A Pastoral Letter
to the Anglican family and to the Nation
Upcoming General Elections 2017
The Rt. Rev’d. Laish Boyd
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese
The Bahamas and The Turks & Caicos Islands
(to be distributed in all parishes on Sunday 23rd April,2017)
General Elections in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas have been set for Wednesday, May 10, 2017. This information is important for us because national activity is a part of the duty and responsibility of every citizen and resident. It is certainly the duty of us Christians, who were told by Jesus to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)
We respect the fact that some individuals and religious groups do not participate in general elections and related activities, nor in other national activities. I consider this approach to be wrong for two reasons:
1. It does not follow Jesus’ command, His example or the spirit in which He lived His earthly life. If we read the gospels, we see how Jesus spoke and acted.
2. It does not allow ordinary Christians to interact with and to bring godly influence to bear upon the parties, the process and the many people who are involved.
The announcement of General Elections calls us to two responses:
1. TO PRAY! Pray for our country, our leaders and our national life; for the electoral process, the parties and the persons involved with them, and for ALL candidates offering themselves; for the citizens, residents and visitors of our land, and for the future of The Bahamas.
Yes, friends, pray, pray, pray! Some of us modern-day people no longer pray as much as we might, or as much as we ought. Remember what St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:16 and 17): “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing...” We need to be “troubling the throne” day and night.
2. TO TAKE ACTION! Prayer must be accompanied by action on our part, since “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:17)
What actions should accompany our prayer?
A) Take an interest in the national landscape
Many people are interested in politics and many are not. Some see it as pointless, “because who is going to win is going to win anyhow.” Some say that “all of them are the same: in it for what they can get.” Some say it is nothing but corruption and mud-slinging.
All of this may be true from time to time. However, we need to be interested in national issues and, by extension, in the electoral process and the lead-up to it, because issues are defined and leaders chosen thereby. Leaders, whether it is one of them or ten of them, make a difference. Take an interest in your national landscape, and in all of its processes.
B) Be informed.
Watch and listen to the news. All stations: news, talk shows and other programming. Read the newspapers; all of them. You may not be able to do that every day but try to get a wide sampling of what is going on. Do not follow conventional media only: read online and read social media where possible. We want to get as total a picture as possible. Often, there is one conversation in the conventional media, and another, broader, more representative discussion can be seen in social media. This is the modern reality.
Also, conventional media establishments are business entities. They are not perfect and, therefore, any human entity can be subject to bias from time to time, i.e., subject to forces that are not interested in the objective reporting and analyzing of facts. Occasionally, some establishments can even be known for their bias, and their downright propagandering.
This is why we must listen, watch and read widely and sensibly to formulate our own informed and balanced view.
Obviously, some persons will have difficulty with reading for a variety of reasons, and we understand their circumstances. However, too many of us who have ability and opportunity do not read because we are lazy or undisciplined. It is far easier for us to look at a screen or to listen to something. This is a bad thing. It hurts us. It weakens the country. We have to do better.
C) Discuss the issues.
Conversation, watching, listening and reading are good because they improve our knowledge, our thinking and our analytical skills. Conversation must be filtered and weighed carefully. We can always find shallow, gossipy and scandalous conversation. Or we can find conversation where there is a desire to examine the issues, to share genuine concerns and to seek a clearer understanding of the facts.
Choose your conversation carefully.
D) Be a registered voter
It is now too late to register for this election, but go out and register so that you will be ready for the next cycle. We are blessed to have universal suffrage in this country, i.e., one vote per adult. This was not always the case and our forebears fought hard for it. Many countries still do not have this privilege, or the electoral mechanism that we enjoy. We have it. Let us take advantage of it.
E) Vote. Vote. Vote.
If you are registered, PLEASE VOTE! Some argue, “My one vote can’t do much.” But it can. Elections are won by a simple majority. If enough “one votes” stay home, that could add up to several or scores or hundreds or thousands… if enough “one votes” stay home. You are a person. You matter. Make your one-vote count.
F) Be involved.
Get involved with party politics, if you are interested and have the time. Some people are not interested or do not have the time, which is fine. To each his/her own.
I always encourage my members to get involved, to be a part of the local branch, to be an organizer, and a worker and, yes, to campaign. If Christians – whom I assume, hope and expect to be people of INTEGRITY – do not get involved, how are we going to christianize our environment? How will we influence the people and the process to be cleaner and more honourable? How will we be salt (Matthew 5:13) and light (Matthew 5:14) and leaven (Matthew 5:14)? How will we be ambassadors for Christ in that arena?
Let me say that there are many upstanding politicians, candidates, party members and campaigners out there. Consequently, I do not wish to give the impression that things are all bad. However, the problem is that too many of us Christian people get involved in politics and then cast aside what we claim to believe. We condone, encourage and even participate in wrong when it occurs. We compromise our integrity and fall right in line with those who have no scruples, and who want to win at any cost.
The people in the Party and on the campaign trail do not see Christ in some of us, and do not see behavior that represents Christ AT ALL. Are you guilty of this?
G) Stand fast.
We human beings complain too much and give up too easily. This is our country. Do not let the faults and blemishes cause you to become frustrated, to become disillusioned, to give up and to become withdrawn. THIS IS OUR COUNTRY. Do not simply “throw in the towel” because something is not right, or because something is imperfect, or because things get messy. If WE do not have the fortitude and the “stomach” to stay engaged and to do our part, then who is going to do it for us? Let us stand fast. Let us hang in there and see it through.
I am personally horrified at the level of “gutter” politics and venom that I see and hear being spewed around even in conventional media. In social media it is even worse, and so often there is little or no regard for truth. “Fake news” is propagated as facts and so many of us are gullible to believe whatever we see that is negative or degrading about others. This must stop. Let us discuss the issues and not demonize the candidates.
Unfortunately, this terrible practice of denigrating and maligning others has the result of discouraging some decent people from wanting to serve in public life; too much is at stake, and a good name that one might have built up over the years is suddenly dragged through the mud by unscrupulous opponents.
We cannot build a country like this, and we definitely cannot allow our children to believe that the vast majority of persons serving or desirous of serving in political office do not have integrity or good character.
Again, I say that we have to stand fast!
This is a wonderful country. As we travel the world, we recognize that The Bahamas is a special place with so many blessings. We have our problems like any other country, so we still have a lot of work to do even while we count the blessings. However, it is still “Better in The Bahamas.”
Let us celebrate this treasure that we have. Of all of the places where God could have “dropped us off,” God chose here. Remember that most of us have no other country to which we can go. Commit to making our country the best that WE can make it by EACH doing his/her part to build the positive. Let us commit to being genuinely interested in whatever is happening. Let us do what is right every chance we get. Let us please God. Let us get out and vote for the candidate of our choice.
Let us celebrate our Bahamas in prayer, in word and in action!
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev’d. Laish Boyd Sr.
BISHOP OF THE BAHAMAS AND
THE TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
April 18, 2017