Homosexuality in Africa is a most controversial subject and in recent weeks, the issue has fired up in the media and psyche of Africans. Here’s one take on it. (Please note the views reflect those of our guest contributor who chooses to remain Anonymous).

gay flagA comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that there are 2.18 billion Christians of all ages around the world.* Many Africans consider themselves Christians – in fact about one in every four Christians globally lives in sub-Saharan Africa (24%).

In recent times however it’s not their good and gracious ministering that has come to the fore but their divided attitudes towards the gay and lesbian community across the continent.

The storm was whipped up earlier in the year when on January 7 2014, dozens of Nigerians were arrested after the country passed a draconian anti-gay law that punishes homosexuality with a life sentence in prison. Global gay rights watchdogs claimed the bill was the work of U.S. Evangelicals.

Soon after, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie took on the common arguments posed by supporters of the bill, speaking out against the laws that stated that being gay is “un-African”.

In her words – ‘The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic.’

Not long after, Binyavanga Wainaina, one of Africa’s leading literary figures, responded to the wave of recent anti-gay laws on the continent by publicly outing himself in a short story. He published ‘I Am a Homosexual, Mum’, to coincide with his 43rd birthday. Calling it the “lost chapter” of his 2011 memoir, it is a re-imagining of the last days of his mother’s life, in which he goes to her deathbed and tells her the truth about his sexuality.

On February 25, 2014 Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni outlawed homosexuality in his country. Museveni called homosexuals ‘mercenaries’ and signed one of the world’s toughest anti-gay laws raising the ire of gay and lesbian activists and supporters worldwide.

However, it really should not come as a great surprise for there’s apparently another agenda at work here. Despite the tutting of the West, and the efforts of Uganda’s small – and brave – gay rights community, the law has the backing of large numbers of Uganda’s conservative churchmen.

The president did not opt to quietly sign the bill over the weekend, while the world was distracted by the revolution in Ukraine. Instead, he wanted “the full witness of the international media to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation”.

In other words, this was no longer just about gay rights, in Mr Museveni’s view, but about the West lecturing an African country on how to run its internal affairs, in this case on a matter of sensitive sexual morality.

The next day, a Ugandan newspaper (if we can call it that, for its objectivity has long since been abandoned) listed 200 people it accused of being gay. “Exposed!’’ the headline of the Red Pepper tabloid read, beneath photographs of Ugandans it said were gay, as well as reporting on lurid stories of alleged homosexual actions. (If the idea was to humiliate and dehumanise the gay and lesbian community, then Uganda is doing a great job of it.)

Regardless friends, the issue is not going to go away just because we out, vilify and jail the gay and lesbian members of our society. The fact is gay and lesbian people will continue to be part of African society, hidden or not.

So what should be our response to homosexuality, as Africans – Christian or otherwise?

Right? Wrong?

(Forgive me if you’re not a Christian but since the strongest opposition to homosexuality has come from the ‘church’ the context for most of this article addresses the issue accordingly. However the values expressed are universally applicable.)

For those who follow the bible , the apostle Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians that, while we are to hold those who believe in Jesus to very exacting standards regarding sexual morality, we have no right to judge those who are outside the community (vv. 12-13); yet some Christian evangelists have taken to the streets with bullhorns and picket signs proclaiming what a horrible sin homosexuality is.

Furthermore, when entire governments advocate for the jailing of gay and lesbian people they fail their mission and role of government – to protect its people NO MATTER THEIR LIFE CHOICES. When we begin to legalise morality or belief systems then we begin to walk the narrow road to purgatory – because for one, who knows, if we allow a belief system to be illegal today who says that in a hundred years Christianity itself as a belief system won’t be outlawed on the same grounds.

To say that condemning homosexuality is wrong is a statement dealing with morality, not with legality.

There might be various laws for and/or against homosexuality, but saying that condemning homosexuality is wrong is a moral issue. My question then would be, by whose standard is something right or wrong and what justifies that standard as being valid? Yes, I know, a homosexual can ask me the same question and we could debate it, but that is another conversation.

If an atheist were to say that condemning homosexuality as a sin is morally wrong, then on what basis does such a statement gain its moral objectivity by which a blanket condemnation can be made? If someone says that the majority of society determines what is morally right and wrong, that is called the fallacy of ‘argumentum ad populum’. Just because a majority of people think something is right or wrong doesn’t make it right or wrong.

So, when a person objects on moral grounds to my objections or other Christians condemning homosexuality as a sin, he has no objective moral basis by which he can make such an assertion. At best, all he is doing is giving his opinion and it would be arrogant to think that his opinion is the standard or morality for everyone else.

Therefore there should be no condemnation …

gay1Are we saying those who don’t agree with homosexuality should throw out their beliefs?

No. Not at all.

Discrimination is not automatically bad. I discriminate on the kinds of foods I eat, on the programs I watch, and what movies I let my kids see. In fact, we all discriminate. We all have criteria by which we judge what is, and is not, acceptable. I discriminate against child molesters, and I will not let them be with my children unattended. I discriminate all the time, and so do you.

When it comes to homosexuality, some will stand strong in saying that God has condemned it as a sin (Rom. 1:18ff). But an agreement with God that homosexuality is a sin is not the same as discriminating against homosexuals.

We ought to have no problems working with homosexuals in a secular environment, being our friends and neighbours, etc.

After all we should never judge nor condemn. God didn’t ask us to. He asked us to love.

How to cross the divide?

It’s very clear that even if the call from God is to love, there is a breakdown in communication between the traditional/conservative/straight world and the gay and lesbian community.

A large swathe of Africans, at home and internationally – are fundamentally and vocally against homosexuality. However, there’s a large ‘other’ percentage who want to love homosexuals unconditionally i.e. embrace them without judgement. However where most claim to get stuck is in not knowing how to show love both in how we communicate or respond.

Trying to have a discussion about gay marriage with someone who is lesbian or gay is often like trying to play a game of netball while the opposing team is on a soccer field. Each side is basing their arguments on completely different assumptions about homosexuality.

You see, the divide comes about when Christians/traditionalists consider homosexuality a behaviour but homosexuals consider it an identity. Many Christians like to use the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” to describe their attitude towards homosexual people, but again, communication completely breaks down because if gay and lesbian folks consider their orientation an identity, is it really possible to “hate the sin” without also hating the sinner? Not in their eyes.

Creating a Safe Place

So given the ‘morality of homosexuality’ argument is a circular one that literally cannot be decided here on earth, how should the African society treat those within it that have decided to claim a gay and lesbian identity?

Through the world, Christian communities are realising that loving gay and lesbian people requires not just welcoming them into their fold, but embracing an entirely new way of communicating Christ’s stance on homosexuality.

Instead of looking at lesbian and gay people through the world’s eyes, they’ve realised they need to look at the world through their eyes. This means that, when discussing the subject of homosexuality with people, they should use words that are inclusive, not divisive i.e. “love” and “relationship” not “sin” and “abomination.”

We have to remember first that gay people are people first, who have been hurt deeply by the rhetoric of insensitive Christians/traditionalists.

We must put aside derogatory language if we want to create safe places for the gay community to talk openly about their sexuality. For those who have already made up their minds that they are gay, at some point this will mean “coming out” to their friends and leaders in the wider community. When they do, there will likely be a thousand questions about where their homosexual feelings came from, what they mean, how they can be altered, and of course: “Does God still love me?”

President Museveni can talk all he wants about his distaste for certain sexual behaviour, but what his stance does is alienate rather than bring closer those who may be practicing and/or struggling with an alternative lifestyle.

His hard stance will only result in the Ugandan LGBT community feeling condemned and hiding. Remember this – when the church/community neglects to provide support, sexually struggling youth are forced the search elsewhere.

Using language that is insensitive will not only keep those who are gay and lesbian from the everyday African community, but will also make homosexual strugglers who are inside the community want to leave.

Loving Homosexuals Into Hell?

gay2Unconditional love requires that we love gay and lesbian people regardless of whether or not they choose to change their sexual orientation. However, some fundamentalists would see this support of the gay community as an endorsement of sin. Some have dubbed it “going soft on sin” or worse still “loving homosexuals into hell.”

The purpose in relating to the gay and lesbian community must not be to win a theological/moral debate, but to show love. Using words like “sinner,” “sodomite,” and “abomination” will only put the gay and lesbian community on the defensive.

Gay Pride Meets Grace & Humility

One of the best ways to show grace to the gay and lesbian community is by looking for practical ways to show love. It’s time that African communities started to show love in tangible ways.

That means including gay and lesbians into our communities/events and lives in an effort to breakdown walls that have previously existed between the gay community and society at large.

It means having them over for dinner, inviting them to join you in your sporting events, having a drink/coffee with them – it means treating them exactly how you would like yourself to be treated.

While they’ll still know that the some in society believe homosexuality is a sin, because of the decision to reach out, they also know that we care about them as individuals.

Mixing Politics and Love (or not)

Oftentimes the biggest roadblock between traditionalists and the gay community is our political opposition to their civil rights crusades. Take, for example, the issue of gay marriage. Someone who is gay or lesbian will never be able to understand how it’s possible for someone to oppose their right to get married and still love them. Usually when gay people ask for a straight person’s position on homosexual marriage it’s not just making small talk, the question is most likely a litmus test to find out if we really care for them or not.

To the gay and lesbian community, saying that we love gay people, but we oppose their right to get married is like saying, “We love you but we hate you.” For most gay and lesbian people view their attractions as an immutable identity. If I were a homosexual who honestly believed that my orientation was unchangeable I would probably view conservatives as bigots just as many of them do. If you put yourself in their shoes, you can understand why they think we hate them.

Please don’t misunderstand me, in some cases I believe it is necessary that we take a political stand on issues like gay marriage, but let’s get our priorities straight. No one has any business reading a single book about how to oppose homosexuals politically until they’ve read a book on how to love them personally. We could pass laws that ban gay marriage, but in the process we alienate the gay and lesbian community, then we have won the battle but lost the war.

Love conquers all fear

Many men who struggle with homosexuality are not necessarily desperate for a sexual union but long for healthy male intimacy. Psychologist Chad W. Thompson (Author of Loving Homosexuals as Jesus Would) says they will not share their homosexual struggle with the men in their community because they fear rejection.

“These men dream of being held in the arms of another man and hearing the words “I love you.” Indeed, some them will literally cry into the phone when I tell them that I love them because they have never heard these words from another man before. One man put it well when he said, “As a gay man, I’ve found it’s easier for me to get sex on the streets than to get a hug in community.”

If you’re not sure how to hug someone who is struggling with homosexuality, or is proudly homosexual, just open your arms. If they need your touch, they’ll walk right in. Allowing those ‘different’ from you to get close to you is the greatest gift you can give them. Whether this takes the form of touch, talk, or even something as cliché as going to a movie, learn their love language, and then speak it!

After all, love conquers all fear.

____________________________________________________________

This article is a collection of insights, excerpts and opinions from various writers collated from:

http://lovinghomosexuals.com/

http://carm.org/

http://www.newyorker.com

http://newswirengr.com/

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/colinfreeman/100260864/has-britains-promotion-of-gay-rights-in-africa-backfired/

*Statistics from http://www.pewforum.org/2011/12/19/global-christianity-exec/

 

 

One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.