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Power of ‘the church’

It is quite normal, particularly in western societies, to take a swipe or two at “the church” when society’s ills begin to overwhelm members of that same society. Often these attacks on the church are ill founded and unfair, and serve only to diminish the church in the eyes of the same society.

However, it is at such times that it is quite easy to recognise that “the church” often does not recognise the extent of the power it possesses — and we speak to power based purely on the “human capital” that aligns itself with the church.

Perhaps, one of the biggest contributors to this situation is the fact that despite the use of the term for centuries, “the church” to many in the western world is still a nebulous grouping. It is hard to define, or perhaps more accurately stated, hard to agree on who fits into the category of “the church”.

So while the term may seem straightforward, the centuries old debate of who makes up the church, or who ought not to be included, rages on. In the case of Barbados, however, where multi-faith gatherings are becoming increasingly commonplace, we believe that if the collective power of those who come together to worship could be harnessed to attack society’s ills and challenges we could make substantial progress.

If, for example, the Anglicans, Methodists, Moravians, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostals, Nazarenes, Wesleyans, Mormons, et al, stood as one and declared “no member of our denomination will travel on any route taxi or minibus starting on June 1 until we see a satisfactory shift in behaviour”, we believe there is no way change would not occur.

There are too many tens of thousands of Barbadians who flock to the hundreds of churches around this country each Sunday for they not to be a decisive voice if they decided to act collectively.

In many ways our society is also the weaker because so many of our church leaders choose to interpret the Biblical injunction of being “in the world, but not of the world” for their own narrow purposes. In any part of the world, even where the remnants of communism still exist, when consumers come together the owners of capital must stop and take note.

For much of the past decade Barbadians have been crying out about the high cost of food; but we have apparently never given serious consideration to the power that could be exerted if the church chose to utilise its power as a cooperative — or series of cooperatives. Again, could we imagine the influence on prices that would become real if, for example, the Anglican membership determined they would only buy chicken from Anglican growers — and that commitment was viewed by the suppliers as a guaranteed market?

Every day Barbadians at the bottom of the economic ladder, and who comprise perhaps the largest portion of faithful church members, cry out about the cost of, and access to, services. Yet, which denomination or group of denominations under an umbrella body like the Barbados Christian Council, has sought to establish a register of professionals and artisans in their midst and put the supplier and consumer together in an organised market?

We are not seeking here to take a stand for or against the legalisation of same sex marriages in Barbados, but if the issue is apparently so fundamental, would not all ambiguity be removed if “the church” got all members to declare they would not vote for any MP or party that does not openly share the church’s position — regardless of what other policies or programmes they bring?

We don’t think we are wrong when we say that “the church” is the single largest organisation in our society, and arguably the most powerful, yet it has consistently failed to recognise and leverage that power. To “the church”, in this instance we can only recite the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 6: 6 to 9:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

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