You may never understand the courage it is taking for me to write this. I am a born-again Christian. Contrary to what most people think, there are some of us that do not see homosexuality as an open and shut case of clear debauchery. I understand a little, only because I have read and interacted with gay people; especially about what the struggles are for Nigerian homosexuals.
I think you will be poised to misunderstand me based on the usual stance of the Church on matters affecting homosexuality. You do not want to hear that it is a sin. All you see from the church is hate and also that it is one of the biggest institutions that has held a fort against homosexuality; not just in the minds of heterosexuals but in the minds of the homosexuals themselves.
Fair enough, I say. You are not wrong to feel so strongly against the Church (we do know that some churches seem to have resolved to be inclusive, most churches have not.)
Looking back through my life of over 30 years of consciously being in Church; I cannot remember many instances in which homosexuality was talked about. I knew it was a sin; and that was not up for debate.
I think the biggest misconception I carried about homosexuality growing up was that it was willful disobedience to God. A person was so depraved and had explored sex to a point that same sex was the only appealing thing. I saw leather, chains, studs, moustaches, and suspenders without shirts in a smoky den of revelry. It was a vile and repulsive thought to a ‘decent’ Christian girl like me.
I never sought nuance. No one ever offered it. I did not actively seek it. I did not know of anyone living openly gay. Though there were always people that seemed different, but overall; I had never been confronted with another person’s homosexuality blatantly.
Then, it was a simple thing to say homosexuality was a sin and against the will of God.
The first thing that shook my thinking was reading Binyavanga Wainana’s Lost Chapter in which he came out as a gay man. I read every single word and was thoroughly moved. For the first time, I saw the struggle in the individual not to be that person who was living this sin that is despised in Africa.
Not even knowing Bisi Alimi’s story had impacted me this way. With Bisi, there was a defiance and a forceful energy that sought to bend the minds of people in his direction (the energy is still there). With Binyavanga (which I guess the power of storytelling helped immensely to communicate across); there was a humanness, innocence and honesty that came through.
The second thing that shook me was meeting some homosexuals and interacting with them. One of them made a strong impression on me. Being gay for him was not rebellion to any society or church. He was just being who he knew how to be. Comfortable in his sexuality and not even debating the validity of his being with anyone. I found that I liked this individual in a way I could not explain. He was bright, funny and very… normal.
For the first time in my life, I saw humans not through the curtain of their sexuality.
I think this is what I had always missed as a Christian. It was always the sin we saw and talked about. Not the individual who is a person, just like us. We never saw the battles, tried to understand the struggle. It was easier and convenient for us to see only the sin. This is the reason why it is hard to convince homosexuals that there is anything but hatred for them in a church.
This knowledge I now possess made it very difficult to make dismissive sweeping statements about homosexuals and homosexuality. It is the biggest reason why I do not support any law punishing homosexuality. I find it silly. I do not support insults, abuse, discrimination and worst of all, lynching of homosexuals. It belies the fact that they are human beings just like us and are entitled to their space here. Live and let live, I say.
Do I still think homosexuality is a sin?
Yes, I do.
I am a born-again Christian. I do not make up what is sin and what is not; no matter how uncomfortable this makes any human being. I know what the debates are and people are allowed to debate. But on this issue, my mind and heart hasn’t shifted.
But I do have a lot of questions I have not answered. Ultimately, I am not God. It is up to God to judge and condemn each individual. Saying homosexuality is a sin is not judging anyone. It is simply a Christian fact. Like we know a lot of other things are sin.
Is saying homosexuality is a sin hatred for homosexuals?
It shouldn’t be. But where the church fails is that it is said in a manner that communicates no understanding or love. It closes all discussions. It is repent or die. If it were that easy, wouldn’t people keep their sexuality aside like a jacket?
Saying homosexuality is a sin for me has no hatred in it. This, I can categorically say. Sin is not something I hold over the head of individuals. Knowing what sin is and what is not ultimately is my guide in life and what guides me (which I submitted myself to voluntarily) and should not be a mandatory guide to someone else.
Saying homosexuality is a sin does not mean I will carry placards; advocating against the rights of fellow people. The freedom I enjoy practicing my belief without being discriminated against for them is what every other human being should enjoy.
I feel disheartened though.
A censorship on the church is coming, whether we like it or not. Preaching against homosexuality will be considered hate speech. Preaching against Christianity on the other hand will not be hate speech). A forceful editing of Christian beliefs to make it easier for homosexuals is coming on.
There is no belief or way of being that will ever be acceptable to every human being on earth. But this should not be a problem. It is only a problem when your belief becomes a tangible barrier in conflict with another person’s belief. And this goes both ways with homosexuality and Christianity.
You can believe homosexuality is a sin without imposing your beliefs or encroaching on the rights of other people. Also, homosexuals should be able to live in their truth without muzzling Christians; or even bending Christian beliefs to make them more inclusive.
In an era of so many conversations, things get confusing. Like the sort of conversation Chimamanda Adichie stirred recently concerning transgender women. There is futility in wanting people to see you exactly as you see yourself.
My conclusion is that we all need to understand that there is enough space under the sun for everyone. No one should take that or even have the right to give it to another person. You may disagree with everything about another person. But you cannot commit a crime against them. It goes both ways.
Hate is a door that can be opened from either side.
I may have rambled a bit (or more). But I genuinely want to be in a country where one can raise his eyebrows in curiosity or even wrinkle noses in distaste without hurling hurtful words or harm at people that are different.