Before I came to Jamaica, I read there were a lot of churches on this small island and, boy, they weren’t wrong; the Guinness Book of Records states that Jamaica has more churches per square mile than anywhere in the world other than the Vatican. They range from tiny little churches in small communities like the one above, to pretty Victorian stone chapels that might have been transplanted from England, to large, modern open-air domes full of swaying arms and bodies. On a Sunday, its a common sight to see older ladies in their Sabbath best: conservative mid-calf dresses, sensible shoes, fancy hats and handbags on their forearms. Running ahead are their adorable grandchildren, all dressed up in lacey fineness with matching shoes and ribbons. I want to take their pictures but its not appropriate. It can feel like I just stepped back into 1950. The children are adorable but something in me feels uncomfortable….I think it is the religious messaging I see.
Unlike most other Caribbean nations, the vast majority of Jamaican Christians are Protestant, with a relatively high percentage being from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, nearly a fifth of the entire country—18.5 percent—is evangelical and another 11 percent is Pentecostal and growing rapidly.
I am not a religious person, although I do respect the religious beliefs of others. But these statistics explain a lot of about the “fire and brimstone” religious messages that are so common here.
I don’t particularly like the warnings of a vengeful God that I see relayed everywhere. I don’t like the hateful LGBT messages published in the newspapers. The church and its warning to sinners show up everywhere in daily life.
Books stores I’ve visited seem to sell mainly religious books. There are religious pamphlets on every store counter. Its all a bit much for my secular eye and I like to believe that if there is a God, it is a loving one. I know there are religious groups here that do so much to help those in need, but I don’t see them, they are in areas deemed too unsafe for me to visit. So what is visible to me is religious fury and I don’t like it.