On the day my last letter to this newspaper appeared in print, I received a telephone call from a very nice Caymanian lady I had many conversations with in the past, but with whom I now had no contact. My letter was about the deep social challenges facing our society and this lady had many things to say but one of her statements made me think long and deep; perhaps because I had been reading a book; The Reason for God, by Timothy Keller,
It was this beautiful lady’s contention that our churches have neglected their mission to the family, and only when churches become again involved in the life of our families, will we be able to rid our society of its many social problems. According to Timothy Keller, ‘forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering’, and healing begins with forgiveness. However on an individual and societal level many of us are not ready to forgive the recidivists at neither North Ward prison nor young delinquents terrorizing our communities. Our thoughts are of ourselves, our own safety and freedoms.
It is true that most of the violence in our society is gang related but these individuals did not learn to hate and retaliate just by watching TV; their revengeful behaviour and thinking is also grounded in our religious teachings and culture. Many of us seek religion to gain acceptance, success on Earth and glory in the afterlife, while avoiding forgiveness and the daily sacrifices a Christ-like life requires. Many of us hate and despise those who do not believe as we do, or act as we do, cutting ourselves off from these members of our society, leaving many of them, as we say, to God.
I understand much better now why so many of us profess to be Christians but never practice being Christ-like. Attending church is our way of paying for our sins and purchasing our own salvation. For many of us, Church is not the place we go to forgive but to be forgiven, while we continue to believe in the doctrine of an eye for an eye; rather than honouring moral justice and merciful love. So although we had it written in our constitution that we are a Christian nation the signs of us being a giving and forgiving society are now unfortunately far from obvious to me.
The church’s vision of confronting wrongdoers to wake them up to their real character, to move them to repair their relationships or to at least constrain them to protect others from being harmed by them in the future, is restorative justice and we need to practice this concept of moral justice and merciful love if we are to put an end to violence. And the church can and must play the important role in getting going the resurrection of communal Caymanian Christian values as expressed by my dear friend from Bodden Town.
In Cayman we are encouraged to criticize our political leadership for its failings; political or otherwise, but how often are our churches scrutinized and the massages of our pastors evaluated and monitored. Religious freedom yes, but freedom does not mean there should be no criticism or restraint. This wonderful Caymanian lady’s pastor should listen to her when she says that the Church joins man and woman in Holy matrimony and should be responsible to the community for monitoring and counselling the families they created. This Christmas let us celebrate the real meaning of our faith by practicing the belief that the Christian’s identity is not based on the need to be perceived as a good person, but on God’s valuing of you in Christ.’