Sat | Jul 22, 2017

Church out of the closet

Published:Sunday | July 6, 2014 | 7:00 AM
Christians throng Half-Way Tree Square at a rally last Sunday to protest the mounting lobby for a repeal of Jamaica's laws prohibiting anal sex. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
1
2

The view that Police Commissioner Owen Ellington might have been pushed into retirement as a result of direct pressure from the United States and Britain might provide more confirmation to militant church leaders that they did the right thing to pull out that massive crowd in Half-Way Tree last Sunday to send a strong message to rich international backers of gay rights that they will fight them tooth and nail over this one.

The Church read the cash-strapped UWI's firing of Brendan Bain as cowering for the Almighty Dollar and bowing to heavily overseas-financed gay- and human-rights activists. That is why they feel they have a cause, with the new group calling itself Churches Action Uniting Society for Emancipation (CAUSE) - with emancipation needed from our economic masters who feel they can use their money to get whatever they want and to remove whomever they wish. The politicians, who have to do a balancing act pandering to the masses while keeping an outstretched arm to their big benefactors, had to take note of last weekend's storming of Half-Way Tree. Opposition Leader Andrew Holness, eager to get back into Jamaica House, had to be there to witness first-hand the militancy of the Christian massive.

Al Miller captured the sentiments of many Christians when he said in his pre-rally release: "CAUSE is the churches' unified response to ensure that ALL Jamaicans remain emancipated and fully free from modern imperialist world views and unjust, unacceptable and abnormal morals and actions forced on us by other nations!" These are fighting words.

And the churches are not going to let up on this one, for it knows that it has mass support in its fight to retain the buggery law and to push back valiantly against gay-rights advocates. Last week, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, which includes J-FLAG, issued a release pleading: "We need to bring an end to inflammatory and dismissive statements and to the stigmatisation of entire groups based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, religious convictions or difference ... such approaches invariably lead to social strife as well as intentional and unintentional harm."

MODERATE SPEECHES

I think the platform speakers, from what I gathered, tried to be moderate in their speech on Sunday evening, knowing fully well that things could get out of hand and that this heightened awareness of a 'gay threat' could invite violence, and certainly hostility against gay people. The heated rhetoric has been on both sides. Look at the letters published in the press and online. The Church is being attacked for hypocrisy, selective morality, wanting to tyrannise the society, turning it into a theocracy. There is very little reasoning taking place between the two camps. Each is accusing the other of wanting to take away its free speech.

Partisanship is in our cultural genes as Jamaicans. It is un-Jamaican to be even-handed, fair and impartial. To do so is to risk abuse. It doesn't always take courage to take sides in Jamaica, for you will always be assured of a fair number of people who will back you. To be balanced is to usually stand alone - that's when courage is needed. I stand neither with the Church nor with gay activists in this war. Reason is usually the first casualty in these culture wars, and I like to take my stand with reason.

I assert the absolute right of the Church to organise mass protests over issues it deems important. Secularists must maintain their right to tell the Church what it should come on the streets to protest, but the Church has the right to ignore them. Church people determine what is important to them and they organise people around what they see as critical to them. That is their right.

Conservative and fundamentalist Christians think the retention of the buggery law is important to their agenda and they think a message ought to be sent to the gay lobby, which they charge is intent on squelching other people's freedom of speech. They want to send a message that Bain-type firings will not be taken lying down. They want to signal in the most strident way that Christians must not be persecuted for their beliefs.

THE CHURCH HAD EVERY RIGHT

The Church had every right to do what it did last Sunday. It has the right and obligation if it feels convicted to organise against any party that intends to repeal the buggery law. There is no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming majority of Jamaicans in our democratic system want the buggery law retained, and if a referendum is ever conducted, the results would be resounding. The fear is that the international gay- and human-rights lobby knows that our people are vehemently opposed to homosexuality and, therefore, they have to use money power to get their way. It won't come through democratic consent of the people.

I understand the point of view of my Christian brethren. They hold a slippery slope view: If you repeal the buggery law, it will embolden gay people. They won't stop there. They will press for more and more concessions until they have full legalisation and we straight people have to be go into the closet. When we keep the buggery law,

it is felt, we have good reason to clamp down on what Jamaicans for Justice sneaked into our children's homes, which housed our most vulnerable children. We can keep certain texts out of our schools.

'They' will try to indoctrinate young people and be bold in media to push the gay lifestyle once buggery is not illegal. When it is illegal, we can use the law to suppress certain things. This is the reasoning. The thrust to retain the buggery law is motivated more by fear than by reason. The buggery law does not penalise all homosexuality, only male homosexual acts - as well as heterosexuals who engage in anal sex. Biblical law treated male and female homosexuals equally. Our buggery law is discriminatory, penalising only men and letting off lesbians. Why do Christians feel compelled to support this when it falls short of biblical law? Fear of what its repeal will lead to.

Also, biblical law had the same penalty - death - for homosexuality as it had for fornication, adultery and a host of other sins which Christians have long accepted should not be criminalised in a secular society. Why single out one category for criminalisation? In case Dr Wayne West and others tell me of the health hazards of anal sex - absolutely established scientifically - let me remind them that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality because of health reasons. The Bible condemns homosexual behaviour as intrinsically immoral and God-defying. In that case, lesbians are as guilty of transgression - though not under unjust Jamaican law - as male homosexuals. Christians are responding more to cultural impulses and prejudices against male homosexuality in our macho, 'gyalis' culture in which male homosexuals are seen as traitors to the cause.

The Church must maintain its right to teach that homosexuality is sinful, abominable, morally degrading and hell-certifying. I know gay people resent my saying that. They do want to have that categorised as hate speech and censored. They do want it to be seen in the same category as racist speech. And I know that my libertarian view on free speech will increasingly be resented and rejected. That's why I know Christians are fighting an uphill battle against "principalities and powers". The US, Europe and their multilaterals will soon demand that gay rights be subsumed under human rights, the denial of which will make us ineligible for financial support.

And our people who love mammon more than God will eventually choose their stomachs over religious beliefs in their heads. Is the Church preparing this nation to be truly independent and anti-materialistic in its values? Aren't the same fundamentalist churches teaching an American-inspired prosperity gospel? It's easier to get out people to march than to get them to sit and suffer for Christ.

Ian Boyne is a veteran journalist working with the Jamaica Information Service. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ianboyne1@yahoo.com.