FROM THE BOUNDARY - ‘To thine own self…’ – Part two

The LGBT debate grumbles on and not surprisingly, for it has social, legal and religious dimensions.

There’ve been some high points recently. We’ve had the three rounder between Ambrose Carter and George Griffith on the Comprehensive Sexuality Programme in schools, which I referred to last week. We’ve had the Canadian High Commissioner, Marie Legault, allegedly pushing same- sex marriage at an International Day Against Homophobia event last month when the gay pride flag stood proudly between ours and Canada’s. We’ve had the unedifying spectacle of Government Ministers publicly flexing their muscles on that same infamous non-issue, accompanied by anonymous posters asserting that a BLP Government would introduce it – which it’s said it won’t. And we’ve had a church leaders’ press conference in February insisting that LGBT people are, after all, “children of God”.

It’s been suggested by Peter Wickham (in 2014) that public perceptions of LGBT-ism are changing, that Barbadians these days are far more “tolerant and accepting”. For what it’s worth, that’s my perception too, at least among the young. They seem to work on the principle ‘live and let live’, which I suppose is a soft version of ‘love thy neighbour’. An increasing number too are speaking out in support of LGBT people. A good example is Mr Olutoye Walrond’s letter, ‘Let’s think rationally’, of 29 May in another section of the press. Yet the ‘usual
suspects’ don’t give up. “Demonic”, “unsound characters”, “moral cripples”, “social contaminants”, “liars”, and “satanists” who’ll “go the way of Sodom” are some of the stones gay people have had thrown at them by letter writers to our newspapers. Nice, yes? There was a particularly nasty one written by a female of the species last month (12 May). Gays “want our children”, the writer declared. “Homophobia is natural and normal”, she said. Gayness “is injurious to the human mind and body…practitioners are typically afflicted by mental health illnesses, suicide, premature death.” The lady is doubtless a Christian.

It’s obvious, then, that most of those who’ve thrown punches in the LGBT debate have been ‘thumbs down’ people. I suppose that the ‘thumbs up’ people believe that to say anything is a waste of time or, naturally enough, they’re simply too timid. But let me quote from a letter written some four years ago by a gay man. I keep these things, you see. They’ve become a sort of library and, for the purpose of my own writings, I’ve found them very useful. The author of the letter describes himself as an educated Christian who’d then been in a relationship with his partner for some four years. For myself, I find the letter an extraordinary combination of humility and defiance. So far as I know, he hasn’t written since but it would be interesting to have his views on same-sex marriage. For future reference, I’ll call the writer ‘Maurice’ after E M Forster’s novel of that name. This is part of what he wrote:–

“As between us Christians there seems little common ground. The Christ I recognise does not seem to be the same Christ as those who oppose us. Though I’d be prepared to argue about the Biblical texts usually relied on, said to represent ‘God’s Word’, let me just say that I will defend to my last breath my understanding of the Gospels in the name of Christ. For Jesus, there was neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, old nor young, black nor white, straight nor gay. These surface differences are irrelevant because all are welcome at the altar of Christ, and this, as the story of the woman taken in adultery shows, without condemnation. The Great Feast, which Jesus offers us, is for all men and for all time. So please, anti-gay Christians, do not fear. Nothing will be taken from you.

“The issue of sexual orientation is something which touches the very core of our humanity as between ourselves. It transcends differences in race, culture, class and creed, and it sets moral limits to the use of power. If, IF, we gay people are displeasing to God, then I’m sure God will sort it out in His own way. In any event, He’ll remain a loving and merciful God both to you and me. What this means in practice is that no-one has the right to condemn us on religious grounds when, by BEING gay, with all that that entails, we do not injure our neighbour – which is you – in the way you are trying to injure us. You condemn us, but we shall not respond to you in fear and trembling. We hold to the Law of Love which, on moral grounds, is all we need to do. So please – stop making God in your own image, you who seem to have forgotten love. And look, please, to the dust in your own eyes before you posture your moral righteousness. You see, we regard you as Pharisees with bowels of flint not sacred hearts of flesh.

“We say that sexual orientation is a private matter. We say that we have the right to be authentic people, free to be whom we truly are without masks, and free to love whom we choose. In loving, we do not seek to harm you – and the stars will remain in their courses. You push religion in our faces, but how many wars have been fought in its name, and for what? Haven’t we understood yet that as human beings we are all very frail, and that most of us are simply trying to realise ourselves by doing our incompetent best? The Nazis attempted to destroy whole peoples, including gay people. The world said ‘No’ to them. And that’s why I want to say to those who so readily condemn us without understanding: ‘No. Enough. Go your way. But go in peace – and in the name of Christ.”

I am still moved by what Maurice wrote. Unusually in the LGBT-debate, he talks about Jesus. The ‘thumbs down’ people never seem to mention him. For me, so much of the divine power of Jesus is that he shares our human condition. He is ever at hand, not afar off. His living words make us confront who we really are, including our sexual orientation, free from the masks of our conditioning, free from mere religious observance, free from those incapable of creating yet set on killing the spirit. A lively faith is one which urges us to step beyond the boundaries, as Jesus did. And that’s why I’ll always stand with Maurice and shun the littleness of those I’ve referenced who oppose him. Maurice’s religiousness is rooted in love. His goodness flames naturally. I wish I was more like him.

Go safely, then – until the next time.

More De Profundis from the boundary: “Christ…is the leader of all the lovers. He saw that love was the first secret of the world for which the wise men had been looking, and that it was only through love that one could approach either the heart of the leper or the feet of God.” (Oscar Wilde).

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