Crime and The Church

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
January 10, 2018

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeLast Sunday I attended religious services at the St. Mary’s Anglican Church where my people have worshiped since it was constructed in 1843. The prayer of the day was the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It read: “Father pour out Your spirit upon us and grant us a new vision of Your glory, a new experience of Your power, a new faithfulness to Your Word and a new consecration to Your service that Your love may grow among us and Your kingdom come, through Christ our Lord.”

Taking his cue from that uplifting prayer, Father Anderson Maxwell, our parish priest, asked his parishioners to adopt the sentiment “Just a closer walk with thee” as their motto for the New Year. He used a hymn from the CPWI (The Church in the Province of the West Indies) to punctuate his message. I would have chosen Mahalia Jackson’s “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” especially since we had sung hymn 65, “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” adopted from the African-American spiritual of the same name.

As I sat among my fellow parishioners, many of whom I have known from my childhood years, I thought of when our village seemed a paradise. I remembered an article that appeared in the Trinidad Guardian on April 5, 1921. It read: “A visit to the Orange Grove Estate on any day of the week during crop time will give the stranger a faint idea of the value of this industry to the island. Situated in the Tacarigua district on a beautiful stretch of flat country of easy access and swept continually by most refreshing breezes, hundreds of people move about, each bent on his own particular duty. Hundreds of farmers’ carts, laden with canes, line the route to the factory, and on every side one hears discussions as to the splendid results expected this year.”

As I sat in St. Mary’s on Sunday, I thought how beautiful it would be if our prime minister and his ministers visited some of these places of worship (that is, our mosques, our mandirs, and our churches) and elicited the assistance of our religious leaders and their congregations to participate in our fight against crime. As my mind wandered, I thought, If we partnered with these powerful organizations—they are at the heart of who we are—I felt we could provide another front on which to combat that iniquity that has bedeviled our society.

Moved by the pastor’s message and the sense of community I felt as I fellowshipped with the other congregants, I scribed on the one-page program: “Crime, a disruption of the social order, is nothing more than our inability to care for one another. It represents a disconnect between our physical desires and our spiritual essence.” I do not see our spiritual essence merely in religious terms but in that indefinable, unspeakable force that defines our humanity.

Once I left the service, I was convinced that all elements of our society must be involved in our fight against crime. Yet, the first news item that greeted my eyes on January 1, 2018 was, “Man Shot Dead in Laventille.” The story announced: “A Morvant man, who was shot dead in Laventille yesterday, became one of the country’s final murder victims. The death of Brandon ‘Monkey’ Raymond, has taken the murder rate to 494 up to press time. He was killed around 12:30 p.m.”

By the end of the week, as many as nine people had lost their lives at the hands of fellow citizens. The possibility of the murder rate spiraling towards six or seven hundred deaths this year seemed possible. I pondered the words contained in hymn 771 that we sang at church: “O Zion, open wide thy gates, / let symbols disappear; / a priest and victim, both in one, / The Truth himself, is here” (CPWI Hymnal).

When I was growing up, my mother taught me to embrace all religions. She counselled: “If you go to a mosque, take off your shoes; if you go to a church, take off your hat.” It was her way of teaching ecumenicalism without all the linguistic paraphernalia the priest and his scribes demanded. Today, in our country our spiritual salvation lies in our combining the political with the spiritual impulses; the alternative is our falling apart in our tiny domestic enclaves. Church man and commoner must be a part of that battle.

To save our country our politicians must go to where the people are, discoursing with them in their religious homes, and asking the religious bodies to partner with secular organizations to combat this social malaise that is rotting the society. We cannot get anywhere in this endeavor if our leaders indulge in their own forms of social deviance. It cannot be “Do as I say.” Rather, it must be “Do as I do;” the priest and the victim; politician and scribe working together to prevent our country from sinking into a deeper abyss.

This year, it might be helpful if we followed Father Maxwell’s advice and took a closer walk with one’s neighbors, proclaiming that life and the perpetuation of life are the highest values. We should do everything to preserve these values.

7 thoughts on “Crime and The Church”

  1. Trinidad is involved in a death struggle to the end. The road to perdition is getting wider each year. The answers lie not in the bosom of the politicians who use the politics of office to divide the nation.

    In India a lady was given charge of a massive prison. She was chosen because of ability to bring peace and stability. During her time there she was able in this men’s prison to radically change the prisoner. Her assertion was the problem of crime was rooted in the way people think. At 5 a.m. In the morning when prisoners got out of bed, she had them sit down and engage in a period of meditation, breathing excercise and though changing pattern. Seeing the word differently.

    I would say that there is a need for a change in the prison system because crime is an issue of perpetuation from one generation to the next. All o those prison office who were killed could have been alive today had measures to change prisoner thinking been implemented. But unfortunately we don’t have thinkers in this nation.

  2. The Church, house of Christian worship, created by the Greeks and Jews, Latinized by the Romans, used as a tool of subjugation by the British, which included Slavery, colonialism, Capitalism and what we all have come to realized as true Crimes against Humanity. The teachings of the Church, from its inception, have been lies and deception, their book was, and still use for pillaging the World’s natural resources, while keeping the people indoctrinated, in poverty and crime ridden. The history of the Church, is one ladened with profits earned, while participating in the oppression of the very same people’ they are hoping to save, in most cases, the Priest and the hierarchy in his congregation, are the greatest of all Criminals. Have you wonder of the reasons the young don’t attend Church? no stability is offered, when the senses starts overcoming the young man/woman, the church leaders, because of their diminished Theological teachings, have nothing that needs listening to, even they themselves, don’t believe the doctrine that they are teaching. As a child attending St Paul’s EC and St David’s high school in San fernando, Bible knowledge was one of my pet subjects, it left me wanting in my young adult life, almost broken, finding myself, took me to the greater and ancient world of belief, Ancient Egypt (Kemet) India and East Asia, to stabilized and find myself. Being decolonized, does not makes one free, Trinidad, have not started to evolve from the perils of Slavery and Indentureship, “DE MIND IS STILL DUTTY” the balance of MA’AT doesn’t exist. During Slavery and Indentureship, the Churches never took a stance against the injustices that entailed, why? because the benefits were too great, free land and property, today, these very Churches are seeking a moral footing, but it is to late, the horses have bolted out the stable. Christianity and the Church,continue to propagate WARS all over the world, in the name of peace, the last 3000yrs tells us all we need to know. Are there any WARS in East Asia? the answer is no, the reason? the Church doesn’t have a bench mark in that part of the world. A man/woman lacking knowledge of self, is sub-human, a borderline criminal, the short tempered African and Indian evolving from Slavery and semi-Slavery Indentureship, are Crime walking time bombs, the church have no idea on how to speak and formulate against this colonial catastrophe, which they are historically part of , the Church. is in too DEEP.

    1. Thanks for the distorted pessimistic analysis put forward by you on church history. It is type of unregenerated thinking that has created a world of problems. To correct some of your skewered views.
      (1) long before government built schools to educate the masses. The churches were building schools and universities. Harvard the oldest North American unversity was name after the founder a pastor. Today that university has produced more millionaires than any other. Same in TNT with QRC etc.
      (2) long before the government built hospitals it was the churches that was building hospitals. So it would not be unusual to hear of the Seventh Day Hospital etc.
      (3) long before the government open orphanages the church was doing that.
      (4) long before government started social programs the church was doing it. A great Englishman by the name of Lord Salisbury a Christian at a time when people were jailed for stealing bread, went to Parliament and had the laws changed to help the poor and those in dire need.

      I could go on but the future hope of the uneducated islanders who came in droves and became the PNM voter bank is to turn to God, not gangsta rap and a host of anti social behaviour….. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

  3. As a student and of history, I think it is blasphemous to encourage anyone to turn to modern religions, all of which are rooted in African experiences. People should learn history and find the African context for all these modern religious practices, including “Hinduism”. Most religions today have been co-opted and politicized by people who lack the experiences of what they preach. These religions have become political tools that allow a minority of murderous and misguided folks to control the masses.

    Those who are interested should read, “African Origins of the Major Western Religions” by Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan, “Christianity Before Christ” by John G. Jackson, “The Myth of Genesis and Exodus and the Exclusion of Their African Origins” by Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan, “Black Man of the Nile” by Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan and “Stolen Legacy: The Egyptian Origins of Western Philosophy” by George G M James. Of course, there are many other worthwhile books that can help decontaminate the mind.

    Here are some videos that can help:


    Dr ben-Jochannan, “Judaism, Islam & Christianity: Where Did They Come From?”

    Dr Yosef ben-Jochannan, “Black Man Wake Up!!!”

  4. MAMOO,the past never dies or disappears,it continues to shape us in ways we should not try to erase or ignore. Stop putting your foot into your mouth MAMOO, knowing have left you standing on the rubbish dumping banks of the Caroni river, yes, Harvard was founded by a pastor, John Harvard, a Slave holder, like most of his peers at the time. When people call me a Trini, i push back all the time, my answer to them is, that i am an African, who was brought to Trinidad and the Caribbean to create wealth for the White man, i tend to take very strong positions on certain issues that goes on uninterrupted, and also have great eccentricity. Yale,Brown, Columbia, Princeton and many more were founded by Slave holders, and build by African slaves. My job is to educate your children, not you MAMOO, you are too far gone, like a CANCER, death is your only teacher. The CHURCH, is still one of the greatest CRIME entities in Trinidad, Caribbean and the wider world, perpetrators of the RACISM you MAMOO like to crow on, a very destructive orthodoxy. Oh, by the way MAMOO, how did PNM bashing find its way in Dr Cujoe’ “CRIME AND THE CHURCH”? are you truly a UNC ZEALOT?.

    1. My ancestors work harder than yours in the boiling hot sun. The African in Africa was nomadic wondering from place to place. The Indians in India were working the sugar and paddy fields when the British notice their industrious nature.

      Indentureship was hard work and lasted well into the last century as indians braved the scorching sun. But we are not whining and complaining as the lazy African continues to do even after 200 years since the abolition of slavery.

      If you can get past slavery ( I know it is very hard for you) and live in the 21st century perhaps you can understand your world better. As my son once told me history is about dead people I live in the present. Yes today is an opportunity for the children in Laventille to rise up and throw off the shackles of mental slavery. The church today has many prominent black pastors who can mentor these youths and given a chance. The Pentecostal Church started out of the Azuza street meeting in Los Angeles. Incidentally the head of that meeting was a freed slave. The black contribution to Christian spirituality is profound. There are many many books that can be written. Martin Luther King was a product of the church and so yo thousands of prominent African Americans. Know your history buddy don’t skew your history.

  5. you’re Just Right Cooper,..Just as i’ve always imagined, God is African,and Faith is just a Woman’s Name……Broke my Promise….but really could not help it…..I really tried to.

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