By Dr. Aldon D. Tull
As this country moves or rather is “pushed” to republic status, we need to open our eyes and reflect on where we are going. Bob Marely has told us that if we know our history “we would know where we are coming from”. Then he says “you wouldn’t have to ask me who the hell do I think I am”.
I am not sure that the work of identity construction (“who the hell do I think I am’) is complete. As I have said elsewhere, there is still too much of the massa-slave complex buried in our psyche. It is a powerful complex that influences how we treat and value each other all the way from the home, to the classroom, to the pew and on into parliament.
History or rather the interpretation of it, has and always will be problematic. If I may twist a parliamentary phrase a little, it is a case where “the eyes have it”. On the one hand, we are asked to believe that, “Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it”. But we hear another voice saying, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”.
Such philosophical paradoxes drive us to the place where we can identify with the Apostle Paul and cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from [this dialectical conundrum]?
But as they say, perception is reality.
At the same time we are engaging in identity construction, we must be aware of identity politics. This is one of those phrases, like critical race theory, that the neo-intellectual bandy about so that the under-educated remain duly in awe of those preaching such ideology. Let’s remove the veil.
Identity politics is an ideology of power seeking based on social differences and divisions. According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary, it is where “groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, or cultural identity tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any larger political group”.
An analysis of race and racism is just one of the many projects undertaken by those who practice identity politics.
Identity politics is not necessarily about elections and holding political office, as the term might suggest, although it often leads there, by hook or crook. However, like the poor, identity politics has always been with us. Even in the church.
Nearly 2000 years ago, Paul had to deal with identity politics in the ecclesia:
For when one of you says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each his role. 1 Corinthians 3:4 [Berean Study Bible]
As we are seeing played out in America, identity politics can breed deep social and economic division as well as violence. It can be, and often is, a big part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Identity politics is not a new concept in Barbados. It’s always been here in one form or another: the “haves versus the have nots”, “enfranchised versus the disenfranchised”, “male versus female” and recently, “the vaccinated versus the unvaccinated”. Nowadays, we have reached the stage where we even talk about “two Barbadoses”.
Our country is a decidedly plural society; different religions, different ethnic groups, different socio-economic groups etc. That does not mean we cannot get along. In fact, outsiders have praised the citizens of this country for our ability to get along. It does not mean that all is honky dory, either. By no means.
However, we are seeing an increasingly disturbing trend of polarization of the society by the policies and practices of this current administration. At the heart of this polarization is its divisive, hegemony-seeking policies and principles or lack of them.
The latest fiasco involving the Ministry of Health & Wellness in a covid-19 vaccine scandal underscores the divisive moral bankruptcy that is descending on this nation.
Now all of us have our own moral imperfections but when unethical behaviour is practiced at a governmental level it reflects on all of us. That is a different kettle of fish because we must then decide whether or not to be divided or united in our disapproval of such behaviour.
Incidentally, the same argument holds for issues such as same sex marriage, abortion on demand, homosexuality etc. We hold that every individual has the sovereign right to choose what he or she believes and practices as long as it does not infringe the rights, health or safety of another.
But when a government legislates same sex marriage or abortion, for example, it bestows a perceived measure of national or collective responsibility on all of us, irrespective of our individual value positions.
Judeo-Christian Values and Secularization
The value system upon which this society is built is aptly referred to as “Judeo-Christian”. Just listen to the next centenarian speak and you will hear him or her share a string of Judeo-Christian values: faint in God, honesty, diligence and budgeting (“making ends meet’) etc.
Sitting on top of that value system is the Sovereign One, the Righteous One, the Alpha and the Omega Himself. Values and ethical behaviour spring primarily from a heart attuned to the Sovereign One, not the head. So efforts to teach values in an academic manner have failed and are bound to fail.
Not surprisingly, the National Transformation Initiative’s Citizenship course has been described at one point as “not cutting it”. Ethics and values spring from transformation of the heart, not an educated head. If that were not so, this planet would have to be at its most ethical ever. We know the opposite is true.
The truth of the matter is that like Israel of old, we as a country, have “hewn out cisterns that cannot hold water”. The hewn-out cisterns of secularization, education and the other tools of the renaissance such as the arts, cannot, by definition, hold moral water.
While collectively we have drifted to a place where we somehow believe (erroneously so) that we have or can jettison God from our lives, it is amazing how often we knock our heads against what He has decreed and suffer the consequences.
We have missed the salient point that while we have the sovereign right to choose what to believe or what action to take, we DO NOT have the right to choose the consequences! Those consequences have been decided long ago by the one who made all things and set them in order.
Mixing Faith and Politics
We want to thank the current political duopoly viz the DLP and BLP, for the good they have done for this country. But we have had enough of their shenanigans. I am speaking euphemistically, of course. Mark Maloney to all intents and purposes, is the BLPs Donville Inniss. Lawyers from both political parties still represent some of the most hardened criminals in this country.
It is time that men and women of integrity and courage stand up and put themselves forth as alternatives to the current duopoly. They can expect ridicule, even threats. It is part of the stupidity that we must tolerate as a plural society. But it is time for a paradigm shift.
In this regard, it is also time for the church to divest itself of the notion that politics and Christianity do not mix. We do not subscribe to the view that politics has to be dirty. We need to stop broad-brushing issues and distinguish between “politics” and “politricks”; we can unequivocally agree that Christianity should never be mixed with the latter!
Politics is about power or more correctly, about authority. Scripture says:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Romans 13:1 NIV
This verse has proven problematic for different layers and denominations of the church. For some, seemingly the great majority, it is taken to mean that Christians should not be involved in politics, by which they mean elective politics or running for office.
However, if one accepts the idea that politics is about authority AND that there is no authority except that which God has established, then Christians working in any government capacity, regardless to whether they elected or not, are logically involved in politics and working under God’s authority!
That is why unelected civil servants, Christian or not, who aid and abet corruption by elected officials are no less guilty of abusing political authority than the officials themselves.
This idea that you can separate faith and politics is not only a myth but it is dangerous. Did you notice that when the government wants to persuade the society or segments of the society to do or accept something, it calls upon “faith-based” organizations, effectively on the church?
Case in point. The recent enlistment of the church in covid-19 vaccination programme. The church was all too willing to comply! Yet I have not heard the church say a single word about the Auditor General’s report or the burdensome national debt, let alone the continued frenzied borrowing. Are we there yet?
It is about time the Laodicean church in Barbados wakes up before it is found to be “lukewarm—neither hot nor cold”— and is spewed out of the mouth of Faithful and True One, as declared in Revelation 3:16.
In passing, we need to remind so called “worldly people” that:
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” I Peter 4:18 BSB
Scripture clearly does not support separation of the so-called “secular” from the “spiritual”. Daniel, the same Daniel that was thrown in the lion’s den, was a civil servant, the king’s adviser to be exact, and in Babylon of all places. Much earlier in time, Joseph had become Prime Minister of Egypt. And Moses was the de facto spiritual and military leader of Israel. Many of the people who were converted to Christianity in first century worked in the Roman civil service.
And what shall we say of Jesus himself, of whom the Scripture says?
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from that time and forevermore.
As far as I know, the throne of David is in Jerusalem in Israel. Unless you think the Scripture is speaking spiritually, of course. But try getting the Jews to believe that!
We are not so naive as to believe that all those who profess to be Christians truly hold Judeo-Christian values. But what we do need now is for genuine Christians to bring their salt and light into the political or authority arena and make a difference, for so they have been commanded.
Martin Iles of the Australian Christian Lobby has given a very brilliant interpretation of the relationship between faith and politics in his video: The Truth of It | God and Politics: The way it should be. We highly recommend you to view it by following the link below.