Time for a new ‘altar’ call

Spiritual Reality: In a recent article, a British scientist from the University of Manchester, England, admits that the man Christians worship or call Jesus Christ was more of an African descendant than the pure white, long hair, blue eye, six feet tall, groomed candle-holding dude without a tan. Before Richard Neave’s reconstruction, the ethnicity of Jesus has always been in debate to even if John the Baptist is really related to him. There are also other profound spiritual struggles and question on how the world should look, and acceptance of the way it is.   I am not a scholar on biblical teaching, history or even a Christian, but that shouldn’t make a difference in seeing a shifting revelation. Despite today’s postcard of Christ image, quietly some question why he was the only Caucasian male where it is believed that everyone had bronze skin, wool hair in an extremely warm area in the East. He was not adopted, or flown in from the West. Figuring religion with or without DNA has always been complicated, especially surrounding conflicts over this mystical being that spread peace and calm like an eagle gliding through the air. Even since Muhammad, who outlived his sons and died without a clear heir, conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims continues. Maybe they are trying to settle whose culture or “faith” is the real descendants and representative of the true Islam. Could that be quietly an issue with Christianity after the crucifixion, searching for a leader?

Today’s altar call is not an attack on Christianity, religious doctrine, to promote racial divide, or a protest to mount a new piece of artwork in the pulpit, or halls with a bronze skinned male holding a sword in wool clothing looking over a flock of sheep. It is simple an outside assessment without the scriptures, hoping to reduce pockets of internal divisions often based on one’s ability to tithe, skin colour, socio-economic status where some believed their pigmentation makes them closer to the man, and thus ignore our community plights in general for the common good.

From the Pulpit: What is known, for over 2,000 years, Christianity has been the largest religion and still remains in the 20th century. It has had its ups and downs like many of these waves on the shores. The future of Christianity will not hinge on one’s skin tone, size of the church, or political connections.   It is as simple as the number of new baptisms, or to sum it up according to {Luke 14] how much one is willing to give up. The scriptures taught us that he breathed life into non-believers, Buddhists, Jews, Muslims, Christians and everyone else, and he is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through Jesus who came to save the world. Yet today there are many loud preachers, but few are actually pastors of tolerance and new life.

The on-going social and geo-political turmoil has created questions if he has done enough for humanity especially after Christianity spread across many continents into the western world. What score would be given some of his disciples today? These disciples now could use another John the Baptist. I do not want to equate followers’ undivided love like someone being in toxic relationship where love can cloud one’s vision. This quiet affirmation, personal obedience and gratitude often call for calm even in high tides. The Altar Call: A few weeks ago according to Reuters, “Pope Francis asked Protestants and other Christian Churches for forgiveness for past persecution.” His gesture is more than finding peace; it is one of the principles of the institution.     Throughout these Caribbean communities and others, the church has always been the cornerstone of the family, and a place for supporting each other that represents good health, and cohesion. It was an escape during slavery where freedom was planned and implemented, as many scholars have documented. Today, despite less religious prosecution, politics, economics and social strife is shifting inspiration, peace and prosperity from the altar.

For thousands of years, whether Catholic, Protestants and Orthodox, the church has been about community, tolerance, building towns, sustainability and prosperity for generations. As many archaeologists and scholars have tried to hunt for holy sites surrounding the Christian experience, theological interpretation, although many read from the same Holy Scriptures, remains complicated. Today there are more churches per-square mile than schools, or even much needed police stations; however, conceptual reasoning has diminished in many of these churches. These quintessential spiritual followers and teachers spreading his philosophy often deviate from their own principles. They are not pimps in pulpits, but seem to have significant influence on these communities as they are now facing more empty benches and souls.  As I travelled to some of these old historic churches, it seems some have lost their stride, power and influence. Today’s polls also say that non-believers are increasing. When the pulpit relinquishes its core, and struggles with changes on social issues such as marriage equality, abortion, political ideology, and ministry with a rating system like hotels for profitability while the homeless man searches for a meal few feet away, these altars will remain empty.

Confession: The church alone cannot reverse today’s social problems. If its leaders cannot inevitably avoid more chaos, mismanagement of trust and power rather than using ideologues whose capitulation and protagonist views that only isolate and ignore fiction from reality, today’s DNA will not bring us any closer.    For many residences, especially along the shores, up the hill, or down the road, the church is bigger than politics, or local Members of Parliament (MP) who seldom gather after a big event, and thus make non- believers call them the unseen leaders. The fear of god that has blasted through amplifiers must stay more important than the next election. The church does not have to unravel its core belief and interpretations of historic doctrines passed on to each generation. However, take a step back and look at the empty chairs.

The deviation from one’s parents’ upbringing is not a struggle due to unconceivable economic conditions. Some who remain on the street corners are not there because of who is making the altar calls. They too have problem separating these men’s moral compass from their messages. They have friends who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gender and others who could use reconciliation between gangs that have taken over the communities, and yes, even an ex-offender who could use a job connection. How can the young-people reach the altar when so-called preachers have more bodyguards than the prime minister? One now has to make an appointment even for confession or talk about their struggles.

After these resurrection ceremonies, the church has to stop being just another building. Only few today have the courage and they are older, as personal strengths have diminished. Even when they die, the new generation has no idea of their contribution to the community.   Benediction: The financial burden churches face today from overall poor economic conditions has created in part a battle between psychological, social, and spiritual development. Theologians have to get back to the church roots. This institution plays a pivotal role in the communities. Although tucked away behind century-old trees, where few are looking for a resurrection, there still remains a beam of light in which some are now competing with the sound from the latest music blasting while the pastor reads the first Psalm. Although some have migrated for economic reasons, and to escape taboos from social shrubs covering spirituality, there are many young men and women who have given up lucrative opportunities and now serving their community despite not being recognized. They remain the only beacon of hope for even two Sunday services each month and perhaps a new altar call can be formed with this new generation.

Derrick Miller holds a BS degree in economics and finance, an MBA in global management and a MS in criminal justice leadership and management. He has worked in the US public safety and criminal justice field for over 14 years. He can be contacted at crijm@outlook.com and www.ourshores.org

Taken from Caribbean news now.  Published on February 17, 2016  By Derrick Miller