Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

On September 15, 2016 one of Jamaica’s most well-known clergymen Rev. Merrick “Al” Miller was sentenced to a fine of J$1,000,000.00 or a term of 12 months in prison following his conviction for “Perverting the course of justice.” This conviction has come about due to his now infamous role in the drama that ended in the ultimate arrest of Jamaica’s most wanted fugitive Mr. Christopher “dudus” Coke following the events of great upheaval in May 2010.

I have very strong feelings about this case in terms of the ethics of what Rev. Miller was doing on the day in question and the larger society is torn on this matter. There are some saying “no-one is above the law” and wished to see a greater punishment. Conversely, there are those who see Rev. Miller as a sacrificial lamb, who was giving a heroic and helping hand to the State in a perilous time who has been thrown to the wolves by those he indeed sought to assist. Ultimately, the final arbiter of legal right or wrong in the land has found the pastor guilty of an offence.

Rather than further delving into the merits of this conviction or the “rightness” of Rev. Miller’s actions, I actually want to tread on what might be more controversial territory and that is the interplay between ones moral/religious beliefs of right or wrong and the law. My conclusion is that the reaction of Rev. Miller to his fate, though seemingly begrudgingly on his part, is instructive in how I think this relationship between religion, in this case Christianity, and the law should be treated.

Rev. Miller has said and implied several things that I do not agree with but where we are at one is his explanation for why he will not appeal the decision of the Courts in this matter. He essentially stated that though he does not agree with the decision, as a Christian principle , doing what we feel is “right” can run counter to the law and/or have grave negative consequences. If we feel our action to be right then we are to do right no matter what the consequences are. Therefore rather than wishing for the legal consequences to be eased because of our Christianity, we should face them head on accepting that it is honourable to suffer for doing right if we truly feel we are right.

To be abundantly clear, I am on no way endorsing the choices of Rev. Miller in his episode with Mr. Coke, in fact based on the information I have encountered about the incident, his actions at best leave me uncomfortable. I am however saying that for persons who ascribe to the Christian faith or any moral compass really, doing what we feel is right can come with harsh repercussions. Too often especially Christians want everything in the world to operate based on their/our principles and all structures in the world should bend to the views of the Church.

I struggle to see a biblical basis for this self-entitlement syndrome but I stand to be corrected. The Bible, from my understanding, intimates that the Christian standard and the “world” or legal standard can and often will be at odds. If ascribing to the former leads to trouble with the latter sometimes we might just have to “hug it up.”

Don’t confuse me to be saying unjust laws should not be challenged. My larger point is that the role of the Christian is not to try and legislate morals and feel so special that the law will always be in alignment with one particular moral code. When we start to think that way we become lazy and want the law to do our job for us.

National servant or egregious wrongdoer? That is in the eye of the beholder. But for certain no-one is above the law. Though probably half halfheartedly, I am impressed by the Good Reverend’s “submission” to the law of the land. His alleged choice of “chariot” to leave his sentencing hearing…not so much.

Selah!

The horrendous acts that transpired in a principally Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) Night Club in Orlando Florida and the raising of the Rainbow Flag at the US Embassy in Kingston plus the “interesting” response of Jamaica’s Attorney General have all combined to reignite the never ending “debate” on the morality, acceptability and rights afforded to the LGBT community in Jamaica.

Rather than some expansive prose, below is a list of my  main sentiments on the LGBT discourse in Jamaica in general and the above-mentioned incidents in particular.

  1. I am a Christian. My views on the morality of homosexuality are largely influenced by that. So if I am honest with myself I am not 100% comfortable with it.
  2. Christianity or no, the notions of Universal Human Rights are also a part of my personal morals.
  3. The right to life, the right to freedom of conscience (which enables free speech/free expression freedom of and from religion), and the right to freedom from discrimination based on being the member of some target group are all things that I value.
  4. With the above in mind especially freedom of conscience, privacy and non-discrimination I do not believe it is my place to impose my chosen way of life and perspective on another free adult.
  5. No matter how queasy certain things make me feel personally, what consenting adults do in their life, that is not significantly affecting me or the rights of others is their business.
  6. Tolerance is the standard that both sides of this divide should be striving towards. But tolerance can have a negative connotation so probably we can shift the standard to “mutual respect for difference.”
  7. Persons with strong moral objections to homosexuality and those who are far more liberal perhaps will never ever truly agree.
  8. However, those who object, should accept that moral objection does not have to be twinned with hate and discrimination and those who are more liberal should accept that not every moral objection is one of hate or means that the homophobia label must be attached.
  9. However, objectors especially self-professed Christians/religious people definitely need to realise, that the nature of their objection, particularly the inconsistency in the amount of effort spent on this sin versus others, helps to sow the seeds of hate and intolerance in a space where constructive conversation from a position of respectful disagreement may be more useful. It is this hate and aggression that when unchecked or continuously stoked that can lead to heinous hate crimes
  10. With respect to the night club in particular, if in any way you rejoiced in what has happened then you may need to look into your humanity. No matter what you feel about a man, that man has blood running through his veins. A life is a life and we should mourn any loss of life. Suggesting that this was somehow God inspired retribution would logically imply t hat the poor little children who died in Sandy Hook a couple years back were also somehow being punished. Careful with that line of thinking.
  11. I understand the persons who say but why is international outrage always more, when the lives lost are from “The West” I really do and I agree wholeheartedly. Evil acts occur daily but popular sentiment is skewed towards the west and/or groups with a strong international voice. But still a life is a life. So don’t position this as an either/or choice. And what irks me is that the same crowd that is quick to say “so what about what happened in X” often have nothing to say on these issues until something else happens and they bring it up as the reason they are not going to participate in the newer outcry. Let us, mourn and where possible do what we can to prevent tragedies no matter where they are. Also understanding the biases of the global media, don’t assume everybody knows of every tragedy that you do. Spread the word, help others understand issues that you understand better or know of before them. People who are willingly ignorant on the other hand…light them up for sure.
  12. With respect to the flag at the embassy, again, personally not my favourite thing, but my personal view shouldn’t and legally cannot stop others from utilizing their fundamental right of free expression, also as pseudo sovereign space of the US Government the larger message I feel was support for one set of citizens that were collectively mourning. I can’t see the big fuss with that in and of itself.
  13. I do however also think that a subtle or even not so subtle chess move/power play was also opportunistically taken by the embassy to remind us of their advocacy for a shift in popular opinion on the matter at hand. This utilization of soft hegemonic aka gently flexing that “world boss” power in this case is more offensive and noteworthy to me than what the flag itself represents.
  14. Late night tweets are not always the wisest decisions.
  15. Finally, pretty sure that the fire and brimstone and liberal coalitions will both take issue with aspects of this, but on this day I feel comfortable in where I stand. Just hope if you disagree we can do so respectfully and have a reasoned discussion if not…Oh well!

 

Peace/Salaam/Shalom