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 got 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.
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 and 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]