A clash of Afrocentric and Eurocentric identities
The visit of William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge marks a significant date in the history of the Jamaican people. Their visit is in honour of the 70th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and they are bearing the flag of the British crown with a view to solidifying Jamaica’s role within the Commonwealth and the hope that the country, unlike Barbados, will continue to persist in its colonial standing with the Queen as head of state.
It is quite likely the hospitality which will be extended to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be akin to the party put on by Herod for his advisors and military officers as is described in St Mark 6:13-29. At first it was not easy to see the good news in the reading. On a positive note, the reading begins with the casting out of demons, anointing of the sick and performing acts of healing with the suggestion that the power of God is at work through the disciples as they demonstrate faithfulness to God. John the Baptist represents faithfulness in service and a commitment to work for the rule or reign of God. Faithfulness in God’s service resulted in the tragic end of John’s life even as Herod and his officials engaged in a party. Indeed, this gives expression to the saying, “what is joke to you is death to me”. In other words, that which was a fun loving time for Herod, his daughter, his wife and his officials was a time of pain, grief, tragedy, and mourning for John the Baptist’s family and his disciples. At the same time, we see the disciples of John practicing faithfulness in service as they took his body and buried it.
Mark’s gospel points to good news in the midst of a tragic end to a life that was snuffed out in its prime. John the Baptist sought to right the wrongs that were perpetuated against the poor and marginalized in Roman and Jewish societies. In particular, John’s reprimand of Herod and his wife of a marriage that seemed less than upholding moral standing for a man to marry his sister-in-law. John condemned the action, it troubled Herod but he loved John’s preaching, nonetheless. Not so with Herodias his wife, she hated John and sought every opportunity to eliminate him from the society. As painful and difficult as the situation was for the disciples, Mark tells us the first thing that took place was spreading the word of John’s death. In the same way, hearing about the visit of the Duke and Duchess will bring mixed feelings in Jamaicans.
Some will be excited and look forward to attending the parties to celebrate the visit of the royals. Others will be engaged in demonstrations, as was the case with those who chose to register their views on the need to have an apology from Her Majesty. Still others could not care one way or the other as the royal visit will not in any way affect their lives. This mixed response reflects the reaction of people to the gospel of Jesus. Some will be excited about the message, others will reject it and still others will not take it seriously. Regardless of the responses, the important thing is the need for people to practice faithful service. Like John the Baptist we must be willing to speak truth to power irrespective of the response of people.
In a few weeks we will rehearse another brutal execution in the face of power exercised for selfish reasons rather than the building of the community. Jesus, who was cousin of John the Baptist, would also face a tragic end as he, too, saw the need to challenge both Jewish and Roman political, economic, religious and social morals which served to undermine fullness of life for all people. John’s death did not dampen the commitment of Jesus to speak truth to power. Similarly, a number of disciples and numerous Christians, down the ages, including Thomas Cranmer whose execution we commemorated on Monday of this week, all point to faithfulness in service and the brutality of people. At the same time, the caring disposition of the disciples to take the body of John and bury it shows that even in tragedy we can show character. In the midst of their grief the disciples attended to the body of John. Similarly, in the case of Jesus the women will give attention to the body of Jesus on Good Friday.
In the final analysis, then, whether it is in Herod’s palace and the fate of John the Baptist, Pilate and Caiaphas conspiring to achieve the death of Jesus, the martyrdom of Christians, the reign of Queen Mary and the execution of Thomas Cranmer, the reign of the British Monarchy, institutional slavery and colonialism, ultimate power belongs to God. Whether we choose to keep the Queen as head of state, albeit as an independent nation, or, we choose republican status, as in the case of Barbados, the call is for us to remain in tune with the power and faithfulness of God at work in the world.
It is vital that we continue to be in tune with God’s faithfulness even as we care for each other. With the example from the disciples, we can learn there is no contradiction between helping people to live a meaningful life, which is my interpretation of casting out demons, anointing them and praying for healing and caring for the dead. In the final analysis my friends, advocacy and care for the living and the dead are behind the protest of the visit of the Duke and Duchess. However we feel about the visit, I invite us to show love and care to them and to everyone we meet. This is at the heart of what it means to practice faithfulness in service to God and to each other. May God help us to be faithful in these challenging times by being compassionate towards each other.
Garth Minott is Deputy President of the United Theological College of the West Indies.
I am sure it is a cardinal sin to tell lies and that is exactly what you have done with the title of this article which has NOTHING to do with Afrocentric identity. Shame on you pastor! Writing such intellectual drivel under the false pretence of making cogent analysis about critically important political and cultural events, just in order to spread your threadbare doctrine, unbelievably, to be in this day and age, still essentially telling ‘Black’ people (your real audience), to suffer peacefully! Certainly deserving of being called a sin if not a crime. Power is wielded by those with the will and capacity to exercise it in it’s multitudinous forms. Marcus Garvey, through the agency of his “African centered” identity, said, “Power is the only argument that satisfies us.” You sir, are the proverbial wolf swaddled in sheep clothing, like the missionaries of yore, coming to snatch the will and ambition towards human dignity and selfhood from the uncertain but still reaching hands of the ‘Black’ jamaican, (a tenuous reality itself at best).