The Nigerian Christian is immediately judgmental, their default position is to quote bible scriptures mindlessly when confronted with any issue bothering on the moral without due consideration of the meaning of what they are saying, its effects or the full knowledge of the tenets of the religion. It is not surprising then that they condemn homosexuality in its entirety without entertaining any argument to the contrary.
I recently had two experiences that led me to wonder about the problem that religious people have with homosexuality.
The first of these was when I had a friend put up an essay I wrote which I had intended to post on my Facebook page as a coming out message. I had in that post outlined a lot of arguments against the usual rhetorical statements used by anti-homosexual individuals. The reactions to this post were interesting. The kinder ones commented on the beauty of the essay but disagreed with the opinions raised without making any counterclaims. Some lazy ones didn’t bother to read it but rather offered their usual inane arguments when confronted with the subject of homosexuality. The less charitable ones spewed forth their vitriol. The most interesting response however was the one of a commenter that took the time to write quite a long sermon based on some Bible quotes, stating that if I came to God, he would heal me and I would become new. She further stated that right at the moment, I was under the control of the devil who is my father and I was in bondage and couldn’t break free. I was impressed by the fact that her comment would have taken her a long time to write, but nevertheless it baffled me that an adult would hold such a fantastic world view in this day. I concluded that she probably wrote what she did because it is the right thing to be seen to do and that she didn’t actually believe it, because if she did, then it would really be disastrous for her sense of wellbeing. One thing she forgot to note is that the Bible doesn’t grant her the right to speak in public as she is only allowed to air her views to her husband at home. If she is unmarried, then tough luck. The healing part got to me because if any self-respecting Christian would be true to themselves, prayers don’t work and there are no miracles. The reason being that if God were as powerful and loving as He is said to be, miracles would be the order of the day and not a special feat sought after in special gatherings. They would acknowledge that things follow a natural, not supernatural order, and that for circumstances to change, it takes humans sometimes with knowledge acquired by science to effect it.
The second situation was while chatting with a close friend whom I had come out to. Not exactly come out though; he had guessed as much after I had a long discussion with him on religious matters which, as they tend to do these days, veered into sexuality at some point. My anti-religion, pro-gay stance was not lost on him because months later, while discussing a completely unrelated matter, he suddenly asked, “Is it because of your sexuality?” It seemed he had been waiting for an opportunity to ask that, and if one would not present itself, he couldn’t hold his tongue any longer. I obliged by answering that although the issue at the time had nothing to do with my sexuality, that I would satisfy his curiosity by confirming that I am indeed gay.
The matter rested that day, but sometime later, while still on another unrelated topic, he suddenly came up with, “I think you need some reorientation.” It took me a while to understand what he was on about, and when I did, I felt insulted, upset and angry. Insulted by the implication in his remark that I was not alright; that there was something wrong with me while he was normal; that he for some reason knew more about my life and the experience of it than I that was living it; that he felt he had a knowledge I was lacking; that I was so stupid not to have come up with this revolutionary solution to my life that he, an outsider, came up with without much thought. It was presumptuous and delivered in such a glib manner that I found irritating. I guess my annoyance also came from being reminded of this trait, which I dislike and associate with my fellow countrymen, of not bothering to educate themselves on issues before offering ‘insights’ usually conjured out of thin air. I was certain he hadn’t bothered to look up the issues around the conversion therapy that he was proposing, because had he done so, he would not have been in doubt as to how ineffective it is. He later said he didn’t like my response to his statement, which he described as ‘emotional’. I don’t know how he got the idea, as it was a chat and I typed in small case. However I didn’t fail to point out to him that while for him it was just an ‘opinion’, for me it was my life.
His responses gave me an insight into his state of mind. Being religious, he was of the persuasion that homosexuality is wrong as prescribed by the Bible and sees the increasing acceptance in the world as the result of the success of weak-willed individuals who rather than change were fighting to gain acceptance. Like he put it, “…there are two opinions about this and one is globally accepted.” In his psyche, he is fighting for truth against worldliness (like Christians are wont to do). The problem with this is that in this one track mind of unquestioning loyalty to the Bible, one bends facts to fit the ‘incontrovertible’ records in the Bible rather than admit any other account is true. If he had bothered, he would have learned that the reorientation he was proposing does not work but had instead inflicted so much misery on people, a lot of whom had taken their own lives as a result. He would also have learned the accounts about how former proponents of the therapies had either been caught in scandalous situations or had come to their senses and realised that it does not work. But he knew neither of these things, and for this, felt justified in prescribing reorientation for me in order to maintain his perfect view of the world.
In fighting for his truth, I wonder what his objective, as well as that of most Christians, is. Is it to have a world were homosexuality is judged abnormal, to have laws enacted against it, to have homophobia and discrimination as normal, to have preachers rain curses on gay people every Sunday, to create an environment where it is acceptable to lynch and kill people because of their sexuality, to have gay men subjected to unfounded therapies in an attempt to cure them, to have parents abuse and disown their gay children especially those who refuse to change? Is this what would make him happy? Do they persist in this anti-gay crusade for personal gains? Do they derive happiness from it? Are they doing it for God, to make the world a better place? Do they have an overwhelming concern for all the vaginas that won’t be or are not being plugged by a penis, or all the penises that go unattended to by a vagina? Or is it a concern for an anus that doesn’t belong to them? Is it the case that they struggle with homosexuality themselves and in trying to change others, are in fact trying to change themselves? I wish I could understand why some people in the name of religion make what another man does with his body their overarching concern.
This further set me on a path to decipher the problem religion has with homosexuality. One thing that struck me is that the admonition of religion to accept its tenets by faith, the exhortation that God uses the simple things to confound the wise, the statement that one should not add or remove from the Bible as adding would mean adding more sorrows in the afterlife and removing would mean removing blessings from the afterlife, has created exactly what it intended – people too afraid to question religion because of the fear of going to damnation. It has engendered a simple minded cult, bound by fear, comfortable with it and unwilling to entertain any argument to the contrary. That is why you would find Christians who will condemn Islamic extremists like ISIS for their terrorism but applaud them when they learn about how they hurl gay men from the tops of buildings to their death. They don’t stop to question and ask themselves whether it isn’t time to contemplate further this belief they hold in common with terrorists, or wonder about their true nature if they can applaud such dastardly acts. But such is religion, it imbues a feeling of self-righteousness into its believers which some extend to condemning others.
I however don’t think it is right to lay the entire blame on religion. The Bible, many agree, can be interpreted any way one chooses. There is enough in there to justify any action, even homosexuality (David and Jonathan are a good example of manly love), and it leads me to the assumption that sometimes, it is merely used by some as an excuse for bigotry and may not always be the cause of it. It is clearly stated somewhere in Leviticus and Romans that being gay is an abomination and gay people should be killed, a fact that most Christians don’t hesitate to point out. However they fail to point out to themselves that other behaviours which are accepted as normal today like fornication, adultery, and disobedience in children were also condemned in the bible and likewise liable to the penalty of death. One would think that if the Christian is comfortable dismissing some of the laws as no longer tenable, he or she would pause for a while and wonder what else ought to be dismissed. But such is the selfishness of the Christian that such magnanimity works only for oneself and does not extend to others who must bear the full brunt of the written text. No one would consider killing a child for disobedience today, but that is what the Bible preaches and yet it is not called into question.
The position of some is that morality is only found in religion and therefore homosexuality being explicitly condemned in the Bible is wrong. Morality as defined by the Bible is whatever God wants or, better put, whatever the writer of any book of the bible felt that God feels is wrong. The religious often say the bible was inspired by God. However no one bothers to find out in what form the inspiration came. They do not ask if there was a break in transmission or poor connection leading to some errors in the messages. Be that as it may, in some passages, a raped woman would also be liable to a death penalty if she did not scream loud enough while being raped, as apparently she must have enjoyed it. This standard of morality is not tenable in the world today. This attitude towards a rape victim would be considered reprehensible today, especially because it is the argument that is used by rapists to justify their actions to themselves, i.e. “She was enjoying it.”
All these should really make one think twice before upholding religion as a basis for morality. God has at various times in the Bible supported rape, lying, murder, prostitution and adultery when the situation suits His purpose. But it is the truth that for many religious individuals, the veil is pulled over their understanding when reading these passages.
The Bible has a lot of passages that anyone can hold on to if they want to be kinder to gay people. Judge not so that you will not be judged. Bless and do not curse. Love your neighbour as yourself. And then the story of the Good Samaritan. They all admonish Christians to look beyond themselves and extend love to even those that society deems unlovable. Jesus Himself was an embodiment of that, dining with tax collectors and prostitutes, those considered to be on the fringe of society at the time. The Bible says He replied those who questioned His affinity for the groups with the response that it is the sick that require doctors and not the people that are well. This is not to insinuate that gay people are sick; the idea is that if Jesus were here today, He would certainly not ban gay people from attending church services today like many churches do, or pretend that they do not exist like most societies do. Jesus said that He would not cast out anyone who comes to Him. It then makes you wonder why the church, which is supposed to be the body of Christ would do just that.
Christians today, in their bloated self-image of righteousness, would rather look down on those they consider less righteous than themselves. Self-righteousness in itself was clearly against the teachings of Jesus. It was evident in His constant battle with the Pharisees, who were champions of hypocrisy, the same group He accused of imposing laws on people which they were not wont to keep themselves. This is similar to an argument I have heard a friend make, the thrust of which is that even if people are born gay, they should live lives of celibacy. This coming from a man with three children! The story of the two men praying in church in which the first man’s prayer was a catalogue of his good deeds that even went as far as pointing out how much better he was than his fellow supplicant, who only pleaded that God be merciful to him as a sinner, was used by Jesus to illustrate the need to have a contrite heart. Thus it is baffling to a casual observer how this attitude of superiority in one’s perceived righteousness has become acceptable, how these mere humans can feel so assured of their goodness and certainty of going to heaven that they are comfortable playing God, judging the actions of their fellow men or casting the proverbial first stone. The homosexual is a perfect target for that, it is a sin considered as the lowest of the low by most Christians. It is not only sexual, an activity that religion mostly abhors and would probably stop in its entirety if it could, but a deviant form of sexuality at that. Nothing else could therefore be more worthy of condemnation. The other forms of sexual immorality at least have the sanction of being “normal”. The Christian forgets that the Bible is clear that no sin is greater than another and that Jesus Himself exhorts that he who is without sin should cast the first stone.
I used to be a Christian, which may be clear from what I hope is an above average understanding of what is written in the Bible. During my time in the faith, what never failed to strike me is the stringent criteria that is required of one who is going to make it to heaven. Such a person must be as blameless as a spotless white garment. Little wonder Paul asked his followers to work out their salvation in trembling and fear. We all know how difficult it is to keep a physical white garment clean when worn out for just one day; consider how much more difficult it is to keep a spiritual one, worn every day, clean when it could be defiled not just by the obvious shitload of stains from acts like lying, stealing, adultery and fornication, but also by the less sinister acts like impure thoughts. This is why I fail to understand why the Christian would feel so confident of going to heaven enough to judge his fellow man, because if the truth be told, no one is that righteous enough to make heaven. It would require asking for forgiveness at an alarming frequency in one day alone, which I feel is enough to drive anyone insane. This is because if you commit a sinful act and for some reason die before your next wash of the spiritual garment by asking for forgiveness, then down you go. Personally I had to make a choice between my sanity and Christianity, and fortunately for me, sanity won.
Another thing I failed to understand is why the religious, not just Christians, feel the need to do God’s work for him. He only asked that He be worshipped. He never asked anyone to punish anyone else for their sins, which is His purview. I have the image of a god rubbing his hands together in gleeful anticipation for the time he would get to finally throw all sinners into hell and finally get his revenge for disobedience. Why would the religious rob him of that pleasure? In the world today, humans perpetuate a lot of atrocities in the name of religion, killing people with opposing views, beating up gay men, hurling them from the roofs of buildings, ostracising them from families, denying them service at businesses and treating them like animals and not fellow humans. All this is done in the name of religion and for God, who till date has not been moved to anger enough to tear open the heavens and smite even one gay person to show His support for the persecution. Instead, he rewards Ireland with two rainbows on the day they voted to legalise gay marriage and flooded the state of Texas on the day they voted to restrict gay rights. And yet, people still don’t get the message. They say He did that to Sodom and Gomorrah, but they also said He created a flat stationary earth with the sun running around it; so who are we to believe?
To add to my confusion is the fact that these religious people commit acts condemned by their religion in trying to uphold it. They commit sins by their hatred, impure thoughts and violent acts all in a bid to fight against sin.
Imagine the irony.
A lot of Christians believe homosexuality to be a disease, be it psychiatric or whatever. They also believe in a good and loving God, one who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. They believe in a God of miracles who can change the natural order of things, heal diseases, raise the dead, find people spouses, make visa applications successful and give prosperity in cash and kind to His followers. If all that be true, then why does He not heal the gays? Or do they believe we have not prayed, or that all the time we spend in choirs, writing songs of praise and worship to His Holy name are done just in the name of being fabulous? Shouldn’t His failure to grant healing either be because He is unable or unwilling to do so? And if that be the case, why should the blame be on people who are only trying to live their lives like everyone else?
I think that the greatest problem religious has with homosexuality is a refusal to confront the issue that the Bible may actually be wrong. The question then would be if indeed gay people were born gay, then why would the Bible condemn the act that God created them with a predisposition to? Why would God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for that act if indeed it was a normal predisposition? Forget that the same situation occurs with the commandment on sexual fidelity because God, if He exists, would have created humans with sexual organs that only mature with marriage, bearing a lock-and-key mechanism unique for the couple that won’t fit that of any other person, to prevent fornication or adultery. It could be in the form of a special password for sexual arousal which the Holy Spirit would reveal to a couple, which can only be spoken and understood by the couple. Is that too much to ask? The absence of these creates a permissive environment that leads to a lot of infidelity, which God abhors. But I guess since He didn’t bomb a whole city for it, those other sexual sins are not so bad.
Back to the discussion, accepting that the Bible got it wrong there would lead to other questions about what else the Bible may have gotten wrong. And that line of inquiry is a slippery slope that would lead to a life too fearful to contemplate for one who has believed in a divine orchestration of daily life. A life without the protection of the Divine is a fear that would bring so much conflict to the psyche of a Christian. They would, if they are true to themselves, realise that such beliefs have not really served any purpose except for that of belonging to a social group.
That, I believe, is the ultimate problem that exists between religion and homosexuality, and probably the reason why homophobia will continue to thrive in the African community till hopefully enlightenment comes.
Written by Dimkpa