By: @Chantel Fortuin
We have witnessed and heard, we are still witnessing and hearing how some people, in this case people who identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer – LGBTIQ, struggle to come to terms with their sexual and gender identity and reconciling this with their identity as religious persons. At the core of this struggle are the messages and actions of religious leaders; folks in the temples, mosques, basilicas, chapels and houses of worship, and the society at large (I include society because society is influenced by religion and culture) who spew and spit out messages of dogmatism and prejudice and negatively impact the lives of sexual minorities.
There is no telling how much damage has been done to queer people of religious inclination by members of their spiritual communities but there is no denying that the effects are devastating, one of which is the disconnection and severing of ties from the source of life, and in some instances to the self. When he was interviewed, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he would choose hell over a homophobic God; what he was trying to emphasis was the spirit of Ubuntu/botho– that I am, therefore we are. Mother Teresa further stresses this point when she said “when you judge people, you have no time to love them,” and indeed her words are a manifestation of what many of the LGBTIQ persons are going through. Many religions, societies and communities regrettably, for the longest time, have chosen judgment and in the wake of this decision have left brokenness, destruction and disconnection.
This said, I have a message for the LGBTIQ community, homophobic religious leaders and the communities who stand by and watch! For the elders in the religious domain; the common theology is that everyone is intended to be a representative or image of God (imago Dei). Race, sexuality or gender identity, does not exclude, anyone from being in God’s image and it is within this differences that we ought to acknowledge and appreciate, God’s limitlessness and diversity. Frankly put, to interpret the bible literally is what is causing many problems for the church today. We are trying to imitate, a time that has no relevance to the lives people lead today. Please do not misunderstand me, the message of the gospel does not change over time, it remains constant and unwavering but if we fail to understand and extract the initial envisioned message of the biblical teachings (a case in point would be the story of Sodom and Gomorra), then we produce an ideological, unrelatable and insular product that becomes unchallengeable ‘truth’ and results in this business of ‘but the bible says,’ and that ‘homosexuality is un-African’ without any form of engagement or interrogation. I plead with religious elders and leaders to enlighten themselves and their flock of followers on the true intent of religious tenets; love, not hate. Just look at what happened in the era of apartheid and slavery, it was only when the people educated themselves and became conscious of their oppression that they stood up for themselves and then were liberated. We need this consciousness of the effects of our teachings on people’s lives; stop forcing people to live pretentious lives instead of encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves. How else can you understand or comprehend that diversity in creation does exist and this is the beauty of the maker. Stop depriving people of a peaceful, joyous and an authentic spiritual connection, to the source of all life just because you do not understand and do not take the time to seek understanding.
To the LGBTIQ community; all supreme powers are big on authenticity, and it is only in your authentic vessel, that communication with the source of life becomes clear. We have heard too many stories of people trying to pray the gay away, with no success, and because we so badly want to fit in, we either, live ostentatious lives or elect to stray away from and disconnect with our Creator; God and eventually lose our faith. By so doing we fall into, the stereotype trap of apparently being promiscuous and unruly, which is then used as ‘proof’ of just how immoral we are. All humans have an intricate inclination to that which they consider greater, and detaching from any sort of spiritual connection makes one feel incomplete. It is important to understand that, you cannot always consume everything you are fed in terms of teachings of the message of God without seeking your own truth. God is not against you learning and educating the self, that is why we have been awarded brains which allow for reasoning and questioning. The LGBTIQ community has to reach a point where, liberating themselves becomes their mandate. They must remember the African proverb that until the lion writes its own story, the hunter will always be the hero. Stop being apologetic about who you are. Just like the rest of God’s creation, only God can truly answer and fully explain his creation.
And finally, to the masses who just stand by and watch injustices take place; your silence will not protect you.
With that said I pray therefore that, the source of life plants and nurtures the seeds of understanding, reconciliation, fellowship and love in all of your hearts. Amen!