I’ve been reflecting a lot about what I believe, and why I believe what I do. I don’t think I could trust another who has not been through this process. Because, if you don’t know why you stand for something, then there’s someone you’re fooling–either yourself or someone else.
I am not having a crisis of faith, but I’ve had to reexamine it, in light of some recent events. Here, I’ll merely focus on Trinidad & Tobago’s carnival celebration this past February.
Carnival is a five day street party (though officially two days) in Trinidad, and the largest annual event in the country. Having just moved here a few months prior, I made it my mission to see different aspects of it. I was convinced that it would give me deeper insight into the culture and history of the people and nation.
Long story short, it did. It was fantastic, seeing the city come alive in preparation and with people. The electric feeling of excitement in the air. The academic conversations it sparked. Also, the more superficial conversations it sparked.
Some of my Christian friends, however, did not approve of my methods, and it turned into a situation where I was led second-guess myself.
The point is this, Christians in Trinidad and in the wider Caribbean shun carnival because of what it ‘represents’ and what goes around it and out of it. I use quotation marks because I acknowledge the dualistic nature of the event. Firstly, it began as a celebration for the freed enslaved to celebrate their emancipation from the British colonial masters. Over time, it has become an outlet for mainstream media to feature music, for liquor companies to make money, and for ordinary people from near and far to dress scantily and carry on in the streets with their “baddest behavior.”
Bad things follow carnival. Just this year, a beloved Japanese tourist was found dead in her costume just days after the event. People get alcohol poisoning. Men and women alike cheat on their partners, fueled by too many drinks and the general sexuality of the event. Thieving rises. Prostitution rises. Unplanned-for babies are conceived.
Yes, indeed, I understand clearly why the Christians flee. Why they condemn.
However, I feel another point just as strongly: it is possible to enjoy and take part in carnival without subscribing to any (most) of those things. I had a really great time meeting new people, observing the costumes, listening to the music, and understanding that sexuality is an inherent part of the culture of the African diaspora.
I have my faith, but I am also a scholar and a traveller. I have learned not to condemn something that I do not understand. I have learned to observe and question. I know how to research (and I intend to do more of it). And I have learned, also, to have a good time without compromising my own principles. There is more to the story, of course, but I will not go into excessive detail about it. It isn’t necessary.
At the end of all of it, I have this understanding about myself, and I’m okay that it will offend some or make them uncomfortable. This is what I believe for myself.