The dignity and equality of gays and lesbians
Recall the hysteria and hate-drenched anti-gay demonstrations of the previous two decades protesting gay and lesbian visitors cruising to the country to experience our Bahamian hospitality.
Some of the gay-bashers invoked the narrative of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. Genesis, like other books of the Hebrew Scriptures, consists of numerous literary genres and devices.
Genesis contains not one, but two, creation accounts, literary renderings crafted by ancient scribes to convey theological meaning. Today, literalists still believe these to be factual accounts, though the science of evolution demonstrates otherwise. Sodom and Gomorrah recalls an ancient Jewish prohibition against sodomy and homosexuality. Today, modern science offers compelling facts and hypotheses on the nature, complexity and range of human sexuality.
Still, literalists have the right to entertain fact-free opinions on the genesis of life and the genesis of homosexuality much as racists of old utilized Christian Scripture, pseudo-science and bigotry to justify slavery and white supremacy.
Eventually, the homophobes will be written into history as intellectual cave dwellers whose primitive world views were exorcised by the evolution of human ethical consciousness and moral progress.
Those who marched fervently in support of segregation, even in living memory for Jim Crow in America and apartheid in South Africa, have seen the judgement of contemporaries and of history on their antediluvian theologies and philosophies.
Which brings us back to the anti-gay demonstrations at the City of Nassau, and to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
While reflections on sodomy and homosexuality as referenced in Genesis 19 dominate the exegesis of the story in various quarters, there is another theological interpretation.
For various theologians and preachers, inhospitality is the great or greater moral failing at Sodom and Gomorrah. This insight seemed lost on the unwelcoming protestors who gathered downtown, targeting a select group of visitors in a demonstration of inhospitality, and incivility by some.
It is revealing that the clerical clique and their claque of crusaders were more moved to demonstrate against gays in port for a few hours, than they have been to protest the sometimes orgy of nubile and half-naked, stoned and drunk, fornicating and gambling, straight spring breakers in town for several weeks.
Apparently, certain favorite “sins” give some moralists goose bumps, titillating and inflaming their moral loins more than other sins. But back to our story. It is April 14, 1998. Here is LifeSiteNews.com’s read of the day’s events: “Besieged by gay cruise ships, Bahama residents held a protest Tuesday at the arrival of yet another gay ‘Love Boat’ on its shores. About 300 demonstrators from a group called Save the Bahamas crowded Prince George Wharf where the cruise ship SeaBreeze [sic] had docked with its 800 lesbian passengers.”
Nassau besieged? One might have imagined from this report, that the pleasant sounding SeaBreeze, populated mostly by lesbian passengers armed with sun tan lotion, greenbacks and piña coladas, was another battleship in a gay armada intent on laying siege to “Bahama residents”.
Thankfully, the cruise did not prove even as threatening as the exaggerated story of Colonel Andrew Deveaux Jr.’s brief siege of Nassau in 1783. Still, there was a scuffle of sorts as reported by LifeSiteNews.com, revealing who was actually besieged and by whom: “When eight of the SeaBreeze passengers decided to brave the demonstration and headed toward the straw market, the crowd turned and headed toward them, yelling ‘Go back. Go back.’ Five of the women turned and headed back toward the ship; three charged ahead, and were followed for several blocks by a group of six protesters.”
Some years later, in 2004, following another gay cruise, and in response to Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, then President of the Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) Rev. Dr. William Thompson offered a sermonette from the Mount of Ridiculousness.
Wilchcombe was quoted in The Tribune: “We live in a democracy, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and expression thereof.” Reacting in a statement carried by this journal, the cleric attacked long-established democratic principles and the Constitution.
“Rev. Thompson said while The Bahamas is a democratic nation, ‘It is not true that everyone is entitled to express their opinion in any way they wish, this would result in anarchy...’”
Yes, there are limits to freedom of speech. Yet he continued: “‘A democracy, while safeguarding the concerns of the minority, is committed to carrying out the will of the majority of its citizens.’”
He got it partially right. But the part he got wrong, both on ethical and constitutional grounds, is appalling, the mindset of a theocrat, and not a democrat living in a pluralistic society.
Slavery was the will of the majority in the United States for centuries. This did not make it moral that the majority approved of the denial of rights to a minority.
The tyranny of the majority has led to the persecution of minorities throughout history, including Christians, as testified to by St. Paul and the early church. Religious freedom is dependent on the protection of minority rights, rights denied still in countries where Christians are being killed today.
If the world subscribed to Thompson’s views, the suppression of the views and expressions of religious freedom by Christian minorities would be acceptable in countries where there are non-Christian majorities.
Thompson, seemingly happily ignorant of the Constitution, thundered: “More importantly, we are not dealing with an opinion, we are instead dealing with a deviant lifestyle that is offensive to the majority of Bahamians.”
Whatever Thompson may think of the manner in which gays and lesbians live, they have as much right to voice their opinions, express their love, form associations and enjoy the freedoms that he enjoys. While many find his opinions and actions idiotic and offensive, he has a right to appear foolish and uninformed.
Notice Thompson’s cleverly ignorant conflation of “opinion” and “lifestyle”. What he seems to be saying to gays and lesbians is that their freedom of speech should be limited, that they should shut the hell up, because the majority doesn’t like their lifestyle.
Disturbingly, Thompson is now executive chairman of ZNS, overseeing a state broadcast media supposedly committed to a free exchange of viewpoints.
Bishop Sam Greene, another former BCC president, notoriously intimated that if the government sanctioned gay and lesbian marriages, he would follow the example of Guy Fawkes, who, in 1605, attempted to blow up Parliament.
While Thompson appeared unhappy with gays and lesbians expressing themselves, this writer does not recall his publicly rebuking Greene for comments that may have constituted an incitement to violence and anarchy.
Much of today’s rabidly anti-gay agenda is led by those whose world views are pre-modern and pre-Enlightenment, when gays and lesbians were persecuted and demonized, before the protection of minorities was codified in the rule of law and when the likes of Guy Fawkes were stoking verbal and literal fireworks.
The virulent anti-gay crusaders were historic throwbacks even when they were demonstrating their inhospitality to gay cruise ship passengers. Today, as gays and lesbians are increasingly seen first and foremost as fellow human beings, and not as objects of derision, the homophobes appear even more dated.
Gays and lesbians are neighbors and co-workers; politicians, police officers and pastors; volunteers and role models; heroes and heroines, friends and family; parents and life-partners, who are owed mutual respect and basic equality by right of their citizenship as children of God and as fellow Bahamians.
The considerable shift in global consciousness continues to move in the direction of upholding the value and dignity of human beings based on the content of one’s character, and not the happenstance of race, gender or sexual orientation.
February 28, 2013