Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other country. That’s what we’ve been told. And so what! In fact, I challenged that theory by searching for proof of the supposed Guinness world record, which included a Google search and a check at Guinness’s website and found nothing. So, it’s quite possible, we’ve been romancing an urban myth, loving up another hand-me-down fireside tale. Which would support the red earth trend of us swatting Jamaicans like flies, at an average rate of five per day.
At the end of June, 658 Jamaicans were sent back into the bosom of Jesus, they hope, in those 128 days running from January 1 – June’s end, according to the police statistics.
A nice chunk of that murder statistic,182 poor souls, was reprisal killings. In other words, if you can’t ketch Quashie, you catch him shirt. Especially if Quashie stole a few pounds of your cocaine and delayed the purchase of that black Escalade and your dear mother’s dream home. Though shall not kill, unless thy right hand man offends thee.
Another thick slice of that statistic were domestic murders. And here I thought American cable with all its soap operas, romantic movies and Dr Phil, was creating kinder, gentler households of common law unions and church marriages. Unfortunately, it seems Jamaica is for lovers who still like to beat the hell out of each other, with 153 dead since the beginning of the year, 65 were women. Guess which team is losing.
Then there was a flagrant and startling murder of an old woman while she was in inside her Sunday night church, worshipping her God, only to be shot three times by a gunman who had neither respect for the sanctity of her God’s house, nor fear of the blood of her Jesus that was screamed at him. Her God was obviously not his. You shall remember if you care or can, to keep the Sabbath day holy.
We also killed 16 taxi drivers, 76 people in gang feuds and 73 others died at the hands of thieves who were quite meticulous in not leaving any witnesses behind. And of course, there were 143 more people whose death motive, is yet to be determined and will likely remain unsolved mysteries.
Road to Perdition?
So what’s clear, is that we Jamaicans like variety in our murders, as we do our Devon House ice cream. And yes it seems we’ve also loudly declared our right to choose which God/god we serve – Jesus, Jehovah, Mammon, Moloch, even the active evil of Satan. It can also be deduced from our murderous trend, that we have among us, those who believe that it’s “better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
But God isn’t some new and foreign flavour here. Jamaica’s love affair with Jesus is a phenomenon, most Jamaicans living on the island or legally dancing at Uncle Sam’s feet and around the Queen’s frocktail – all grew up with crucifixes hanging from rearview mirrors, Sunday school, the standard picture of a white Jesus, loin clothed and bleeding from the heart, dangling in pain and prayer from the cross- which usually hung above a table with a huge bible, reverently perched on a weekly starched crocheted doily.
Now at the risking of being labelled a drama queen or some PMSing alarmist, which could only come from others who like living with their head in a sandy hole or whose TV has been repossessed by Courts – I believe almost every Jamaican has been touched by or at the very least, desensitized by the violence.
And being one of them and a resident of Kingston, the core of the chaos, I’ve found myself asking a barrage of questions. If Jamaica really has more churches per square mile or per capita, however we choose to spin it, what are we doing in them and through them? Are we too caught up in being religious, that we’ve forgotten to be truly Christian? Have we been too ritualistic in darkening church doors, and wiping church floors with tuck and roll celebrations of speaking in tongues? Are we really reading and understanding the bible or is that why we pay the preacher with our weekly offerings?
Is God still relevant in the lives of contemporary Jamaicans or have many discovered the hypocrisy and inefficiencies in their place of worship, and are now busy seeking other religions, other beliefs to satisfy their souls? If this is no longer God’s country, then whose is it?