By Roger Marshall*
I believe Christians have always been involved in the more benign aspects of the Crop-Over Festival in Barbados such as Folk concerts, art and craft, and photographic exhibitions etc.
However, since the advent of The Walk Holy Outreach Kadooment Band, with its stated purpose to “see the Body of Christ take dominion in culture” (Holy Jump, Daily Nation, May 28th, 2002, p. 32) the contentious question in Christian circles is: Should Christians be involved in the Carnival aspects of Crop-Over?
As we reflect on this issue let us consider the following:
What is Carnival?
The Wikipedia Free Online Encyclopedia explains:
“Carnival is traditionally a Roman Catholic and, to a lesser extent, Christian Orthodox celebration. Most Protestant and non-Christian areas do not celebrate it, with some Fundamentalist Protestant groups condemning the celebration.
“The origin of the name “Carnival” is unclear as there are several theories. The most commonly known theory states that the name comes from the Italian carne- or carnovale, from Latin carnem (meat) + levare (lighten or raise), literally “to remove the meat” or “stop eating meat”. It has also been claimed that it comes from the Latin words caro (meat) and vale (farewell), hence “Farewell to meat”
“Another theory states that it originates from the Latin carrus navalis, which was some kind of Greek cart carrying a statue of a god in a religious procession at the annual festivities in honor of the god Apollo.
“One theory is that this festival came from Saturnalia, Saturn’s festival, and Lupercalia. In the later Roman period, these festivals were characterized by wanton raillery [a key feature of seberal modern calypsoes] and unbridled freedom, and were in a manner a temporary subversion of civil order. Historians think that this spirit was transmitted to the Carnival.
“Another theory, most prominent in Switzerland, probably predates Christianity. The festival was linked to the beginning of spring, and the idea behind Carnival was to scare evil spirits away. This is usually done with processions, where the participants wore horrible masks, and where everyone that could would make loud noises and music with whatever was available.”
African spiritistic Influences
According to an article posted on Caribbean Education Online: “The use of masks had special meaning for the slaves [in Trinidad where Carnival was introduced around 1785] because for many African peoples, masking is widely used in their rituals for the dead. Obviously banned from the masked balls of the French, the slaves would hold their own little carnivals in their backyards — using their own rituals and folklore, but also imitating their masters’ behaviour at the masked balls.
“Carnival traditions also borrow from the African tradition of putting together natural objects (bones, grasses, beads, shells, fabric) to create a piece of sculpture, a mask, or costume — with each object or combination of objects representing a certain idea or spiritual force.”
Can Crop-Over be Compared to ancient Biblical Jewish feasts?
Some Christians are seeking to justify their partaking in the Kadooment Day carnival aspect of Crop-Over by claiming that it is akin to ancient Biblical Jewish feasts such as the Feast of Passover.
For example, during a July 21st , 2004, broadcast of Gospel 790’s Talk About call-in programme, Marcia Weeks (the creator of the Walk Holy Band) said: “In the feast of the passover the people had music, they danced etc. So we can and should do the same in Crop-Over.”
Such comparisons between Crop-Over’s Grand Kadooment and ancient Biblical Jewish feasts has long been claimed by such persons as Roman Catholic clerics Father Harcourt Blackette and Father Clement Paul. However, in reality no such comparrison exists. As the Compact Bible Dictionary observes, Jewish feasts “were the sacred [i.e. consecrated, hallowed and sanctified not sacrilegious, blasphemous and profane] festivals of Judaism which were occasions of public worship” (Compact Bible Dictionary, © 1967 by Zondervan Publishing House, p. 173).
Furthermore, as for dancing in these festivals, the contrasts are stark between the pagan-oriented festivities of Grand Kadooment and the Biblical Jewish festivals. As James M. Freeman points out in his book Manners and Customs of the Bible “Dancing was performed at first on sacred occasions only…Among the Hebrews it was joined with sacred song, and was usually participated in by the women only. When men danced it was in companies separate from the women, promiscuous dancing not being practiced” (Manners and Customs of the Bible © 1996 by Whitaker House, p.67).
Changing the atmosphere of Kadooment Day or giving it their Blessing?
Some of the chief advocates of the Walk Holy Band and the Experience Calypso Tent are on record as saying that their presence in Crop-Over and its Kdooment Day finale is to change the atmosphere of the festival.
For example, in an interview during a July 21st, 2004, broadcast of Gospel 790s Talk About call-in programme, Marcia Weekes, speaking of their aim and purpose, said: “…every time you clap, every time you shout, every time you stomp your feet [in the band] you are changing the atmosphere. We are sending spiritual missiles [into the atmosphere].” (emphasis added).
An advertisement which invited Christians to join the Walk Holy Band in the 2004 Kadooment Day parade said that the aim of the band was to “Plant the palm of God on the Crop-Over celebration.” Potential patrons were encouraged to join them “As they change the atmosphere on Kadooment Day through worship.” (emphasis added).
Similarly, those who attended the 2004 Pic-O-De-Crop Semifinals were told to wear red as they were “going to wash the place[the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium] in the blood of Jesus.” And as Lady Richard said: “shake the atmosphere.”
However, a cursory examination of news reports of the Kadooment Day activities of the 2004 Crop-Over festival revealed everything but a changed atmosphere.
An article in the Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, edition of the Daily Nation, entitled: Things get ouit of control said: “Alchohol flowed in abundance, releasing the inhibitions of the revellers who were seen wukking-up against walls, utility posts, the back of trucks, and even down on the road itself.” (Daily Nation, August 3rd, 2004, p.7).
Another article entitled: Downhill revelery said: “The first band to chip out of the Styadium was the Walk Holy band…The Christian band performed their choreographed moves outside Glendairy Prison, waving their hands in time to the music.
“With no wild gyrating or wukking up, the members, in their silver and white or red costumes, stopped along the way preaching the Word of God.
“In contrast, however, members of the Blue Box Cart band cast their inhibitions aside and let all hang out. Any lawman was fair game.” (Daily Nation, August 3rd, 2004, p.6).
The Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, edition of the Barbados Advocate said pretty much the same thing. An article entitled: Kadooment Day…a spectacle of colours, great performers said: “It was party time for most Barbadians and visitors alike who left their worries behind and were ‘doing their stuff’ to the sounds of Square One Band, Timmy, ‘Worser than Dat’ and Kros Fyah ‘Sugarcane’…But if that was not enough, the Blue Box Cart Band was definitely ‘Outta Control’ with over 800 strong revellers and its seven sections…
“The Power x 4 Odyssey 2004 Band had revellers and spectators ‘wukking up’ to “Who got the rubber waist”. It was fun and more fun for the thousands who stood along Bank Hall as they attempted to join the Band and to out do the revellers to see who really had the rubber waist” (Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, p.13).
Two years later on, in the 2006 festival, change in the atmosphere of Grand Kadooment is still unforthcoming as evidenced from an article entitled: Colourful wind-down which appeared in the Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, edition of the Daily Nation. The article reported “A Massive garden party. This was the atmosphere on Spring Garden yesterday as the more than 12,000 jumpers from the 23 costumed bands created a mood which saw hundreds of un-registered party animals join in the merriment…as thousands of frenzied revellers wined, “grined” or “pelted waist” for the last lap in Crop-Over 2K6” (Colourful wind-down, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 23).
The Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, edition of The Barbados Advocate observed that “For almost six hours waistlines gyrated, bodies jumped and arms waving flags were held high to the popular tunes of the season and the overall excitement of the Barbados National Terminal Company Limited Grand Kadooment” (Crop Over Climax, The Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, front page).
Among the popular tunes of the 2006 Crop-Over season was Contone’s Car Brek Down, a highly sexually suggestive song which won him the Star Com Network’s People’s Monarch Competition of that year! The song placed second in the Kadooment Day Road March competition, as the second most played song on the road to Spring Garden. The song was played 15 times while the winning song, Barry Chandler’s Flames, bearly won-out by being played 18 times.
Additionally, The Barbados Advocate observed that “As the BNTCL Grand Kadooment gets more organised and sophisticated, in a similar vein, the costumes of the revellers get ‘skimpier’.
“Such costumes were especially evident yesterday as thousands of revellers took to the streets…the over 10,000 revellers hit the streets for the final lap to the Spring Garden Highway in sweat, a sea of colours and gyrating to the pulsating sounds of Contone’s ‘My Car Brek Down’, and Peter Ram’s ‘I want a woman by my side’, to name a few”(Revellers wine, go down and stick at Bank Hall,The Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 6).
The Bible says: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness , but rather expose[i.e. repove or rebuke]them”(Ephesians 5:11). However, rather than changing the atmosphere of the Crop-Over Carnival activities, or taking “dominion in culture”, those involved in the Walk Holy Band are apparenly being seen by some to be just a novel addition to festivities to give it their blessing instead of rebuke. For example, the author of the article Kadooment Day…a spectacle of colours, great performers, cited earlier, regarded the Walk Holy Band as “The religious aspect of the show.” Yet another article which also appeared in the Tuesday, August 3rd,2004, edition of the Barbados Advocate entitled Fun in the sun said: “Walk Holy was the first band on the trail with their depiction of Moses leading the Israelites over the Red Sea as they blessed the morning’s proceedings” (Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004, p.14, emphasis added).
During the 2006 Kadooment Day parade,the announcer of the bands at the Barbados National Stadium, introduced the Walk Holy Band as the band that was “Getting us [the Kadooment Day revellers and spectators] off to a bright start with their theme ‘Army of Light.’”( televised on CBC TV Monday August 7th , 2006, emphasis added).
Immidiately following the Walk Holy Band’s 2006 Kadooment Day performance at the National Stadium, Omawalee Stuart (a CBC TV correspondent covering the event) interviewed Mark Maynard (one of the band designers) about the band’s participation. In closing his brief interview Omawalee asked Mark: “You will continue blessing us for Crop-Over, in the festival?” Mark replied: “Yes, God willing.” (televised on CBC TV Monday August 7th , 2006, emphasis added).
The Barbados Advocate reported that Grand Kadoomet 2006 “all started with the spiritual upliftment of the Walk Holy band with its 150 members depicting the theme Army of Light” (Crop Over Climax, The Barbados Advocate, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, front page, emphasis added).
On the other hand The Daily Nation said: “The Walk Holy Band was the first to reach the Spring Garden around 12:30 p.m. and armed with rags and flags, they jumped, waved and gave thanks to God for another successful Crop-Over” (Colourful wind-down, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 23, emphasis added).
In fact the caption of a photograph in the Daily Nation which at first glance, and without the caption, could easily be mistaken as just another group of revellers at Grand Kadooment (as this author at first thought it was) read: “MEMBERS OF THE WALK HOLY BAND strutting their stuff at Eastmond Corner yesterday”(Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 16, emphasis added).
Perhaps even more telling is the 2006 Emancipation Day lecture by Barbadian cultural icon Elombe Mottley. During his lecture Mr. Mottley lauded the involvement of Roman Catholic priests Father Harcourt Blackette and Father Clement Paul, and more recently the Evangelical Christian element, in the Crop-Over calypso competition and the revelling activities of Grand Kadooment. Quoting approvingly a Trinidadian calypsonian, or someone like that, he quiped: “If priests can play mas, who is we?”
Is it possible that this line of reasoning could be the rationale behind which kaiso monarch Kid Site from Bacchanal Time calypso tent and National Cultural Foundation CEO Ian Estwick (who Errol Griffith, manager of the Experience calypso tent, said have committed their lives to Christ as a result of the Experience Calypso tent and Walk Holy Band initiatives) were actively promoting the partying aspects of the 2006 Crop-Over Festival such as CBC’s Socaholics campaighn etc. on local national TV and elsewhere, inspite of their profession of faith in Christ? In fact Mr. Estwick was reported in the local Barbadian press as “Chipping behind a truck…[as] one of the many thousands of people in yesterday’s [Saturday, August 5th] early [Foreday] morning jump-up.”(Fore-Play!, Sunday Sun, August 6th, 2006, p.15A).
In similar vain, a Daily Nation article entitled: Celebrities party on the road reported that “Kid Site may have won the calypso crown three times in a row, but yesterday was his first time revelling, choosing Ooutraje band for his initiation”( Celebrities party on the road, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p. 20). This was the same Kide Site who, on the night of winning the 2006 Pic-O-De-Crop Finals with his song ZR Driver, gave praise and thanks to the Lord for helping him to win the competition after much prayer.
Are these the type of Christians that the Walk Holy Band and Experience Calypso tent are content on spawning? I should certainly hope not. This quasi religious element in the the 2006 Crop-Over festival was further identified in an article entitled: Hear us all, LORD, written by Nation journalist Ricky Jordan, in which he stated that he was “pleasantly surprised to hear references to God in the Pic-O-De-Crop and Party Monarch competitions – amid all the talk about smut and profanity. And these references have not all been coming from the Experience tent.”
Mr. Jordan observed that: “Li’l Rick, for instance, started his performance at the East Coast Calypso Bowl last Sunday with a prayer, asking God to ‘spread yuh love pun de Party Monarch massive and help us to live in unity’…The trio of Rameses, Stylz P and Malcolm X mentioned God as well, while TC had a line giving thanks for Crop-Over in her song Till De Morning…Such a trend is undoubtedly positive, and creates a level of consciousness not always obvious in a carnival atmosphere where revelry and gay abandon predominate”( Hear us all, LORD, Weekend Nation, Friday, August 4th, 2006, p.19).
However, inspite of these references to God at the East Coast Calypso Bowl a look at an article entitled Sore sight for the eyes which appeared in the Friday, Audust 4th, edition of the Weekend Nation, showed that gay abandon still prevailed, even if only in some quarters, probably spured on by the music of some of the said performers who invoked the name of God.
The Bible warns us about people in the last days “having a form of godliness but denying its power”(2 Tim. 4: 5, NIV). It also records a strikingly similar problem among the ancient children of Israel, “When Aaron…built an altar in front of the [golden] calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.’ So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry”(Exodus 32: 5 – 6, NIV).
The Bible further records that the ancient pagan settlers of Samaria were also guilty of syncretising the worship of Yahweh with their pagan forms of worship. 2 Kings 17: 32 – 33, 41 says: “They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought…Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols…”
Christianity: A Call to Party or A Call to Repent?
During the Wednesday, June 30th,2004, morning show on Gospel 790 one Christian artiste apparently from The Experience Tent openly described one of his calypsos as a party song. And of course during the 2005 Crop-Over festival one Christian artiste, Apache, actually entered The Party Monarch Finals. The 2006 finals saw the entry of two Christians namely Sammi Jane (2005 Pic-O-De-Crop calypso finalist) and Sharon Darlington.
This latest development raises a few questions as to what our brethren are really trying to achieve?
- If these “party” songs they are singing take off in the secular arena (as I’m sure the composers, singers, and promoters would like to see happen) what can we expect if they are played at the fêtes etc.?
- What if “bumsies” instinctively “start rolling” etc. to the infectious, intoxicating and pulsating rhythms “in de party”? After all, that’s what is expected of these party songs. As one patron of the 2006 Party Monarch Finals said: “I think that the competition is called the Party Monarch competition for a reason. It is not called the Soca monarch competition as in TnT. Therefore it is a competition about the PART (sic), therefore the best PARTY songs/artists should be in the competition. It is not the road march competition so I (sic) understand that presentation etc must count …BUT popularity of the song as a party (wuk up song) should also carry weight”(source: The “BarbadosForum.bb. Telling-It-Like-It-Is”).
- Can we really expect the ungodly to come under serious conviction about their guilt in regard to sin, righteouness and judgement via the agency of the Holy Spirit, from timid, semi-religious lyrics, which are far out-weighed by the bold infectious rhythms employed?
- Since when was the Christian message a call to the world to party? On the contrary the Christian message is a call upon the world to repent.
In light of these kind of developments is it possible that people like Kid Site and Mr. Estwick, mentioned earlier, are the victims of mixed messages which (even if unintentional) makes it unclear to them as to what are the demands of God’s high and holy calling?
How completely opposite all this is to the evangelistic outreach efforts of the apostle Paul when he confronted and opposed the worship of Artemis/Diana/Cybele – the Mother Goddess of fertility worshipped in Ephesus and all Asia Minor – whose worship was conducted through the agency of many prostitute priestesses. The Wikipedia Free Online Encyclopedia points out that “In Rome [Cybele’s] priestesses led the people in orgiastic ceremonies with wild music, drumming, dancing and drink”, just like our modern carnival Crop-Over festivities. Unlike Walk Holy Outreach, Paul’s outreach in Ephesus wasn’t considered in any way to be a blessing to these kind of pagan proceedings in the worship of Diana, rather it was seen as a threat to and a sharp rebuke of the worship of the goddess.
The Bible says: “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: ‘Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’ When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ Soon the whole city was in an uproar…”(Acts 19: 23 – 29, NIV, emphasis added).
When we consider the kudos (mentioned earlier) expressed by Elombe Mottley et alia towards the Walk Holy Band and Experience tent initiatives, against the testimony of a passage of scripture like the one mentioned above, the advocates of Walk Holy (in existence for five years) and the Experience tent (in existence for two years) need to ask themselves if their “outreach” efforts has the ability to cause the million dollar carnival trade of Crop-Over to loose its “good name” among the people to whom they are ministering, turning them away from it to the gospel? Does it really have the potential to give a death blow to the modern forms of the ancient fertility goddess worship, which is such an integral part of Grand Kadooment, as it is of any carnival? In fact, if they were considered as opponents of “we Carnival” as Elombe Mottley put it in his Emancipation Day lecture, how would that cast them in the eyes of those who are now giving them kudos? These are serious questions that need to be answered.
Changing society or Changing Christians?
During a morning show aired on Thursday, July 1st, 2004, on Gospel 790 one Christian calypsonian spoke of one of his songs speaking out against bondages in society. Although he mentioned some of the bondages in our society like the Masonic Lodge etc., under prompting from the interviewer, he focused more on what he called religious bondages, which he identified as prohibitions in dress (“you can’t wear this and you can’t wear that”), places of socialisation (“you can’t go here, you can’t go there”) and of course those in bondage were those Christians who did not feel particularly comfortable or compelled to go to the Experience calypso tent. While claiming that Christians have liberty and freedom to be involved in Crop-Over, a disdain was sensed towards those brothers and sisters in Christ who refuse to be involved due to their convictions based on the Scriptures. In testimony that this was no isolated case, a similar observation was made by a local minister’s wife during a 2006 panel discussion at a local church on the topic: Should Christians be involved in Crop-Over?
Worshipping or Revelling?
While those involved in The Walk Holy Band do not consider themselves as revellers, those in the society to whom they intend to minister are seeing them as just that: revellers. For example, an article entitled: 10,000 for the road which appeared in the July 31st 2004 edition of the Saturday Sun said: “Over 10, 000 costumned revellers will make their way into the National Stadium and later join thousands more Barbadians and visitors on the road for Kadooment Day…The Kadooment bands will be lead by the Christian Walk Holy Band, now in its third year…”(10,000 for the road, Saturday Sun, July 31st 2004, p.5).
Similarly, an article entitled: Sizzling spectacle, covering the 2006 Crop-Over Kadooment Day finale, said: “The Fire was dey! Under the blazing sun, 11,000-plus revellers in 23 bands paraded before judges and thousands of spectators at the National Stadium during Grand Kadooment yesterday…the Walk Holy Outreach band crossed the track first as per usual in white, followed by a contrast in the hard-revelling Blue Box Cart band……”( Sizzling spectacle, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006, p.7).
Again attesting to this fact is a recent article written by Mr. Peter Wickham entitled: Lewd and Crude (Midweek Nation, Wed. Aug. 23, 2006, p. 8A) in which he referred to the Walk Holy Band as a “small group of revellers” who “have set an example and now provide an alternative to all those fed up with the typical mas.”
In defense of this level of involvement in the Kadooment Day parade, apostle Sonstor Peterson (who was himself involved in the 2006 Walk Holy Band presentation) said that those Christians who refuse to get involve are worried about loosing their reputation by being identified as revellers with the other masqueraders, but that this concern should not be an issue, since Jesus identified himself with prostitutes, drunkards, publicans and sinners etc. (Destiny Cadogan’s Intense radio programme aired on Gospel 790, Tuesday, August 8th, 2006). That’s what this modern self-proclaimed “apostle” says, however, in 1Corinthians chapter 11 the Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about identifying with societal practices that would tarnish their reputation and witness.
For example, the background cultural history surrounding Paul’s prohibitions to the Corinthians with regard to head dress, involved the fact that in ancient Corinth the female “sacred” prostitutes who “served” in the temple of Aphrodite shaved their heads, because of this fact Christian women were not to shave their heads or wear short hair least they too be considered to be prostitutes. Similarly, the male “sacred” prostitues wore long hair therefore Christaian men were not to wear long hair least they too be considered to be male prostitutes.
Following this principal, Christians should not be involved in the Grand Kadooment parade of costumed bands for the simple reason that they too will be classified as revellers (as they presently are) with the other masqueraders. Instead of enhancing a Christian witness, this may actually serve to further hinder it in the eyes of many in the same society that they are trying to reach. For example, devout people in the local Muslim community could find more reasons to disdain Christianity because of this type of Christian involvement in Crop-Over. In fact, this author has already personally encountered two Muslims who question the Christianity of those involed in the Walk Holy Band initiative. So neither is this initiative effectively impacting Kadooment Day for the better, as is touted by those involved, and furthermore it may be pushing some people further from the reach of the gospel.
Hath God said?
Throughout Scripture God warns us about false prophets and false prophecies. Two very revealing passages of Scripture that uncovers the source of many of these so-called prophecies are Jerimiah 14: 14 and Ezekiel 13: 1-8.
They read as follows:
“Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds’ ” (Jer. 14: 14, NIV).
“The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: Hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaches in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. Even though the LORD has not sent them, they say, ‘The LORD declares,’ and expect him to fulfill their words. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, ‘The LORD declares,’ though I have not spoken? Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ” (Ezekiel 13: 1-8, NIV).
In light of these verses of Scripture consider the following: In a July 29th, 2004 interview on Gospel 790 between radio announcer Anthony Green and Marcia Weekes, Marcia said: “There is a link between the controversy in the 2004 Crop-Over festival [i.e. the pull out of “big name” calypsonians etc.] and the rise of Christian involvement in Crop-Over the Walk Holy Kadooment Band and the Experience calypso tent.
“During a prayer meeting outside the NCF headquarters in a car God told us it will not be business as usual in this years Crop- Over Festival. [He said] ‘You have the power in your mouth to change some things…Crop-Over is going to die. It will live in another form not in the present form.’ We prayed: ‘God close there mouths don’t let them sing or record.’” This was a reference to those artistes who customarily produce and record lewd songs for the festival season. However, a cursory examination of the FM radio stations revealed that lewd songs were still recorded for Crop-Over 2004. Songs such as “Worser than Dat”, “Who got the rubber waist”, “What happens in the Party is in the party” and others played an integral roll in the 2004 Crop-Over festival celebrations.
The Bible also warns us about another type of false prophecy – one that comes to pass but leads people away from a true perspective of God. Deuteronomy 13: 1 – 5 reads: “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery; he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.” (NIV translation)
To my mind this passage above is very instructive in light of a statement made by Experience Calypso tent manager, Errol Griffith, during a recent public discussion. Mr. Griffith stated that “a prophesy [was] given to Sammi Jane by an unknown source that she would be present at the party monarch. At the stating of the prophecy Sammi Jane cried madness on the person but lo an behold she was at the party monarch finals.” (Should Christians be involved in Crop-Over? A discussion held at a local church, Thursday, August 3rd).
While this “prophecy” came true and Sammi Jane ended up performing at the Party Monarch Finals, the Bible warns us against offering worship to God in a pagan manner. Deuteronomy 12: 4, 30 – 32 reads: “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way… and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.’ You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods. See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it” (NIV translation)
The present attempt by “the Evangelical Christian element” involved in the Walk Holy Outreach and Experience tent initiatives to somehow tame the Carnival spirit in our nation is nothing new, but actually dates back hundreds of years. The Wikipedia Encyclopedia observes: “In ancient times, carnival was held to begin on 6 January and lasted until midnight of Shrove Tuesday [the day before Ash Wednesday]. Some believe that this period of license represents the kind of compromise the church tended to make with pagan festivals and that carnival really represents the Roman Saturnalia. Rome has always been the headquarters of carnival, and though some popes made efforts to stem the tide of Bacchanalian revelry…many of the popes were great patrons and promoters of carnival-keeping.
“The Catholic Church repeatedly made efforts to check the excesses of the carnival, especially in Italy. During the sixteenth century in particular a special form of the Forty Hours Prayer was instituted in many places on the Monday and Tuesday of Shrovetide, partly to draw the people away from these dangerous occasions of sin, partly to make expiation for the excesses committed.” In almost identical fasion the Walk Holy initiative involves praying with and for revellers, including would-be revellers, along the route of Grand Kadooment. In attestation to this fact is an interview conducted between the Daily Nation and Margaret Maynard, apparently someone associated with the Walk Holy Outreach. Ms. Maynard said: “I usually pray for the revellers as they pass by in the bands. They seem to like it” (Keeping God in the midst, Daily Nation, Tuesday, August 8th, p. 16). The result? Over the past 300 years nothing has changed about Carnival, it is still filled with Bacchanalian revelry, and its getting worse.
The Impact of the Reformation
The Protestant Reformation which was a return to Biblical Christianity was apparently the only movement that helped to deflate Carnival activities, although not entirely. As The Wikipedia Encyclopedia again observes: “The festive observance of Shrovetide had become far too much a part of the life of the people to be summarily discarded at the Reformation.”
Significantly though, as The Wikipedia Encyclopedia observes: “In England Shrove Tuesday is celebrated as Pancake Day but apart from the serving of pancakes and occasional pancake races and football matches, little else of Carnival survived the Reformation.”
So it would appear that the best way to impact Carnival is to stop its survival, failing that, peoples’ lives need to be impacted to the extent that they will not want to attend Carnival/Grandkadooment. That’s where biblical evangelism comes in.
The Evangelistic Methods of Jesus and the apostles
Again I suggest, as in my first article, that a return to biblical principals, commands, and wisdom is the only way that we as Christians are going to impact our society. It is for this reason that I believe we need to pay closer attention to how Jesus (the master evangeliser) and his apostles evangelised people and then take the proverbial leaf from their approach.
Jesus evangelised by teaching and preaching the word of God in “sacred” places such as the synagogues or at the temple courts where large crowds of the Jews would gather (Matt. 4: 23; 9: 35; 13: 54; 26: 55; Mk. 1: 21, 39; 12:35; Lk. 4: 14-15, 44; 21: 37; Jn. 6: 59; 7: 14, 28; 18: 20).
He also did His evangelistic work by teaching/ministering in homes (Matt.8: 14-16; 9: 10-12; 10: 11-14; Mk2: 1-2). Jesus had become so famous among the people from his powerful soul searching, teaching/preaching and healing ministry, that the crowds followed Him into the great outdoors, where He took control and used the opportunity to teach them (Matt. 4: 23-5: 1-2; 13: 1-3). In contrast the Walk Holy Band is by no means in control of the environment in Grand Kadooment.
When we turn to the Acts of the apostles we see that they, having been taught by the Master Himself, conducted a similar pattern of evangelistic ministry utilising the Jewish temple courts, the synagogues, and the homes of people (Acts 2: 42-46; 9: 17-20; 13: 5, 14-44; 14: 1; 17: 1-2, 10, 17a; 18: 4, 7, 19; 19: 8).
It is significant to note that even in pagan cities the pattern was pretty much the same. In addition to teaching and preaching in the synagogues and peoples’ homes, the calm of a riverbank and the open market place – a place generally for conducting business and open public debate – were also utilised (Acts 16: 11-15; 17: 17b). Lecture halls were also used to conduct discussions surrounding the teachings of the gospel (Acts 17: 19; 19: 9).
Of even greater significance is the fact that Scripture does not inform us of any attempts by the Apostle Paul (the mighty apostle to the pagan Gentiles) to go into any pagan temple, during worship, or pagan street festival where large crowds would also have been gathered, but where the atmosphere would not have been conducive to teaching, since the devotees minds would have been greatly distracted by the sights and sounds of pagan worship. For example, at Corinth the temple of Aphrodite boasted more than 1000 sacred prostitutes alone. The priestess-prostitutes would sexually entice the worshippers into the worship of Aphrodite, the goddess of love/sexual passion. This type of worship was engulfed with fertility rites and involved all types of lascivious dances and lude sexual acts (possibly accompanied with pulsating music rhythms like the worship of Cybele). The atmosphere was probably much like that of our modern Barbadian carnival day celebrations, when and where the minds of the patrons are greatly distracted by the prevailing orgiastic, sexually explicit, wukking-up sights and sounds of Grand Kadooment.
While some may say that this is conjecture on my part I strongly suspect that if Paul made such a bold attempt then it probably would have made “headline news” in the Bible, just like Paul’s address at the more benign meeting at Mars Hill made it into the Bible.
In short, when we look at the evangelism methods of our Lord and His apostles it appears that, for all practical purposes, they chose places that for the most part were conducive to giving and receiving godly religious instruction with minimum distraction. On another point of interest it is also noteworthy that neither Jesus nor his apostles used music and singing to proclaim the gospel message to unbelievers. The only method used was preaching/teaching. Singing was only used among believers (Matt. 26: 30; Mk. 14: 26; Acts 16: 25; 1 Cor. 14: 26; Eph. 5: 19; Col. 3; 16; Heb. 2: 10-12). For me this brings into serious question a large percentage of modern evangelical church strategies to reach the lost through music/entertainment.
In light of this I want to suggest that the way for us Christians to better reach many of the thousands of Barbadians who gather for Kadooment every year, is to reach them before they reach the Stadium and Spring Garden. The evangelical churches nation wide should be mobilised in a united evangelistic outreach programme to go through every village and household, even utilising Community centres etc. to preach and teach the gospel and its principals for living as they affect every sphere of life within our nation. As the apostle Paul did when he confronted the opposition to the gospel in his day, this kind of initiative should also involve reasoned debates at the community and even national level setting forth persuasive arguments in defence of and substantiating the truth of the gospel we preach. This kind of initiative would have to be a year round sustained effort much like what Paul did at Corinth (one of the most depraved cities of his day) and Ephesus (see Acts 18: 1-11; 19:1, 8-10).
By God’ grace, just like in Paul’s day this kind of dedicated, persistent, all year round effort should reap a harvest of souls which is the purported purpose of the Walk Holy Outreach ministries and the Experience calypso tent. Think about it.
(Stated during a local church panel discussion entitled: Should Christians be involved in Crop-Over? On tape).
*Roger Marshall is executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.