Columns

Call for intellectual honesty in the engagement of issues

Sean Major Campbell

Friday, May 25, 2018

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I am grateful to those readers who have messaged me to say that they showed the Jamaica Observer article, 'Churchmen give cautious response to pope's alleged 'born gay' comments' to their pastors and all received similar responses.

I would call on fellow Christian brothers and sisters to understand that it is not easy for pastors to step outside of binary thought responses. The Church is, generally speaking, not open to shades of grey. This may be for good reason. It is much easier to give well-known responses to difficult questions.

Well-worn responses with a biblical ring satisfy two important needs. Firstly, for the pastor to be 'biblical' in response; and secondly for the adherent to feel assured that the expected response has been repeated and affirms knowledge and holiness.

Some responses mentioned included:

1. The Bible said it. I believe it. That settles it.

2. God never made Adam and Steve.

3. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah.

These responses have comforted a number of generations for some time now. They have the time-honoured capacity to elicit “amens” and restore respect for a pastor's authority. Never mind the fact that, eventually, many young people who go off for tertiary level study find that these statements are not sufficient in making an informed response to the wide subject of human sexuality.

Should we blame pastors in a religious culture which fears critical thinking, shames dissenting voices, and worships at the feet of patriarchal hegemony? Should we blame pastors when membership prefers a repeat of Sunday school/Sabbath school stories and methodology? Should we blame pastors when Christianity, for many, is defined by “sexual purity” and heteronormative platforms?

In the meantime, some young members in the Church are hurting deep inside as they hide their struggles with an inner reality that they dare not discuss with their holy pastor who is known for fire and brimstone preaching in accordance with binary views of gender and human sexuality.

Let us face it, it is much more difficult to invite reading and research from various disciplines leading to honest wrestling with the challenges people face concerning gender and sexual diversity. Bible verses and cultural axioms are a ready resource and make for easier access and ready presentation.

It is much easier to put the issues of life into black or white, right or wrong, yes or no categories. It makes for a more comfortable way of drawing a line between “us” and “them”. It “otherises” persons. This is especially true when you need to feel that you are on the side of heaven; while others are on the way to hell.

I will remain on the side of the imperfect. Those who know that there are shades of grey. There are ethical dilemmas. There are life moments — maybe all of life, when sermonising and moralising will not substitute for loving and compassionate reaches into the heart of our fellow human beings and other creatures.

Yes, we do need more than repetitive epithets. Let the people call for intellectual honesty in the engagement of the issues.

Fr Sean Major-Campbell is an advocate for human rights. Send comments to the Observer or seanmajorcampbell@yahoo.com

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