Some Christian Pentecostal preachers show contempt for other faiths
Stabroek News
October 15, 2001

Dear Editor,

I must confess to sucking my teeth in frustration whilst reading Emile Mervin's response to one of my earlier letters. It is truly amazing; this basic mindset of seeing things only the way you want to see them. And it is very tiresome to deal with the unethical practice of some who deliberately misconstrue statements and twist words to achieve their own objectives.

But before I deal with the thrust of Mervin's letter, which reflected a rather myopic interpretation of my position, might I suggest he read Fr. Chadwick's contribution to the press (SN Oct 11th)? Fr. Chadwick portrayed a very enlightened and modern view of the Christian faith. He expressed the kind of evolved rationality so needed in this time of sickening fundamentalism.

I was initially inclined to ignore Mervin's letter. Sitting in his home in the United States, I doubt he has any direct knowledge about the religious problems and issues facing the rural communities in Guyana. Mervin writes simply because he wants to defend the clique to which he belongs. On what authority can he deny that some preachers often employ aggressive, divisive and unwholesome methods in their attempts to get others to join their sects? Is he so intimate with all these people that he can personally vouch for their behaviour and character even though he is thousands of miles away?

Mervin's allegation that I am urging the government to "stop specific Christian practices" is downright spurious. Can he say exactly where in my letter I advocated such action? Apparently it did not suit his purpose to note my declaration that "the government must make clear that there is freedom of worship for all religions in Guyana."

Mervin's interpretation of my letter demonstrates his need to be a bit more broad- minded and also his need to practise restraint before rushing to judgement.

Anyway, below is a brief synopsis of how I believe most people, who do not suffer from preconceptions, interpreted my call for the government to mediate in this affair.

There is clearly a growing animosity between some Christian Pentecostal preachers and some members of other religious faiths. The situation is becoming tense mostly because some Christian groups find it easier to use contempt for other's beliefs rather than the grace of their God to "win" converts.

If the tension escalates, religious intolerance, bigotry and hate would become the order of the day and experience has shown that the irrational behaviour which accompanies such thinking can move citizens to "burn tyres and rip up streets."

Before it reaches this stage, I called on the government to reiterate the values of religious plurality enshrined in the Constitution. I believe this would do two things:

1. It will remind Christians that others have a legal right to practise, without ridicule, the religion of their choice and it will moderate the behaviour of some preachers.

2. It will allow non- Christians to realise that the constitution guarantees Christians the right to practise their faith which includes decent proselytizing. Such an understanding, I believe, could have a calming effect on everyone.

I see honour in my position, but Mervin - whom, as we shall discover, has his own axe to grind - sees something else. He says my approach to the problem represents "wishful thinking." Perhaps. After all, he knows the Christian mindset better than I do.

Despite the agnostic themes of my letters, Mervin tried to liken my views to that of the overly zealous and fanatical religious cleric, Osama bin Laden. Imagine casting me in a religious role! Mervin then used this truly ridiculous analogy to complete his real agenda; he insinuated to local newspaper editors that they should take away my freedom of expression in the same manner that bin Laden is being censored in the US! Is this guy for real?

The remainder of Mervin's letter was taken up with his preaching; that I'll ignore. However, if he feels it would help his cause for us to debate fundamentalist logic (or lack thereof) in the press he should know that I am ready, as his fellow Americans would say, to "play ball."

Mervin took the moral high ground to end his letter saying that it is good that government recognises the right for "all religions to co-exist." But then, he betrays his lack of objectivity stating that Christians have a "relationship with God" while others have only a "ritual about God."

Then to add insult to injury he said that people should not be forced to abandon "ungodly practises in order to be Christian." In other words if you're not a "Christian" then you're "ungodly." This is exactly the kind of sanctimonious nonsense that creates resentment and hostility.

Really, sometimes you can't help but wonder if hypocrisy, lack of tactfulness and the ability to be offensive are traits that are built into some people's faith.

Yours faithfully,

Justin DeFreitas