August 15, 2012, St. John’s, Antigua–Two local clergymen have condemned the growing trend of sexually explicit and violent lyrics, with both blaming it squarely on the erosion of society’s moral standards.
But while Reverend Kingsley Lewis does not believe censorship or total banning of such material would work, Pastor Clifford Haynes, who sees the problem as a deep-rooted one, said censorship should not be sidestepped.
There has been heightened discussion on the issue in recent weeks following the release of a controversial song Kick Een She Back Doh by Burning Flames’ founding member Toriano “Onyan” Edwards.
The two said, contrary to the charges that the clergy has been silent, many churches have been speaking to the issue for years.
Reverend Lewis, who addressed the issue in the Spring Gardens Moravian Church for Emancipation Day, told OBSERVER Media, “I dealt with it in the context of emancipation and freedom and I personally think that it is not the direction we ought to be going in as a society.”
He made it clear he is not supportive of the lyrics.
“I think the problem is not about banning. Banning does not solve the problem. That is the way the slave masters would have done it; they banned and outlawed when they couldn’t find other methods.”
According to the minister of 37 years, parents need to do better with their parenting and society, including the church, needs to rise up to get to the root of the problem.
“Parents need to take their responsibility more seriously in terms of their own child-rearing and setting standards for their children, training their minds and that sort of thing so that they would eventually find some of these things repugnant, but banning it does nothing really,” Lewis said.
The Moravian cleric noted that many broadcasting commissions across the world have failed to clean up the airwaves and, locally, society has allowed lawlessness to prevail.
“If one goes back, one can find from the Burning Flames, a number of calypsos over the years which have been, to my mind, outside of what ought to be acceptable. But generally people didn’t care. A few voices were raised over the years but I suppose it is the sensitive thing that women are being brought down now,” Lewis said.
In applauding OBSERVER Media’s decision not to play the song, the reverend said, “Society needs to rise up against it. I think we have become too tolerant of a lot of things and it is not something we have arrived at overnight and to my mind I believe it will take a long time to override it.”
He said the church, the school, parents and other institutions have a responsibility to nurture society but from his observation people have fallen back on caring.
Pastor Haynes on the other hand, a clergyman since 1987, said from a spiritual standpoint, music has its spiritual connection as it came into being to worship God.
Haynes, who hosts the programme Youth and Crime, Youth in Crisis and the Nation at the Crossroad on ZDK Radio, said he is in line with the people calling for censorship of songs and even movies with explicit content.
“It is words that stem from thoughts, it aggravates thoughts and imagination and it comes into being. It is just like a person who watches pornography and after a while you will want to act on what you see,” he said.
Pastor Haynes, who fellowships with the Ambassadors of Christ, said he too heard the lyrics of Onyan’s song and had to fight to replace the catchy tune with Godly thoughts.
He said many may not find it as easy to ignore the song or block out the lyrics from their thoughts hence something must be done to protect society.
“I think the government, all the authorities, really need to do something to clean up the whole act because from a moral standpoint it is just not good enough. They need to screen it, check and see whether it is worthwhile playing on the airwaves,” Haynes said.
As a former DJ and MC prior to joining the clergy, Haynes said he has witnessed the effects music have on people.
“I have played music with seven road sets, at five discos and sang in three bands and I would tell people what to do in a dancehall and they would do it, so I know about these things. They’re sexually explicit and dancing can arouse a whole lot of passion,” he said.
He said Burning Flames and other song writers or producers are also aware of the power of music because they too have witnessed how people react to the lyrics.
The pastor cited a situation that occurred during carnival years ago when an artiste gave instructions to a crowd to “jump in the pond” and someone followed and drowned.
“You are role models, messengers, so you have to be careful what you put out there. (Music) has tremendous power. I can tell you music can move you to do things especially when coupled with other spirits like alcohol and wine,” he said.
On the other hand, pastor Hezekiah Farrell told yesterday’s Voice of The People the problem is one more for the government.
“I’m responsible for the spiritual side of this debate, God never called the church to speak out on issues because if you do every time somebody coughs loud you’ll react … and the church is reacting.
“They are waiting until something sounds terrible then they get all religious and super high. That’s not the way it works so I have nothing to say regarding lyrics. The authorities are the ones in place to take care of that. The government, they are responsible for that, not the church. I am not in the debate with the lyrics because this has been going on for eternity and it will never stop.”
Earlier this month the lobby group, Women Against Rape (WAR), called on the authorities to ban the Kick een She back Doh song.
More recently, that group and several others got together and decided to prepare a draft policy on how to clean up the media. They said they plan to complete the draft shortly and put it to government for consideration.