Monday, April 20, 2009

'We are fit to be loved'

AUTHORS ALL... Faith Linton (left) with twin sister Joyce Gladwell and nephew Malcolm Gladwell - photo by Dr Las Newman
by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer| Monday, April 20, 2009

The photograph kindly sent by Dr Las Newman said volumes: Faith Linton, her twin sister Joyce Gladwell and Joyce's son Malcolm, all three holding their books with complementary themes: What the Preacher Forgot to Tell me, Brown Face, Big Master and Outliers. They are sitting in the beautiful gardens of the Linton's Cranbrook Flower Forest near Runaway Bay in St Ann.

By "Joyce's son Malcolm", I mean the author Malcolm Gladwell who has been on the New York Times bestsellers list for years, having also written The Tipping Point and Blink, and who was named recently by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential Persons in the world.

But let us start with Faith Linton's book, also titled Identity and Gospel in Jamaica, exploring Genesis 1 and 2, the creation story. Her observation in her decades of conducting Bible studies at student camps, is that evangelism invariably begins with the fall of Adam and Eve and highlights first and foremost, man's sinfulness.

She believes that our problems of low self-esteem and desperation stem from the fact that our painful past has not been healed but exacerbated by projecting this negative image of ourselves. Faith maintains that it is urgent to begin teaching the Bible at its beginning: "We are God's masterpieces, made in His image and likeness. We are fit to be loved and to show God's character in our lives."

The book gives a number of case studies that illustrate the hunger for such a message and the very rapid transformation that takes place when it is fully accepted. One young woman commented, "My eyes were opened to the remarkable picture. of the dignity, beauty and wonder of man and woman, as God originally designed them."

Faith gives an example of the effectiveness of this message from New Guinea, when after teaching this message, Canadian missionary John Dekker wrote, "The atmosphere has completely changed. People have started to love one another. They have confessed their wrongs of the past - stealing. killing. They now want to make it right, not only by asking forgiveness but also by making restitution where possible."

Before you start thinking that Faith Linton is just a Bible-thumping fanatic, let me hasten to explain that she is an acknowledged intellectual, a Jamaica Centenary Scholar, and graduate in Modern Languages and Education from London University. She was raised in the quiet district of Harewood in St Catherine where her parents were primary school teachers, devout church members and community leaders (in the best sense of the word). They were contemporaries and friends of Mr and Mrs Tacius Golding, parents of PM Golding.

The happy circumstances of her education are vividly narrated by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, in its final chapter, "A Jamaican Story". He relates the unfolding of events, described by Faith as "providential". High school scholarships were offered for the parish for the first time in the country's history, just as they turned 11, and when only Faith passed, their parents scraped together their last penny to pay for Joyce's first term at St Hilda's, wondering where the next fees would be found. In a happy turn of events, an additional scholarship for the parish of St Ann was awarded to Joyce, as the student with the next highest mark.

In Joyce's book Brown Face, Big Master, which I read many years ago, she describes the colour and class prejudice of Jamaica in the 40s and 50s, and her initial struggle to fit in as a boarder at St Hilda's and later as the coloured wife of an Englishman in London. Malcolm has supported a reprinting of his mother's book, proceeds of which are being donated to the St Hilda's Development Fund.

Faith remembers her history teacher, Gloria Wesley-Gammon, staging a mock-election in the school that "released such emotion". She said there was the PNP group, the JLP, and the JDP (Jamaica Democratic Party), a party representing the elite which got the most votes.

"This was the complete opposite of what was going on in the country," Faith remarked. "It gives you a picture of St Hilda's at the time." She recalls the exciting emergence of the parties and the adoption of Universal Adult Suffrage in Jamaica in 1944. She would hear her father, Donald Nation, who later served in the House of Representatives, avidly discussing politics with the erudite Archdeacon J J Hay, their Anglican pastor.

Faith would like to see a special ministry to Jamaica's politicians, helping to open a way for more harmonious political engagement. The reminder of man's dignity and God's love in Genesis 1 and 2, should see our leaders behaving differently, she believes.

Faith Linton, who looks much younger than her 77 years, also links this acknowledgement of our dignity to respect for our mother tongue, Jamaican Creole. So logical and persuasive was she, that I completely changed my initial attitude towards the translation of the Bible into the Jamaican language. "In every study throughout the world," explains Faith, "children who learn in their mother tongue have a higher IQ and are able to learn other languages more easily."

She describes the tears of older Jamaicans living abroad, when they heard chapters of the Bible being read in patois. And then the penny dropped. I recalled visiting CuraƧao, that orderly country, where the citizens wrote and spoke at least three languages: Papiamento, Dutch and English. They speak their mother tongue proudly and with no apology. Giving currency to our mother tongue will, like the Genesis story, help us to accept ourselves as we truly are and lead to new behaviours.

Faith strongly recommends Language in Jamaica by Dr Pauline Christie and research done by Dr Maureen Samms-Vaughan. Our creole is not "bad English", but indeed a separate and distinct language. She believes that if our boys especially understood this, they would be able to embrace learning more readily instead of feeling ashamed of their native tongue and their authentic selves. As Faith said after our long interview, this discussion has to be continued. More anon!


  1. Malcolm's writing prowess runs in the family, I see! Jamaican people never cease to amaze me. So proud of my heritage and the all contributions, seen and unseen, we consistently make to society.

  2. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

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  3. So touching! Inspiring to see positives being passed on!