Church must champion justice for sexual minorities
By Byron Buckley
"AND THE Scribes and the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They asked him, 'Do you agree with the law of Moses that she should be stoned to death?' And Jesus, looking at the promiscuous woman, was full of contempt and scorn for her. Full with righteous indignation, he commanded the crowd to stone the trembling woman to death, himself casting the first stone."
This is, of course, a corruption of the incident recorded in the eighth chapter of the gospel of St John. But that could have been the outcome if Jesus had reacted differently to the taunting and entrapment of the religious leaders of his time. And based on the utterances of some contemporary religious leaders about homosexuals, that is how they would expect Jesus to react!
RESORTING TO VIOLENCE
Indeed, one of the society's low points in 2012 was the mob-incited beating of a suspected gay student by security guards at an institution of higher learning. It's not the first and only incident of violent attack on persons suspected to be other than heterosexual in Jamaica. In fact, this year a mob in Trelawny killed and maimed relatives of a person alleged to have buggered two boys found dead. These are all sad and tragic incidents that point to the urgent need for the disparate elements of the Jamaican society to come together to address our general tendency to resort to violence and, in particular, against sexual minorities.
My prayer and wish for the new year is that the heterosexual majority - especially members of the faith-based community - and members of sexual minority groups will embrace, rather tolerate, each other going forward. Each side will have to respect each other's sensibilities and coexist. It's not a zero-sum game: it's not practical for straight people to cleanse the society of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT). We can't kill off all the 'b-man dem'. Likewise, the LGBT community should not expect people to abandon their deeply held values about sexual correctness, for example, the non-public display of sexuality. The gay lobby must not make the tactical error of equating the legal/values system in the United States with what obtains in Jamaica.
In the coming year, we have to begin the conversation about ending discrimination of sexual minorities and produce a home-grown solution - one that reflects Jamaica's proud international record of championing the fight against racial discrimination in Apartheid South Africa, one that underscores the spirit of our national motto: Out of Many, One People. In the 1970s, we ended discrimination against children born out of wedlock -'no bastard no deh again'. Forty years later, we should be able to end discrimination and stigmatisation of sexual minorities.
The stance and role of the Christian community is critical in finding a solution to the straight-gay conundrum. The Jamaican church community, it appears, doesn't want to be seen as being soft on homosexuality, so it frequently preaches vehemently against the practice. Some clerics utter hateful sentiments against gays as DJs of spurious moral standing do. The Church has been largely reactive, rather than proactive, in the gay-rights debate.
There are some lessons from how Jesus dealt with the case of the woman caught in adultery.
Firstly, he pointed out that her sin of adultery WAS NOT more reprehensible than the sins of persons accusing her. 'If any of you are sinless, cast the first stone', Jesus challenged the religious leaders and congregants in the temple. Many Christians, using flawed theology, make homosexuality a special sin - one that deserves special condemnation as evidenced by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Except for references to anal sex and bestiality, which it prohibits, the scriptures classify homosexuality as fornication or sexual promiscuity. As grotesque as the act of anal sex is, morally it is no worse than other sins to God. The prophet Ezekiel explains that it was a slew of sins that triggered God's fiery judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah, including pride and not taking care of the poor and needy. In fact, an overarching Judaeo-Christian value, as the prophet Isaiah pointed out, was to "rebuke the oppressor, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans and provide for widows". These have high weighting on God's moral scale.
By proclaiming homosexuality as a special sin, Christians are guilty of feeding stigma and discrimination. The Church must stop this now, as a first step towards finding a national solution to the peaceful coexistence of the heterosexual and LGBT community.
The second lesson from Jesus' handling of the accusation against the woman caught in adultery is that he did not condone her behaviour ('go and sin no more'), but neither did he condemn her to a lost, irredeemable fate. An important point to note is that if Jesus had agreed to her death, he would be supporting injustice and a kangaroo trial, because the law requires her and the husband she was caught with to be both stoned. By not bringing the offending husband to book, the religious leaders were guilty of gender discrimination.
It is these principles of fairness, justice and nondiscrimination that I expect the Church to champion as the society seeks to work out a solution for the harmonious coexistence of the sexual majority with sexual minorities.
Byron Buckley is associate editor at The Gleaner. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org