the rapist wins the Super Lotto. There is no reason, cause or vendetta behind these events; truly, they create bigger ripples in God’s universe than we as humans can ever imagine. Secondly, there were people and riches and land etc. long before us and there will be more of these things long after us, we ain’t special. Also, time is the ultimate master and equalizer, we will all get where we need to be, we can’t fight fate. Lastly, the good and the bad shall both return to the earth as dust. No man is more than another regardless of the segregation that occurred during his lifetime.

Job

merges both perspectives together through an anecdote. Regardless of the fact that he was a rare thing, a wealthy and a righteous man, Job was randomly chosen by God to suffer loss without reason. As time went by, Job mourned, forsaked, returned to God and rebuilt. God eventually gifts to him so much more that what he lost and then Job eventually dies.

The Epiphany

The Wisdom Series helped me, along with losing some important parts of myself that defined me this year, to streamline realistically the person reflected back at me each day. For a long time I was in mourning and now I am finally deciding to heal, slowly. I see true humility as one of the most misunderstood and hardest things to attain in this lifetime, The Book of Job helped me to understand that, and it is probably why on a whim, one night, this summer, I woke up, felt philosophical and decided to write this for myself (and now for you): (who knows, maybe God was talking to me long before I even decided I wanted to hear what He had to say. I still wonder to this day.)

There is always a lot of talk about success. As if showing that you are winning is good enough. Show me the lives that you have touched, the people you have given opportunities, the people who you have turned into leaders because you have told them that they deserve this. Show me your influence. Then I will say you are successful.

In life it is not what you are running towards (because nobody knows that. Ever.), it is what you are running away from: fame, being used and abused, not completing goals, keeping yourself from happiness, fear of rejection. It is about stripping everything bad, not taking on everything good. Makes you feel freer, don’t it? Similarly it’s not: who am I or what do I want out of life but what am I not and what don’t I want out of life.

It is very important to express intelligence through a medium instead of sounding intelligent (eg. public speaking or debating or writing a self-help book). This way, it all goes to your head less. It was Stella Adler who said something along the lines of: life sucks your soul, art allows you to remember that you have one.

Lastly, when we move we move slow. And we don’t talk about it. Success is never loud. It feels wrong when arrogance is mistaken for pride. Shut up. Move quiet. Keep it private. Opposite to what you feel, people do not care what you do and no one watches you unless you make yourself known. Do not make yourself known. Work in the dark. Know your parents, know your home. And that is all. — Bless.

[cover art by: Osnat Tzadok

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Religion

A Newer Testament

It is Easter. Another holiday, another reason to go to church. My family is not deeply religious; when I was younger I was forced to got to church like most people I know but as I go older I came to see the happiness and the solitude that faith offered, on my own. It is only recently, like in the last 20 years or so with the increase in media scrutiny and the atheist wave, that the church has been sidelined to special holidays or dismissed by some young people entirely.

Religious holidays bring out one of two evils in people: this time is more about beach days, turn-ups and sleep ins and less about reverence while for some it is the only time you will ever catch them in church for the year. With the way things are going now, Christianity needs a 180 and if you look carefully you will see it among the young’uns, just not the way the older people would probably like to see it though.

The Church Today

The church was once consistent, critical and honest, it aimed to be an institution of moral purity. And it still is. However, there are holes in it’s reputation from years of media finds: like pastor infidelity and nepotism and sexual abuse and thieving. But even worse is in recent years the general close mouth stance Jamaican churches have chosen to take on critical issues, like the above mentioned on their pastors is abhorrent yet they choose to create uproar over the cover of  telephone directories. This has cast doubts in the church’s ability to be objective and responsible. The amount of churches springing up at random, like in business plazas of all places, is not making it better either:

The church is now a business, complete with materialistic tv evangelists shouting praises through screens for a fee and churches opening from 9-5 like banks, recycling the congregation daily. All this adds fire the atheists’ pot. Now more than ever is the hardest time to convince people to step foot into a church without occasion.

Resurrection

Yet there is hope. Always. So, I have had two friends who are deeply religious. Only, one was a hypocrite and one was the real deal. (I keep attracting these people I find. People often confuse my innocent appearance as a confirmation of being a Christian. It is sadly, my greatest con.)

The true Christian made me want to be like her. A born Kingstonian, girl used the word ‘goodie’ as our personal moniker, you look at her you don’t see a Christian lest she tells you. The other one shopped for church clothes every other day (like, who does that?) and told her mother that I was ‘bruking her out’ after we happened to stay out after 6 o’ clock one Friday evening.

My point is that the Christian zeal is high among young people and nowadays that is a cool thing. With the way the church looks today it would be wrong to send young people into that dense hypocritical air. (it all feels like that final scene in Earl Lovelace’s, The Wine of Astonishment when Soca music is born out of Calypso. Do you feel it?)

Young people may not go to church every Saturday or Sunday and be hold-fast Christians in the traditional sense (“She says I should stay away from you. The Sabbath is a serious thing to uphold.”) and they may not cram into overcrowded benches to hear the same story about the death of Christ every year just to say they were in church, but you will see their consistent, critical and honest commitments in: the youth groups and the college Gospel fests and when they come to their pastors on their own time to help explain confusing scripture and when they advocate for religious positions on the school councils.

So, don’t worry when you don’t see us this Easter Sunday or Monday. Don’t throw judgement because we don’t like the building with the cross on it, it means something different to you than it means to us. We are doing you a favour. In our own way some of us are creating a new world for the young Jamaican Christian to live in. — Bless.

Footnotes: I was watching the National Debate Competition the other day. Ardenne high vs Clarendon College on the moot: Dancehall Music Contributes to Anti-Social Behaviour among Teens, or something like that. Ardenne surprised me because they were not particularly convincing, or inventive. Clarendon College was golden yet Ardenne won. I was shook. Some days before the same thing happened with Kingston College, they won without merit, many said. Jamaica is in this deep tangled web where privilege and tradition ad metropolitan living has taken precedence over fairness. You see it at university too, prejudice between: country pickney and town pickney, traditional and nontraditional high schools, rich and poor. It’s bad enough in the real world but in competition where one argues on merit and evidence and conviction, on an equal platform, what is the point, is there no hope, if a school like Clarendon College can’t get a head, even there? Somebody pray for us while we pray for ourselves, please. 

[cover art by: Leroy Campbell]

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