Religion vs rights
Religion is fighting an uphill battle.
And perhaps no more palpable way is this being manifested than in the strident efforts being made by the gay lobby in the United States, and we dare say, in Barbados and elsewhere, to have same-sex relationships legitimised and be subject to the same social and moral acceptance as heterosexual unions.
The modern United States, leader of world democracy, has been preoccupied, and correctly so, with the rights of the individual. And, when rights are at variance with religion or religious interpretation, invariably rights win the day in the land of the free and home of the brave.
It has now reached the point in history where same-sex unions and same-sex marriages are considered by several American states as an inalienable right. Indeed, President Barack Obama has become the first United States leader to publicly endorse this right.
But how does this presumed human right sit with religion, especially in so-called Christian societies like Barbados?
Religious leaders point to several scriptures which clearly state that homosexual unions, marriages, civil ceremonies, et al, where sexual intercourse forms part of those relationships, are abhorrent and against the teachings of the Divine.
We refer to at least three sections of Biblical scripture. Leviticus, Chapter 20, verse 13 states in part: “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” Corinthians 1, Chapter 6, verse 9 states: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites . . . will inherit the kingdom of God.” Romans, Chapter 1, verses 26-27 says: “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”
We have reached the stage where we have “Christian gays”. We have openly homosexual religious leaders conducting their ecumenical affairs in holy bliss, confident that their reward for their earthly “Christian” duties still rests in Heaven.
But if the Bible’s teachings are clear and used as the guide for matters of social morality and conduct, why is this issue so contentious? The conflict, we suggest, revolves around the rights of individuals, specifically consenting adults, and of course, Biblical interpretation.
Some lobbyists have contended that nowhere in the Bible does the Divine make a blanket statement condemning homosexual behaviour and that the denunciation comes not from His words but from the interpretation of the prophets. The inherent and erroneous suggestion is that perceived Divine silence is tacit acceptance.
The stronger argument is that why should a society inflict religious belief or dogma, and punishment, on consenting adults in relation to their private sexual behaviour. And why should the church, in consort with the state, be afforded the right to force religion down the throats of anyone in the effort to guide them into Heaven?
Additionally, if marriage is an expression of love, why should society disallow consenting adults of the same-sex the right afforded to heterosexuals of publicly demonstrating their love for each other?
We speak neither for the moral majority, nor as some might label them, the immoral minority.
But Barbados does not exist in a cocoon. Our laws often evolve as a result of what occurs around us on the international landscape, and sometimes, due to what is dictated to us.
The question of religion versus rights is a sensitive one. The church has been one of our solid foundations and its dictates cannot be ignored. But neither can the rights of consenting homosexual adults who care not one iota about the church or Heaven.
We abhor the madness that currently exists in countries such as Uganda where laws discriminate against non-heterosexuals to the extent that some people, gay or not, are subject to state persecution and prosecution because they are not overtly heterosexual.
Barbadian laws are currently prohibitive of homosexual unions. But laws were once prohibitive for millions on the basis of colour in many jurisdictions. Religion was once used prohibitively on the basis of colour, class and commerce against millions in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Times do change.
Some suggest that the irony of modern democracies, as it relates to the church and its teachings, is that while states promote the democratic rights of others, they unwittingly bow to an autocratic religious tenet that states: “Thou shall have no other God but me.”
Perhaps, religion is not the best place to go in search of rights.