Globalisation has had its benefits in many ways, but its focus on maximising financial gain has also led to continued exclusion of people based on their colour, class or race along with their being seen as mere tools for economic gain with no respect for their humanity.
Jamaican cleric, Dr Stephen Jennings, posited this view as he delivered the 13th annual Sarah Ann Gill Memorial Lecture at the Frank Collymore Hall recently.
Speaking on the topic, “Culture, Colour, Class and Christ(ianity): Utilizing the Legacy of Sarah Ann Gill in Today’s Globalised Caribbean”, the senior Baptist pastor and lecturer at the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI), said, “People and countries are all being drawn into a global system, and this has exposed the many inequalities between nations. In 2017, surveys showed that the top one per cent owns more than the bottom 49 per cent, and the top eight biggest money earners in the world have more money than the bottom half-3.5 billion people. It is a double-edged sword; on the one hand it brings integration and interconnection, but imperialism, inequality and inequity are among its negative consequences.”
Dr Jennings lamented that people were now often viewed as commodities in the economic equation, a phenomenon the prominent late Jamaican educator Dr Rex Nettleford once referred to as “thingification.” “People have become things, objects for making money. For example, we speak of Brand Barbados, not counting the blood, sweat and tears of people like Sarah Ann Gill, in our efforts to make the island look attractive for investors. We have to understand that economic inequality in the world has a classist, racial, colourist, cultural and gender slant. If you check the statistics, nations of colour, formerly enslaved nations, and countries that endured certain types of colonialism are the poorer nations today, and this is systemic in nature.”
There was also considerable moral fallout from globalisation. “People do not value the same things anymore. Many years ago we were taught that some things were right, while others were wrong; but now we tend to follow what is trending, and the guiding philosophy behind much of that is ‘anything goes’.”
Citing examples, “People’s approaches to sexuality in one place can affect people miles away, and if a person spreads hateful messages about a particular race or group of people, that message can have an impact on the smallest child in a small community; that is where we are now.”
Dr Jennings noted that this has created confusion from a religious perspective as well.
“Today people ask, ‘how do you know there is a God?’ or we think God is relative. We now have an environment of religious secularisation, where people do not believe in the supernatural anymore. There is also the dangerous trend where people try to force others to believe what they believe, by force where necessary, which has led to attacks on churches, synagogues and mosques, and other forms of terrorism.”
He then outlined some measures the Christian community could use to counter some of these negative forces, all of which entailed the religious organisations coming out of their ‘comfort zones’ and interfacing with the “real world.”
“As Christians, as a church, in the same way Sarah Ann Gill did, we must push an agenda of economic equalisation, where everyone will have an equal opportunity to seek what leads to life and godliness. This includes having a living wage, access to education, having food, clothing and shelter, and an opportunity to worship.” He also cautioned church leaders about going into politics, noting that first they had to promote the Christian agenda before seeking to join any political party.
He called on churches to promote moral education in these times, but to change the way in which they approached it.
“While it is important that we let people know the differences between right and wrong, instead of trying to impose our faith on them, we must explain to them why the Bible takes a particular stance on certain matters, and more importantly, we should be seen to live by those standards, not just preach about them.”