Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Abrahams, gays and the CAUSE

Published:Sunday | October 11, 2015 | 10:00 AMDavid Pearson, Contributor
David Pearson
Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer A policeman gives orders to a gay man being evicted from the Shoemaker Gully on Trafalgar Road on Thursday, September 4, 2014. The treatment of gays in Jamaica remains at the centre of debate against the background of the country's decades-old legislation outlawing anal sex.
1
2

Dr Michael Abrahams is entitled to his opinion that the recently held Jamaica CAUSE Rally in Half-Way Tree was an indication of 'misplaced priorities', especially as such relates to the 'anti-gay agenda' (see Gleaner online article on Monday, October 5, 2015).

After all, we live in a democracy, where people are encouraged to participate in the governance of the country, an important element of which is free speech. His right to free expression is no less than those who staged the mass rally. I have some concerns about the article, as much as I sympathise with much of his concerns. I believe the following needs to be addressed.

1. Abrahams repeats the 'part = whole' fallacy in suggesting that because the CAUSE has not spoken on all issues related to the breakdown of family, they should not single out one. He stated:

"The theme of the rally was 'Defending Family, Faith and Freedom', and people turned out in their thousands to preach fire and brimstone on all things gay. The organisers did so under the guise of showing concern about family life and protecting the Jamaican family. When one objectively examines the issues adversely affecting families in Jamaica today, one sees at the forefront child abuse and neglect, children born in unstable unions, absent fathers, men having children outside their relationships, women with multiple babyfathers, men with multiple babymothers, divorce, domestic violence, incest, teenage pregnancies and child trafficking, among other things."

The truth is that every issue destroying family life listed by Abrahams finds condemnation by almost every church I know. The CAUSE did not single out any of those and so was chided for picking on the single issue of homosexuality. But why should anyone be expected to speak on everything before they can speak on anything?

Should we believe that Abrahams is preoccupied with the issue of gay rights just because he focuses on it in one article? And what if he is, especially if he sees the issue as important? The CAUSE sees this issue as important, and so they focus on it. Such does not mean that they do not regard other issues.

2. Dr Abrahams suggests that the Church is overly concerned about a non-issue, since gay-rights advocates target only the buggery law and do not have same-sex marriage on their agenda. But why is it unreasonable to see the link between both, when evidence from across the world is that advocates lump the two together? What makes our advocates any different?

And why chastise those who opined that the British prime minister came here with the gay agenda in mind, when this is the same Mr Cameron who previously stated that aid to Jamaica should be suspended until gay rights are upheld here? The links are not unreasonable.

3. Why also take Father Richard Ho Lung's comments out of context to twist it into suggesting that he is castigating mere friendships between boys? According to Abrahams:

"Ho Lung expressed concern about boys being told to be 'friends with boys', an attitude that I found to be rather peculiar, as he himself walks around with boys who are friends with boys, wearing garments resembling frocks."

Ho Lung, no doubt, was chiding those who are making it seem that homosexual relationships are appropriate among boys. Was Abrahams alluding to something suspicious about Ho Lung's friendship with the boys with whom he associates? I do not think he was, but the idea will find popular appeal among those who have come to view priests with suspicion.

Beyond Abrahams, the entire discussion on the so-called gay agenda in Jamaica needs serious discussion on all sides. Progressives need to consider the following:

1. How is the link made between the repeal of the buggery law and a decline in the incidence of HIV when there is overwhelming evidence of the rapid and continuous spread of HIV among MSMs across the world, even in places where the buggery law has been repealed?

2. How will the repeal of the buggery law benefit women whose husbands are on the down-low, an idea often floated? Will the repeal suddenly make these men more monogamous and/or more honest about their infidelities, or make their women more accepting of their infidelities?

3. On a different note, why should we accept the new-found morality of our previous colonial overlords while chiding them for the old, selfish moralities they imposed upon us? When did they suddenly become saints? Mr Cameron's recent comments about reparations might just be instructive on this matter.

Many of those at the CAUSE rally in Half-Way Tree are themselves guilty of inanity:

1. Why merely quote Bible verses out of context to justify a position? Bashing those with whom one disagrees and then justifying it with scripture twisting speaks volumes, especially of a people who are silent on rape and paedophilia in their churches.

2. Why demand that our Government act according to religious mandates when it, of necessity, operates in the secular sphere? If such calls are to be deemed worthy, they must be grounded in logical and empirical reasoning, with an obvious link to the here and now.

Whether or not we like it, the call for gay rights is here to stay. As more persons come out of the closet, seeking wholeness and acceptance, what role is the Church willing to play beyond shouting and exorcism? More churches need to mirror an attitude consistent with that of Christ's, offering hope to those on the fringes, even if lifestyle disagreements remain.

I anticipate some backlash from the usual suspects on both sides, but my hope is that we can create a more civilised space of reasonable dialogue. Perhaps I am hoping for too much, but I still hope.

- David Pearson is acting academic dean at the Jamaica Theological Seminary, where he also teaches Introduction to Ethical Thinking. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and davynth@gmail.com.