“Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny,
And in this judgement there is no partiality” – Bob Marley’s Zimbabwe
After God is man. That’s the beginning of a most troubling position that Christian fundamentalists have on the relations between man and all other living things. Not human but man. But not all men, only the men that act like men are supposed to, or look like a respectable man should.
But how or what exactly are the expectations of effective manliness? Well for one, we the men folk should not be gay or associated with anything that’s gay or effeminate. That’s an abomination, right? But why is it that in our society those involved in corruption, violence, and other forms of discrimination aren’t viewed with as much venom?
What our society desperately needs is a new form of leadership. A leader who is able to courageously stand for something or others who may not, in any way, represent them or their lives, but who they can empathise with because they are first and foremost human.
So the president of the USA has shown his leadership by supporting the human rights of homosexuals in his country. Given his world leadership status, his position is likely to create a tidal wave for change throughout the region.
Public response to this announcement has proved to be more controversial than any response to the other major news of the massacres in Syria, or the Democratic Republic of Congo, or the poverty and violence reported right here in Antigua & Barbuda.
All I can hear or read about is the daft views of radio callers, and commentators to the online paper. Proud Antiguans are spewing hate for the decision and constantly uttering the evil, sin and gloom to come to the world. As if the Antiguan world is so bright and full of possibility. Where are all these opinionated folks when you need them to send a message to the prime minister, his senate and the members of Parliament? Come to think of it, these opinionated citizens must have been doing what they do best – talking but not necessarily listening.
A taxi driver said to me recently, “Antiguans are funny people. They don’t make issues of the real challenges affecting them. They make noise for all the wrong things.”
The driver made a point, but more importantly he noted that the general public is insufficiently informed about the key issues – human rights being the top of the list.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, in his congratulatory letter to the newly elected Barack Obama on November 5, 2008, stated “Your election will not only transform America, it can transform the world. Your message of change will ignite hope and action in people of many countries who might still be passive in the face of inadequacies and injustice.”
It is safe to say that the injustices faced by nationals of Antigua & Barbuda are far from being addressed assertively by the present administration. The PM’s reverence for the US president seems to suggest that he is more than likely to follow his lead on such matters. Unfortunately this is a juncture where many leaders abstain from exercising their power to nurture a culture of respect for human rights in the hope of retaining their political power.
So, what would Jesus do? I can’t quote random verses from the Bible, but I do know that Christianity seeks to remind its followers to refrain from casting judgement on others.
In the 2007 book by Bishop Desmond Tutu, God is not a Christian and Other Provocations, he categorically denounces the continued discrimination of minority groups. He states, “The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority. I myself could not have opposed the injustice of penalising people for something about which they could do nothing – their race – and then have kept quiet as women were being penalised for something they could do nothing about – their gender. … Equally I cannot keep quiet while people are being penalised for something about which they can do nothing – their sexuality. To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as apartheid ever was.”
Bishop Tutu goes further on to speak of same-sex relationships.
“Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual, monogamous relationship includes the physical – the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act; the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reasons have we to say that this is not the case for the homosexual?”
The bishop’s position is clear (and I am inclined to believe that this is what Jesus would do); it exhibits the wisdom and respect he deserves internationally as not merely a religious leader, but an informed and courageous human too.
Building an Antigua & Barbuda that is free of oppression cannot be an exclusive process. The continued isolation of the gay and lesbian population is simply unaccepted in a civilised world. The acknowledgment of citizenship of all is a matter of recognising and appreciating the human rights of all, notwithstanding their socio-economic status, ethnicity, race, gender, or their sexual orientation.
I can’t help but think that Jesus would have been a human rights activist, and given the nature of that work, he would be standing with our gay brothers and lesbian sisters in solidarity.