Father, Forgive Us; For We Know Not What We Do.
“What is black empowerment when it seems to benefit not the vast majority but an elite that tends to be recycled?” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Over the past several months, I have become distraught by the happenings in my beloved country. I have been following the talk shows and listening to the political rallies, and what I have come to realize is that our political system is totally dysfunctional – on its present trajectory, it is bringing out the worst in us. We are hearing and seeing dishonourable and abominable behaviour on the political platform. We are witnessing the ultimate disenfranchisement of the people by the powers-that-be as they undermine the fundamental right of the people to seek redress, when they, via their representatives, lose confidence in the leadership and direction of the people in power. To sidestep this issue is to create a slippery slope of dire precedents that would serve to undermine the integrity and the spirit of our constitution by creating a state no longer governed by the rule of law but one that is now governed by the rule of men.
Most disturbing to me is the deafening silence by our so-called social, economic and political partners both in the region and internationally. When asked why they are not more proactive, they claim the prime directive of non-interference in our local politics, knowing fully well they are accomplices to major acts of interference by colluding with the powers-that-be in the selling of our passports, citizenship and now our land, election-mongering, and even more troubling, delaying justice in the courts. We see the fingerprints of our colonial masters at work once again in our beloved federation, their machinations this time being disguised as economic development by undercover economic hit men.
In my search to make sense of these happenings, it is becoming crystal clear that we are now a major player on the global stage of a major battle between two ideologies that have been going on from time immemorial. In simple terms, it can be described as a battle between the prophetic class and the priestly class, or between an empowered people and the people in power, or to use spiritual jargon, between the “Word of God” and the “Word of Mammon”. If we revisit our Sacred Scriptures, we at once realize that these clashes reveal themselves in the writings of the inspired people of the maturing and formative communities of their time – the ancient Israelite community in the Old Testament, and the early Jesus movements in the New Testament.
Let me elaborate some more, as I hope to show that a better understanding of the development of the ideas in our Sacred Scriptures help us to understand our predicament as we transform ourselves from a tribal people to a united people, united and guided by a new covenant bolstered by electoral and constitutional reforms. You may not agree with all of my interpretations, but I hope you will be able appreciate that the lens I am using brings into sharp focus core issues that all developing and maturing nations have to navigate. What I propose to do is highlight as concisely as possible the major themes in the biblical narratives that reflect the trials and tribulations and the lessons learnt, and provide a roadmap for appreciating the strengths of an empowered people through the teachings of Jesus who was, is and will always be for me “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
“I don’t preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn’t say, “Now is that political or social?” He said, “I feed you.” Because the good news to a hungry person is bread.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The Fall of Adam and Eve
Firstly, one learns about the initial downfall of humanity as we ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We erred in that we created God in our own image along with a corpus of legal codes of what is right and just to glorify and legitimize our corrupted ambitions. To make things worse, when we are called to account, we do not take responsibility for our actions and we try to blame everyone and everything else. We eventually exiled ourselves from the garden of abundance, solidarity and equity.
The Tower of Babel
In our attempt to return to this garden of abundance and save face, we went on to domesticate the animals, the plants and then the earth as we built and paid homage to the grandiose creations of our own hands. But our limited minds were not able to fathom the futility of our ways as we endeavoured to be the masters of our own destiny. Instead of us trying to learn from nature, which is God’s creation, we prized the artificiality of man-made laws over the providential laws of nature. Nature became an externality and the ecosystems of interconnectedness and the consilience of all knowledge became fragmented, hence ushering the babble of our infantile age.
The Patriarchs, Bondage, Exodus, Exile, Return and the Reforms
Then it dawned on the patriarchs that if we stopped paying homage to the works of our own hands, and returned to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the providential laws of community and nature, which represents the “Word of God”, we would be able to return to this land of abundance that were promised to us if they abided by their covenantal checks and balances with nature. But humanity was to learn this lesson the hard way, first by being enslaved by and freed from the people in power, and then by being exiled from and allowed to return to the land of an empowered people. Also as humanity was on the cusp of having this promise fulfilled, the people in power became tempted over and over again to domesticate the minds of a disempowered people, using the institutions of politics, religion and eventually economics.
The Priests and the Prophets
It is here where we now have the origins of the priestly and prophetic classes. The priestly class wrote the rules of the politics, religions and economics that serve their own vested interest, and they created a hierarchical bureaucratic system that supported and maintained them. The prophetic class arose to remind the priestly class that they were way off-course, and that the ways of man were not compatible with the ways of God, and our idolatry of the works of our minds and our hands was our downfall. They constantly reminded us that divine punishment and human consequences were two sides of the same coin, and that we were called individually and collectively to take responsibility for our actions.
The Word became Flesh, The Temptations in the Wilderness, The Money Changers
Then came the embodiment or enfleshment of the Word of God in the works and teachings of the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Like early humanity, he in his travails understood the trappings and temptations of economic, political and religious power. He saw the encroachment of the “moneychangers” into the politics and religion of his Jewish community, and he challenged the collusion of the economic, politics and religious establishments of his time.
Parables, Ignorance, Crucifixion and Forgiveness
He spoke in parables trying to explain to ordinary folks his vision of this new Garden of Eden, this new Promised Land, this new Kingdom of God, this heaven here on earth. Since he posed a threat to the elites of the establishments, he was executed. He knew he had to accept his fate, as to live an inauthentic life was not an option, and he lived his life with integrity till the end of his days. He realized that we were not ready yet for that transformation of society, and that it was our ignorance, our not knowing any better that would get him killed, as immortalized by those sacred words, “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM; FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.”
Resurrection, Pentecost, and betrayal of Jesus’ vision
Although as a messenger of the word of God, he was crucified, the spirit of his message was resurrected when his followers eventually understood what his teachings were all about, and the babble of humanity’s infancy matured and metamorphosed, and the spirit of the communities began to resonate with one heart, one love and one voice by his followers and many more to come. They tuned into the fundamental frequency, the fundamental vibrations of love, for God, for themselves and for each other, and this epiphany resonated in their lives and in their communities as they were able to shatter boundaries that separated them from one another. This Jesus movement was short lived, however, as the message of Christ eventually became domesticated by man again, by Constantinople, when the Jesus movement became Romanized for political and economic gains.
“When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
This brings us back to our time, where we find ourselves in bondage and exiled from the Kingdom of God, by the high priests of neoliberal economics such as Milton Friedman, and their apostles Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. (I am very much convinced that the same script is being replayed here in our Federation in collusion with the newest neo-liberal city-state in the Middle East.) Although we were hoodwinked into believing that politics should be separated from religion, this new secular religion – neoliberal economics, now controls the politics of the day.
I have used the phrase the “Word of God” throughout the article, and I am sure many of you are confused and not so sure what I am talking about. For me, the “Word of God” is the distilled wisdom and lessons learnt by those who were honest, sincere and genuine in their search for their true place in the order of things in the universe. In their search for purpose in life, the meaning of suffering and the meaning of their mortality, they realized that it could be distilled down to core principles that dealt with the determinants of wholesome individuals, families and communities. These fruits from the tree of life would elucidate the reforms necessary and sufficient to reclaim our Garden of Eden, arrive at our Promised Land, enable the Kingdom of God, or simply put, create heaven here on earth. The Ten Commandments in the early Israelite communities, and the Greatest Commandment of Love for God, thyself and neighbour; plus the provision of our daily bread (needs), forgiveness of our trespasses (debts) and deliverance from the evil one (violence), be it ideological, rhetorical or physical, are the cornerstones of true nation building and what the “Word of God” means for me.
Paul knew that for this to happen, we would have to achieve a critical mass of enlightened and empowered people, and he and his contemporaries dedicated their lives to proclaiming this good news to one and all. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the authentic lives of the early Jesus followers or Christ communities, were hijacked by Constantinople for political gains. Fortunately, there are several modern day prophets, like Charles Eisenstein, who are proclaiming the error of our ways, who are calling us to rethink our assumptions and presuppositions, and to be born-again into a new mindset of wholistic thinking, of being one with nature, and each other. Our modern day baptism calls forth within us a renewed sense of faithful gratitude, a renewed sense of hopeful responsibilities, and moreso, a renewed sense of loving service to ourselves, our families and our communities. Like Paul who used the network of roads and seaways to spread Jesus’s teachings, our modern day prophets are using the internet, their blogs, emails, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts to spread the gospel of wholesome living to the entire global village.
“There are different kinds of justice. Retributive justice is largely Western. The African understanding is far more restorative – not so much to punish as to redress or restore a balance that has been knocked askew.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Without forgiveness, there’s no future.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
With these insights fresh in my mind, here are some suggestions for the way forward:
First we need a modern day Moses who would be able to lead us and help us emancipate ourselves from the mental slavery of tribalism, consumerism, and individualism.
We need to transform our politics from one that is based on fear, divisiveness and mistrust by the people in power, to one based on love, unity and trust by an empowered people.
We need to use the tools of the internet age to help create more informed participatory citizenry and open up our government and make it an institution that is as transparent and accountable as is possible.
It goes without saying that we need to close the loopholes and backdoors in our constitution, by enacting anti-corruption legislation and have genuine constitutional and electoral reform, that best serve the needs of our people, rather than the appetites of the people in power.
We need leaders from our constituencies that are of, by and for their constituents, and they should be a living presence on the ground that could feel the pulse of their communities they were elected to serve.
It goes without saying that they should inspire their ministries and leave the administrative work to their technocrats to operationalized the provision of those needs identified for their communities.
We always hear the summons of no taxation without representation, but what about the flip side, of no representation without taxation? For me this would help answer many questions of who should be able to vote, as, if you do not pay your tithes according to your means in the collective responsibility of nation building, then this would disqualify you from being able to vote. This would help put an end to the figurative gerrymandering and padding of the voter’s list that appears to be the order of the day in our federation.
For those of you of Christian sensibilities who are still not convinced of the way forward, I beseech you to ask yourself two questions, please. First, who among you are the real Judases who are willing to betray and sell out our people and their hope for wholesome families and wholesome communities for personal gain? And secondly, who among you are the doubting Thomases who do not believe that a government of national unity is the best means for operationalizing the “word of God” and helping create His Kingdom here on earth? Just as David united the twelve tribes of Israel, maybe, just maybe, there is a modern day David waiting to unite the four tribes of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
REFERENCES: (Please click on the images below to enlarge)