Herro Blair & Religion as Politics

In response to the ongoing complaints and handwringing that “The Church” is becoming irrelevant, powerless or compromised in defining the moral values of most Jamaicans, in steps Herro Blair, a fundamentalist Christian clergy and political ombudsman, to defend and reassert the relevance of this still undefined entity, The Church.  Not only does he claim to speak on behalf of The Church, but he also claims that his personal biased opinions on abortion and gay marriage are representative of The Church’s and God’s position on these issues.  Such a claim is arrogant, insulting, shortsighted and uninformed.

This concept of “The Church” as the arbiter of morality in Jamaica is as dangerous as it is divisive.

For one thing, the issues of “abortion” and “gay marriage” are not even on the national political agenda; political candidates have not shown themselves as able to debate or define a sensible position on these, nor have feminist groups, reproductive health advocates or sexual justice groups sought, in any organized way, to put these issues on the agenda.  So, Blair’s invocation of these issues is scaremongering at its finest and most pathetic.

But, even if they were on the national agenda, Blair and his ilk who are defending the right of “The Church” to tell us how to live our lives, seem to forget (or are unwilling to recognize?) that there are many stances on the question of abortion and same-sex marriage within and across religious traditions.  And like all those folks on the Religious Right in the US who constantly claim to speak on behalf of God in order to persecute those who disagree with them, Blair is also claiming his position on abortion and gay marriage as the god-inspired right one.  In truth, I’m not surprised about this based on Blair’s history in organized religion.

But, as a matter of fact, his impassioned exhortation/warning to the political candidates that “we are watching you” provokes even more questions: who elected Blair as the person who would watch and then tell us what we should believe, think and how we should vote?  Why should we accept his definition of morality and reality over others?  Has anyone looked into how his definition of morality continues to affect people’s lives on the question of abortion and gay marriage right here in Jamaica? What were the answers?  I wonder if Blair knows that the 2006 reports from the World Health Organization estimates (conservatively at that) that there are approximately 19 million unsafe abortions that are carried out each year around the globe, and that abortion procedures are very safe when performed legally and properly.  But, health systems spend an obscene amount of money having to treat the complications of the more than 5 million women a year who had unsafe abortion procedures.  And that’s for the women who don’t die the first time around; death in childbirth is highly likely for those who had serious complications from previous abortions.  Or I wonder if Blair realizes that a society like Jamaica is nowhere ready for a discussion about gay marriage when fundamental human rights like the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or to be recognized as a person under the law, to have the right to a family, or the right to privacy are arbitrarily recognized and abused by people who take his very positions?

Once again, at a time when people are looking for some clarity in a rather murky political climate, Blair has usurped his position of leadership and sought to manipulate the religious beliefs of ordinary Jamaican men and women in order to secure his own political future.  This is disgraceful, unethical behavior that runs counter to democratic principles.

“The Church” that is being promoted by Blair, and for which he claims to speak, is political Christianity.  He/It represents the views of fundamentalist Christianity which are dogmatic, prescriptive, ideologically conservative and profoundly anti-democratic.  And he has a lot of role models:  Jerry Falwell, James Baker, Omar Al-Bashir, George Bush, etc. From this perspective, religion is not about nurturing a communal sense of self and wellbeing, and helps each of us to hope, imagine, grow, create, love and act in just, humane ways. And religion certainly ought not to help us recognize the wrongs committed against other humans in the name of God, and to use our institutions to restore justice and equity.

And yet, Blair’s claims that he speaks for The Church, and is the mouthpiece of God, apparently, hide a more complex reality.  In truth, his version of Christianity, and the form that underlies The Church, has little to say about justice, compassion and ethical living, all of which are of primary concern to Jamaicans in this election season.

The concept of “The Church” as political entity which Blair promotes is inherently exclusionary.  Indeed, it does not even [wish to] reflect the diversity of viewpoints among Christians.  Rather, it justifies its own existence by manipulating what people believe and how they understand the society they live in through specious interpretations of scripture.  It seeks to dictate how people ought to think, live, believe or act.

For persons like Blair and other defenders of “The Church” it is better that we are told what to believe and think.  That we should not care about or take seriously other viewpoints; in fact, any other position must be the work of the devil.  And most importantly, we should not care about evidence.  Having access to correct information and being able to dialogue with people of different views about matters that are important to us are dangerous practices that we should avoid under all circumstances.

Why? Because we would be able to think for ourselves, recognize the dangers of the positions we are being told to take, and perhaps come to informed conclusions that contradict the stance of “The Church”.  And then how would “The Church” and folks like Blair secure their positions of power and hold over us?  Not from our collective ignorance, that’s for sure.  Thanks for the offer Herro Blair, but I think my own moral compass works just fine.   And I suspect there are many others who [silently] agree.

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