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EDITORIAL - Act of humanity by Father Major-Campbell

Published:Tuesday | December 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM

At his last Passover supper, when the disciple Simon Peter objected to Jesus' intention to wash the feet of his followers, including Simon Peter's, the Messiah responded: "Unless I wash your feet, you have no part of Me."

That, for Christians, ought to be a profound declaration of humanity, compassion and love - that the One who would be their saviour was capable of this act of humility in undertaking this most menial of tasks.

It is unfortunate that a large segment of the congregation of the Anglican Christ Church in Vineyard Town in Kingston appeared not to have grasped the significance of the metaphor, when, at their Mass on Sunday, their pastor, Sean Major-Campbell, symbolically washed the feet of two lesbian congregants and allowed the testimony of a transgender person.

As one member of Christ Church's congregation, reflecting the sentiments of many, told this newspaper, she felt betrayed by Father Major-Campbell's action, which was done, ostensibly, under the banner of human rights.

"... I don't know how suddenly gay rights become human rights and human rights is now gay rights," she said. "I have a problem with that."

digest the testimony

This newspaper, however, suggests to those concerned members of the Christ Church congregation, and others of Father Major-Campbell's critics, to digest the testimony before them of FJ, the transgender person, who had not been to church in a long time, "because it wasn't a safe place for me anymore". They should take note, too, of the statement of one of the lesbians who, because of public declaration of her sexual orientation, has niggling concerns about her personal safety.

Such fears are real and legitimate. For this is the cultural norm in Jamaica for gay people, not only to be ridiculed and stigmatised, but often to face physical violence. Indeed, the State, wittingly, abets this attitude by maintaining anti-buggery legislation that outlaws sexual fulfilment among male homosexuals and sets itself as a voyeur, peeping into people's bedrooms.

But worse than the State is a narrow-minded Evangelical religious movement that, trapped in an intellectual cul-de-sac, intimidates lawmakers with unevolved and literal interpretations of scripture and the voting power of their constituencies.

non-judgemental love

Brave acts of humanity and non-judgemental love by people like Father Major-Campbell will, when repeated, have the cumulative effect of liberating people who, in their narrow perceptions of values, trample on the rights of others and betray their own humanity.

Of course, beyond the politics and un-nuanced declaration of scripture, the issues confronted by Father Major-Campbell are not easy for Jamaicans to address. For, as he observed, human sexuality is not a subject in this culture that is discussed, and where people can be safe and unjudged. Tolerance and individual rights are overrun by the tyranny of the majority. And that is a human-rights issue.

Then there is Christian love.

Simon Peter, whose love for Jesus was emphatic, asked for a full-body wash if that was what would demonstrate oneness with his Master. Jesus responded that in the circumstance, only Simon Peter's feet needed washing, though not everyone - like, we suspect, maybe in the Christ Church congregation and Jamaica at large.

Jesus went on: "Now that I have washed your feet, you should wash another's feet. I have set an example that you should do as I do."

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