Jamaican Christians and homosexuality
Martin Henry, Contributor
Jamaican Christians, certainly in the majority for the time being, are finding themselves more and more in a sticky mess when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. There are not many other things that their holy book rails against with such explicit clarity and vehemence.
But the Gospel of love and the equal rights and dignity of persons made in the image of God, which are fundamental Christian virtues, are being urged upon them as a reason for tolerance for the homosexual lifestyle. And tolerance means neutralisation of any moral condemnation, normalisation, and acceptance.
Their brethren in foreign are busy voting normalisation and acceptance and ordaining homosexual clergy. The homosexual lobby here has grown strong, organised, smart - and media savvy. The most powerful newspaper in the country has taken on the role of chief advocate. And the envoy here from the most powerful country on the planet, a Baptist sister, has normalisation as high priority on her diplomatic agenda.
The Church here, as almost universally, has come to rely upon the State to advance its moral agenda. But despite the "not in my Cabinet" protestations of the prime minister, it is only a matter of time before the Jamaican State bows. And the Jamaican Church?
Christians used to view Genesis 2:24 as establishing right at the beginning a divine order for family and sexual relations that should not be tampered with. The scribe having narrated the creation of woman from a rib of man concluded, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh." Jesus clearly had no intention of disturbing that order but reinforced it by citing the Genesis text in a controversy with his opponents over divorce (Matthew 19).
The ancient city of Sodom has contributed the words 'sodomy' and 'sodomite' to the language. When the wickedness of the town was described on the eve of its destruction, it was in terms of homosexuality. Lot, a migrant there and quite knowledgeable of the ways of the city, invited two naïve male visitors off the streets and into his home for the night. Having fed them, "before Lot and his guests could go to bed, every man in Sodom, young and old, came and stood outside his house and started shouting, 'Where are your visitors? Send them out, so we can have sex with them!' (Genesis 19:5, Contemporary English Version).
To Lot's pleading not to "do such a terrible thing", the riled-up mob in contemporary language shouted, "Don't get in our way ... . You're an outsider. What right do you have to order us around? We'll do worse to you than we're going to do to them."
Only a miracle saved the visiting men that night, and raining brimstone and fire destroyed Sodom and neighbouring Gomorrah early the next morning.
But Christians, at least enlightened and sophisticated ones, no longer believe their own narratives.
An interesting spin on the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative by those who wish to serve two masters is that the sin of that fateful final night was not homosexuality per se but the intent of gang rape displaying inhospitality and the violation of personal rights through non-consensual sex.
Christians used to hold that, to avoid all confusion, God made a clear and explicit ruling on the matter: "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination. Neither shall you lie with any beast and defile yourself with it; neither shall any woman yield herself to a beast to lie with it; it is confusion, perversion, and degradedly carnal (Leviticus 18: 22 & 23, Amplified)."
In the article 'The Old Testament Attitude to Homosexuality', appearing online, theologian Gordon Wenham notes, "The Old Testament rejection of all kinds of homosexual practice is apparently unique in the ancient world. Most of the ancient Near East adopted an attitude to homosexuality very similar to that of classical Greece and Rome, which simply accepted it as long as it was done among consenting adults.
Indeed, Greeks and Romans often approved homosexual acts between adult men and youths where it was part of an ongoing educational relationship. Seen in their Near Eastern context, the originality of the Old Testament laws on homosexuality is very striking. Whereas the rest of the Ancient Orient saw homosexual acts as quite acceptable, provided they were not incestuous or forcible, the Old Testament bans them all, even where both parties freely consented."
And Jesus, the supreme paragon of love and founder of the Christian Church, left that Old Testament stance undisturbed. The New Testament is just as drastically clear about the matter. In the midst of Graeco-Roman culture, accepting of homosexuality as long as freemen citizens did not allow themselves to get penetrated, Paul, in a damning passage in his letter to Christians at Rome about the results of giving up the truth of God for a lie, declared, "God let them follow their own evil desires." "Women no longer want to have sex in a natural way, and they do things with each other that are not natural. Men behaved in the same way. They stopped wanting to have sex with women and had strong desires for sex with other men. They did shameful things with each other, and what has happened to them is punishment for their foolish deeds" Romans 1:25-27, CEV).
The Christian holy text is just extraordinarily insensitive to sociological and biological defences of the naturalness and inevitability of homosexuality, simply calling it an abomination which provokes divine wrath. And as the culture swings back to the first-century pagan Graeco-Roman world in which Christianity was founded and in which homosexuality was normal, Christians are cringing at the broadsides delivered by their holy book against the practice.
It borders on the absurd when one church leader, after a brilliant elucidation of the campaign strategy of the homosexual lobby, could only whimper at the end, "We should not be quick to put aside our traditional values with gay abandon." The gay lobby may rightly respond: Tradition changes. The Roman Catholic Church no longer says Mass in Latin, Mormons no longer defend polygamy, Anglicans now have Rastaman reggae songs in their hymn book, Seventh-day Adventist men can now wear a wedding band - and traditional values which opposed homosexuality are everywhere rapidly changing. Christians may have once been quick and confident to reply: "... But the word of our God shall stand forever (Isaiah 40:8, KJV)."
But speaking against homosexuality is becoming increasingly costly to Christians. And it is not just the burden of imposed shame and the accusation of intolerance. Simply reading text regarded as sacred may be classified as 'hate speech' not to be tolerated in the bastions of freedom. Last Wednesday, as the US State Department launched the 13th annual International Religious Freedom Report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered the usual punchline that the protection of religious freedom and the promotion of tolerance around the world are fundamental concerns of the United States and that the US will continue efforts to support religious freedom both at home and abroad.
More and more that freedom and tolerance in the United States itself, and in a growing list of 'Christian' countries, do not include the freedom to publicly declare the nasty things that the sacred text of the Christian faith explicitly says about homosexua-lity. This column, laced as it is with anti-homosexual biblical quotations, is not likely to see the light of day in any mainstream newspaper in North America or Europe. The Gleaner, despite its own stance, has published, saying much for press freedom here.
Not only do a growing number of both individual Christians and their multifarious denominations no longer believe that their sacred text is the final authority on faith and practice and the foundation for just laws, they are unprepared to declare, "We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29, NKJV)", as Peter and other apostles did while being interrogated under arrest for preaching a gospel judged divisive and disruptive by its powerful enemies.
Not only is homosexual practice roundly condemned as an "abomination" in the Christian holy text, but the Divine Lawgiver loudly declared that it defiled the land and the defiled land would vomit out its inhabitants. Paul also announced God's wrath against the corruption of the natural order by people who knew God and consciously rejected His authority. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."
Now, all of this may be purely pious platitudes proclaimed to frighten simple-minded people to behave in a prescribed fashion. But an old theologian, S.H. Kellog, who believes it, says: "... Marriage and the family are not merely civil arrangements, but divine institutions; so that God has not left it to the caprice of a majority to settle what shall be lawful in these matters ... . The nation that will not serve Him shall perish. All this is not theology, merely, or ethics, but history. All history witnesses that moral corruption and relaxed legislation, especially in matters affecting the relations of the sexes, brings in their train sure retribution, not in Hades, but here on earth ... . For despite the unbelief of multitudes, the Holy One still governs the world, and it is certain that He will never abdicate His throne of righteousness to submit any of His laws to the sanction of a popular vote."