Why are Christians so angry with those who disagree with them?

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Why are Christians so angry with those who disagree with them?

Raulston
Nembhard

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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I am not nave or foolish enough to believe that there would not have been the kind of pushback that has emanated from the “bloggerati” concerning my article on Mayor Homer Davis and the MoBay Pride event. In a largely homophobic society as Jamaica still is, it is par for the course to vehemently criticise those who hold a viewpoint that even in the most remote sense resembles any condoning of homosexuals.

It is particularly galling to some people that such purported support could be coming from a priest. Men and women of the cloth should never get entangled in such matters as, in the view of some, church leaders must not get engage in matters that are controversial. They should stick to their pulpit and their altar. Their work does not call for engagement in political and social matters, especially the abominable subject of gay rights.

People who think like this tend to believe that gays must not be afforded the kind of rights that more 'decent' members of the society enjoy. Their 'indecency' should not be allowed in places where more decent and moral people have to assemble. Their lifestyle should not be encouraged.

There was even a veiled suggestion by one blogger that I might be a homosexual myself. You do not like the message, so you attack the messenger. This is something that I do not have to respond to, but same-sex sexuality has never appealed to me. Although I don't want this to be personal, I will just say for clarity that I have been married to the same woman referenced in my last article, and commented on by at least one blogger, for 37 years. I believe she will concur with me that we are still happily married and that we are immensely proud of our two children, who now have families of their own.

That said, let me be plain if it was not clear in the article, that I believe in people's right to use public spaces as long as they conform to what I described as the canons of decency in the use of those spaces. If we are going to be selective in what group uses any public facility, should we not be selective also as to who should pay taxes? We are quick to collect taxes from all groups and penalise people if they don't pay, but we are not as willing to appreciate their constitutional right to assemble in a publicly owned venue.

Gays are no more likely to be violent than any other group in a violent society. A discussion on same-sex marriage should not generate the kind of fear that the mayor and the Church seem to have. It is a lack of their own openness that forces this kind of fear on their minds. I believe my willingness to hear them out and to be empathetic with whom they are is more in line with the compassionate message of Jesus than the Taliban-Isis-like mindset of many who call themselves Christians.

It might be instructive to know that Jesus had nothing to say about the issue of homosexuality in his day, although the practice was pretty much in vogue at the time. What he emphasised, and what I would humbly recommend to the Church that it does, was to be compassionate to those who were marginalised, judged, and pushed to the periphery of the society. Thus, in three instances of sexual sin — the stoning of the woman taken in adultery, the story of the woman who washed his feet, and the woman at the well — his love and compassion shone through. He did not agree with what they might have done in life, but he was open to their needs. And, in so doing, released them from what might been a hellish existence.

The nature of Jesus in the gospels throughout his brief ministry on Earth was to demonstrate this compassion and care. I would humbly suggest that the Church recaptures this emphasis, and be less hostile to people with whom they disagree. Why are Christians so angry with people who disagree with them? Where is the milk of human kindness and gentleness which should make us more lovingly respond to those who disagree with us? Just ask yourself the question if Jamaica would be better off with the Church being in charge of the Government or having the power of Ayatollah Khamenie in Iran? I fear a theocratic State.

After almost 40 years of writing letters, articles and columns in the press, and having a passion to express freely what I believe, there is not a great deal that I am intimidated by. I have been vilified by both sides of the political spectrum but I have not allowed my right to free speech to be stifled. This is one of the reasons I stoutly defend those who are beaten upon and victimised because they dare to have sexual orientation that is not shared by many in the society.

I have been on my own odyssey with homosexuality. There was a time when, like many Jamaicans, I was homophobic given the cultural milieu in which I grew up. Like so many, I have evolved. I might have taken a path that many do not agree with, and which some people consider abominable for a priest to take. But such is life. Members of the gay community are ordinary Jamaicans, most of whom are among the brightest and most hard-working people you could ever meet. They are not asking to be patronised or pitied, but to be heard and afforded the respect like any other group in the society. If we are willing to listen to them, we may yet learn that they are among the most decent, innovative, artistic, and compassionate people you could ever meet. But even then, some will never get beyond the stereotype of hate that they have for these people. But you know what, Jesus would ask us to be compassionate to them as well.

Dr Raulston Nembhard is a priest and social commentator. Send comments to the Observer or stead6655@aol.com.


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