By Kristoff Strachan
It is perhaps no surprise that the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) responded in the wake of the prime minister’s recent revelations that the government of The Bahamas intends to introduce legislation to legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
This issue is obviously a contentious one, and while their statement may have come as no surprise, given that the BCC regularly issues responses to government action — chiefly when it is at odds with the government of the day — the response is still a little disappointing. It is disappointing, not because of what was said, but rather, for what it has in the past chosen not to say.
As the official body of the country that represents and publicly stands for the views of Christianity, it has been and continues to be disappointing to see the Bahamas Christian Council quiet in the face of the plethora of social ills affecting many Bahamians.
In 2017, the BCC was “divided” on the issue of marital rape. There was an opportunity for the Christian church in The Bahamas to shine as radiantly as Christ did while on the mount during his transfiguration. Yet, when it came to the issue of marital rape, the Christian church in The Bahamas was and is “divided”. With ease, this church stands unified to voice opinions on all matters that do relate to the church, souls (lost or otherwise) and Christianity, oft-times surfacing and appearing as a political party rather than the vessels ordained to be the voice of our God. Yet, on marital rape, the church is “divided”. The church is divided because our culture must change.
In a 2018 interview with The Nassau Guardian concerning Oban, the BCC president said he “feels a bit more assured the company has heard the calls from the public and is committed to certain standards but stressed that he will reserve final judgment on the project until after an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is completed and made available”. Why, pray tell, did the president of the BCC, or the body entirely, need to be assured of anything regarding Oban, the deal and the proposed oil refinery? How did any of the aforementioned relate to Christianity? It is indeed curious that the BCC could not come, and has still not come, to a unified position against marital rape, yet saw the need to opine on the Oban deal.
That same year, there was an alleged public case of Obeah in The Bahamas which was widely circulated on several social media outlets among Bahamians. The BCC did not say anything condemning the alleged act or even witchcraft on the whole. One would think that it would be appropriate for the Christian council to have said something against an act that is deemed sinful by the church and illegal by the state, as they have asserted many times over.
Also in 2018, though unable to give an exact figure, Bahamas Department of Correctional Services Acting Commissioner Charles Murphy stated that “over the past few years, the recidivism rate at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services has been at an ‘unacceptable’ high”. Considering this, where was the public outcry from the BCC regarding the recidivism rate at the facility and the body subsequently seeing to it that it or individual churches engage in rehabilitative exercises for the benefit of released inmates? Exercises such as counseling, literacy and numeracy tutoring, if necessary, and teaching a trade can all be church-sponsored initiatives that reduce the number of reoffenders.
In 2019, the BCC announced it would oppose a gay pride rally in the country. While I understand the body’s position due to Christian beliefs, what did the body say to condemn a 12 percent increase in rape that was recorded the previous year? Why did the BCC not see fit to announce it would rally against sexual crimes perpetrated against the women of our country? Where was the voice of the BCC petitioning for swifter implementation of MARCO’s Alert? We could not hear it. Though, despite not speaking out publicly against sexual abuse of children or agitating for legislation to protect our most vulnerable, the president of the BCC was still comfortable making a public appearance at the signing of the contract for the MARCO’s Alert System in the Bimini Room of the Baha Mar Convention Centre on August 21, 2019.
Does the BCC not see anything unjust in the systems of racial inequality plaguing Black people of the nation for whom it claims to speak? The Bible says to defend the weak and uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed. Why, then, is the BCC always silent on the causes of the weak? Why does the organization not uphold the causes of the poor and oppressed? The same weak, poor and oppressed people that lend their physical abilities to the body’s member churches and tithe tirelessly for them. For the victims of sexual abuse, racial inequality/injustice, gender/sexual orientation inequalities, those suffering from the effects of xenophobia, why are their causes never defended? Why are so many angry about racial inequality in this country, yet the BCC sits quietly? Why be the official voice of Christianity if you do not speak for those people oppressed other than yourself, as a body of privileged men?
The Bahamas experienced the worst natural disaster in its history recently in the form of Hurricane Dorian. Where was the Christian council? There were HeadKnowles, Kiwanis, Rotary, Rotaract, Samaritan’s Purse and an unending number of humanitarian groups. There were foreign governments and there were individual churches. Where was the organized effort by the BCC as a whole? Beyond hurricane relief, where are the BCC-led outreach exercises? Where are the churches of varying denominations coming together collectively, as per the directive of the council, to be more involved in social outreach, givebacks and supporting communities in need? If crime is noted to be on the uprise in a particular area, where is the physical the voice of the BCC in a park, basketball court or other similar property reaching out to those affected? Of course, not everyone will appreciate it, but if you are the body representing the Christian church in The Bahamas, should that not be your duty?
Most recently, on March 6, the BCC gave a statement on its position on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The rollout is set to begin nationally in the near future. According to the Bahamas Christian Council’s COVID-19 Investigation Committee’s lead, the body hasn’t finalized its position on vaccines. The Investigation Committee plans to issue a report and definitive position on the available and approved vaccines following the completion of its research centered around the scientific data and moral implications of the vaccine. According to the BCC, they’re “in the process of developing their approach” so that the BCC “can then present to the general public in terms of being able to provide advice”. If the BCC is made up pastors, not medical health professionals, why should they offer advice? What gives their advice validation? In January of this year, there was one police-involved shooting, one stabbing, the discovery of a lifeless body with blunt force trauma and nine other shooting incidences. In February, there was one stabbing, one lifeless body found, one police-involved shooting and eight other shooting incidences. For the month so far, there have been five shooting incidences. One of these occurrences saw four women being shot. With the recent spate of violent crimes in the country, after law and order officials highlighted a decrease in crime last year, why has the BCC not given a statement on crime for the year to date? One would think that the moral implications of committing a murder would be a topic of interest for the body. Yet, it is silent and instead speaks on forthcoming COVID-19 inoculation in The Bahamas.
The Bahamas Christian Council, unfortunately, is eerily quiet in the wake of too many critical social issues. The people who are a part of an organization meant to represent God’s church in The Bahamas seem to be truly self-serving and often do not appear to have genuine Christian stewardship at the forefront of their work. It’s sad. My remarks may be considered especially scathing, but this is because as a Bahamian Christian, I am constantly left disappointed by the words, actions and especially inaction of the Bahamas Christian Council. Christians in The Bahamas deserve and should demand better.
Kristoff Strachan is a senior at Old Dominion University majoring in History with a concentration in Colonial, Gender and Race Studies.