Beware of hatred in the name of God
Glenda Simms, Contributor
The Sunday Observer of August 7 informed the Jamaican reading public that a gay TV advertisement has angered some of the clerics in the Christian Empire.
According to writer Nadine Wilson, the catalyst of the clerics' outrage is a public-service announcement which has been produced to encourage the Jamaican citizenry to love their homosexual family members and friends.
The centrepiece of the message is former Miss Jamaica World and Miss Jamaica Universe Christine Straw declaring her love for her brother, Matthew, who happens to be a homosexual.
The idea of loving, unconditionally, one's sibling is not rocket science. Indeed, it is the simplest interpretation of the biblical messages enshrined in the bedrock of Christian theology. As a dyed-in-the-wool, holy-rolling Anglican, I learnt at a very early age that I had no choice but to love my neighbour as myself. I also understood that the great man Moses of the Old Testament, in Exodus Chapter 20, defined the major sins for Christians as follows:
- The choice of gods other than the God of Moses.
- The creation of and bowing down to graven images.
- The lack of observance of the Sabbath after six days of labour.
- The refusal to honour our mothers and fathers.
- The commitment of the crime of murder/killing.
- The commitment of adultery.
- The practice of stealing.
- The practice of lying or bearing false witness against our neighbour.
- The coveting of other people's wives, servants or their asses.
I can recall clearly my childhood as one of boredom and lack of interest in the interpretation of the Old Testament which was pontificated from the altar in the historical St Albans Anglican Church, which is still located in the district of Stanmore in St Elizabeth. I can also recall how enchanted I was by the redemptive interpretation of the messages of the New Testament which instilled in me the need to love others as I love myself.
I learnt early in life that the great God/Goddess created human beings in His/Her own image. This idea has had a tremendous impact on my personal journey of emancipation from the historical oppression of the black woman. This means that when I look in the mirror in the mornings, I see the reflection of God - a black, bald-headed woman - and I know that I need not seek my personal emancipation through the ideas of any other man or woman in the entire world - in the pulpit or in the pew.
Within this world view, I agree with Dane Lewis, the executive director of J-FLAG, that the church leaders who have voiced their objections to the message of love are demonstrating their role in the promotion of homophobia in the society. The Christian Church, in all its variations, cannot deny that, over time, it has tried to balance the incompatible roles of both dominator and redeemer.
In this noise which passes for a discourse of what is defined as sin by the Bible, one needs to be reminded of the historical truths that have demonstrated how the dominant classes have corrupted God's trajectory and spiritual redemption, in their treatment of the dominated.
Lise Noel's 1994 General Survey of Intolerance, which was published by McGill-Queen's University Press, reminds us of the following truths, rooted in the beliefs and actions of men who professed to be committed to the love of God and country:
- Historically, there is no category of dominated individuals that has not been reduced to silence.
- History was the exclusive preserve of five per cent of the population who made up society's upper class.
- It was not until the mid-18th century that old age was recognised as a specific time of life in France.
- In our historical past, indirect insights into the lives of women and children were gleaned from ideas about the family as an institution. Women's worth was not then envisaged outside their role as wives and breeders.
- The adolescence stage in human development was 'discovered' by psychologists at the turn of the century.
- Mental handicaps were unrecognised as legitimate issues of the human experience because "madness was regarded as a curse for centuries before it was defined as a form of deviance".
- By the turn of the 12th century, American whites believed they had to defend themselves against the "Negro peril".
- To justify the occupation of China during the turn of the 20th century, the West convinced the rest of the world that they had to act against the "yellow peril".
- A later "peril" was homosexuality, labelled until recently "a social plague" in French law or a political "menace" by the US senator, Joseph McCarthy.
- In Russia, homosexuality was seen as a "counter-revolutionary force".
It is interesting to note the responses of the Jamaican clerics in this historical moment when the discourse on the human rights of people of differing sexual orientation is being revisited.
The Rev Peter Garth of the Hope Gospel Assembly argued that his objection to the message of love for homosexual persons was not based on the biblical direction entirely, but on the medical, psychological and social implication of the homosexual lifestyle.
Bishop Herro Blair, the political ombudsman, was quoted as saying, "There are things that we classify as sins that we can't change, and homosexuality is one."
This writer finds Pastor Peter Garth's comments the most interesting. According to Wilson's article, the reverend gentleman would not marry a same-sex couple but he and his followers talk to homosexuals, counsel them, help them and spend time with them. Obviously, Pastor Garth encourages his congregation to love and support all human beings with whom they come into contact. In the name of God, he must be advocating love for all who turn to him for guidance. I would imagine that he also believes that God created and loves both homosexuals and heterosexuals.
Within this framework, why would local church leaders decide to stand up against an advertisement that tells all of us to love our family members and friends, including those who are gay?
We cannot love in the name of God while we advocate hate. The definition of love resides in a concept which is the opposite of hate.
In short, if we are opposed to messages of love, we are promoting messages of hate.