It is extremely commendable that the churches in the Caribbean and Africa have finally found their voices and are rallying people of African ancestry around a cause.
After 500 years of deafening silence on a range of social justice issues, the African and Caribbean church has finally broken its silence and has taken to the battlefield against a community of people who almost everybody loves to hate, namely the LGBTQ community.
Historically, African and Caribbean churches were quite content to sit on the sidelines throughout most of our history, which included chattel slavery, colonisation, exploitation, and State violence against the black masses. Black Christians were counselled century after century to patiently wait on the deity of their faith who would eventually right all the social wrongs that were negatively impacting on the black masses. Our ancestors were told to keep a stiff upper lip and maintain a spirit of anticipation that one day Caucasian Jesus would put in his appearance and give back the land to the meek and poor in spirit.
Gradualism was, therefore, the order of the day. Black people were not to jump the gun and run ahead of the deity of the Bible, who was silently working out his plan on behalf of those who loved the Lord. Agitation and, God forbid, violent action was totally out of the picture. Conservative Christians were convinced that slavery and domination of the black race by the Caucasians was all a part of the divine order, so there was nothing really to see there.
The ongoing culture war has unleashed a religious backlash against efforts to extend the full range of human rights to all, irrespective of race, religion, gender, nationality, colour, language, class, political affiliation, and sexual orientation. Conservative Christians have demonstrated time and time again that they are quite prepared to be obstructionists against every challenge to the existing status quo. Christians in Africa and the Caribbean who have taken up for American Caucasian conservative Christians should be aware that it was this same group of Christians who fought tooth and nail against the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in the US.
After separate but equal was repealed in the US in 1954, signalling the end of the Jim Crow era in the US, many Caucasian conservative Christians who did not want their children in the same schools with black children withdrew their children from public school and started the Christian charter school movement. It was only after the US Government threatened to end their tax exemption status that many of these schools started allowing black students to register. If some of these Caucasian conservative Christians drink a little too much communion wine, they will probably tell you to your face that black people have no right marrying Caucasians and that separate but equal was the Christian way.
Regrettably, it is this same group of Caucasian Christian reactionaries and obstructionists that black Christians have joined forces with to wage war against the LGBTQ community. A faith community that was quite comfortable with centuries of slavery, colonisation and brutality towards people of African ancestry is very suspect and all its moral pronouncements need to be placed under a microscope.
Black people should not forget that the same book that pronounces a death sentence against homosexuals also provides justification for the practice of slavery. Black Christians who want to quote the Bible as the basis for their homophobia must explain why they are not willing to follow the biblical injunctions on slavery, adultery, fornication, blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, and a host of other supposed moral breaches that required capital punishment in the Bible.
The Bible, like all other supposed holy books, was written by human beings who lived at a different time and under vastly different circumstances. Bible literalism has led conservative Christians down some very dark and bloody paths. The witch hunts and autos-da-fe of the past are but two examples of where Bible literalism can push societies. The same Christian crowd that is working itself up into a holy frenzy about alleged plots to conscript heterosexual schoolchildren into the LGBTQ lifestyle could tomorrow be stoning or burning members of the LGBTQ community.
The Abrahamic faiths have a long and bloody history that has impacted both the African continent and the Caribbean. Governments in Africa and the Caribbean have a duty to protect all of their citizens, including members of the LGBTQ community. Creating legal frameworks that allow either Christian or secular mobs to vent their hatred against members of the LGBTQ community is reprehensible, disgusting, and backward.
Conservative Christians on the continent and in the Caribbean are on the wrong side of history with regards to the LGBTQ issue. While it is true that parents have a vested interest in the education and protection of their children, the State also has a duty to prepare students to function in a changing world. Our evolving reality requires the incorporation of new ideas and new practices that reflect the world as it is. Bible literalists and others may have issues with some of the changes which now form a part of our new reality. They and other religionists, however, do not have the right to impose their static moral world view on the rest of African and Caribbean societies.
After all their grandstanding and posturing is over, conservative Christians and other religionists in Africa and the Caribbean must come to grips with the reality that the world has moved beyond the colonial, prudish, Victorian era and is building upon a brand-new ethical foundation that is rooted in the best insights gleaned from the Enlightenment. Bible morality, by comparison, is primitive and needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of The Rebirth of Black Civilization: Making Africa and the Caribbean Great Again. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.