My recent visit at a particular Jamaican university which is church affiliated motivated this blog post. I am not intending to sway anybody's conviction here but to get persons to critically interrogate their positions. I was invited to talk on discrimination and to respond to some earlier disparaging comments made by some "professors" [I play on the word professor for those are professing to be professors] on the issue of sexuality, particularly homosexuality. They purported that homosexuals are responsible for the spread of HIV and AIDS, that they are child molesters, people with low self esteem, socially and psychologically diseased people, a threat to the continuation of the human race and, abominable. Their positions were vehemently buttressed with scriptural references and their crusader-like fervour in maintaining the absolute Truth of God's Word - The Bible. Suffice it to say that their very Christian dogma is what made their arguments fallacious and their behaviour condemnable; for upon our leave (I invited another colleague to be a part of my panel) they refused to respond to our very hearty farewell.
So these are the arguments presented:
1. Homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, 20:13
2. Homosexuality does not lend itself to procreation thus defying God's plan for replenishing the earth
3.Homosexuals molest children
4. Homosexuality can be treated; there are people who have changed so the argument that one is born that way cannot be bought.
5. Morality must be based on scripture, for the bible contains the whole truth.
6. Homosexuality is unnatural
It really did amaze me that in discussing the issue of discrimination in a "University" setting, that the moral arguments would be used as trump cards. Perhaps Carolyn Cooper needs to reassess her definition and list of such universities labelled as, "University to stone dog". Is it true that those arguments were used to justify discrimination? I shudder to think that is actually what was being insinuated. One very animated zealot said, "I do not want them around me or my kids, because I do not want my children to become gay." How dare "those people" bring their contagious disease around her and her family!
Not only were the aforementioned point not relevant to the debate at hand, they were fallacious; void of any sort of reasoning and even deficient in their own so-called Christian principles.
1. I absolutely agreed with the woman who cited the reference in Leviticus 18:22 as her grounds for her position on homosexuality. The challenge with her position though is that her belief in that scriptural reference stopped at the abomination and did not follow through to the "put to death" part. Why the partial acceptance? Speaking of abomination and holding to the literal meaning and "absolute" in-errancy of scripture, how would she also treat with the strict prohibition against males trimming the hair around their temples (Leviticus 19:27); or how unclean it is to be in the presence of a woman on her period, much more for her to go into the 'presence of God like that? The bible also makes the eating of pork and shell fish abominable, when will we start murdering those who eat those on the basis of a breech of a biblical moral code. As a matter of fact, at what time of the year should the government and all Sabbath worshipers put the Sunday worshipers to death? Didn't the Bible say those who break the Sabbath should be put to death? Furthermore, how is it that we allow people who wear glasses to come to the altar and serve in our churches? Did the Bible not speak expressly against those with sight defects who come to the altar of God (Leviticus 21:20)? Why is trafficking in human beings (slavery) a crime? Leviticus 25:44 gives me the right to own slaves as long as they are obtained from neighbouring nations. The law should therefore make allowances for me once I obtain my slaves from Haiti or Cuba and Christians should not judge me if I choose to have slaves. Or do we conveniently keep the Leviticus moral code we want to and find wiggle room from those that are not convenient for us? Is it that those speak to a particular time? The biblical irony is that the Bible does not present a clear position on homosexuality as many fundamentalist would love to postulate. In fact, biblical scholars have painstakingly shown that neither the Leviticus holiness codes (leviticus 18:22, 20:13) nor Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:1-9) nor Romans 1:26-27 present a compelling case homo-eroticism.
2.The argument that homosexuality does not lend itself to procreation thus defying God's plan for replenishing the earth is so intellectually deficient. Following that particular logic, the indictment should not just be on homosexuals for defying God's desire for procreation. Celibate people and the barren/sterile should also be condemned for such defiance. Just in case you are tempted to retort in the case of the celibate, but he chose that way, you have also said gays chose to be that way and if you are tempted to say that the barren/sterile were born that way then God surely had no real will of having everyone procreate did S/He - why then make barren people?
3. The most ludicrous argument I heard that evening was that homosexuals molest children. I can certainly understand hermeneutic challenges in [mis]interpreting biblical narratives but what are the grounds for this ridiculous claim? Homosexuals do not molest children; pedophiles do! Period!
4.Homosexuality can be treated. There are people who have changed. So, the argument that one is born that way cannot be bought. WOW! I really liked this point; perhaps their strongest, yet not well thought through. Certainly, the dynamics of human sexuality confuse them. Most scholars are moving to accept sexual behaviour as fluid. the sexual experience can travel along a continuum with "straight" on one end of the spectrum and "gay" on the other. Moreover, we must not confuse one's sexual "orientation"/preference with sexual behaviour for sexual preference (aka orientation) has to do with where one's primary emotional, sexual and psychological attractions lie. Therefore a man whose primary emotional, sexual and psychological attractions are toward a woman ("straight") may find himself having a sexual experience (homosexual behaviour - not necessarily penile penetration) with another man, maybe for money (in this recession) to take care of his baby and 'baby mother' (whole heap a dem deh bout di place and ah dem shout battyman fi dead di loudest). Religion, is a learned behaviour, yet people are freely allowed to change religions and practice whichever faith they choose. I do not, therefore see how the argument of homosexuality being a learned behaviour sanctions discrimination. The only difference is that religion is protected by law.
5. Morality is based on scripture? Is that so? morality far pre-existed religion, as we know it. The most primitive of human beings had the innate knowing of a very fundamental principle of respect for humanity and the creation around us. That is the basis of morality. Perhaps for the Christian moralist, beginning from the perspective that every man carries Imago Dei (Image of God)is an important point of departure. Discrimination will be an easier issue to discuss then. It is my contention that Theology has to begin with anthropology as its point of departure...
6. Finally, the argument of the unnatural.. Oh how people love to draw for that arsenal! However, human beings are the masters of the unnatural. If I follow the unnatural logic then it is also wrong for human beings to wear clothes, comb hair, brush teeth. Nature also demonstrates the homo-erotic among a number of its species example the penguins. I guess it is sin that makes nature like that?
Our real problem is not with homosexuality; it is with homophobia and that is a critical moral indictment on that particular university and the church it represents. Fundamentally, we ask the questions of who determines right and wrong and if there is a moral code does it include some and exclude others? If the latter is the case, what justification is their for an establishment? Whenever one set of people has power to define another, then power is given to that primary group to make the other what they want it to become and that is not just immoral, it is worse than anarchy.
Perhaps what we need is a theological reformation. If we use the metaphor of God as liberator, why then do we have the problem of homophobia? Homophobia causes us to condemn and objectify others - standing in violation of another human being's liberty. There is a biblical injunction against those who are guilty of such.
I am Damien Marcus Williams