At a church service two Sundays ago, to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP), there were some rather interesting sights with key party people giving each other high fives, for example, and also some equally interesting statements too, most notably the Prime Minister’s reference to a Barbadian crucifixion and resurrection over the last seven years.
Media images and reports showed what, ostensibly, was a worship service of praise and thanksgiving. However, what was unmistakably clear to any discerning observer were the strong political undertones, as if the event was in fact the beginning of a dress rehearsal for the mobilization of a key constituent of the DLP’s political base in preparation for the next general election.
The DLP feels comfortable within the hallowed walls of evangelical Christianity, or to be more precise, a particular brand which was roped in as an integral part of the DLP’s winning coalition for the 2008 general election. It was done, not out of any noticeably pious motivation on the part of the DLP, but more out of a recognition that embracing the evangelical community, especially the leadership, could translate into the delivery of a fairly significant bloc of votes.
Which explains the presence and, to some extent, the influence which certain high-profile evangelicals have wielded on this Government since 2008. In preparation for the next general election, constitutionally due less than two years away, the Dems have clearly started to mobilize a tried and trusted ally which will remain faithful to the cause as long as the Dems tout a conservative moral and ethical agenda that conforms with evangelical values based on their understanding of the will of God.
Whether they are conscious of it or not, certain evangelical churches have unwittingly become extensions of the DLP’s political platform. Noticing a trend around 2006 where the DLP was increasingly opting to worship at evangelical churches than with traditional denominations like the Anglicans, I, as a then party adviser, asked for an explanation as candidates, ahead of the 2008 general election, were busy making the rounds and looking for every available opportunity to raise their profile and meet voters.
One person, who shall remain nameless because it was a private conversation, put it this way: “The evangelicals are more accommodating than the traditional churches. They embrace you, recognize you during their services and give you the opportunity to address their congregations. At the traditional churches, it is not the same.”
From a political standpoint, it made sense. Which politician would not jump at such an opportunity?
Lacking a convincing story to tell voters about their stewardship, especially in relation to the management of the economy on which to base their case for re-election, it is pretty clear, based on hints being dropped, that the Dems are likely to fight the next general election on the red herring issue of morality. Young people today generally do not give a damn about such an issue, but the idea is that by tapping into the conservative nature and religious reverence of older Barbadians, the Dems will hopefully muster enough votes to scrape home again.
It is very likely, therefore, that the Dems will frame the next general election as a battle between good and evil in which Barbadians have to make an important choice. They obviously will portray themselves as representing what is good and the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as representing what is evil.
They will seek to play on the religious fears of Barbadians by arguing that a vote for what is good will bring blessings, while a vote for what is evil will bring a curse on the nation. In such a scenario, the Dems obviously will need their evangelical allies.
But, at the same church service, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart may have unwittingly shot the DLP in the foot, as far as its re-election chances are concerned, by choosing to compare the experience of Barbadians over the past seven years with the story of Jesus’ Crucifixion and subsequent Resurrection.
If that analogy aptly sums up, in Mr Stuart’s view, what Barbadians have endured, the only logical conclusion to be drawn is that the Dems, primarily under his leadership, were responsible. The crucifixion of Barbadians was effected through the cruel austerity measures, imposed by the regime, that resulted in job losses and all other kinds of hardship.
Cruelty and crucifixion go hand in hand. Mr Stuart’s choice of analogy provides justification for our use of the adjective, cruel, to describe his Government’s economic policies. Trying to pin the blame almost entirely on the international recession, as this Government has consistently done, is akin to Pilate washing his hands even though it was on his instructions that Jesus was crucified.
Now, on the eve of a general election, the Prime Minister is telling us from the pulpit that we are in the process of experiencing a resurrection following our crucifixion. There is, however, a fundamental difference between Crucifixion and Resurrection, as any theologian worth his or her salt will confirm.
The Crucifixion of Jesus was an indisputable fact. His death was seen by eyewitnesses, which made it easy to believe. The Resurrection, on the other hand, is based entirely on belief. It was a
mysterious occurrence and there were no actual eyewitnesses.
When the women came to anoint Jesus’ dead body on the first day of the week, they found that the stone concealing the tomb had been rolled away.
Suddenly, two men, presumably angels because of their glistening clothes, appeared beside the women and, based on the narrative of Luke 24, asked: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen.”
With the Resurrection, you either believe it occurred or you do not. It represents a major challenge for many Christians, but belief that the Resurrection occurred lies at the heart of Christianity. It is the sheet anchor of the faith.
Even some of Jesus’ own followers, most notably Thomas, doubted the Resurrection until he was able to have tangible proof, precisely by placing his fingers in Jesus’ fresh Crucifixion wounds. I, unfortunately, count myself among countless Barbadians who cannot believe Mr Stuart’s word that we are experiencing a resurrection until I see the hard, incontrovertible evidence.
I believed Mr Stuart when he assured us prior to the last general election, for example, that university education would remain free because, as he put it, introducing tuition fees would be “a retrograde step”.
He did not keep his word.
After the Dems were re-elected, his Government proceeded with haste, despite our objections, to slap tuition fees on our children attending Cave Hill, dashing the higher education hopes of many young Barbadians who subsequently had to drop out.
With my faith shattered because of past experience, I would be a fool, in the circumstances, to ever seriously take Mr Stuart on his word again unless he provides convincing evidence or foolproof guarantees. Like many Barbadians who make this 166-square-mile rock our home, we naturally yearn for a resurrection. However, pragmatism dictates that it is unlikely to grow beyond a flicker of hope as long as this administration remains.
Public confidence is key to a full-fledged resurrection delivering welcome benefits for all. However, public confidence is not what this administration can truthfully say that it fully enjoys.
Experience under this Government has taught countless Barbadians that while it is good to cautiously hope for the best, at the same time you should be always prepared for the worst.
(Reudon Eversley is a political strategist, strategic communication specialist and long-standing journalist.