Guy Hewitt Writes An Open letter to the Barbados Press on Religion and Politics

“Listen to the voice of the people, for many times the voice of the people is the voice of God!” Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

“The King is dead, long live the King”

This traditional proclamation, made following the accession of a new monarch, is apt for our recent General Elections for it signifies the continuity of government. The stability of governance has been a hallmark of our mature democracy and we expect Prime Minister Thompson and his new government, holding to the moral high ground, to now get on with the people’s business.

However to bring closure to the elections there are a few matters germane to our democracy that need to be addressed. One is the matter of the church and politics.

On 3 January 2007, I preached on the epiphanies in our political history.

This sermon followed the previous weeks address which spoke to the excellent points made in the Anglican newspaper by retired Bishop Wilfred Wood on the church and politics. His is a must read for progressive Christians. My sermon highlighted the epiphanies in our political landscape which brought about social and political change in Barbados. In it I noted that a “new wind” seemed to be blowing across Barbados. That wind, I suggested, was being driven by three factors:

  • the worsening social reality which included increasing poverty, the high cost of living, deteriorating services including poor medical care, community disintegration, perceived rampant corruption, and a general disconnect between the leaders and citizens of this nation;
  • a stance in favour of democracy which, echoing the comments made by the Rev. Lucille Baird in her must read article, was diametrically opposed “to any government being given a fourth term of office”;
  • and the need for a new beginning in the politics of Barbados which does not rely on politicians or political parties but on each and every citizen acting to ensure the continued freedom and prosperity for this country by electing a government of the people, by the people, for the people.

For this I was admonished but I stood my ground.

Winston Churchill one wrote, “the truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it. Ignorance may deride it. But in the end, there it is.” While the affirmations for my sermon were reassuring, the nature of some of those dissenting was nonetheless disturbing.

I was not worried about the complaints to the Rector of Christ Church.

I had confidence in his understanding of his parish. I was not particularly troubled by the calls to the Bishop. That was their right but more importantly I trust in his judgment. Nor was I overly concerned by the calls to the Christ Church campaign headquarters of their political party which in turn had the audacity to call me in an attempt to direct my preaching. While misguided, that too was their right.

What caused outrage was the involvement of the media in this matter.

Under the heading “Pulpit is not the place” an editorial on 13 January 2008 argued that “secular societies such as Barbados permit any number of religions to practice their faith. They also hold fast to the custom of not allowing undue intrusion of religion into politics… (emphasis mine)”

If ever there was appropriateness to the caution against judging others as told in Matthew 7:1-6, it is in this situation. The Bible tells us “Judge not, that ye be not judged….Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?”

Before any media house in Barbados seeks to stand in judgement of a minister of religion or the church or any other stakeholders in this society on matters of political partisanship they need to collectively do some serious soul searching.

In this General Election the media in general failed in its responsibility to the public to be informative and impartial.

While the spin-off action of the public’s use of the internet to air concerns was a positive outcome, never again should our democracy be manipulated or put at risk through any part of the media appearing to tow a party line. Nor is the appeal to the real or perceived power of any political party an excuse. This situation was as dangerous to our democracy as was the allegations of vote buying. I hope that measures are put in place to ensure that neither happens again.

Even more disturbing than this seeming media bias however, is the perception by any Estate, whether it is the government, legislature or media, that they have the right or authority to determine what is the role and responsibility of any religious group in this society. Permission to preach the Gospel remains the sole purview of Christ and His Church.

I accept that churches have to take some responsibility for this misguided notion taking root. In neither emphasising nor demonstrating their role in the social, economic and political life of Barbados, some have come to presume that the church’s role is essentially liturgical. Church has failed to reinforce the fact that worship is but half the purpose of the church; the other half is mission, in its broadest sense.

George Washington wrote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible. Do not ever let anyone claim to be a true patriot if they ever attempt to separate religion from politics.” This sentiment is captured in our National Anthem which gloriously states, “The Lord has been our people’s guide for the past three hundred years, with Him still on our people’s side we have no doubts or fears.”

Church must never remove itself from the political life of the society it serves.

I would further suggest that the socio-political dimension of the Bible is at least half of the biblical witness. The Exodus from Egypt is not just a story of Moses bringing religious liberation but also freedom from an oppressive economic system and from political domination. Similarly, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ contains a political dimension. As revealed in His quote from Isaiah, the Good News of our Lord is to offer hope to the poor, release to captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. St Paul in Romans 13:1-7 also reminds us that the institution of civil government was ordained by God, and the leaders of our land are God’s ministers for good. This is an underemphasised message in church.

While contemporary Christianity has largely been hushed on matters of government this does not reflect its historical reality.

Throughout history, Christians have been involved in matters of government: think of St Joan of Arc, William Wilberforce and the Abolitionists, Martin Luther King Jr, Oscar Romero, Sehon Goodridge and other liberation theologians, and more recently Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu. These outstanding sons and daughters of Christ recognised that their Christian mission while focused on eternal salvation could not be divorced from the earthly imperative to confront oppression and injustice.

This point was made recently by Bishop Wilfred Wood who suggests that, “As Christians, we hold that the primary duty of Government is to make it as easy as possible for men and women to live as God intends, so we must therefore seek to reassure ourselves that the persons we choose to be our representatives in the making of the laws and decisions which we must all respect, are of the same mind. Indeed it is our Christian duty to do so… (emphasis mine)”

As I stated previously, if our churches are to remain relevant to our society, if they are to remain as a part of guardians of our heritage, then our churches must speak out against the ills facing our society.

The church must speak out against materialism, individualism, violence. It must speak out against corruption, gossip, fornication and adultery. It must speak out against excessive partying, drugs and alcohol abuse. The church must also speak out against any political culture that may tarnish our history or rob us of our expectations great. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The church is neither the master nor the servant of the state; it is its conscience”, and accordingly, the church must regain its political voice and provide God’s message to our government, to our leaders, and to our people.

What could be the role of churches regarding the new government of Barbados? After giving them the necessary time to settle in, we must encourage them to realise their stated commitments to us.

  • Their commitment to put people first by addressing our pressing needs, including action in a number of critical areas such as lowering the cost of living, improving access to property ownership and proving health care for all. This will be an important step to national improvement and should be attained.
  • Their commitment to give maximum priority to the maintenance of a health macro-economic environment should be ensured.
  • Their commitment to establishing priorities in land use planning is of critical importance in a small island faced with competing demands on its limited land resources needs to happen.
  • Their commitment to good governance is expected to assure that corruption is minimized, the views of the people are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable members of society are heard in decision-making. This should take place.
  • Their commitment to stepping up law enforcement in order to restore law and order in Barbados needs to be realized.

The new Government of Barbados sought our support for a “better Barbados”; to allow them to continue to build a just, industrious, prosperous, proud and united Nation. It is our Christian responsibility having given them our endorsement, that we encourage them through participation, advice, prayers and, where necessary, our constructive criticism in order to see that these aspirations are realized not just for us but for our children and our children’s children.

May God continue to bless us, our new government and ultimately this Nation. May freedom always reign in this fair Land.

Guy Hewitt

Editors Note:

Guy Hewitt is a minister of religion and social development specialist. He can be contacted on <guyhewitt@gmail.com>

This article was published word-for-word as received, with certain highlighting, paragraph splits and font changes being done by Barbados Free Press.

© Guy Hewitt, 2008

30 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Freedom Of The Press, Political Corruption, Politics, Politics & Corruption, Religion

30 responses to “Guy Hewitt Writes An Open letter to the Barbados Press on Religion and Politics

  1. Carson C. Cadogan

    “In this General Election the media in general failed in its responsibility to the public to be informative and impartial.”

    Amen Brother.

    The so-called news media especially the Nation newspaper and Starcom network have prostituted themselves at the altar of the Barbados Labour Party. They have failed this country of ours badly.
    They have allowed corruption to flourish unchecked in the Barbados Labour Party while they did their part in making sure that it was not exposed.

  2. Adrian Hinds

    It warms my heart to see the church retaking its place in civil society. This cannot be good news for Mia Mottley.

  3. Baps

    All Bajans need to step up and stand up for what they believe. I found that in recent times both the church and the academics were too silent on the various societal issues and problems that this beautiful island were facing. I am glad to see that some voices are still striving to be heard through the censorship, and let us hope that there is more freedom now and more discourse. Politicians need to know that they will be called to task in their job of providing for the masses and that they do have to account to us.

  4. permres

    An excellent article, thank you very much BFP for publishing it. I wonder would the Nation Newspaper publish it as a response to their editorial of Jan. 13, 2008?

  5. Anonymous

    Brilliant,truly brilliant.

    Rev. Guy Hewitt you have our support.

    It warms my heart to hear the clergy finally speaking out in a reasoned and articulate way.

    The Rev. Lucille Baird ia another member of the clergy who understands her role and responsibility in this society and call a spade a spade.

    Remember when Dean Harold Crichlow used to give those political speeches from the Pulpit of the cathedral?

    Where was the outrage then?

    Of course he was speaking against the DLP and in favour of the BLP so I suppose the media felt that was o.k.

    At least in those days we had Gladstone Holder and Oliver Jackman persons in the media who were not too yellow bellied to tell it as it is.

    What we now have are persons who take notes and regugitate it verbatim who are masquerading as journalists.

    Ever listen to those radio announcers?
    While Vic Fernandes gets richer and richer with his generous salary and perks,little attention and resources are directed towards having well qualified persons on the air who can read the news,recognise punctuation marks,understand how to pronounce NOBEL PRIZE,can ad lib – without meaningless chatter a la this sharon millington character and on and on.

    So in toto I can only express my heartfelt congratulations that more attention and focus is being placed on the ineffectiveness of the barbadian media.

    Lets hope it bears some good fruit.

    This man should be the Bishop of the Anglican church!

  6. Amazing

    I too agree with Rev Hewitt 500%. In addition, I want to add that I agree we need trained professionals. People who understand the English language and can use (manipulate?) it to get their message across in subtly when they are forced into submission by censorship. The use of captions, and photos is also applicable, and can give the reader information that creates positive thought.
    Ever notice that even in the most oppressive regimes there always exists an opposition press? We usual hear about them when they are being persecuted but usually the start off by making the populous think about the oppressive tactics and then they hit the government in the knees.
    For instance, I was appalled to have just visited nationnews.com and see that articles today centred around the amounts ministers and so would be earning, as well as who will be fired.
    This is not progressive. The previous administration was earning these amount now for a little while and it is normal for revisions in the management of statutory boards to occur when governments change.
    The new government has done nothing, they haven’t had time to!!!

  7. Anony

    We should boycott the Nation Newspaper from now till theend of the year then they will see who has the power.

  8. Remaining Focused

    Guy Hewitt wrote:

    ‘The church must speak out against materialism, individualism, violence. It must speak out against corruption, gossip, fornication and adultery. It must speak out against excessive partying, drugs and alcohol abuse. The church must also speak out against any political culture that may tarnish our history or rob us of our expectations great. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The church is neither the master nor the servant of the state; it is its conscience”, and accordingly, the church must regain its political voice and provide God’s message to our government, to our leaders, and to our people.”

    Baps wrote

    “I found that in recent times both the church and the academics were too silent on the various societal issues and problems that this beautiful island were facing”

    ____________

    To the point, to the point.

    Guy H, I must say the Christian Church is about and practices the same things we want to hear them speak out against and have cause them to become weak and spineless.

    It was clear to see the weakness of the Christian Church when them subject themselves to the politics of inclusion.

    What we got was almost total silence from the Christian Church on major social issues.

    What we got was a multi-faith culture at almost every national event and the rise of other religious practices.

    What we got is just worship and the missions seem to be a thing of the past.

    What we got was the Christian Church moving to secular activities and conduct under the guise of ‘trying to win souls’.

    And I could go on………….

    My observation is the people of this Nation are all about ‘self’. If its has no direct affect on them they keep quiet.

    People align themselves with what they precieve to be ‘good and the right thing’ for power, social status, and money.

    In the process:

    they prostitute themselves and their children to climb the ‘social ladder’

    they forget about their neighbour who are living in proverty

    the ones who received free eduction to the highest levels forget to give back some of they time, experiences and knowledge to the people of this nation to ensure that the similiar accomplishments can be gain by others

    the nation spends more time on praising and worshiping material gains, partying, attending every social events,

    the Christian Church is only visited by these I speak of when there is a wedding, funeral or a special services (check our MPs)

    Even the Christain Church have been on the move to compete against themselves, the buildings, the size of the congregation, are just a few examples.

    I could go on……

    The same way Barbadian have demand change in the nation by the way of a new Government, we must do the same with our Christian Churches and their leaders.

    The voice of the church needs to be heard, the work of the church should been seen and the Christians of this society need to come clean.

    RF

  9. Jinx

    BFP simply must allow for more printed editions!
    Articles here are reaching the globe while Barbadians without internet access believe the Nation and Advocate newspapers to be the be all and end all of journalism.

  10. Anonymice

    I could not agree more with the article and the sentiments expressed above. Sometimes I wonder if I should not stop giving an offering to the Church since I do not really see it functioning in the way it is supposed to. Indeed, sometimes I wonder if it is not just a club.
    When I read the first article a few weeks ago I said to myself, Guy is in trouble. I don’t know how much support he got from his fellow clergy. I remember thinking of Martin Luther and saying that if it was not for a brave soul like him the Church would still be selling indulgences.
    Father Guy you spoke correctly or wrote correctly. Most of us are cowards. No one likes to be singled out, it takes a special something which many of us do not possess or have never harnessed.
    In no small way here the bloggers are seeking for some change in the Barbadian mindset which is one of withdrawal to self instead of outreach to the other.
    2008 is off to a good start. Maybe at the end of it we will see real progress in terms of our expectations from our institutions because we are not afraid to insist that they carry out their roles and functions.
    Remain fearless Father Guy, this society needs the type of attitude you have displayed.

  11. Carson C. Cadogan

    The first time that I have ever seen anything to do with David Thompson on the front page of The Nation newspaper and Owen Arthur on the back page of the Nation was after the change in Government.

    The Chairman, Directors, Management and staff of the Nation newspaper are the most sickening bunch ever to have operated a “news” house in the history of Journalism.

    I do hope that issuing a TV license to the Nation group of companies is not on the cards for the new David Thompson administration. They do not deserve one.

    But something must be done about them.

  12. permres

    In fairness to the Nation editorial of January 13, 2008, there is a debate here, and I think they do make one or two important points. They rightly point out the horrors and oppression (especially of women) of some of the non-Christian religions. They mention the many wars inspired by religion, and the more recent irrational violence of religious extremism. No, of course we do not want a theocracy.

    Now Guy Hewitt does centre his views on the Christian faith, and being Christian myself I have no problem with that, but whilst reading his article I could not help be reminded of the nearly intractable situation in Northern Ireland when Protestant and Catholic ministers used to incite their parishioners to hatred.

    However, the substance of his argument is not specific to Christianity, I think. I will quote from him:

    “The church must speak out against materialism, individualism, violence. It must speak out against corruption, gossip, fornication and adultery. It must speak out against excessive partying, drugs and alcohol abuse. The church must also speak out against any political culture that may tarnish our history or rob us of our expectations great.”

    Rather than say “the church”, I would have preferred to read “the various religious faiths”, and rather than the broad sweep of a “political culture”, I think he could simply have said “any individuals (who)”.
    I am only thinking out loud. What do others think?

  13. Anonymous

    Better late than never I guess.
    Finally someone within the church with the testicular fortitude to call it as it is.
    I am a young person who is not affiliated to any particular religion or denomination.
    What angered me most was when our then PM could chastise the youth about bashment mentality when he himself was being bashy.How about having children out of wedlock ,having them from your secretary while still married to our then ‘first lady’.This meant unprotected sex was his way.
    The church remained silent on these issues.In any part of the world he would have been history.
    I have always believed that the church and politics should never mix for, the simple reason…..the church serves God, whilst the politician serves man.There cannot be 2 masters.

  14. Tony Hall

    The article by Rev. Hewitt is an excellent one. The needs to be involved more in the political landscape because it has the feel of the population
    more than the politicians.

  15. Bimbro

    I, personally, have grave reservations about the clergy becoming too, involved in politics. I desire the clergy to cater for my moral character and politicians to my political, needs. I don’t wish a clergyman suggesting or telling me which way to vote, which I have had some experience of in the past, & left me wanting to tell him what to do with himself, which is n’t an attitude I enjoy having towards my reverend!

    Unless the situation was dire, and really warranted it!

    **************

    BFP Comments,

    Which other professions would you like to see keep silent at voting time?

  16. Bimbro

    Hi BFP, you’ll note that I referred to ‘a dire situ in my post’. I think the situ in Bim, prior to the election constituted a ‘dire situ’, and thus ANYBODY would have been justified in speaking-out on that subject. However, during normal times, when I go into the church on Sunday, I’ve no interest, at all, in the preacher telling me which way, to vote!!!! I’m perfectly, capable of doing my thinking without his assistance!

  17. Well done the Minister. It will be great to see the Church continuing the tradition of humanitarianism that is already being pursued by modern day heroes like Tutu and the ArchBishop of York.

    It would be nice if George Washington were still around to discuss that quote with him. His mantle here seems to have been picked up by Chuck Norris, who was standing grinning behind Huckerbee when he took the Iowa caucus.

    Lets hope for change with the new Government in Barbados.

  18. Citizen First

    Given that the Anglican Church is the second or third largest land owner in Barbados, my question to Mr Guy is – What is or should be the Anglican Church’s contribution to ” improving access to property ownership ” ?

  19. reality check

    “BFP simply must allow for more printed editions!
    Articles here are reaching the globe while Barbadians without internet access believe the Nation and Advocate newspapers to be the be all and end all of journalism.”

    I agree with Jinx

    until The Nation and The Advocate start acting in the best interests of all Barbadians, we could sure use a weekly download with the citizens printing and delivering to their friends and neighbours, UWI, ZR’s etc.

  20. reality check 2

    let me first start by saying that i am in no way affiliated with any political party and that the letter written by reverend guy hewitt was well written. however while i was not privy to the address for which he was ‘admonished’ I too share bimbro’s views that the church should make all attempts to shape society’s moral values instead of attempting to persuade the congregation to vote either way, whether for or against either political party. The reverend was basically trying to ram his beliefs down the throats of unsuspecting individuals (his congregation)who are more than prepared to accept anything that their leaders feed them then sickeninly use the holy book for justification of their doings. After all, the men of the cloth are the ones who have no difficulty reminding us that they are men first and priests afterwards. What he and all the other members of the clergy should be doing is trying their best in whatever way possible to win souls for Christ and not votes for their preferred political party. How can we celebrate victory for democracy on the one hand and yet chastise somebody for giving his views about church and politics? is the reverend in any way able to accurately determine what is best for our country? now tell me, who really needs a reality check?

  21. Is Mr. Arthur going to give 6mens to americans? where wouls the poor people go. After all we are here.by the way how much is he going to pay violet ? or she ingine get none, what a shame lawers has been robbing this Lady for 22yrs taking her money ,selling her land and not giving her any of the money. poor soul ,I hope some will do good by her. Remember you reap more than what you sow, dont forget the children.see what happen to the Kennedy’s.

  22. Cancerman

    Excellent article – I support not only your sermon but your views that the 4th estate became subservient to the whims and directions of the former government – and whilst not overt in every directive – the media debased themselves by taking the views of the former government into view when they were reporting news.
    If our leaders – and I see the Clergy too as leaders in this society – cannot speak out then who will.Right is right whether said in the pulpit or at a meeting in Haggat Hall. I think shoe on the other foot syndrome was at play within the Nation editorial team.

    Suffice it to say the cleansing breeze blew – and we now have a Government for the people.

    My only hope is that should the DLP stray from the path we will ensure that they toounderstand that they are subservient to us,the electorate, and serve on our behalf.

    I must admit that I will find myself at Christ Church more often since a man who speaks with the conviction as displayed in this article is someone for whom I want to hear preach the Good Word.

  23. Bimbro

    Thank you, ‘Reality Check 2’, we’re pretty much, in agreement, there!!!!

  24. Anonymous

    Katona

    Why don’t you e-mail BFP with the details of the Six Mens matter and how this black landowner has been unfaired.

    I think this is a story that needs to be told,as well as Owen Arthur’s part in it.

    BFP can give you their e-mail address and hopefully do a story on it.
    *********

    barbadosfreepress (at”@”) yahoo.com

  25. Pingback: » Part X: Freemasonry’s Gruesome Oaths Discussed Keltruth Corp.: News Blog of Keltruth Corp. - Miami, Florida, USA.

  26. permres

    I notice Guy Hewitt’s letter has appeared in today’s Nation! Are they opening up their doors to wider discussion?

  27. Continue to be fearless and forthright. Don’t let anyone scare you as you are no yardfowl. After all you are Barbadian and this is a FREE country. God’s Blessings always.

  28. Justice Seeker

    If, then, and I agree, the church/christians have a right and responsibility to hold our politicians responsible for their actions or words, should the same politicians be ridiculed for giving credit to Almighty God for allowing them the opportunity to govern?

    Why has David Commissiong attacked P.M. Thompson for crediting the Almighty for they winning the recent elections? What would the response have been if he had said that, by their own power and strategies, they had won it? What if they had credited “the devil” for their success? How would Commissiong and others have responded? Isn’t “The Lord has been the people’s guide ….”, in our National Anthem, saying the same thing that the P.M. has said?

    My response? The DLP did NOT win the elections, the HAND OF GOD saved this country from unknown spiritual and political attempts to destroy us! If you cannot feel it in the atmosphere or realize that the weight of a hammer has been lifted from over us, something has to be wrong. Amos 9:11 and Ezekiel 34:21 to the end were not given as coincidences. Not the cheques, not the planning, not the DLP, not the BLP, THE HAND OF GOD WAS, AND IS RESPONSIBLE!

  29. Dear Sir,
    Regarding the proposed “Fly Overs” ,what would it cost to level the round-abouts and install traffic lights. If that was done, at a later date elevated platforms could be erected over some of the junctions for monuments such as “Busta”or for the construction of Mini Police Stations.

  30. Love

    Congratulations to Bishop John Holder on his elevation to the post of Archbishop of the West Indies.

    The first Barbadian to be so elevated.

    Another victory for a man from St. John…PM Thompson would be mighty please.