EDITORIAL: Church must be place of solace again
WHEN ATTORNEY GENERAL Adriel Brathwaite threw out a challenge recently to churches to do more in the fight against drug abuse, he was in fact asking them to live up to their social responsibility. The church must not only talk about Christian values, but also play an important role in improving people’s lives.
That the church has historically played a pivotal role in the lives of Barbadians has to be underscored. But there can be no denial that there is now a disconnect between the church and society.
Declining attendances generally tell part of the story of the loss of the church’s influence from a time when it exerted a dominating influence on society.
This inability to connect with the day-to-day lives of ordinary people is evident, with many no longer regarding the church as their guiding light. This is not caused only by a clash of religion versus science, but more so the church’s failure to meet expectations in so many ways.
The sermons delivered are far too often of poor quality, irrelevant, uninspiring and even theologically questionable. People often pay little attention to preachers shouting at them or preaching fire and brimstone to win souls.
The failure of the church to keep abreast of the society is best highlighted by its weakness in reaching out to people – congregants or not – to deal with everyday bread-and-butter issues.
So many people struggle trying to cope with the cost of living, the cost of education and health care, and injustices they encounter daily, with no one to turn to for help. These are spaces that the church used to fill as a bastion of social justice and where people once sought shelter. Today that is not always readily forthcoming.
The daily happenings in Bridgetown are good examples of why the church needs to be closer to its publics. There is an influx of vagrants, the destitute looking for a meal, those with mental health problems on the streets, and others – especially youth – who end up before the law courts lonely and afraid. All these situations highlight instances of people in need of a comforting hand.
Yes, the church cannot be a social or welfare agency, but as an institution it needs to be relevant to its members. That is why it must not hold firm to outdated thinking and religious dogma, while ignoring the human rights, liberties and fair play people want it to defend.
So not only a few, but all our churches must reach out to the wider community to ensure society deals with the issues, whether youth unemployment, poverty and exclusion which so many people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, encounter daily.
Just as Jesus Christ and His mission is never irrelevant, there can still be a place of relevance for the church. That is why the Attorney General’s expectations are reasonable and realistic.