When did Ge­orge Wil­liam Gor­don be­come a re­vival­ist?

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Devon Dick Rev Devon Dick is pas­tor of the Boule­vard Bap­tist Church in St An­drew. He is au­thor of ‘The Cross and the Ma­chete’, and ‘Re­bel­lion to Riot’. Send feed­back to col­umns@ glean­erjm.com.

RE­CENTLY, AFTER giv­ing a lec­ture at the In­sti­tute of Ja­maica (IOJ) about the re­li­gious be­liefs and prac­tices that in­flu­enced the 1865 Mo­rant Bay Up­ris­ing, I was in­vited to view the ex­hi­bi­tion.

One would have thought that since I made some ob­ser­va­tions in 2015 about the nega­tive por­trayal of Na­tional Hero Paul Bogle, and had a meet­ing with of­fi­cials of the IOJ, that changes would have been made to the ex­hi­bi­tion. How­ever, they still had Na­tional Hero Ge­orge Wil­liam Gor­don as a ‘Re­vival­ist at heart.’

Ed­ward Un­der­hill, in the bi­og­ra­phy of James Phillippo (1881), re­marked that Gor­don was bap­tised in De­cem­ber 1861 by Phillippo, English Bap­tist mis­sion­ary. Gor­don was com­mis­sioned by Phillippo to start In­de­pen­dent causes. He, along with Paul Bogle, his part­ner in Chris­tian min­istry and cam­paign man­ager, started Na­tive Bap­tist churches.

There were at least a dozen Na­tive Bap­tist churches in St Thomas in the East. The Na­tive Bap­tist churches were well or­gan­ised with rules, reg­u­la­tions and a lead­er­ship struc­ture. They es­tab­lished schools and sup­ported wor­thy an­ti­slav­ery causes. Gor­don cred­ited his vic­tory to the work and sup­port of Na­tive Bap­tists and not re­vival­ists.

Where is the ev­i­dence of Gor­don be­ing a re­vival­ist? Fur­ther­more, how did the writ­ers of the ex­hi­bi­tion know what was in the heart of Gor­don? One was taught that it is only God who knows the heart. Thank­fully, on the same day that I vis­ited the ex­hi­bi­tion, there was a JIS pro­gramme stat­ing that Paul Bogle was a Bap­tist dea­con.

In ad­di­tion, the ex­hi­bi­tion claimed that the 1865 pro­test­ers took an oath by drink­ing ‘rum, gun­pow­der and blood’. Where did they get this in­for­ma­tion from? Not even Clin­ton Hut­ton, po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist, makes such state­ment in his 2015 book. Hut­ton quotes a po­lice­man whose pa­pers were laid by Gov­er­nor Ed­ward Eyre as wit­ness­ing a con­coc­tion of rum and gun­pow­der. This po­lice­man could be termed a hos­tile wit­ness and there is no other such record. But who added the ‘blood’ to the story?

It re­minds me of that ar­ti­cle by a Gleaner colum­nist in Oc­to­ber of 2003 which said, “Vis­count El­libank ... in­sisted in old age that from sec­ond­hand in­for­ma­tion ... (that) Ne­gro women sat on the corpses and gashed them with bro­ken glasses. The men opened the skulls, scooped out the brains into cal­abashes, mixed them with rum and drank the mix­ture in the Bap­tist Chapel . ... ” Bogle and his fel­low Na­tive Bap­tists were de­picted as rum-drink­ing can­ni­bals based on se­cond-hand in­for­ma­tion!


There seems to be an at­tempt to re­write our his­tory and side­line Chris­tian­ity. Per­sons want to make it seem as if Chris­tian­ity was not a ma­jor mo­ti­va­tion in in­spir­ing the na­ture and scope of the protest move­ments, whether of 1831 or 1865. In ad­di­tion, Bogle and Gor­don are not be­ing cred­ited with the in­tel­lec­tual abil­ity to un­der­stand God and in­ter­pret the Scrip­tures dif­fer­ently from how they were taught by the mis­sion­ar­ies. Gor­don and Bogle could read for them­selves and they re­jected the prej­u­dice and short­sight­ed­ness of the mis­sion­ar­ies’ un­der­stand­ing of God, and con­se­quently started Na­tive Bap­tist churches.

There was also an at­tempt to claim that these protest move­ments were Mus­lim in char­ac­ter when there was no ev­i­dence of the use of Mus­lim sym­bols, such as amulets, clothes, prayers and pas­sages from the Ko­ran. In the 1865 Up­ris­ing, no ev­i­dence emerged from the tri­als, their let­ters or the JRC Re­port, that any­one was a Mus­lim.

There is hope for the IOJ, in that, with the re­turn of Vi­vian Craw­ford as ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor we will get ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion on Gor­don, Bogle and the Na­tive Bap­tists.

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