“If the kingdoms of this world are to be transformed into the kingdom of our Christ, qualified Christians need to be deeply involved in political, legal, and economic processes.
“Resistance to the calling to address these social issues intelligently and with spiritual force arises within some local churches and Christian traditions from a number of unfortunate tragic misunderstandings.
“One misunderstanding grows from the assumption that Christian moral character can and should be developed outside of the social, secular setting. This is simply impossible because we live in a secular society.
“Therefore, it is equally impossible to be people who love our neighbours and practice thoroughgoing integrity if we accept practices that harm those closest to us or fail to advance and support social and political conditions that help our communities with their vital needs.” Willard and Black (2014).
This quote is relevant in the flurry of public statements from the spokespeople of the local religious community. The outpouring of comments was triggered by the suspicion that books on sale at a foremost retailer were the outworkings of the Ministry of Education.
The forceful denial by the Minister appeared not to quell the fears—a symptom of general societal distrust. Viewing several circulating social media videos reflecting Governor Ron DeSantis’ and Disney’s battle was depressing.
One such viral video had a verifiable falsehood about a key Disney executive. Some of us still have not learnt that some viral videos are designed to plumb and evoke fear.
In April 2018, the courts in Trinidad and Tobago ruled unconstitutional the law that criminalised same-sex intimacy. In August 2018, Justice Peter Jamadar, chair of the Judicial Education Institute, spoke to the introduction of a Gender Protocol, enabling the training of judicial officers and staff that would aid in the removal of “a lot of bias, lot of gaps, a lot of stereotypes”.
He is reported as noting that “many persons cannot tell the difference between sex and gender. Sex is determined at birth, but gender is a social construct” and that failure to note the biases “will interfere with how we do our work.”
The goalpost had shifted.
MFO Social Values Survey (September 2018) revealed that the country was in flux concerning its norms. This finding was unsurprising, with the 2011 Census data showing a dramatic rise in the “Nones” religious group (12%).
While four in five persons (83%) surveyed reported strongly disagreeing with the legalisation of same-sex relationships, their proposed behaviour in practical scenarios showed that this is significantly reduced by a third.
This tolerance was propelled by the possession of higher education by the young. There is a gap between what we say and what we will do.
Surprisingly, the most acceptable issue for the country was the “teaching of sex education at the primary school level” with support by two-thirds of the respondents. That posture is inconsistent with our purported conservative nature.
The report reflected the turmoil in our society and the possible resultant fallout.
Sex education is inevitable. Our children collect information and misinformation from peers, social media, movies, and television. What is required is perspective.
Who is to do this? Who will explain to our children their budding sexuality? How do we expect them to manage the bewildering body changes?
Our parents, for the most part, do not. It is often taboo in our churches, so many fall back on peers and their furtive discourses: a mix of bravado and misinformation.
The Bible contains graphic accounts about menstruation, masturbation, fornication, and prostitution, but do we use them to educate our young people? Where are the study papers and the teaching for our young—bombarded by distorted views of sex daily?
Are we expecting our young people to live in a sanitised bubble? Why not educate them?
We must recognise that the “Nones” could soon become our third-largest religious group. This rise will influence our values.
Will we engage each other respectfully? Will we focus on facts and not myths?
Our institutions and politicians should not repeat the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)’s October 2022 error in Barbados. The Bank apologised, but such actions broke trust.
As part of a pre-test on Computer Science for students in their first year of high school, students were quizzed on their sexuality, gender identity, substance use and abuse, and personal information about their parents. The Education Ministry had not approved those questions.
“What’s the justification for including those health questions and those questions having to do with gender identity and all of that?” asked the chair of The UWI Ethics Review Committee.
In October 2010, there were interactions between the Hospital Christian Fellowship and certain members of CAISO. One can only hope that the example of the late Colin Robinson, with his thoughtful, well-informed positions, will be adopted by his successors.
Some unhelpful polarisation had occurred, judging from reports and comments on a Facebook page. We need to move to substantial discussions to help our young.
Sex education is not the same as sex experimentation, which happens whether we want to admit it or not. Knowing about Covid-19 early helped us to act wisely. The same is true for our children and sex education.
Parents and the church have to instruct and nurture our children. The church cannot be silent, hostile, or permissive. It should provide ethical perspectives.
It should consider the bullied children that the NGO, Silver Lining, seeks to help. There is no room for skirting these moral and significant issues.