Sex isn't a dirty word
I hasten to correct a misunderstanding that prevails in the media and public domain. It should be categorically noted that I am not under fire at Christ Church, and the faithful have not been condemning me.
Persons have referred to members as hypocrites, misguided, unprogressive, among other unfair depictions. This might not have happened if a more fulsome representation of the service was done at the outset.
Christ Church, like many other churches across Jamaica, is made up of persons from all walks of life. They have varying degrees of educational, career and life experiences. They have been formed by a society in which matters of human sexuality are taboo.
I would, however, use this misunderstanding to illustrate how we, as a country, must of necessity proceed on this difficult subject of human sexuality, of which LGBT issues are only some of the facets to be engaged with intellectual honesty and community sensitivity.
I am suggesting that the use of labels such as 'homophobic', 'hypocrites', 'idiots', and the like, will not help a much-needed conversation in the country. We have a problem, as a nation, with talking about ourselves as sexual beings. We have a problem acknowledging that it is all right for a child in puberty to actually enjoy his or her sexual feelings. We have been socialised to walk hand in hand with guilt as a life partner when it comes to matters of sex.
We do not know how to speak with our children about an erection and what it means. We are also afraid of talking with our children about the menstrual cycle and the fact that its implications transcend a sanitary napkin. Feeling horny is a fact of life!
Our Judeo-Christian heritage has not helped. While it is true that theology affirms the place of human sexuality, this has always been under a cloud of impurity. The safe, acceptable, and possibly holy mode of speaking is often 'marriage-sex-children'. Never mind the fact that much of the sex in Jamaica has nothing to do with marriage or planned parenting.
It is safer to talk and even boast about a 'bly', as in some under-the-table deal in Jamaica, than it is to talk about one's 40-year-old daughter being a lesbian. It is even safer to talk about one's pastor having 'nuff gal' right here in Jamaica than it is to talk about the fact of the individual who is struggling with gender identity.
Members welcoming everyone
While the Christ Church response is a microcosm of the Jamaican landscape, it is very encouraging to note that my personal experience with members in general is that they are more open to dialogue than otherwise. In fact, there are many persons who may not speak publicly in congregational discourse, but when they speak with me on the phone or in my office, it is to affirm the fact that we must be welcoming of everyone.
Does the picture look familiar? Persons who know what they know, and have an opinion, but will not speak too quickly in the crowd.
I am often asked questions about human sexuality. My response is that my style is not the popular one. I refrain from giving easy answers. 'Yes' and 'no' responses are avoided. The pastor is not called to be the congregant's brain. People must grow and take responsibility for their thoughts and actions. They must, as persons of faith, so engage the process of self-awareness in God, so that they come to whatever their reality is in God, or life, for that matter!
Beware of the convenient responses that end up closing the conversations. Jamaicans need to talk beyond right and wrong categories when addressing these challenging matters. Do we have this predisposition because of our culturally punitive approach? Pastors should not impose their particular bias. Let all views contend.