Right on cue, Bahamas Christian Council President Bishop Delton Fernander and his merry band of homophobes are panicking, convulsing with reactionary furor, fulminating and flustered by imagined impending national doom.
The source of their fear and angst? Another major hurricane? Outrage at the virulent xenophobia resident in the hearts of many of their congregants? No, the object of their opprobrium and high octane moral crusade is a private gay pride event scheduled for next year.
Fernander bristled in sackcloth and ashes mode:
“We’re going to bring the full power of the church, and we’re going to ask the church to stand up in this country and we’re going to have an opposing rally. And if you were to Google and look at what Jamaica did, the whole nation came out and they stood strong for Jesus Christ.”
One wonders whether a special collection will be taken up at this mega event/anti-gay crusade and which pastors will share the proceeds. Another Google search will “reveal” to the pastors the continually expanding acceptance and love of and the dramatic legal gains for LGBTQ individuals globally.
The same Jamaica that was supposedly standing strong for Jesus Christ while bashing homosexuals was at the same time recording horrific murder rates, which for the past decade have been more than a thousand every year. And no, the whole nation did not come out to participate in the hate-filled anti-gay hysteria.
Fernander, not known for his intellectual acuity or clarity or theological brilliance, continued:
“This might be a Sodom and Gomorrah moment. We’re going to ask this country to stand for right and if it is that we need to make a movement to let those that might be uncertain of our Christian values, uncertain of what we believe, we’re going to ask, ‘Which side are you standing on in The Bahamas?’
“This is how strong we take this. And if the church has to take it to the level, we will book out some of the largest, maybe the stadium is the largest place.
“We have already engaged some of our friends around the world and they were coming for Operation Restoration and rebuilding, and we were planning a night of hope, but we would be more than happy to not only share that as a night of hope, but a restoring [of] Christian values in our country.”
Here we go again. A private event for individuals in the LGBTQ community and their family and friends and others who may wish to attend is now atop the outrage agenda of a consortium of mostly male pastors and men for whom homosexuality is one of their favorite supposed “sins” to vehemently attack.
This event might have received the ecclesiastical stamp of approval from the late Rev. Eddie Long, who marched and preached against the supposed diabolical effects of homosexuality during the day but who seemed, at nighttime, to enjoy the company of gay or bisexual men after his homophobic bashing.
Many may recall the rabid demonstrations in downtown Nassau of yesteryear, when another clerical clique rushed into their self-created moral breach to sound the alarm and to inhospitably chant and rail against gay cruise passengers who simply came to The Bahamas for souvenirs, some T-shirts and perhaps a few margaritas or Bahama Mamas – no pun intended, dear brothers and sisters.
Not to be outdone by the proposed upcoming gay pride event, which again is a private affair, the pastoral prefects are chomping at the bit to hold a counter event. Unless the religionists serve refreshments and engage in some good entertainment, including their hell and fury preaching antics and performances, one can only imagine that the gay event will be more memorable and meaningful.
The vacuous ignorance and seething prejudice of Fernander and his fundamentalist cohorts are boundless. With just a tad more theological training or a good and proper exegetical text, Bishop Fernander might reflect on the broader sin of inhospitality in the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative.
While he is doing his exegesis, the clean-shaven Bishop Fernander might also wish to theologically wrestle with these comments by Rev. Sean Major-Campbell of Jamaica:
“The Bible clearly says you shouldn’t shave your face. The Bible clearly says you shouldn’t wear a piece of garment with different fabrics. You will find all of this and the condemnation of homosexuality in the same chapter in Leviticus.
“It is very important to note that the Bible did not know what we now understand about human sexuality. In the Bible epilepsy was demon possession. We now know that this is a diagnosable ailment which is treatable. The Bible is not a monolithic text.”
With the vicious anti-Haitian rhetoric and xenophobia in the hearts of many, which is among the most pressing and urgent moral issues in our country, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, the Christian Council should hold a mega rally demonstrating their love and support for those migrants who are demonized.
But of course, such a courageous demonstration of love and Christian charity might offend many of their congregants and result in less offerings going into clerical coffers. How much easier it is to hold a mega rally condemning gays and lesbians for holding a private event.
The Nassau Guardian further reported: “Fernander said the counter rally will be similar to one held in Jamaica some years back.”
By invoking Jamaica, Bishop Fernander is summoning a dark example and history of a country that is horrendously homophobic and that has witnessed the brutal murders of and horrific violence against gays, including police being summoned to escort gays out of a restaurant because of a threatening and hysterical mob outside.
One of the worst events was the murder of a gay Jamaican whose body was severely mutilated and his genitals severed from his body.
Speech and actions have consequences as we have seen from the anti-immigrant bashing by U.S. President Donald Trump and other leaders around the world.
Those in authority, including politicians and religious ministers, who spew exclusionary rhetoric, best restrain themselves if they do not wish to give comfort and license to some to speak or do violence against others.
“Reverend Sean Major-Campbell is the rural dean of Kingston [Jamaica], justice of the peace [and] a human rights advocate. … He earned a BA in Theology from the University of the West Indies, Mona, and an MA in Psychology and Counseling from St. Stephen’s College.”
Rev. Major-Campbell continues to battle the homophobia and theological idiocy and ignorance that is widespread among the many fundamentalist pastors in Jamaica. His comments on Jamaica equally apply to The Bahamas.
“Anybody can be a pastor in Jamaica. All you have to say is that God called you. I could not put up a sign outside and say I’m a lawyer or physician because the Holy Spirit has called me.
“But without even entry level qualifications I could put up a sign that says ‘minister of religion’ and people would come to me. We are talking about people who appoint themselves to positions of authority. …
“People’s lives and mental health are being destroyed by pastors who do not understand sociology or best practices in relation to psychology and human sexuality, who are using Bible verses to condemn and counsel people. The crass fundamentalism within Christianity is a contributory factor to Jamaica’s underdevelopment and weak nation building.”
Back home, the council president stressed: “We have gone through a horrific hurricane, one that we’ve never seen before. Now, this is not the time to play games with our salvation, play games with our faith.”
His curious comments are a theological twister which need to be unraveled. What is the theological point he is wishing to make? He seems to be channeling his notion or image of a wrathful, vengeful God, who uses nature to strike down sinners and to supposedly demand repentance.
It is well-known fundamentalist theological construct that believes that God steers natural disasters to a given geographic area because of the sinfulness of people, including gays and lesbians, who are supposedly among the greatest sinners in every land and every epoch.
Infamous fundamentalists Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Pat Robertson have all manically claimed that hurricanes are often God’s punishment for homosexuality.
In 2010, on his Christian Broadcasting Network program, the 700 Club, Robertson claimed that the Haitian people made a pact with the devil in order to win their 1791 revolution. This pact, he claimed, resulted in the misfortunes of Haiti, including the 2010 earthquake which killed approximately 200,000 people.
“… Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it, they were under the heel of the French, uh, you know, Napoleon the third and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the devil; they said, ‘we will serve you, if you get us free from the French’, true story.
“And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free, and ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.”
He further bizarrely claimed:
“That island of Hispaniola is one island. It is cut down the middle; on the one side is Haiti, on the other is the Dominican Republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island.”
In one racist and vile swoop, he delegitimized the Haitian Revolution, and exonerated France and other colonial powers of their coordinated strategy for centuries to suffocate and destroy Haiti.
According to some, if a hurricane strikes a certain country, it was God’s will. If that country is spared, again, it was God’s will. When asked about this contradiction, the easy reply is typically: “I can’t tell you the mind of God.”
If God were the retributive, wrathful and merciless tyrant conjured by some fundamentalists and if God wanted to show His anger against homosexuality, surely he would not have unleashed the fury of Hurricane Joaquin against Ragged Island, with a population of less than 100, unless He was angered by the homosexual goats on the sparsely populated island.
If the theological absurdity of the fundamentalists applied, the worst hurricane in our history should have struck New Providence, where the majority of homosexuals reside.
Thankfully, mercifully, the God of love does not think like those who use His name to condemn others, who are equally and wonderfully made in His image and divine likeness.