Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Critique of Bahamian Theology and Religion

As I tend to be suspicious of anonymous newspaper columnists, I don't normally read the weekly column by "Simon" in the Nassau Guardian. Last week's column, however, offers a helpful critique of the shortfalls and limitations of Bahamian popular theology, particularly as it was articulated by the Bahamas Christian Council at this year's Independence celebrations.

Amongst other things, "Simon" challenges the prevailing ethos of prosperity theology which teaches that bad things never happen to God's faithful.

Moreover, the notion that God has spared the Bahamas from natural disasters and has instead allowed other lands to be ravaged is spiritually presumptuous and scientifically problematic.

To wit, why do natural disasters happen to good people in various locales on the planet while seemingly more sinful people are spared from calamity? Perhaps it has more to do with geography, chance and the scale of national development.

The thousands who perished in Myanmar did so because of an accident of geography, and because of substandard housing, bad infrastructure and a corrupt government. Not at the caprice of a vengeful God.

Natural disasters tend to ravage the poor because they do not have the means to protect themselves, as do the more affluent.

Additionally, "Simon" points out that the Christian Council (not to mention other publicly outspoken preachers) tend to disproportionately focus on narrow questions of personal morality while ignoring broader questions of social concern.
Rather, the focus was on the usual host of sexual sins and personal morality, while other issues of human dignity and social solidarity were largely ignored.

Access to health care, poverty alleviation, educational reform and the preservation of God’s earth, gave way to a relentless preoccupation with fornication, homosexuality and adultery.

It is not that such matters should be ignored. But a myopic focus on these is like cutting the Bible into a third and ignoring the rest of Scripture.

Since I have sought to address both of these concerns in my own teaching and ministry (see here and here), I am glad to see that others concur.

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