Tue | Sep 21, 2021

Battling Jamaica’s hydra of religious homophobia

Published:Saturday | February 27, 2021 | 12:09 AM


Religious homophobia is a major reason that Jamaica lags behind the rest of the Western Hemisphere in recognising the human rights of LGBT people. Similarly, in Ireland conservative Christian views once dominated all aspects of public life and frustrated gay liberation for decades. However, that country is now one of the most progressive in Europe and even elected a gay married prime minister. As a result of Ireland’s remarkable transformation, some people have suggested that Jamaica will soon overcome puritanical bigotry and become a beacon for LGBT human rights in the Caribbean.

But there is one major difference between Ireland and Jamaica, namely the level of religious organisation. Ireland has a monolithic religion, Roman Catholicism, and when repeated scandals undermined the moral authority of that institution, this created space for human rights to thrive. Although Jamaica has no shortage of scandal-plagued churches, many of them are independent.

So, like a hydra, the loss of one creates room for others to flourish – and flourish they do. Religion is big business in Jamaica and many preachers have little, if any, theological training. Some even rise to the level of bishop with questionable qualifications. Charisma not competence is their calling card. So, many of these self-appointed “men of God” only know how to read the Bible but have little or no ability to interpret it in context. And their congregants and our country pay a heavy price for this self-righteous ignorance through spiritual blackmail, pyramid schemes and repeated acts of child sexual abuse.

The work to free Jamaica from unenlightened, dunce and deadly theology will be long and painful. But it must be done. Or we will forever be held hostage to the idiotic rantings of supercilious charlatans.