Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Religion & Culture | Can homosexuality be cured? (Pt. 2)

Published:Sunday | June 5, 2016 | 6:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
Joseph Tolton
Bishop Joseph Tolton
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Conversion therapists are confident that their system works; that gays can be cured.

Again, it was Minister Tom Brown who sounded genuinely troubled when he said that the problem is disbelief in the supernatural power of God to heal and change lives.

He took aim especially at medical professionals - doubters, "believers in their own abilities", as he put it.

Brown, like most evangelicals, cite the following to justify his contempt for homosexuality:

Leviticus 18:22: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

Leviticus 20:13: "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable."

1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

As I continued my discussion with the homosexual Bishop Joseph Tolton, pastor of Reheboth Temple Christ Conscious Church in Upper Manhattan, New York, I first asked him:

How do you respond to Minister Brown and others like him?

As it is today, Israel was in a very violent neighbourhood; they were constantly at war. The greatest threat for Israel was national security. If you need a strong military, you need people. The Bible also says in Genesis 38:9 that Oman spilled semen to the ground (he used the rhythm method) and God killed him. The issue here is procreation to secure the country's actual survival. This is what the Levitical code was concerned with.

Indeed, the wicked will not inherit the kingdom. Outside of child molestation, rape, or adultery with intent to inflict pain, I think it is quite problematic to describe any sexual behaviour as wicked ... maybe of ill repute, perhaps. This verse is 'Bible', but it is not scripture. This is text, but it is not the Word, the logos of God.

Where does the compassion of Jesus fit into the anti-gay narrative, and what are some of the internal struggles of gay clergy, in particular?

The compassion of the Christ and mercy should always be pre-eminent, that is why what you cited is text but not word. The internal struggles of closeted clergy are very real. But this is no more real than the internal struggles of closeted people at large. The difference is that clergy are public figures and their struggle can be an impediment to serving in that capacity.

The sex scandal in the Roman Catholic Church has indirectly impacted the gay ministry as some conflate homosexuality with paedophilia. Is such a parallel accurate?

Paedophilia is a twisted and a most disturbing psychological disorder. The sex scandal of paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church has given those who are already predisposed to be 'anti-gay' bigots a hook to hang their bigotry on. The assumption is that the perpetrators are all gay but nothing could be further from the truth.

Black culture upholds the image of the virile, masculine male. Does being black and gay pose unique challenges? What has been your experience on this issue?

Indeed, being black and gay is, by all means, a very unique challenge. The idea that homosexuality is un-African is a notion that prevails in the African diaspora as well. As a child from Harlem who attended predominantly white schools, it was often suggested that my sexuality was a result of my "white affiliation". To be demeaned as a minority with suggestions of betrayal is devastating. The untold story of multiple types of marginalisation is the next great 'voice' to breakthrough, and it will do so as black trans women (and men) begin to tell their story.

The US is becoming more tolerant and accepting of so-called alternative lifestyles. Do you think the enormous economic clout of the gay movement has been instrumental in this about-face?

That economic clout is overstated. However, the economic influence of gay men has been a factor in an equation with multiple variables. That said, it is naÔve to think that the gay community would not use the forces it had at its disposal.

Are you satisfied with the strides the gay community has made for justice and equal protection under the law?

Indeed, there is more work to be done. For one, the US must be aware of its global responsibility regarding human rights for LGBTI people. We need to care for ageing gay seniors who are caught in the middle - the generation before them was married and closeted, many of them remained out but are single. We have a large group of gays in that 55+ range who must be cared for. The plight of homelessness among LGBTI youth is off the charts. The full freedom of the trans-community is vital.

Job-readiness and health care must be addressed. And the broader gay community must do better in supporting and connecting with other movements, for example, where is the gay voice in support of 'Black Lives Matter?'

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of' Anam Car: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity', now available on Amazon and iTunes. Send feedback to glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby.