Religious Commitment and Duty

Jamaica Observer
July 11, 2006

Most Well-Thinking Jamaicans were disgusted at the sexual assault of an underage schoolgirl in the back of a van, while the act was being videotaped - the van allegedly driven by a deacon of the Dayton Avenue Church of God. Now comes Ms. Ruby Kelly, the reputed founder of the church, who in a Sunday service diatribe has castigated the whistle-blowers in the congregation who turned over the tapes to The Gleaner, which in turn, reported the matter to the police.

Seemingly concerned primarily with her self-appointed importance as leader of the Dayton Avenue flock, Ms. Kelly displayed not a shred of compassion for the innocent victim of the rape but asked of the deacon and two confederates now in police custody, "What have they done wrong?" In so doing, she has displayed an abysmal ignorance of the moral and legal concept of being an accessory to the commission of an alleged crime, whether against the laws of God or the laws of the land.

We do not know what theological qualifications Ms. Kelly possesses for founding a church, but it appears that the blind allegiance of many in her congregation has gone to her head both literally and metaphorically. In an outpouring of vitriolic narcissism in quoting from sections of the Bible, she proclaimed to pronounce God's vengeance on those who exposed this terrible wrong afflicted on a child and has vowed to deal with The Gleaner reporter who uncovered the story. This is hardly a display of Christian humility. We are not sure what Ms. Kelly's connection is with retired Appeal Court judge, Martin Wright, who has displayed a cavalier attitude in dealing with the incident, claiming that it is an internal church matter. We do not agree. The public of Jamaica has every right to be concerned with how sexual exploitation of the young in the society is being handled at the level of officialdom, whether in the hierarchy of government or the hierarchy of the church.

There is a fundamental difference between religiosity and true religious commitment. The former has long been rampant in Jamaica. Translating that into practical action, however, has too often been absent. Much of this religiosity is due to the fact that a large section of the public is not trained to think. This segment is easily mislead by every religious demagogue, who claims to speak for God. The instant case, Ms. Kelly's and Mr. Wright's reaction to it need to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

Even if one were to accept that there has been some overly simplistic generalisation about the church community as a whole arising from this specific incident, the siege mentality that has overcome the leadership of the Dayton Avenue Church of God is hardly helping their cause. They seem to have lost sight of their moral duty and responsibility. They are far more concerned about their image and reputation than justice and the harm that has been done to this unfortunate teenage girl.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.