Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Saturday, January 31, 2009

All Together Now? How So?

As usual, I let things that don't make much sense trouble me. I heard a few days ago the remark, "we are all Christians, that's what matters". This was provoked by a remark I made about my choice of church in which to worship. I do not go to church regularly in Barbados and have written about some of the issues I have with the Anglican church here. My wife, with her own set of dislikes for the Anglican church here, has opted to go regularly to a Catholic church. Outside of Barbados, we worship together in our Anglican parish church in Washington DC (where we were both Vestry members at different times), or in her Anglican parish church in Nassau (founded by her family).

I know that the person making that remark (an Episcopalian/Anglican) does not feel allied to Catholics, Adventists, or followers of Churches of Christ, or Mormons, or Baptists, or Quakers, or Jehovah's Witnesses, just to name a few major Christian denominations. I know too that the remarker's family has some very strong views about faiths other than Anglicanism, especially Catholicism.

See http://godblessthismess.tripod.com/christiandenominations.htm for more and descriptions of Christian faiths.

Now, I have been raised in one Christian denomination all of my life and although it was never made to be an issue in my parents' home, I knew that there were many Christian denominations, and that their tenets and followers were very different. This was first drummed into me when I was friends with an Adventist girl and had to deal with that religion's unflattering view and treatment of outsiders, even though her family were always speaking to be nicely. Fortunately, our friendship was just platonic and we ran for the same track club so could meet and talk and socialise easily outside of that home atmosphere.

Most people know that even in the Protestant strand of Christianity there are many variants, and people adhere to particular teachings and tendencies within that. Why else would the Anglican Church be in such a mess as it wrestles with issues of gender equality and homosexuality? Because of these differences people will leave parishes and particular churches within parishes to try to find the spiritual home that fits them best. No problem with that.

So, my head is reeling. Most people who have religious convictions stand strongly on those major religious differences between say Christians, Jews and Muslims, even though we should know that they have common roots. Yet that commonality does not leave us comfortable worshiping in the other believers' place of worship, or following their tenets. It has never stopped one of these major religions to try to convert people from the other, even to the extent of doing so violently and through war: remember the medieval Crusades.

We know the heart wrenching discussions that occur when people intermarry across religious lines, even amongst Christians. For Anglicans and Catholics, for example, the marriage needs to be sanctified in both churches. The couple become one but their religions are not one. A major issue within the relation will be how the children will be raised, in one faith or both or neither? Few are flexible enough to leave it up to the child to decide when he or she can. The matter also arises over where to worship regularly, at one or both churches, together or separately.

So, much as I adore my Christian friends and acquaintances for who they are, I cannot take the liberty of saying "we are all Christians" and sweep away all our religious differences. In fact, I remember at a regular lime a very heated conversation between a group of very dear friends on this same subject and lines being drawn very clearly and vociferously between Anglicans and Catholics. Why else does the term 'sectarian violence' fill people with fear in places like Northern Ireland and Scotland, where Protestants and Catholics have been at each others' throats for centuries? Those who are worldly know that even among Muslims Shia and Sunni can be sworn enemies. But let me stick to my knitting.

So, with the bitter images of dead bodies in Northern Ireland now vivid in my head, and the horrible images swirling of bombed pubs and buildings and people being killed and maimed in some of the parts of London where I lived, I will think more about "we are all Christians". I will think on it too as I reflect on the Christians who fled Britain and other countries in Europe to North America and the Caribbean, a few hundred years ago, to get away from the clutches of other Christians.

It should be a thought-filled weekend, as ever.

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