Friday, March 23, 2007



Problems are looming in the world of gay rights and perhaps everyone’s rights. I scarcely know which of the two developments around same sex issues treated in the articles at the addresses below troubles me more: the political correctness around homosexuality which Brazil is coming to represent, or the chronic homophobia that Nigeria displays. Both mark the exaggeration of disturbing trends that the world and gays would be better free of and everyone should be more aware of before it’s too late. That the relevant trends exist at all seems to prove that homosexuality is a subject that regularly invokes extreme responses of every kind and that sweet reason directed upon the subject is still very hard to come by.


In Brazil the so-called Homophobia Law, already passed in the lower house, awaits Senate approval (admittedly against much protest) to legislate that anyone calling homosexuality objectionable/ immoral be imprisoned anywhere from 3 to 5 years. Imprisoned? And for so long? Politicians are nevertheless so serious about this that they want to prohibit even seminaries from refusing anybody on the basis of their sexual orientation….In short, the secular state will tell the churches and ordinary citizens what they will do and think and no one will be permitted their opinions about moral and immoral.

What if the gay applicant to a Brazilian seminary believed it was OK for him to be cruising for boys every night of the week (as the more radical queer theologians might accept)? What if like theologian Michael. J. Clark the gay person wanted to be ordained despite teaching that the resurrection is an “evil” doctrine and the doctrine of the Trinity oppressive? Under the new regime anyone trying to protect the spirituality and beliefs of their organization risks imprisonment as a criminal bigot for merely raising objection to the now super protected gay person!

Increasingly, as in Sweden, where a rather silly elderly rural pastor who should have been ignored was dragged before the courts and declared guilty on account of a sermon, gays are everywhere becoming the pretext for so-called liberals, to put in place a machinery that in the long run risks suppressing free speech and conscience itself. Similar situations to those of Sweden could soon occur in such as England under the SOR (Sexual Orientation Regulations) bill (it comes into force on April 20th but allows 21 months of adjustment) with its sweeping changes. These include regulations to dismiss, fine and perhaps jail church school teachers that would teach homosexuality is immoral or teach any moral law as being “objectively” true. Charities and Catholic adoption agencies which will not be allowed to refuse adoption to gay couples already feel so compromised many may close.

Of course, in a world of too many bad and even abusive parents, doubtless many gay couples make far better parents than many straight ones, but is that really the point? And is it worth having whole well established charities and agencies closed or curtailed in their work because the occasional gay couple who could apply elsewhere might feel offended by a refusal from them? Concern with "equality" here is going well beyond pragmatic social considerations.


No matter how much we may disapprove homophobic attitudes, policies and statements it is surely essential - up to a point – to allow members of the public some eccentricities, bigotries and exclusions and where life and limb are not manifestly at risk we should all refuse to become unduly sensitive. Gay or not, we nearly all suffer discrimination for something, sometimes and must learn to live with it. We may even be better persons for managing to do so. Also, in teaching Shakespeare we don’t approve bowdlerization for some his more questionable attitudes. Nor should we do so for the Bible which should be taught more or less as it is, albeit with a suitable critical eye. In the case of religiously sensitive gay issues we might well hope, as has happened in relation to the biblically semi-sanctioned institution of slavery, they would be something that time and education would alter without the need to round people up for jail to speed the process.


It’s rather clear what’s happening. Cynical secularists have rightly seen that homosexuality is a chink in Christianity’s armour. They are now happy to work to exploit this by creating trouble for churches and religion generally (not just Christians are worried by the new laws) by “defending” gays to a degree almost as absurd as that of their forebears who opposed them.. But punishing the likes of charitable workers so that a section of society rightly or wrongly much associated with partying won’t ever feel offended, is the latest form of indecent obscenity.

Though we want gay rights and protections and I am keenly aware how subtle forms of homophobia still silence and exclude gays in especially religion (I could here and now accuse well known names in religious media and theological circles of deliberate neglect or active obstruction), yet still I must defend the broader principle of free speech. I must also trust in the process of education. Personally I hate that my liberal views in this area should be associated with politically correct policies ultimately threatening to democratic principles in religious and social life alike. I am also unhappy with those gays in the West who currently go along with what is done on their behalf without sufficient concern for the greater social good.

But that’s one side of the picture…..


We now see the polar opposite in Nigeria. There we realize how far unacceptable prejudice will go among some authorities in religion and why secularists and radical gay activists feel no compunction about wanting to control such people. The Nigerian church group, "Changing Attitudes", is warning there could be an exodus of gays from Nigeria because of the daily violence against LGBT people and the new oppressions. These are as good as advocated by the now notoriously homophobic Archbishop Akinola, himself controversially aligned with Muslims to oppose homosexuality to the extent the aim appears to be to legislate alternative persons and ideas out of existence. The so-called Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2006 doesn’t only prohibit marriages or unions. It forbids anyone celebrating or attending them on threat of years in jail something also to be visited upon anyone assembling in public or private to support or celebrate gay rights in any form – one should not even write about them!

The behaviour and statements of Archbishop Akinola over recent years have been such that if he had been almost anyone else he would have invoked much greater criticism from the international community. This hasn’t happened partly because of the inherited guilt people still feel today around the treatment of blacks so that they don’t like to condemn them even when their behaviour is plainly “over the top” (like physically throwing a representative of gay affairs to the floor at the 1998 Lambeth Conference).. Today what is arbitrarily assumed to be orthodox doctrine in relation to gays in Africa (where the opinions of experts in and out of religion count for nothing against the most narrow literalisms) is being employed with almost inquisitorial force and reckless unconcern for the damage to the wider church it doesn’t care if it splits.

Among the rank falsehoods Akinola proclaims, and is allowed to get away with among most other African prelates, is a) that homosexuality is not indigenous to Africa but western imported and b) that it is unknown to nature whereas science shows it is very much known to the natural world. Akinola might be better occupied protesting the rights of the seriously persecuted Nigerian Christians instead of aligning with their persecutors, even somewhat appeasing them, by willing to punish a gay minority. It’s an unpleasant picture.


If there is any solution it is to find a safe space, a middle ground from which to speak to increasingly extreme and extremely divided parties today. In my Thunder Perfect Minds I have something to say about the rapid growth of a new Out of Church Movement, an informal fellowship of people who meet together, some believing God has told them to leave the institutional church, others who have left it because they cannot stomach any longer what the churches are doing and saying.

I think if gays are not to finish contributing to underhand secularist agendas or unnecessary, damaging church splits and if they want to speak out freely then to retain integrity they might need to go in similar direction to the Out of Church Movement. They need to speak from something like a Post Gay Lib Movement. Indeed, if they are to avoid being guilty of helping to make society like atheist China where everybody is vetted for whatever they say, especially religious belief, there will have to be some such movement. Whatever happens the situation is becoming grave but where there’s a will there’s a way. And enough is now at stake for a way to need to be found.

1 comment:

KittKatt said...

Thanks for an interesting juxtaposition of two gay-related articles. I suppose we queers value free speech must above all... although sometimes I think this goes too far in the increasingly violent American media.