Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Thursday | February 28, 2013
Home : Commentary
Farther Along vs Jah Say No! Reality check
By Devon Dick

RECENTLY, THE Jamaica Theological Seminary hosted a lecture given by Dr Omar Davies, cabinet minister, in which he compared a traditional hymn, Farther Along with a reggae song of Peter Tosh, Jah Say No.

Davies has published on the music of Tosh. Other persons, such as renowned literary scholar Carolyn Cooper in Sound Clash and poet Kwame Dawes in Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius, have analysed the lyrical content of reggae artistes . And in recent times, political scientist Clinton Hutton analysed Paul Bogle's hymns in his PhD thesis and in The Cross and Machete, I analysed hymns used by Bogle and missionaries.

Davies' lecture was groundbreaking in that he compares a Christian hymn with a Rastafarian song. Davies asserts that Farther Along represented the frank lamentation of a Christian, confused at what he considered as the unfair treatment meted out to 'believers', as compared to the 'wicked'. Furthermore, he adds that the only consolation offered to righteous believers is that 'farther along', in heaven, the truth and justification will be revealed.

In this six-verse hymn, Davies sees "(i) resentment, (ii) despair, and (iii) hope in the afterlife". Davies' beef is not with the resentment or despair, but that the hymn posits that there will be answers provided to all the troubling questions after death, as stated in the chorus:

Farther along, we'll know more about it,

Farther along, we'll understand why;

Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,

We'll understand it all by and by.

Davies is enamoured with Jah Say No which reveals a fundamental difference in the view about life of believers here on earth and the intervention and protection of the Almighty. Tosh asserts: "I will not stay poor, living in poverty." Jah will ensure equality; the righteous will not live in pain and be put to shame; the righteous will not remain poor; the righteous will not be found guilty and always get the blame, because Jah Say No.

Davies opines that compared to the resentment which characterises much of the lyrics of Farther Along, Jah Say No provides reassurance to the righteous that Jah will not allow his believers to endure unfair suffering. Furthermore, he will ensure that there is equality and that corruption is cleaned up. Davies concludes that Jah Say No is superior to Farther Along in providing hope in this life.

However, not so fast Dr Davies. A reality check will show that, for so many persons, life here is rough, and if we have hope only in this life, we would be a people most miserable as Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15. Therefore, it is in the afterlife that most persons get their just rewards. On Sunday, Neville 'Teddy' McCook, whose last act of kindness to me was giving me his two premier tickets for last year's National Trials, because he would have been off the island, only received the highest FIFA award at his funeral, not while he was alive.

On that same Sunday, retired Deputy Superintendent of Police Denzil Boyd in a "shameless, heartless and senseless act" was murdered at his gate subsequent to leaving church. Since so many murder cases do not get solved, it means that the probability of Boyd's wife, Claudette, and other family members getting justice in this life is low, and Boyd will have to wait for justice in the afterlife. How does a mother get justice in this life after the father kills her two children and commits suicide?

Farther Along is a far more realistic assessment of the realities of life than Jah Say No.

The Rev Dr Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. Send comments to columns@gleanerjm.com.


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