Mon | Nov 20, 2017

Gordon Robinson | Bugged by buggery law

Published:Sunday | October 8, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Lord Bishop Howard Gregory, head of the Anglican Church in Jamaica, has recommended that the buggery law be repealed and that marital rape be recognised.

Many happenings deserving of comment occurred while I was sitting on the bench waiting for the call to warm up.

For example, even belatedly, I must congratulate Bishop Howard Gregory and the Rev Garnett Roper for exposing Jamaican churches' irrational homophobia. Readers know I'm 100 per cent for repeal of the 'buggery law'; 100 per cent for treating homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals and uncertains of any gender exactly as other humans without discrimination, bigotry, or harassment; 100 per cent for same-sex marriage; and 100 per cent for abortion on demand (subject only to medical opinion in individual cases) for anybody but me.

Mark you, all this politically incorrect material for excommunication is nothing more than unequivocal support for equal rights and justice - concepts most humans, including racists, misogynists, bigots, and religious whack-jobs insist they also espouse.

I can hear the 'Christians' already: "There he goes again. Because di man dem support fi him perversions, him a big dem up."

That's the problem. In the overwhelming majority, Jamaicans don't listen. Men already know it all; women are working out what they're going to say next. I know my readers are made of sterner stuff, so let's try to dissect exactly what the two clergymen actually said/wrote and explain why there was such a violent reaction from Church Establishment.

 

CONTEXT IS IMPORTANT

 

Bishop Gregory's remarks were made within an important context. A parliamentary committee has been set up to review Jamaica's sexual offences laws and to recommend reforms where necessary. Public submissions were invited.

In a report (Gleaner, July 23) by Arthur Hall and Jovan Johnson, Bishop Gregory's views were summarised and placed in their proper context:

"In a written submission to the committee in which he emphasised that his views were personal, Gregory ... argued that the aim of the Church isn't 'that authorities make Christian policies, Christian laws, and so on, but that they be proper authorities in the sense of their special commission.'

"According to Gregory, the State should not waste time with a referendum on the buggery law but should just strike it from the books."

Bishop Gregory didn't start a war with the Church. Subsequent to his submission, the Church started a war with him. In the context of Parliament's public announcement that it was reviewing these laws, Gregory presented the committee with his personal views (the right/duty of every citizen). Gregory's views didn't doubt or contradict with any church doctrine but were based on the need, in a secular State, to separate the roles of Church and State so that each may perform its individual obligations without interference from the other.

Gregory made it clear:

- He wasn't advocating homosexual marriage;

- He didn't hold to the view that the anus was a sexual organ;

- Sexual activity in public spaces should remain illegal.

As Clara Peller might say, were she still alive, "Where's the beef?" What's the Church's problem? Isn't it enough for the Church to continue to influence its members to follow biblical teachings? Must the State also bow to Church dogma in its legislative processes, thus converting Parliament from a constitutional institution permitted only to "... make laws for the peace, order and good government of Jamaica" (Constitution, Section 48) into a mere church lackey making theological laws on demand?

If Parliament were to make laws based on scriptural doctrine or to appease the Church, those laws would be unconstitutional. So what EXACTLY did Howard Gregory say that was incorrect and/or so fundamentally offensive that he deserves the rabid flagellation with the Old Testament meted out by his colleagues?

Gregory made the obviously consequential observation, "What happens in privacy between consenting adults should be beyond the purview of the Government." Surely, everybody understands this to be true? He didn't suggest that the same private acts should be beyond the purview of the Church. Properly understood, Bishop Gregory's submission was in protection of the Church's turf, which is our spiritual health.

 

DOGMA ON MARITAL RAPE

 

But, you see, as I've been writing for years, members' spiritual health isn't the Church's REAL concern and hasn't been for almost two centuries. The Church is only concerned with CONTROL, and, in particular, control of our minds. If the Church was concerned about our welfare, widespread paedophilia; abuse of special counselling relationships for sexual gratification; selling of 'indulgencies' (aka aiding and abetting organised crime); and other moral and legal atrocities wouldn't have become entrenched church practices.

Bishop Gregory made several other common-sense-oriented proposals, all of which, if logically reviewed without ulterior motive, would, if implemented, strengthen the Church's role as arbiter of, and guidance counsellor for, Jamaica's morals and ethics. Those proposals included the widening of marital rape to include all occasions of "non-consensual sex accompanied by threat, intimidation, and violence" which, although seemingly against the Church's irrational dogma that a wife can't be raped by her husband, is otherwise unassailable inevitability.

Church dogma on this marital rape issue is irrational because it's completely false that the Bible says a wife can't be raped. The Bible commands mutuality. First Corinthians 7: 1-5 says neither wife nor husband should deprive the other of their bodies: "Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control."

The scriptural advice is similar to that given by Joe Tex:

"You had better hold on;

hold to what you've got.

'Cause, if you think nobody wants it,

just throw it away and you will see

someone will have it before you can count 1, 2, 3"

One way to keep a spouse faithful is not to deny sex. But the Bible only speaks to WILLING sex, and nowhere does it say that man is allowed to TAKE sex from his wife. First Corinthians clearly accepts that a woman may deprive her husband of sex but warns that she ought not to do so. So this nonsense about marital rape being scripturally impossible is crap!

It was heartening to see and hear proof that the current Theological Seminary president is capable of independent thought as Garnett Roper publicly supported Bishop Gregory's views.

Clearly appreciating that bigotry encourages illiteracy, attention deficit disorder, and hearing disability, Roper spoke slowly and carefully. He:

- Insisted that issues of homosexuality and buggery (as legally defined) were moral, not legal, matters;

- Asserted that repeal of the legal prohibition shouldn't be equated with promotion of homosexuality;

- Was quoted as saying, "Buggery/anal sex is a moral matter that's between consenting persons. It's a choice that I don't approve of, but that doesn't make it a criminal act."

- Deplored "belligerent attitudes by sections of the Church" on homosexuality that treated the matter as an ideological one.

Both Gregory and Roper were only defending church doctrine and delineating the Church's role and fiefdom within society. If only we listened, the Church would've been left alone to inculcate in all of us the great scriptural philosophies without having to rely on the State to legitimise church doctrine by intrusion of the criminal law. Based on their arguments, the Church would be free to teach that buggery was "abominable" no matter what the State legislated. Inherent inconsistencies among church 'sins' (some criminalised, some not) wouldn't have to be explained.

But blinkered church bigots destined to prove that no good deed goes unpunished have unfairly vilified both gentlemen. Roper was actually uninvited from speaking at a church function. Perhaps somebody will show me the difference between this sort of discrimination and a march by white supremacists in Virginia in defence of a Confederate statue.

Let me be clear. I don't approve of the Church using ancient scripture to, in my words, extort a percentage of members' wages (tithes) as forced contributions, but I've never proposed that tithing be a special offence under the Larceny Act. The Church doesn't approve of adultery or fornication (equally vile in scripture as male homosexuality), but it hasn't lobbied Government to make these sexual offences.

So what is it about buggery that must be legally punished and marital rape that should be allowed to continue untrammeled? Can nobody see the arrant hypocrisy; the unforgivable attempt at mind control; or the embarrassing inconsistency in our sexual laws?

It's time to get real. A woman's vagina isn't her only orifice vulnerable to unwanted or forced sexual activity. If buggery is truly 'abominable' (more on what the Bible REALLY says about homosexuality/buggery anon), why is rape of a little boy or man treated by law as less repugnant than that of a woman? If Parliament has any testicles at all, it'll look the Church in the eye, use two words, the second of which is 'off' - the first of which I've recently written about in detail - and amend our sexual offences laws to accord with 21st-century realities.

Peace and love.

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.