Sometimes I wish that I could write about something more uplifting, but the harsh reality is that my country has been caught in a literal life and death struggle since the 1970's, when the use of the gun was introduced to the island, and the nation has never been the same again. Consequently for many years now, the murder rate has remained well above the 1000/year mark, giving us the dubious distinction of being one of the "murder capitals" of the entire world. So when I heard a conversation this week on National Radio ( RJR), on the anniversary of the start of the infamous DC Sniper killings, involving our own Lee Boyd Malvo, I paid very careful attention. The host Dionne Jackson Miller, invited a Social Anthropologist, Dr. Herbert Gayle to share his perspective on the Lee Boyd Malvo Case. And he shocked all of us who were listening, with the revelation that Malvo's case was not even exceptional - this young man who had been involved in the shooting death of ten persons. Wow! The reality, he explained, having had the benefit of studying some 120 " career killers" across the region, 60 of whom were from Jamaica, was that he had met fourteen year youngsters in Jamaica, who had already killed six persons.
He further revealed that it was not the absence of a father figure in the lives of these youths, as we all believed in Malvo's case, which led him to become easily manipulated by the older Mohammed, but actually the absence of a mother, further compounded by the absence of a father. This was the critical combination, at an early age, which has made these young boys so vulnerable to the murderous " Dons" who provide them with all that they need, and then go and kill without using their brains - hence the popular name for them, " press triggers". In his opinion then, as difficult as it may to accept at this time, every perpetrator, is in a real sense a victim. And the only way to " rescue " the society from these young men, the consequences of which actions is manifest in the murder stats and the pain and almost constant grief and horror which dominates the news daily, is to break the cycle. Rescue the pregnant and lactating mothers who below the poverty line and just cannot cope. Rescue the mothers who cannot cope with caring for their young boys. rescue the young men who are unable to fend for themselves and thus fall easy prey to the murderous intent of those who would easily lead them astray - in one direction or another. All of which requires a massive intervention by the society. That very same week, a noted Social Activist, Entrepreneur, Pastor and Columnist , who made a conscious decision years ago, to relocate his operations to an tough inner city community, wrote a pice on this very same issue - the crisis facing the nation on account of the criminal acts of young men. His thesis, which has gained a lot of traction over the years, is that it is the politicians who created the " garrisons" ( areas where only members of a certain political party can live safely) and the Dons to defend them, in pursuit of power, and therefore to break the cycle we have break the political influence and control. A lot of food for thought indeed, especially at a time when the nation is still trying to come to terms with the horrific acts of extreme violence which occurred a week or two ago.
As I pondered these things in my heart and prayed constantly for country for my country and sought to hear the voice of the Lord through his Word, I was moved to write, as the Psalmist said, "I believe, therefore I speak". So I wrote since I believe that my God is able to deal with any trials that may beset His people.
Wednesday October 3.
I had just finished watching the Presidential debate between Romney and Obama ( and feeling quite a bit a bit shell-shocked at the polls ) when I was led to read the passage mentioned below. The message here is that there are much more important things happening in my country that should cause us pause than whether or not President Obama does well and wins a second term. That unless as a church we seek a deeper understanding of some of the root causes of our most pressing issues, and respond prayerfully and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we too would be guilty of not producing fruit...with dire spiritual consequences for us as church and for the nation. That unless we repent of our own negligence in attending to the needs of the very poor and vulnerable in our society, then we may very well be found guilty of " praising the Lord with our lips and not with our hearts". This note then, with my heart " full" was sent to leaders in church and state.
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance" and, "The ax is already at the foot of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire". John 3:8 & 9 NIV struck me very forcibly tonight. As a church and as individuals we have to produce fruit, otherwise...... And not only will we suffer but the society in which we are will suffer too, at least in the short run.
In that context did you hear the remarkable discussion on BTH on RJR last night, and which discussion was re-broadcast this evening? That Lee Boyd Malvo, as a "career killer", is not even exceptional, as there are, or is, a fourteen year old in Jamaica who has already killed six persons. They call them " press triggers". As they use no brain but do the " Don's bidding without thinking. And the main problem is the absence of a mother figure, compounded by the absence of a father figure, at a tender age. They are thus easily led by " influential ' figures into negative behaviors.And more, by Dr Herbert Gayle, a Social Anthropologist, talking to Dionne Jackson- Miller about research that he has conducted on 120 " career killers", 60 in Jamaica, and other parts of the Latin American region. His recommendations were also discussed. As church, an as national leaders, we should request the tape and listen to it carefully. As this explains, in some way, why the horrible rape recently, and other " cold killings", over the years. And the church, with members all over the island, can intervene in a much more co-ordinated way, as part of the solution in rescuing our nation. Dr Henley Morgan's article in The Jamaica Observer today deals with the very same issue. Jean Lowrie-Chin was part of the discussion and wrote about Dr. Gayle's research in her last article. And also wrote a poem about Lee Malvo. Kinda puts the " importance", of the IMF discussions and the Presidential debate tonight in perspective!
Thursday October 4.
Early that morning during my devotions, the Lord led me back to a familiar passage and to write a part 11 to the leaders in church and in state. The essence of which is that the church needs to be aware of what kind of power God has placed within us - the very disposition of Christ Himself, by the indwelling Holy Spirit. And thus our divine weapons of faith in, love of and obedience to Christ Jesus, are quite different from what the state has at its disposal. But at the same time we are called to work collaboratively with the rest of the society to rid the nation of these prevailing social ills. And the key thing is that although all may seem lost, we already the outcome of this titanic struggle between good and evil. In Christ, on the Cross, the victory over evil is already secured, regardless of how much Satan continues to wreak havoc in my country. This is the kind of faith which we need to uphold and impart to our fellow Jamaicans in the " midst of the war".
" For though we live in this world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of this world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ". 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NIVI was led to this passage this morning after meditating on words from the hymn, " Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lordabide in him always, and feed on his word.Make friends with God's children, help those who are weak;forgetting in nothing his blessing to seekand the last verseTake time to be holy, be calm in thy soul;each thought and each temper beneath his control.....A major challenge that the church faces is the temptation to wage war as the world does.And based on Dr. Gayle's analysis, and the perspective by shared by Dr. Henley Morgan in his article, we are faced with a war to rescue our young men and ultimately our nation, from these horrible acts of crime and violence. The challenge is compounded by the fact that the world expects the church to wage war as it does too. But does it really matter, if in the end, the nation benefits. Yes it does. Do you remember Gideon? That's who came into my mind as I began to write."The Lord said to Gideon, You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her......" Judges 7:2 NIV
So let us join with the government and " give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar"......join with others in our commitment to save our young men and nation. But " give to God what belongs to God"....trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding......wage war in this country with the divine power that we have in the Spirit of Christ to " demolish strongholds" of evil in the body politic, according to Henley Morgan. Who asserts that it is they who established, or gave birth to the Dons, ( and by extension the Garrisons) and who in turn have wreaked havoc in the minds of our young men for their own nefarious purposes. So the task at hand is to " demolish strongholds" in the political culture and in the inner-city communities, both of which in tandem and in concert, have spawned the " press triggers" in our society. And we must, " take captive every thought", that fights against the truth and make it obedient to Christ Jesus. So that in the end all the glory will be given to the Lord God Almighty from whom, and in the person of Christ Jesus, comes " divine power" to successfully wage war anywhere.
Sent from my iPad
Finally to day I was privileged to share the word at my church. And taking a cue from the letter to the Hebrews chap 2: 1 which states:
" We must pay careful attention, therefore to what we have heard so that we do not drift away", and the Genesis passage which deals with " a man leaving his mother and father and become united to his wife and they shall become one flesh, and the Passage in Mark( all appointed in my church for the readings for this Sunday) which deals with divorce, '' What God has joined together let no man put asunder, after introducing the discussion on radio to the congregation, I continued:
The Edited Sermon
The question which then arises by going back to our text, is, are we paying close attention to these things so that we do not drift away. For, as we can all attest, there is a lot of drifting away from the hard truths in our society and we seek other more comfortable constructs to explain away our problems. We have drifted away from the harsh reality that grinding poverty, the garrison experience, the nasty underbelly of our politics and the "dog- hearted", Dons, have all combined to produce these " press trigger" youths, in our society. And if they are so cold about murdering people, let us be clear that, raping a eight year girl, along with four other women, and committing robbery with assault, comes naturally.
So in the midst of this conundrum what is the Word of God saying to us today, that will not only inform us, but more importantly empower us to make a difference in this society.
In this respect, I found myself pondering on the word from Genesis and which is expanded in the Gospel that. "for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh". And as stated in the Gospel, "what God has joined together let man not separate".
Before the Lord led me to the a further revelation in St Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church, I pondered on the fact that if God had not truly joined some married couples together, in the sense that, no deep commitment was made, then perhaps divorce is not such a dangerous thing. But who knows what really happens in the heart of a man and a woman when they present themselves to the Lord in Holy Matrimony. But as intriguing as that discussion may be, it is quite irrelevant and of little moment compared to what the Lord led me to read in 1 Cor. 6: 15-20
" Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, The two will become one flesh. But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside of his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
Let us pause here for a moment to reflect on this passage of Scripture, the consequences of which have profound implications for how we live as a society.
1. The first point is that it is the act of having sex with a prostitute which makes one become one flesh with her. So then this "one flesh issue", which is from God, and ordained from the time of Adam, speaks directly to the great responsibility that ought to be associated with sexual intercourse. For although sin has taught us otherwise, it was always the plan of God that people should become "one flesh " within the context of marriage. It is no wonder then, no mystery, why the culturally accepted practice of men having sex with multiple partners, some of which acts produce offspring, who are then quite often " abandoned" by the men, quite often result in the production " press triggers" youths, according to Dr. Gayle? Clearly we have strayed, as the text from the book of Hebrews points out, and we have drifted away from the commands of God with devastating consequences. There is a very good reason why the Scriptures advise us to " Flee from sexual immorality". As now see absolutely clearly the connection and thus the reason why God insisted on marital fidelity, and sexual purity, as the rest of the reading from Corinthians points out.
2. The second point is that the reason why God, " hates divorce" as the prophet Malachi advises us in chap 3:15 & 16, is that He wishes to have "godly offspring". That is children born out of an experience of " one flesh in Holy Matrimony". Now all of us have come face to face with the reality of children being born out of wedlock, if not personally, certainly relationally. And as a compassionate caring church, we welcome all of God's children into our midst and care for them and love them equally without bias. But the reality is, and truth demands, that we understand quite clearly, that it is not part of God's plan that children should be born out of wedlock, but as part of the " one flesh" experience. So in having many of our children , estimated to be in the region of 80%, born out of wedlock, this nation has severely strayed and drifted away from God Word with serious consequences in how they have been socialized
3. The third point is that as a nation we need to take this issue of divorce more seriously. All of us , and more so myself in my profession, are faced with persons who, for one reason or another decide to call is quits in their marriage. . Most prominent among the stated reasons is infidelity and not far behind is the combination physical and emotional abuse. This is neither the place nor the time to engage in a fulsome discussion on this matter, more than to say that how we treat with this growing problem has resonance not only for us as Christians but also for the wider society. In the sense that Holy Matrimony is a sacred act, and in fact one of the sacraments of the church ...the others include Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. And therefore both the entrance into and exit from, need to be taken very seriously, as the Gospel reading reflects a deep concern by Jesus. Therefore if continue we drift away and stray from God's original plan for marriage, as is it is now the in thing where one can get a divorce fairly easily, then there will be consequences for a society.
However, despite the importance of preserving that which God has joined together in Holy Matrimony, the more profound point the prophet Malachi was making when he said, " I hate divorce", was that Judah, part of the kingdom, had broken faith by " marrying the daughter of a foreign God". The children of Israel had " broken faith with the wife of their youth...God Almighty. And That my friends was the ultimate act of straying and drifting away from what the children of Israel had heard over the years from God through Moses...thou shall have no other God apart from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The great challenge we have in our society is that Jamaicans have broken faith with the God of Sam Sharpe, the God of Marcus Garvey and the God of Paul Bogle, all of whom worshiped and taught a nation to trust in the God of Abraham. And now we have grown to trust in foreign gods, like our political leaders, the Don man...remember the placards shown on TV prior to the Tivoli incursion....the popular dance-hall artistes, a " gospel that promises material benefits and downplays the following of a crucified Christ, the Lotto, our bank account, and the last or in some cases the first, resort of migrating to the USA
So back to the text as we close. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews was concerned that the newly established church was about to " stray and drift away", because of persecution and head back into Judaism. Which was far more comfortable than being a disciple of Christ. We face a similar problem here in Jamaica, for as a church we are constantly under pressure to " drift and stray" and construct a more comfortable Christianity which does not place much demands on us. A kind of Christianity that lulls us into a false sense of security and has no place for the command of Jesus, to deny self, take up our cross and follow Him. And all of that happens when we do not pay careful attention to God's Word.
The message for us this morning, as we contemplate the horrible acts of violence and savagery which occurred a week ago, is that when people stray and drift away, on account of the difficulties they face being obedient to the word of God, communities suffer. Society suffers and a entire nation suffers. For far too long we have been avoiding this " delicate " conversation about children being born out of wedlock and divorce, on the one hand, and the politics of the Garrisons and the growth of the Dons and their "press triggers" youths on the other hand. There is a connection. And we need as a church to first examine our our role in the development of this monster of immorality, and violence in our society. This breaking faith with the God of Abraham. This worshiping of foreign gods. It is only when we have repented of our own sins, surrender completely to the Crucified Christ, and walk in His footsteps, live in and through Him and him alone, by the power of the Holy Spirit through whom God has joined us to Himself, only then can we, with authority, challenge the society and raise the bar on how we expect people to relate to each other in this modern world.
Therefore, for our country to be rescued from the hands of young cold murderers, we as the called out people of God, the Baptized, have to, not only resist the temptation of committing sexual sins, which war against our souls. But even more, commit to to deny self, deny any right we think have as free people, and take up our cross and follow Christ. And thus be united with Him and be one with Him in the Spirit. Then we will be able to wage war a with divine power against the poverty, the Garrison experience, the political tribalism, the murderous Dons, and the evil forces that cause our people to stray and drift away from the Living God and into a life of crime and violence. Let us then pay careful attention to what we have heard from God's Word today, so that in the weeks and months to come, we may not drift away from the truth as revealed by those who delve deeply into experience of life in Jamaica. And more importantly not stray from God's truth as found in the Holy Scriptures. And which eternal truth alone has the power to rescue people from sin and death unto everlasting life in and through Christ and Him Crucified. Amen