Jun 22, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – The article in USA Today on June 16 titled, “Southern Baptists elect new president, bucking effort to push denomination to the right” has lessons for all Guyanese. Those lessons apply to political leaders, Christians and every citizen. They are worth sharing with some accompanying detail.
Pastor Ed Litton is the new leader of America’s Southern Baptists Convention. Some believe that Litton is the only one who “can prevent an exodus of minority members from the denomination.” The 14 million strong group, the largest Protestant body in the US, “needs a uniter” and “Ed is uniquely qualified to do that,” said Fred Luter, a former convention president and the first Black leader to serve in the role.
We need a uniter for a leader in Guyana, but he or she is yet to be found. President Ali is loud on speeches about unity, but has proven to be more of a damp squib, when his approximately one-year record is examined honestly. He has been about fluttering rhetoric, and nothing more. Nothing that joins hands that heals wounds that soothes spirits. When the president’s watch is scrutinised, he comes across as more of a divider than anything else, with numerous empty postures and emptier words.
Southern Baptists think that “Ed has uniquely shown his commitment to racial reconciliation.” Luter said Litton brings a compassionate and shepherding heart and is the kind of leader needed now. This is what we desperately need here, but where is he or she? “We’re no longer shoulder to shoulder but face to face, and since we’re so used to fighting, we’re no longer fighting an enemy on the battlefield, we’re now fighting our brothers in the barracks,” Luter said.
We at this paper move from Southern Baptist circumstances, and state that this is where we are in Guyana in every aspect of national daily life. That is, fighting each other for anything, and over everything. There is so much growing needed here, and the Holy Books should help. The newly elected President Litton’s message to conservative Black pastors and other Southern Baptists of colour questioning their place in the denomination was straight from scripture, “We want you here. We love you here.” And “My goal is to build bridges…talk through things, have honest, open discussions,” he said. “Not shut down those conversations.” Another supporting pastor said that the group “needs a champion” not afraid to move mountains, challenge any established obstacle.
We are yet to come across a leader in the PPP or PNC or AFC, who has exemplified such qualities. Those that are of real national bridge building, the widest ethnic including, and grand championing of all the peoples, regardless of the personal cost. Instead, cult leaders have risen in endless succession, and uncaring followers have given them the greatest freedom to do as they please, and of which they have taken the fullest advantage. We have suffered terribly from our self-inflicted divisions. We cry out about this and that injustice, and of suspected costly corruptions on everything from oil to virus money to possibly flood spending (still incomplete and developing), but remain anchored firmly in the camp of leaders and groups worshipped.
Another lesson came from outgoing Southern Baptist leader, J. D. Greear, who cautioned the flock that it “must not fall to Phariseeism.” This “happens when we take a gospel nonessential like a cultural or stylistic preference … or our political calculus and we give it divine weight,” Greear said. “Believing in the sufficiency of Scripture means in part not attaching a divine authority to something unless it has a chapter and verse.” This has relevance to not just Christians, but others in Guyana, whether of religious beliefs or not, with particular emphasis on “our political calculus.”
It seems that when the pious who should be among the most principled in Guyana’s mix, they get consumed by our ugly politics, with its raw and bitter divisions, the latest cultural shifts, especially American originated ones. We lose sight of the basics of demanding unifying and accountability features from leaders, leaving them to run amok. We can and must do better. It starts with looking at ourselves in the mirror, and then holding those trusted to account.
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