COMMENTARY: The church’s role in, and against, homophobia across Africa

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The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of Mort Tucker Photography

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy of Mort Tucker Photography

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(RNS) Western Christians cannot fix the homophobia that's currently gripping Nigeria, Uganda, or other African countries. We can, however, stand in solidarity with progressive Africans and support their efforts to teach new ways of interpreting the Bible and understanding sexuality.

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  • Earold Gunter

    “In the last month, many Westerners watched in horror as Uganda, and then Nigeria, enacted laws that are brutally repressive to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
    Unfortunately, not all did. Many Westerners also looked upon this wistfully, longing for these laws to be enacted in the U.S. as well. Ironically like the African who were taught a literally meaning of the bible, many in the U.S. also use a literal interpretation of the bible as the reason for their hateful position on those in the LGBT community, and for other social issues.

    “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
    Religion is mechanism to control people. What better authority is their than one which can’t be proved, one that can’t be seen, and one in which requires the suspension of logic and reason in order to believe?
    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
    Seneca the Younger 4 b.c.- 65 a.d

    Religion is poison!!

  • Leo

    Of course, it’s always the Christians. What does Islam do with homosexuals?
    The answer is easy to find.

  • Audra

    It is not an either or. This article addresses the christian church role in homophobia. The previous comment just seeks to cast attention elsewhere (Islam) instead of focusing on the problems with literal Christianity.

    PS like Christianity, Islam has some branches that are tolerant of GLBT people and many who are not.

  • Frank

    There is no excuse for violence for any reason against people.

    Gods plan for sexuality and marriage will never change. Man plus woman.

  • Cynthia

    Thank you so much for speak out, both compassionately and intelligently.

  • Joyce Campbell

    Yes. Christians should support the human rights of EVERYONE, and not be hateful or violent towards anyone. But it does not follow that we must support a redefinition of marriage which is rooted in God’s creation of man and woman. As for missionaries role in Africa, please read the latest issue of “Christianity Today”‘s article “The World the Missionaries Made” as well as the academic article by Robert Woodberry.

  • Larry

    So you are essentially saying that American evangelicals are no better than Islamic Fundamentalists. No argument there. But I am not sure that is the message you really feel comfortable with when you think it over for a bit. =)

    Are the anti-gay Muslims in Africa being supported by American religious organizations? No. (Not that we know of anyway)

    Its a matter of expectations. We expect people in a democratic developed nation not to financially support measures which create obvious human rights abuses. Criticism gets leveled at the American fundamentalists because they would be the ones most likely to be embarrassed and shamed enough into ceasing their bad acts.

  • Laura Masterson

    Rev. Jennings, thank you for your honesty and courage. How sad for the church but more importantly for the humans who are being degraded.

  • Duane Lamers

    Leo, the liberals don’t say much about Muslim practices for one reason: Christianity is the largest of the creeds. The libs are going after Christianity, figuring that if they can take that religion down, the rest of the job will be a cakewalk.

    In the meantime they care nothing about criticism for their double standard. For them all’s fair in war. The rest of us ought to agree and fight the liberal agenda on the same plane–a “level playing field.” We might just win if we play by their own rules..

  • Duane Lamers

    Earold, I wonder which religion Seneca vents his spleen over. Certainly neither Judaism nor Christianity. Odd, isn’t it, that Tertullian claimed Seneca as one of Christianity’s own.

    Perhaps Seneca was railing against that religion of Roman imperialism. Nero was considered a god, you know, and Seneca was unsuccessful in influencing him.

  • Duane Lamers

    Ah, Ms Campbell, you strike at the very heart of contemporary (not classical) liberalism: it’s belief that it has the right to use language in any manner it sees fit in order to promote its agenda. Three postings above yours as I write you’ll find one who, among other things, has redefined bigotry and hate.

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  • Larry

    Do you have an argument besides, “Conservatives doing bad acts should be ignored because liberals are doing …..”? Of course not.

    Liberals talk plenty about Muslim practices negatively. Even make heroes out of people who defy them (like Malala Yousafzai) its just people like yourself don’t bother listening to anyone outside of their hermetically ideological bubble.

    In your discussion of double standards, you show a lack of willingness to apply any standards. No activity merits criticism if you agree with it politically. No matter how vile.

    Of course its also better to level criticism towards targets you have a reasonable chance of succeeding against. Leo pretty much declared that American fundamentalists are no different than Islamic counterparts in their willingness to fund mayhem in Africa.

    There isn’t much the average Westerner can do about Middle Eastern petrodollars being used to fund Islamicism world wide. However, shaming American Evangelicals to stop encouraging African human rights abuses through discussion in the media is possible.

  • Larry

    Obviously this is not about redefinition of language and blanket promotion of agendas. But to give us the real reasons you oppose such agendas is not usually socially acceptable in mixed company. 😉

    So you support American Evangelicals financially supporting the passage of laws which imprison and/or execute people for being gay? Please tell us your opinion of such things.

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  • Ken

    When you want your own agenda the first thing to do is reinterpret. Amazing, that after 2000 years the Bible is no longer allowed to stand on its own. Literal interpretation couldn’t possibly be correct because you want to live in your own sin. Romans 1:18-24

  • David

    I couldn’t have said it any better, Ken.

    Instead of blaming American evangelicals, did it ever occur to you that the Africans can think on their own? They read the Bible. They know what it says. The true Christians there have the same Holy Spirit living inside of them as we do over here. They understand fully that when you stop reading the Bible literally, you leave the doors wide open for any type of interpretation, including one that allows for the acceptance of homosexual behavior.

    Oh, and by the way, Ms. Jennings, your reference to their leaders as “African primates” is a bit racist, don’t you think? Or, is it only racist if one of us Biblical literalists/”fundamanetalist”/conservative types say it?

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  • dr. james willingham

    And behind the lib demand for equality and freedom practice, we have seen NAMBLA , North American Man Boy Love Assn., or pedophilia advocated as long as there is no coercion involved. Bah! The trauma of even supposedly non-coercive sex is evident for years after the event. When it is coercive, the impact is destructive of accomplishment in the adult years. In one three month period I dealt with 3 cases of incest and pedophilia, all grown and all showing evidence of the trauma. Then as a Counselor in a Senior High School, it was my responsibility to report such cases to Child Welfare and the appropriate legal authorities (police, etc.). As Licensed Professional Counselor I dealt with a few of the cases, and it was a grievous task, seeing the incredibly destructive effects such practices has upon the personalities of children and their development as adults. e.g., poor social skills, failure to be industrious, promiscuity, lack of career orientation and/or failure to develop and carry out plans for and of a career oriented normal person.

  • Larry

    And there we have it. The phony equating of consensual gay adult relations with pedophilia, incest and rape. Never mind that they are not the same thing. Never mind that nobody advocates such things.

    Just keep telling the same bigoted nonsense in public and pretend you have a level of authority people take seriously.

    God help anyone who has to deal with you as a HS Counselor!

  • Larry

    So if Americans are donating money, time and effort towards imprisoning and killing people for being gay, you have nothing to say about it?

    Of course given your response, it is clear you support such things but find the fact that it would be impossible to implement in the US inconvenient.

    I guess being a “True Christian” means signing off on human rights abuses and making excuses for people who support them.

  • Peter G

    Larry, it’s worse.
    It’s more along the lines of “Baptised Christians are free from sin, and therefore cannot behave badly. If a baptised Christian behaves badly, see the previous sentence.”
    I know one fellow who dismisses the actions of the Crusaders, the Inquisition, etc., as not being done by real Christians.

  • Peter G

    “Primate” is THE official title of the head of many Anglican provinces (national churches). It is not racist to call a primate of an African Anglican province a primate.
    Nice try, though.

  • Peter G

    Thank you, Rev. Jennings, for having the courage to speak out! Hosannas and Amen!
    The 20th Century governments of Germany, the USSR, and Japan teach us that when ANY minority group is systematically singled out for abuse, criminalization, margnalization, physical and other attacks, isolation, etc., that minority group is in deep, deep, trouble.
    Regarding religious support of these despicable laws in Nigeria and Uganda, … Jesus still weeps.

  • Earold Gunter

    Duane, I believe you consider me a liberal, as it is defined by you, and I have no issue calling out islam as a false fantastical belief, just like all other religions. I close my comments with an indictment of religion, and it applies to all religion.
    I agree there is a reluctance for some, both liberal and conservative to do so though, out of fear. I think you already understand this, but I’ll state it anyway.

    Unlike christians who claim to take the bible literally, but in actions do not really do so, are usually not violent to the point of murder. However some muslims who claim to take the koran and hadith literally have time and again proven that the conviction they have in their faith is so much more, and that includes murderous violence. They are not only willing to die for it, but take great delight in being able to kill the “infidel” along with them.

    Take a look at some of the writings of Sam Harris on this subject; it is very public, and very bold. I do believe he is also what you would define as a liberal. He would also be a great resource for your other interest as well. Enjoy!

    Religion is poison!!

  • Earold Gunter

    Duane, One will never know for sure which religion he was referring to, however I find it equally applicable to all. Yes,Tertullian did claim Senneca as a christian, but there is no record of this for sure. Perhaps he was not so outspoken about the ill effects religion has upon society, so was less of a threat to this christian apologist. Girolamo Cardano sure had nothing good to say about him, and Dante placed him in the 1st circle of hell, certainly no pace for a known christian, but one for perhaps one who is not a complete enemy. From what I’ve read, he seemed to find friendship in anyone who could further his lot in life, not an admirable quality for sure.

    Religoin is poison!!

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  • Frank Eggers

    @ Mr. Lamers:

    For your information, not everything is a matter of liberals vs conservatives.

    It may be difficult for you to do so, but try to understand issues instead of attaching liberal or conservative labels to them. Avoiding labels greatly increases the likelihood of reaching valid conclusions.

    And, for your information, Muslims are not all alike. They have divisions just as Christianity has divisions.

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  • Carl

    Please pray for our Christian sisters and brothers in Nigeria in the wake of serious attacks just days ago. This is really happening–not because of anything related to LGBT issues but because they are followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is a matter of justice we must ALL stand for.

    According to World Watch Monitor (Jan 29, 2014) at least 22 worshippers died at a church in Yola, while 300 homes were burnt down in a village in neighbouring Borno state and at least 52 people were killed. Boko Haram is suspected of carrying out both attacks.

  • Carl

    Larry wrote, “So you are essentially saying that American evangelicals are no better than Islamic Fundamentalists. No argument there.”

    Let nobody lend assent to the baseless accusation that “American evangelicals are no better than Islamic Fundamentalists.” This libelous use of language is just plain wrong. It is not only lacking in but contrary to the evidence.

    Who shall dwell with the Lord? “Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors” (Psalm 15)

    Christians are “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone” (Titus 3:1)

    There is a difference between speaking out against evil and speaking evil.

    Zealous advocacy against homophobia is no excuse for making false accusations. The body of Christ in the world includes American evangelicals and Episcopalians.

    Larry, with God’s help please reconsider what you have given your approval to and retract your statement with a public apology.

    I invite others, including and especially Rev. Jennings to help us all to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ and his Church.

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  • Erin Alexandra

    I think Jesus is also weeping out our failed attempts to engage in ‘peaceful’ relations with LGBT communities bby permitting their lifestyles as unsinful practices and then attempting to twist the word of God to suit their agenda.

    Either way He weeps when man takes His will and turns it into His.