by Edward Hutcheson
Maybe it is co-incidental, but almost 40 years ago, a group of predominantly Baptist Ministers made a choice to side with then Prime Minister Lynden Oscar Pindling, when he and the majority of elected Members of Parliament chose to go against what they had promised in the campaigning that led up to the 1972 Election. The Reverend Carlton Francis who was a Cabinet Minister, in the first administration following July 10, 1973, made a decision to go against his party, because the promise his Party had made to allow all gambling licenses to expire was not kept. In a meeting held by the Christian Council at the time, the Reverend Reuben Edward Cooper, who had delivered the first national sermon in an Independent Bahamas, made a plea for the government to seek a different path; but many were of the impression that the decision was made long before that meeting was convened.
When Carlton Francis went against the decision, his fate was sealed. The rest of his life was lived as near the poverty line as one could get. No one dared help him openly. It was clear that the Ministers of the Gospel did not know their flock at all, especially to the extent that they would put their Christian convictions aside and follow a political “Moses”.
However, there is a not too obvious parallel; in the same way that Pastors do not know their members, members may not know their Pastors, even though they hear them preach every Sunday. The decision of Pastor’s McPhee and Hall to support the “Yes” vote in such an open fashion should be a wake up call for all Christian congregations in the Bahamas; especially as we prepare to celebrate 40 years as an Independent nation. What could have been an excellent opportunity to correct a mistake made more than 40 years ago has been compounded by an ill-advised decision fuelled by, “social expediency” or just short- sightedness. There are too many scriptural references to look at when it comes to matters of conscience and the exercise of common sense, even for Pastors, but those among them who blatantly lead members of the household of faith astray through arbitrary or indiscriminate decisions will have to answer at the end of the day.
Those of us who tend to get caught in the socio-political view of the of what we want the Word of God to say have to take a step back. They struggle with “what does the Word of God means to me” and give little consideration to “what the word of God means”. Perhaps the Pastors have read too much into what it is to be free. Pastor Timothy Stewart gave a sermon at a Majority Rule celebration earlier this year where he stated that when things changed in 1967, many Bahamians got the freedom issue wrong. Before 1967 the cry was for Pharaoh to let the people go so that they could be free and serve the Lord, but for some reason or other they chose to serve the Party. Maybe the gambling referendum should be put aside for now and we should decide whether we and those who lead us are going to abide by what we agreed to in the Pre-amble of our Constitution almost 40 years ago.
December 27, 2012