MUCH that masquerades or passes for patriotism at home and abroad is counterfeit, sometimes jingoistic and bellicose or, alternatively, saccharine and suffused with empty romanticism and gaudy nostalgia.
A nationalism built on contempt for foreigners, the exclusion of minorities within one’s homeland, or a conceited majoritarianism that reviles others, is not genuine patriotism and love of country.
By example, the white Christian nationalism that has coursed through the often sclerotic veins of the United States of America from its inception is constructed on an exclusivist nationalism that has demonised and brutalised native people, slaves, women, non-Christians, religious and other minorities, and gays and lesbians.
Genuine patriots, like the women’s rights advocate, suffragist and abolitionist Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), summoned and cajoled America to be more beautiful, democratic and just.
The late presidential aspirant, diplomat and Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson insisted: “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
Genuine patriotism includes constructive, intelligent and informed criticism, which is a form of hope, calling a people to a better self, to higher ground, and in the theology of the Hebrew Prophets, to righteousness.
In Hosea 4:1, the prophet instructs: “Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: ‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.’ “
The Hebrew Prophets railed against idolatry, injustice and Israel’s covenant failure. Amos (5:24) declared: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Rev. CB Moss is a genuine patriot who, in the prophetic tradition, has for decades critiqued and called The Bahamas to greater righteousness and social justice, including for the poor and marginaliszed.
He has analysed and spoken movingly and powerfully on the roots of crime, violence, social dysfunction, and incivility. As head of Bahamas Against Crime he begged national leaders to invest more in social intervention and rehabilitative services.
A 2014 Tribune story reported: “Bahamian leaders in every sector of society failed to address crime warnings nearly ten years ago, according to Rev Dr CB Moss, who said the country was “reaping the bitter fruits of our neglect”.
“Rev Moss, President of the Bain and Grants Town Advancement Association (BGTAA), said anti-crime initiatives were summarily dismissed with an overriding sentiment that crime was bound to specific areas and only affected criminals.
“He called for leaders to ‘collectively acknowledge our failure, ask God for forgiveness, unite, and then try and resolve the problem’.
“‘It was in the year 2005 when Freddy Munnings Jr said it to me,’ said Rev Moss. ‘We were talking about the condition of the society as it relates to crime, we discussed the fact that because we are on the ground and operate with all parts of society, we were aware of the impending crime crisis.’”
Unlike most of his religious colleagues, he opposes the death penalty on moral, theological and sociological grounds. He does not see capital punishment as a deterrent and believes it represents a failure by society. He does not believe that the state should be in the business of killing.
He prefers restorative over retributive “justice”, redemption over damnation!
As a Christian and the Founding Pastor in 1983 of Mount Olive Baptist Church, located on Meadow and Augusta Streets in Bain Town, Rev Moss knows that we are imperfect and sinful beings, and that we are all in need of redemption and salvific grace as individuals and as a people.
From the front steps of Mount Olive, where he offered counsel, light and comfort, to his offices, and his walks in the surrounding community, Rev. Moss touched the hearts and souls of many the elites often ignore or manipulate for votes at election time, while repeatedly failing them in office.
Former Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes, a friend and fellow patriot, recalled: “Rev CB Moss has been for many years a devoted servant of God and his people here in The Bahamas.
“He has extraordinary insight into the social problems negatively affecting Bahamian society and some of the things that should be done to alleviate them. I was privileged to discuss these with my friend when he visited with us at Government House.
“I remember one conversation when I asked him if the violence then breaking out among some of our young men would soon run its course and dissipate. His prescient answer was that there would be much more to come barring adequate intervention.”
When he demitted office in 2014, Sir Arthur, informed and moved by the work and advocacy of Rev Moss, offered this reflection: “We must also keep faith with the next generation by facing up to the challenges which threaten to degrade our social culture.
“We are witnessing these days a dumbing down, a coarsening and a vulgarization in sectors of western society, elements of which are instantaneously transmitted around the world.
“Incivility and the debasing of social culture and habits, together with some structural weaknesses in our own society, threatens us with what I believe is a perfect storm of social disorder in our country. We ignore or underestimate this toxic concoction to our peril and the peril of future generations.”
Rev Moss has worked in banking and as a consultant. But his is a pastor’s and advocate’s heart. He has devoted his energies to many civic and community organizations, including to those dedicated to the preservation and commemoration of Bahamian history and heritage.
For decades he advocated for a Majority Rule Day holiday, which was finally realised. This past holiday he took ill at a church service commemorating this milestone. Happily, he survived. It is with fondness and gratitude that many came out in prayer and celebration to pay tribute to him a few weeks ago.
This columnist, like many others, is grateful for the devoted patriotism and prophetic mission of Rev. Moss, whose love of God and country have been made manifest in his witness and testimony to the dignity of all people.
Thank you to Pastor Moss and his devoted wife, Francisca, a woman of grace and compassion, who has also made her many contributions to The Bahamas.
(Front Porch is now available in podcast on The Tribune website under the Editorial Section).