When Her Excellency Paula Mae Weekes released her Independence Day greetings to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary, she started the message with a quote from the Book of Jeremiah of the Old Testament in the Bible. As stated by Her Excellency, while quoting Jeremiah 6:16, she said “Fellow Citizens, Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” And, interestingly, she would use this quote in such context for several reasons, not the least of which is as the Head of State of a polytheistic society, for this self-proclaimed Pollyanna to be constantly prescribing Bible scripture as the sole remedy to our deluge of problems might make any non-Christian wonder if we are truly free of the Colonial philosophy which we’ve been celebrating for the past six decades.
That said, anyone familiar with the Book of Jeremiah would know that Old Testament sermons are usually filled with cautionary tales which detail the wrath and vengeance of God in a manner that is absent in the New Testament. However, while the Old Testament usually ascribes laws handed down from God for his worshippers to follow, it is very light on moral teaching and the Book of Jeremiah is no different. This is why it struck me as odd that the President would choose a passage from Jeremiah of all places to preach morality to the citizens of this country, and sure enough, I found that Her Excellency deliberately left out the most crucial part of the teaching to fit her own needs. As quoted in the Bible, the Prophet Jeremiah is relaying information provided to him by God, and verse Chapter 6, verse 16 actually reads as follows:
This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, “We will not walk in it.”
You see, the Book of Jeremiah is meant as an explanation of why the Jews had been forced to relocate to Babylon and the reason presented was due to the Pagan worship which had been occurring in Israel prior. As such, when the Prophet Jeremiah was transcribed by his scribe, his teachings were meant to dissuade future generations from engaging in similar Pagan activity lest they succumb to God’s wrath. Jeremiah Chapter 6 details the warnings which God had given to the Jews prior to their exile, but as it went unheeded the end of verse 16 serves as the summary thesis for the story up to that point. To leave out the final line demonstrating the rejection of God’s teaching is to miss the entire point of the lesson altogether.
But the reason I decided to pen this missive isn’t to correct Her Excellency for misremembering her Sunday school teachings, but rather a more grievous error that emphasizes the direction that all arms of the State have adopted since PNM took government in 2015. And that is because on the day that this greeting was published for all citizens to read, the Hindu community had only one day prior begun celebrating Ganesh Chathurthi, one of the most revered events in the Hindu calendar, and yet there was no mention of this in the President’s message. And I’m not merely mentioning this because it would have been a nice gesture for the President to recognize a religious event celebrated by tens of thousands of citizens, but because it would have fit the theme of her message in a more meaningful manner than the misquoted Bible scripture.
For those who might not be aware, Ganesh is known as Vignaharan of the Remover of Obstacles, and during Ganesh Chathurthi it is said that those who worship him would have their obstacles removed. As a Head of State wrestling with a nation spiraling out of control, you would think that if that person was seeking spiritual guidance, she might consider all faiths and cultures, and what their teachings might be able to offer, rather than continue to impose her theology upon one of the most diverse societies in the world. This entire affair harkens back to a time when the Government and President took no issue in rewarding our most revered citizens with the Trinity Cross, despite their own ethnic or religious persuasion. Unlike God and Jeremiah in the Old Testament, however, it appears that whenever this President sets out a path for those under her charge, she isn’t willing to entertain the idea that the response from those who do not ascribe to her religion might respond by saying “We will not walk in it!”
Ravi Balgobin Maharaj