(Punch – 9 January 2012)
“I have always been glad of the company of my fellow sinners.
But, Lord, preserve me from these paper saints.”
Last week the Royal Bahamas Police Force unveiled a bold strategic plan to make the year 2012 safer for citizens.
As part of that programme, Police Commissioner Ellison Greenslade said that the Force will depend heavily on the Church in The Bahamas to assist in the massive effort to ensure that in the new year there is not a repetition of the bloody and lawless scourge of 2011.
As 2011 drew to a close, the Bahamas Christian Council issued a statement calling for peace, stating: “We appeal to all Bahamians to end this year and begin the new year in a culture of thanksgiving, prayers and intercessions. To do anything else opens the doors for a new year far worse than this dying one.”
The Council called on Bahamians everywhere to remember that the depth of thecountry’s social and moral problems all need divine intervention.
It was refreshing to hear the Christian Council speaking out in such a meaningful manner, but we were nevertheless bemused to read in a local newspaper last Friday a headline, “Call for Ban on Porn”.
The headline was followed by a story which revealed that the Bahamas Christian Council had called for a ban on pornographic movies appearing as part of on Cable Bahamas’ programming.
It seems the Council, following some intensive “research” on the subject, handed an official recommendation to the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority’s draft Code of Practise for Content Regulation.
Interestingly, the Council said it had arrived at a position on the matter after watching twelve X-rated films at the home of a senior citizen. The level of titillation in the room during those dozen showings must indeed have been frenzied, no matter how holy and devout and divinely led the members of the viewing panel.
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But let us not hastily judge the judges. Our chief concern here is that through the many years the Bahamas Christian Council has appeared to be extremely selective on the pubic issues the Council decides to address, to protest against, and, where sufficiently genuine and important, to attempt adjustment or change in the government’s posture or the public’s mindset.
We recall come time back when the Council raised a hue and cry against the arrival of a cruise ship whose passengers happened to be homosexual and lesbian couples. Yet time after time there are cases of gay Bahamians, some of them teachers, who sexually molest innocent children.
The protestations and recommendations of the Bahamas Christian Council are, to say the least, as the saying used to go, as quiet as a church mouse.
There has, of course, been the neverending case of the Council’s position on the matter of the numbers business in The Bahamas, an issue stretching back to years before majority rule.
It has been an issue with which successive governments of the old United Bahamian Party, the Progressive Liberal Party, and the Free National Movement have wrestled, but could arrive at no point of resolution because, it is widely believed, of the influence of the Bahamas Christian Council.
The Council, an organisation with what has been seen as a litany or flexible principles, has traditionally said NO to gambling, beginning in the early 1960s when the UBP government refused to bow and allowed casino gambling by issuing exemptions to the colony’s anti-gambling laws.
The Progressive Liberal Party government of the late prime minister Sir Lynden Pindling back in 1979 actually drafted legislation which would have legalised a lottery in The Bahamas. The matter went to Parliament for a First Reading, but never went any further.
The then powerful Bahamas Christian Council’s continuing position on gambling powerfully prevailed. Politicians were not prepared to risk their popularity and electability by angering the Church.
That position prevailed, ironic and hypocritical in its nature, despite the quite obvious fact that so much of the proceeds of winning numbers-players ended up each Sunday in the collection plate, to a great extent funding the rich and expensive lifestyles of pastors who shamelessly ascend pulpits and rave against gambling.
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Again and again over the years ministers of the gospel, real and spurious, married and single, have been accused of depraved social misconduct in their churches and in the community. Some have ended up before the courts, some in cells at Her Majesty’s Prison.
None can recall the Bahamas Christian Council expressing little more than disappointment that one of its own has fallen from the throne of grace and offering regrets to the affected families and congregations.
It is sad and unfortunate that last week the Bahamas Christian Council might have rendered itself ridiculous in the extreme with the statement regarding the broadcasting of pornographic movies as part of the programming of Cable Bahamas.
The BCB pushed the point that the decency and standards of The Bahamas will erode over time because of the showing of pornographic movies, and urged URCA put the protection of children above “the perverted preferences” of adults, going further to recommend times when explicit movies may be shown.
“Children are staying up later and getting up earlier, and many of them have radios, televisions, and internet access in their bedrooms. Accordingly, we believe that the watershed period should be between 11pm and 4am,” the BCB said.
Well, it would seem that is a matter of responsible parental control, and church pastors from their pulpits have an infinitely greater authority and responsibility to influence parents than Cable Bahamas or URCA.
In fact, just what the hell are members of the Bahamas Christian Council doing watching twelve dirty (or “art”?) movies in the home of a senior citizen who, the Council claimed “is ignorant about parental controls and who in any event can’t operate her set top box.”
The Council noted that the woman’s house was frequented by many minors who understand how to use the remote control to navigate the channels and view the pornographic content.
Clearly, it would seem, the Christian Council’s job is to deal with that situation where it exists, in the home and in the congregations. That is part of the proper and effective guidance, education, and shepherding of the flock, and hardly an issue aimed at attracting headlines whilst, somehow, the flock is still merrily watching porn.
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Back in 1973 when the late Dr. Reuben Cooper, as president of the Bahamas Christian Council delivered the Independence sermon on Clifford Park, he chose his text from the second chapter of the First Epistle of St. Peter. The words of that text remain extremely relevant today:
“You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light”
Thanks to today’s Bahamas Christian Council – more concerned with closing an eye here, seeking the headlines there, speaking out only selectively everywhere, and too often ignoring the ignorance of the people – far too many Bahamians have yet to experience that marvellous light.