1. Because Sometimes We Cannot Hear Each Other
The last time I went to a church service was maybe two years ago. ‘Two years too long!’ for some of my friends; ‘As recently as that?!’ for others. I had been talking to a friend from Syria, trying to explain this aspect of my life, my background, that still shapes so much of what I do and how I think. So I said, let us go. And she said, yes. It was a pity that I couldn’t take her to a Jamaican church – we were not in Jamaica – but this one would do. It was a lovely church community of people who didn’t just practice their religion on a Sunday morning but were committed and engaged in broader programmes of social justice – building schools, sheltering immigrants in their homes, inviting those who existed on the periphery of society into their fold.
The service was as I remembered services – a half hour or so of singing – a praise and worship session that in no time at all sweeps you up into its rhythms, its dancing, its emotional intensity. I turned to my friend as I belted out a chorus that was being projected onto the screen. She smiled at me and nodded. Yes, she seemed to say. She was beginning to understand my world, my background. Her own mouth was trying to learn the words of the song.
Then, the pastor went up to give his sermon – a lovely old man, you could tell he was greatly loved and admired by his church. To this day I remember his sermon exactly. He was speaking about the importance of change and why it can be so scary – why we almost never want to move from one spot to another spot, change jobs, houses, or even to end abusive relationships. Now there is a kind of silence that can fall upon a church, when a word from the pulpit is being spoken directly to people’s hearts. These were people in the midst of change and resisting it. The pastor opened his bible. ‘The children of Israel,’ he said, ‘once found themselves in a similar position.’ Already I began to feel a hollow opening up inside me. No, I wanted to say. Please don’t do what I know you are about to do.
‘The children of Israel,’ he continued, — and now he was rising on the cadence of his sermon—’they once stood on the edge of their promised land; they stood in the wilderness and were so comfortable that they didn’t want it to change. They didn’t want to go in and claim what was theirs. They were scared of change. But Jehovah gives them this assurance:’ and he quoted from the bible –
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the LORD thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them.
I became aware then of two worlds that I sometimes straddle and how they cannot hear each other. I mean this in the most literal way, because at this moment of the sermon everyone was on their feet, shouting Amen. For them the biblical passage was a metaphor, and God was promising to remove various obstacles from their lives. For my Syrian friend, this was history and the present. She had started to shake and had eased herself to the floor where she buried her head in her hands and the heaving of her body made me know she was crying. For her, this was no metaphor, but a doctrine that had legitimized the slaughter of her own people, had legitimized jihads both in the past and in the present; had legitimized programmes of apartheid and xenophobia and is still being used today for such hateful purposes. The Hittites and Canaanites etc were not random people. They were her ancestors and she listened as an entire congregation shouted their endorsement of her people’s slaughter.
My friend was crying; the church was shouting Amen; but neither of them could hear the other. I knew I had lost a friend, because it was I who had brought her into this, and I had no language with which to explain things to her, or to explain her predicament to the church goers who I knew would simply say defensively, ‘But it’s the bible!!’
I think I am always caught between worlds. Last Sunday when the story of Prof Brendan Bain and his supposed impasse with gay lobby groups broke across the media landscape of Jamaica, two things happened at once on my timeline. It is still happening this very minute as I write this blog. One set of friends are protesting the wickedness of this gay lobby to attack a man of such integrity. I am being requested to sign petitions. And status update after status update, my friends are affirming that they will not be cowed down by this despicable and increasingly fascist group.
But right between these are posts from other friends sick to death of this right wing Christianity; these bible thumpers who don’t seem to understand that freedom of speech is not the same as freedom from responsibility. My timeline somehow collages these two distinct opinions against each other. It seems to me, here again are two groups experiencing all kinds of hurt and are shouting that hurt out to the world, but just as in that service two years ago, they cannot hear each other.
2. Personal and Public Selves
The title of this blog acknowledges the very personal relationships I have with Drs Brendan Bain and Kay Bailey. Kay you may not know as well. She isn’t at the centre of this controversy, but she is a medical doctor in Jamaica who has been advocating ceaselessly for the retention of our buggery laws, and so I thought this blog should address her as well. But though it is their public/professional selves that I wish to engage with now, I am simply too close to both of them to address them by their professional titles. Neither can I write this using my own. You see an essay or blog from Dr Kei Miller to the esteemed Prof Bain and Dr Bailey reveals, upon close inspection, the unsure ground from which I write. They are medical doctors and researchers; I am from the humanities – a mere writer with a PhD in Literature and Cultural Studies.
It is perhaps an inconvenience to know so well, so personally, people whose public selves you wish to engage with, and sometimes to challenge, for if you take a counter opinion you can no longer throw whatever invective you might have otherwise casually thrown at them – ‘close-minded’, ‘bigots’, ‘bible-thumpers!’ Instead you know too well their integrity, have experienced first-hand their love and compassion and so you must acknowledge that they (like you) are people in search of the truth, and people brave enough to speak that truth as they understand it.
I remain close friends with Prof. Bain’s children. I used to get lifts with them home (they were neighbours), and sitting in the car, watching Auntie Pauline and Uncle Brendan disburse money to their children, I used to joke that surely I qualified as their third son and so should be given an allowance as well. I housesat for them once. And when my mother died, there was Uncle Brendan and Auntie Pauline making their way up to Glasgow where I live to spend a little time with me. Indeed, a pang of guilt that has made me shudder every now and then over the past year is the inexcusable fact that while in Jamaica for an extended period recently, the time went by so fast that in the end I realized I had made no time to see them. I trust they will forgive me for that.
Kay Bailey is an executive member of the advocacy group, Jamaica Coalition for a Healthy Society (JCHS). She is similarly close to my family. As a doctor and friend she has been a rock that we have called on during several moments of crises – my mother’s illness, the house being broken into, etc. It is too much to get into.
3. The Church we all once went to, and what I learnt there
I know these two amazing people from the context of church – a specific church – Mona Heights Chapel. Now I know there are some who seem to believe that church, especially the Jamaican church, is a place that closes rather than opens the mind, a place that stifles intellect. But a roll-call of my peer group from Mona Heights will paint a very different picture: there was Nadia Ellis, she went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, did her PhD at Princeton and now lectures at Berkeley; there was Stephen Russell whose love of the bible led to a PhD at NYU in the Old Hebrew manuscript and he now teaches in New York; his brother Andrew did a very different kind of PhD at MIT; my sister has just about finished a PhD in educational psychology; other friends have done PhDs in other aspects of education or in economics. I’ve accomplished a thing or two myself.
The point is, for all of us, our intellects were very much formed and nurtured in that space. We were taught to worship God not only with all our hearts and all our souls, but importantly, with all our minds. We were even taught to never trust a sermon, even if we heard it on our own pulpit. Instead we were to test everything rigorously. We were to be forever curious. We were to ask hard questions. God was not afraid of hard questions. There is something sad in the fact that in time many of us used the very tools that the church gave us to turn away from it, from what we perceived as its misogynistic, homophobic and sometimes simply hateful doctrines. But ask any one of us and we would all give the church credit for giving us those tools, and forming certain core values of truth and integrity and love in us.
Perhaps the most important lesson from that time came from the inductive bible studies we used to have. We were told to never approach a text and tell it what it would tell us. Too many of us have long decided on the things we know and we only read in order to confirm those things. If they don’t confirm our beliefs then we go into all kinds of contortions, reinterpreting and recontextualizing the thing until it finally means something more palatable for us. We were taught instead to approach a text with an open mind, to allow it to destabilize and sometimes to undo everything we thought we knew. In other words, we were encouraged not to bring ideology to the things we read, or to how we interpreted those things.
4. The problem of Ideology
In 2009, the secretary general of the UN seemed to echo the very lessons I once learnt from those inductive bible studies when making some comments about the global fight against HIV. He said:
“Shine the full light of human rights on HIV. I urge all countries to remove punitive laws, policies, and practices that hamper the AIDS response. In many countries, legal frameworks institutionalise discrimination against groups most at risk. Yet discrimination against sex workers, drug users, and men who have sex with men only fuels the epidemic and prevents cost-effective interventions. We must ensure that AIDS responses are based on evidence, not ideology, and reach those most in need and most affected.”
But let us acknowledge the simple truth that it is not only Christian groups that bring ideology and long-decided opinions to bear on the things they read or interpret. Non-religious groups do it as well. In fact, non-religious groups can be every bit as fundamentalist and evangelical as the religious groups they condemn. And this is what seemed at first most worrying about the recent debacle with Prof Bain – my Uncle Brendan – for it seemed at first that his detractors did not so much have a problem with the content of his affidavit or its basis on solid research, but rather with the ideology that has shaped the man.
Let me be absolutely clear on two things before I continue:
1) I unequivocally support the repeal of the buggery law.
2) I also unequivocally support the right of an academic to speak from his or her research. It simply would not be a good sign to have come to a place where we silence those who do not say the things we wish them to say – people who do not speak from our own ideologies.
This is why when the story broke out on Sunday morning in the papers I found myself incredibly upset with lobby groups as they were portrayed in the news reports, for it seemed they were willing to penalize a man for not saying what they wanted him to say.
I now know it is a bit more nuanced than that, a bit more complex. And I will get to the other side of things soon. But we might stop for a moment to appreciate that this is how the story has been framed and understood by several Jamaicans. What many of us have understood is that a good man has been fired for having the moral and intellectual integrity to stand up and say not only what he believed, but to do so while standing on the solid ground of his research. And if we appreciate that this is how the story has been framed, that this is what many of us have understood, then we might appreciate why across the length and breadth of this little buggered island, so many of us are feeling deep pain and sometimes anger over the whole issue.
5. The affidavit
If you haven’t read Prof Bain’s affidavit, I encourage you to do so. You can access it here. It is difficult to find much objectionable in it. Most interestingly it doesn’t seem to take the militant stance that on one hand some Christians are celebrating, and on the other, HIV/AIDS workers are criticizing him for. For the most part the document simply makes the undisputable point that for both biological and social/cultural/behavioural reasons — the HIV virus is passed on to Men who have sex with Men with something that approaches efficiency. The figures are simply staggering. Some people have tried to counter Bain’s argument by saying that the sex acts he lists (anal sex, multiple-partners, swallowing, etc) are not unique to homosexual relationships. This strikes me as a disingenuous argument. Prof Bain would almost certainly agree that for heterosexuals who engage regularly in these acts then the risk factor for them to contract HIV also increases dramatically. But there is little point in denying that these acts are far more common in the MSM community. Such a denial would go against the principles of the careful and targeted interventions that we want to do.
Bain’s affidavit does not take or register a stance against gay communities or gay men. It earnestly steers clear from such opinions and tries to stick to the figures. Towards the end of the paper when he seems to make recommendations, none of them include encouraging gay men to give their lives to Christ or to turn away from their evil ways. His affidavit accepts that men will have sex with men and so his recommendations are far more pragmatic – encouraging the use of condoms, lubricant, constant testing, delaying the age that one begins to engage in intercourse, etc.
I said it is difficult to find anything objectionable in the affidavit – but not impossible. There is one very curious statement which he offers in the preface and which in a way frames all of the evidence he then gives. He says:
“Some Public Health practitioners have hypothesized that decriminalizing the practice of anal intercourse among consenting adults would lead to a reduction in the incidence rate of HIV infections among MSM. To date, published data have not substantiated this hypothesis.”
This single statement will have several of his colleagues and many others who work as HIV/AIDS researchers scratching their heads in perplexity. I wish he had expounded on it and not just left it hanging there, a sentence that seems to go dramatically against what most of his colleagues would argue. For what is certainly true is that the rate of HIV/AIDS infection is highest in countries that have their buggery laws firmly in check. So where does this new conclusion come from? The very reports that he cites throughout his paper all come to the conclusion that the buggery laws must be repealed with great urgency to help in the fight against HIV. But Uncle B doesn’t mention this.
Now this is very tricky ground to stand on, for you will remember that JCHS, the group that Auntie Kay, Dr Bailey, is an executive member of – that they lost serious moral and intellectual ground when they kept on invoking the research of Prof Chris Beyrer, one of the world’s leading HIV/AIDS specialists, and used it to support their cause of keeping the buggery law in place. It was Beyrer himself who finally had to write a heartfelt letter to the Gleaner (you can read it here) almost begging the group to stop being irresponsible and contorting his research, reading it out of context, and not showing the conclusions he had reached . That conclusion – once again – was that the buggery laws must be repealed to help in the fight against HIV. So when Bain seems to be employing a similar tactic, selecting sections of someone else’s research, speaking authoritatively from it, but not acknowledging the conclusions from that research, indeed suppressing it, then we might understand why certain groups might begin to get nervous, or why they might feel, ‘Oh, we’ve seen this before!’
On closer inspection, and using all my skills as a literary scholar, the sentence is a slick and a slippery one. For though it might seem to leave hanging in the air the possible implication that the evidence REFUTES it, this is absolutely not what he says. He simply says the evidence does not, TO DATE, SUBSTANTIATE it. And we must give him credit, for Bain, throughout his affidavit, is making an extremely important and a nuanced point – that the repeal of the buggery law by itself may not lead to less HIV/AIDS infections among MSM, but that there are other behaviorial issues to tackle. The approach then to a meaningful intervention must be far more wholistic and open-eyed.
6. The conflict of interest
But is it only that one curious sentence that has groups demanding the professor’s head on a platter?
Bain’s detractors argue that they have no problem with the truth or with the robustness of the research he presented. As just explained, however, they do find it a little problematic that he used the research in such a way that seemed to bury the conclusions which the research itself had arrived at. But more than that, they argue that it is not enough to assess the truth of a thing, but we must look at what that truth is being used in service of. They would argue that in this world truth is too often used in the service of dangerous and unethical policies. And – just to make the point – we can see this historically, perhaps through some admittedly extreme examples: in the Nazi regime science was often called upon to legitimize practices of genocide, and also during slavery scientists, often shared findings that seemed to prove the negro race was inferior mentally and were best suited as livestock. I know these are not equivalents, but I’m simply making the point that it is indeed fair to ask not only how accurate a piece of science is, but what exactly is that science being used in service of?
Look — Bain’s affidavit takes a neutral tone and is absolutely grounded in research, but it would be disingenuous for us to ignore what the affidavit is being used to advance. We especially know what it is being used in service of, not so much because of what it says, but because of what it doesn’t say, the conclusions that are not included, the voices shouting from these reports that buggery laws need to be repealed, that are carefully silenced.
For many stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS who are working hard to create environments in which people might practice better sexual health, that might encourage an especially effeminate man not to feel awkward and guilty to walk into a pharmacy and buy condoms and lubricant, an environment where people might seek treatment when needed – for these stakeholders to support a position that argues for the maintenance of punitive buggery laws is not only unhelpful to their work, but is unethical.
For these stakeholders the present situation would be analogous to Minister Peter Philips in another very public forum, saying that he was not only against the policies of the IMF but had given evidence to support the dismantling and undermining of these policies. The Minister of Finance simply could not show up for work on Monday morning to continue to spearhead the instituting of those policies which we now knew he didn’t support. This, for HIV/AIDS stakeholders, is the key and central issue.
- Our irresponsible media
It seems to me now that the media has been especially irresponsible and sensationalist in how they have framed this story. But I guess we should not expect any better. We expect these days to be manipulated by the news. And so they would have us all believe that this call for Prof Bain’s blood has come squarely from a gay lobby. The truth is more complex. The people and organisations who have expressed doubt are far more numerous than that, and the loss of faith in Bain’s leadership, far deeper. It includes, significantly, some of his own colleagues at CHART. But the media has decided it is the gay lobby, and we understand of course that this will sell more newspapers, and will fan the flames of public outrage across our buggered little island. But I have to come to terms with this small fact – that several people signed their names to that document expressing doubt in my Uncle B’s leadership. Those signatures included, but were in no way dominated by heads of LGBT groups. Those signatures represented a spectrum of groups, people and advocates who Prof Bain not only would have to work alongside, but provide leadership to. And I don’t know any way around that fact. Sad as it is, I’m not sure how anyone can provide leadership to people who expressly do not want to be lead by that person. Such a situation is simply and tragically untenable.
8. The Creation of Heroes, of Winners, and Losers
Do not think me cynical if I say that in one sense everyone has come out of this a winner. The HIV/AIDS researchers and (supposedly) the gay lobby have gotten what they wanted – the head of Prof Bain. But do not for a moment be mistaken: the Christian lobbyists have come out victorious as well. There is little else that can energize a group so much, that can give them so much of a moral high ground, that can galvanize their efforts, as to finally have a victim – a martyr.
It is not mere cynicism that might make someone point out that Martin Luther King Junior did as much, or more, for the cause of Civil Rights by dying as he did by living and marching. The qualities of a martyr are clear: he must be a good man; a man of integrity; he must have worked his life for the good of others; and then, for standing up for his beliefs, he must be hung on a cross. Yes. This is what religions are made of. And these are situations out of which zealots arise.
In a much more profound sense, we have all come out losers. The media circus has entrenched the divisive idea of ‘us’ versus ‘them’. I despair when I see that my dear Auntie Kay writes on her own timeline the ill-considered and juvenile invective, ‘Don’t bow to pressure from the gaystapo!’ Har har! Yes, I see what you did there. But this is not a language or a stance that enables real dialogue – the cheap pun resolutely imagines the other side as evil enemies. Auntie Kay’s most recent post takes a stance with even greater militancy:
“Jamaica and the Caribbean do NOT want their buggery law changed or interfered with in anyway. We now recognize that you are using HIV and the vulnerable in our communities to sneakily impose your ideology on us.
Now that we know what you are up to, trust me, we will work tirelessly to reduce HIV in all groups of persons without changing our buggery law.”
Well, I’m sorry, Auntie Kay, but you cannot say that. On this issue you do not speak on my behalf. You cannot speak for all Jamaicans or Caribbean nationals no more than I could pretend to. Let us accept that on this little buggered island, we are all Jamaicans, and we have a range of opinions, and those opinions are quite complex – and what we have to do now is to stop shouting and find a way to hear each other.
9. Some inconvenient truths
There are several inconvenient truths that have come out of this whole incident, and depending on where people stand depends which of these truths they will face.
It is unlikely that at any time soon the Jamaican Church will accept the ways in which its culture of Christianity has helped to create a situation in which the HIV/AIDS virus has spread rampantly – a situation in which men who have sex with men do not plan or prepare for their sexual activities in advance, because that would be premeditated sin. Instead it happens by accident, unplanned in dark corners, without condoms; a situation in which men cannot enter into public relationships with the men they might love and so the policing of these underground relationships is harder than how we police and support relationships above ground; infidelity is more rampant, partners are swapped more frequently.
It is unlikely that at any time soon, the gay community will accept the simple truth that if this were an unbroken world, and if relationships happened as prescribed by Christian culture – one man faithful to one woman – HIV/AIDS would have never become an epidemic, and so Christians are perfectly within their right to point out that the lifestyle that they promote is one that would radically confront the spread of this disease.
The inconvenient truth that most Christians do not want to hear is that this supposedly powerful gay lobby are not a bunch of paedophiles and degenerates hellbent on legalizing their immorality. They are men and women who have slowly let go of the terrible effort it takes to hate themselves, and who know all too well the social and medical consequences that such a culture of hate can produce, and who are now brave enough to challenge that culture of hate.
The inconvenient truth that gay lobbyists do not want to hear is that the counter Christian lobby are not a set of self-righteous, unintellectual people who simply want to advance their hatred of others. Amongst the group of Christian lobbyists are doctors like Brendan Bain who have worked quietly over the years, with love and empathy, to attend to some of the most vulnerable in our society.
The inconvenient truth that no one wants to hear is that we’re mostly all trying to work with truth and integrity, trying to articulate what the best future is for this little island.
Because you see, when I go back to Jamaica next week, I will almost certainly stop by Uncle Brendan’s and Auntie Pauline’s house, and I will apologize for the previous trip when I didn’t make time to visit. And I believe they will forgive me for that. And I think we might sit down and just chat and catch up and laugh, and probably we will talk about everything but this vexing issue. And I will certainly see Auntie Kay as well as she stops by the house to drop off something for my cousin Andrea. And we will hug and laugh about something. Something other than this vexing issue. And in that moment we will simply be people together, people who genuinely care for each other, and who, magically, know how to hear each other.
” …to explain her predicament to the church goers who I knew would simply say defensively, ‘But it’s the bible!!’…” “We were taught to worship God not only with all our hearts and all our souls, but importantly, with all our minds. We were even taught to never trust a sermon, even if we heard it on our own pulpit.” these two statements go to show how different church represents itself – one church teaches that you take things as it is from the bible; the other teaches that you are to think for yourself. so there are arguments for and against ppl that say the church stifles his/her beliefs
Really good blogpost here! I desperately wanted to stop reading when I saw how long it was so I could get back to some work, but damn, you got me. Think I read it twice. I’ll be hosting an online radio show this Sunday at 12:30pm EDT on this same issue. If you’re interested in listening in, or better yet calling in (that would be great!) you can check out the details at the link below. Respect due.
Kei, thank you. You’re amazing.
Very well said, but there is one inconvenient truth you didn’t mention, and that is that the so-called ‘gay lobby’ also consists of a good number of straight men and women who acknowledge the rights of the GBLT community, even if those rights are not ones we choose to exercise ourselves.
It’s not so much an inconvenient as an often overlooked truth. 🙂
Well written. In fact an excellent piece which I might share. But I did not detect an undying commitment to either obeying or promoting obedience to the Word of God. Yes, I read your tally of inconvenient truths. But you seem curiously detached, as if you were an academic with a PhD making an excellent point, rather than a sinner washed by the Blood of Christ. And unless I missed it in tally of inconvenient truths, you did not seem concerned about the souls of unrepentant homosexuals. I agree that a different approach to exegesis could have prevented your Syrian friend from that very sad experience. Despite my reservations and comments, I was touched by your blog. You may wish to read mine on blogspot. I am a Christian who simply loves the Lord Jesus. And a colleague and friend of both Brendan and Peter Figueroa, the two principal actors in this impasse. Both of whom have been involved in an online discussion that flowed from my recent comments inspired by the Lord.
Dr. Lucien Jones. Lucien_maypen@yahoo.com
This was a heartbreaking article; you almost moved me to tears. You’ve moved past the glossy media story to touch on the core of an issue that’s been brooding for years and which will likely take years more to resolve.
I actually heard about the situation from Dr. Bailey herself and as she explained I found myself thinking the same thing: that everything could work out if only everyone would listen to each other. Really listen. I really wish there was some magical way to make that happen. 😦
Great piece, you enlightened me on the on what is going on. Thank you so much.
Proud of you as always. Thanks for helping me to take a walk down memory lane by remember where I came from..I will forever love Mona Heights Chapel.
Thanks Kei–have been hoping and waiting for your response to this crisis. Your post perfectly, poignantly and powerfully captures Jamaica’s predicament. It soothes rather than pours oil on troubled waters. May all Jamaicans read this. Kudos to you!
A well written piece but your writing is from secular point of view with a lot of fence hopping. The dramatizing of your encounter with this woman in Syria is an oversell. God deals with each individual, nothing would change my belief in the Bible because some distance relatives were put to death because they were murders and the Bible states that if you shed blood then you have forfeited the right to live. A Christian cannot harbor hate because it’s love that saves us from eternal damnation from a just and holy God. Because we know the consequence that faces the un repented sinner we are compel to fight for their eternal souls. The spiritual wickness in high places that has so consumed the gay community has created this attitude that what they are doing is not wrong but that’s a lie from the pit of hell! You need to reconcile the pieces and conclude your writing objective truth. Don’t use your scholarship to sit on the fence, that is lukewarm and you will be spewed out.
Yes Ray, you’re absolutely right… I am writing this from a ‘secular’ point of view. But that’s my point. Are you able to hear me if I write from a position that’s not yours? You accuse me of being ‘lukewarm’, but I embrace that. I don’t think it’s helpful right now to write from a hot, or indeed ‘hot-headed’ place.
Of course I can hear you from any position you take. It’s a different matter if I am going to agree with you. As saying you are lukewarm you know exactly where I am taking that from. To some people Jesus must have been one of the most hot-headed a divisive person to ever walk this earth. He said,”If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, and sisters, as well as his own life, he can’t be my disciple.” Meaning, there is nothing that you should allow into your life to stand in the way of truth. I can be labeled narrow minded, with a belief that I should have outgrown but I can’t deny my Savior because his yoke is easy and burden easy to carry. The truth might be an offense but in the end that’s all that matters because it’s God breathe. The world views always changes but God’s truth stands forever!
how we take liberties with that word love…we are compelled to fight (without harboring hate) for the souls of sinners…but let’s kill murderers (and others according to the bible) and send them straight to hell..and when an entire nation (of “distance relatives” ) is wiped out does that mean that every man woman and child -down to the babe and suckling- were murderers?…there is undeniably much good in the bible (and other holy books ) but there is also so much in these holy books that can never ever sit at the same table with love…
the media has much to answer for …compressing a wide and diverse (gay and non-gay) group into a “gay lobby”…betty ann blaine calling for people who were never hiding to “reveal themselves”…and of course there are the extremists in both the gay and heterosexual camps who need to realize that if we don’t co-exist peacefully we’ll all be bandaging wounds…and washing blood from our hands…
peace and love
Excellent, well-written argumentation that all Jamaicans need to read; and, thereafter, assess themselves as it regards their own objective, as opposed to subjective, societal and religious views. Definately sharing this article.
Well said Kei. I wish more information regarding all of this was out in the public domain, and that the institutions involved would be a little more forthright with their public uttering.
Excellent piece….thorough, reasoned and in some ways tortured. So many of us raised in the crucible of intolerant countries have to struggle with the fact that good, kind people hold views we have outgrown. It’s a tough reality that has caused many of us to lose good friends…well done for your many textured view.
Thank you for your openness and thoroughness. Throughout the Caribbean, outside of Jamaica, there are people, like myself, who are following this issue with sadness as we see the polarization of viewpoints and expression. Your article brought my grief closer to the surface. And that is good.
There are two aspects that particularly sadden me. One is that the LGBT community and the right wing Christian community do not live in our society with the same power principle. Homophobia exists and people lose their lives because of it. There is a real oppression in place. So I am not sure that I agree entirely that the implications of not listening are the same on both sides. If the anti-homophobic lobby is silenced (and notice I don’t limit that to only the LGBT lobby but I include all allies) then people may get beat up, killed, lose jobs, etc. If people don’t listen to the voice of the Jamaican Church and its allies then the consequences do not lead to Christian leaders being targeted and in danger. Yes, we always need to have conversations with people who are different from ourselves but it helps to come to the table with no illusion of unequal power dynamics in the greater society.
The second aspect I want to raise – that makes me feel even more saddened – is your last paragraph. I have been deeply challenged by our dishonesty as Caribbean people. In order to live in plural and emotionally damaged communities we have made implicit agreements to be silent on many of the hard issues. We have chosen to avoid the emotional discomfort that would be stirred up by the eyeball to eyeball, human to human conversations about the things which matter most. I grieve for anyone who has to have close relationships with others without mentioning the things that are really on their mind. I grieve for all of us who, in order to maintain what you describe as magically hearing each other, have to be silenced. I hope that at some point, without dehumanizing each other and with deep listening, we stop running away from the secret issues that are tearing our countries apart.
I look forward to reading this article again and sharing it.
If you read the affidavit, there is “little to take objection to”? You must not know anything about research on either sexual risk factors of MSM or HIV/AIDS interventions. It’s good and well that you know the man in question, and that makes it a grey area for you. But for others who wish to take a more principled position, it is an abomination (where esle I have heard that expression?) for an academic to disingenuously present evidence to suit his agenda. Your comment about Bain not trying to convert people to Christianity but merely offering one expert opinion is equally disingenuous. The matter at hand was whether the archaic buggary law should be stricken from the books given its detrimental effect on the gay community and the fight against the spread of HIV, not whether MSM have a higher incidence of HIV. And on that issue in particular his “findings” were most dishonest.
Very moving. Thanks.
thanks for going below the surface kei…sadly though i think we’re all more losers than winners here
This is an excellent article, which delved critically, and as neutrally as I think is possible, beneath the surfaces of both sides. I appreciate this.
Ultimately the question is not really whether or not we can hear each other, as important as that is is, but rather are we in a place similar to where Ezekiel was, and heard The Lord. And then was obedient to the Lord’s will.
Thank you so much for this excellent article Uncle Kei…we’ve never met before, but we are family, as anyone who is guided by love and honesty is part of my family. You have successfully converted a young Christian zealot. Like you, both my Christian and academic influences have led me to look deeper into matters, further than what is presented by the various parties. And like my very resolute Christian brother who referred to you as lukewarm, I will never subordinate the teachings of My Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the lover of my soul, to any opposining position, as intellectually sound as it may be…for His ways and thoughts are far superior. And it is for this reason, I am totally agreeing with your position, and believe it is The Lord Himself that is behind this article you have so skillfully penned.
I must admit that having lived and studied in London, UK for 6 years and having been exposed to a very liberated gay community…even sharing home and developing a few deep friendships with men and women who lead a homosexual lifestyle, I have always felt very divided and even at times hypocritical as a Christian. I loved my friend, but have experienced intense feelings of anger and even hatred towards the very sophisticated LGBT lobby groups as I saw them force churches to close their doors just because they objected to renting their property to gay couples to hold their weddings. There were even stories about Christian couples who were punished by law for telling their wards that homosexuality is wrong in the sight of The Lord, as is very clearly stated in both Old and New Testament. These things made me boil, mainly due to the fear of having to contend with this ferocious group one day, either in my place of worship or workplace. Facing the possibility of being punished by law for my beliefs. Now that I have returned to Jamaica and am witnessing the advent of this gradual but steady lobby taking foot in my beloved land, the fear and anger returned, with even more venom. But as I read your article, and heard your cry to listen and hear the other side, I believe I heard not just the voice of the LGBT lobby, and of my dear friends in London who are fully convinced that they are damned to hell, but the voice of Jesus saying, – Kashta, my Grace is sufficient and perfect love cancels all fear. When I asked Him about what my brother said about us overlooking the important point of their salvation and unrepentant souls, I believe He asked in return, do you not think my Love is powerful enough to reach the hearts of flagrant angry homosexuals? And my blood not efficaacious enough to cleanse them of their sins? This caused me to look back at the church that shut their doors to the gay couples, wondering if maybe they lost an opportunity to pour out the Love of Jesus on them, not in an effort to change them, for that is the work of the Holy Spirit, but to just love them, as the word of God insists and implores us to do. I firmly believe when we arrive at this place, then and only then we all will win, but most importantly, Jesus will win. The world is watching Jamaica, closely, both pro and anti gay supporters, to see what we will do. I believe with The commitment of people like you Uncle Kei, people who are guided by love and truth, we will get to that place of true victory. Even the blood hungry media will be happy, as the stories will be unprcidented, jaw dropping accounts of how our boom bye bye, Bible bashing little land has decided to show love to our fellow brothers and sisters regardless of their sexual orientation. Please continue to pray, firstly for ourselves and fellow brothers and sisters, that we will believe and obey God’s word, which firmly instructs us to love, both the lovely and unloveable, and then for our other brothers and sisters from the gay community, that they will forgive us for causing further pain and will receive from us, the Love of Christ Jesus who died for their sins and ours.
you’ve moved me almost to tears. Love.
Amen, my sister. Amen.
This is beautiful, God bless you. This is coming from a gay man. Thank you!
As a person who lived in Jamaica many years ago, I wish to register my sorrow at the present situation that you outline so well. I find it very difficult to even imagine a world with such laws. I live in Minnesota where we recently voted to allow marriage for people who love each other regardless of gender.
Having gay persons live next door to me does not destroy my marriage, my community, or my life. It does not make me gay. What these persons do privately is not my business. I wish them health and happiness and try to be their friend as I try with all my neighbors.
I sincerely hope that your Uncle Brendan and Auntie Kay will chill. A nice stroll on one of your wonderful beaches with a likkle rum ‘n coke won’t hurt. And tell them from me that I wish them not to lord it over my soul. That is not their business either (or the business of any of your commenters on this blog).
Christianity hasn’t been the same since it became a state sponsored religion, seduced by power, corrupted by acceptance. Invited to the bargaining table to decide popular laws and policy, purporting to legislate morality. What a fools errand.
So appreciate this article
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
I pray that in the midst of all of this, having started again, you will consistently worship The Lord, remain in Him and His Word and bear fruit for Him as His disciple. Peace and thanks again for sharing so intimately with so many who are complte strangers. It must have taken a lot courage to do so.
Kei, you make three important points. First, that the media polarises the ‘Christian’ and ‘gay’ lobbies, creating seemingly insurmountable divisions that hide their interlocking concerns and communities. Two, that one cannot lead people who do not wish to be led by you. Third, specific groups cannot speak for those across a nation, all of whom deserve equal rights. Excellent piece Kei, brings in home.
Nicely written article and it showed an enlightened perspective I truly appreciates. While I appreciated the gesture I am reminded that first I trust God and his word and what he says about a matter.
Research and all must affirm this divine fact. Notwithstanding the application of a trained mind and facts, it would be remiss of me to abandon Gods truth under the subtle guises proposed.
Who or what stands as the referee in all of this? the humanist, the Christian??? oh yes the research only. What really triggered the sudden loss of confidence in Pro Bains’ leadership? this or other acts? there is still so much more to explore and not sure anyone can sufficiently.
The weight of the points shared must point back to Gods truth. And yes it may be at the risk of being : ” a doctrine that had legitimized the slaughter of her own people, had legitimized jihads both in the past and in the present; had legitimized programmes of apartheid and xenophobia and is still being used today for such hateful purposes”, and yes used to justify unjust laws too. -it was never meant to justify but to inform our behaviour.
Must we abandon Gods truth for anything else. Rather not, we need to know the truth so it can set us free. What is truth? -how can a young man cleanse his ways? – taking heed to the word of God. Psalm 119: 9. God truth transcends all cultures and works not just for Christians/ but all men. God is gracious to send his Holy Spirit to teach and bring truth, we reject it at our own peril.
God judges the intents of us all. He set up kings and demolishes them, so he does one kingdom against another.
I reverently say as his servant His ways are higher than man’s and they are perfect.
How we treat with them is key.
An old prophet shared ” Jeremiah 9: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”
As we obey His word, His life and ways are made evident void of our understanding or wisdom.(He teaches us we don’t teach Him)
God placed Dr. Bain at CHART, He has removed him, Prof Bain is simply a servant, if God led him to file the affidavit and he acted in obedience who am I to judge him to chose to act in faith to God versus the expanded mandate of CHART that collided with his Christian values.
His work in the church and academia stands as a testament of his conviction.
If he made an error let him be justly treated but the price he must pay.
No matter the circumstances praise be to God for Dr. Bain service to humanity. God is still God. In this collision faith won but there were many more lost!
Are we at a loss or lost ? Rather we have all gained on the contrary.
I read the article and found it most interesting, but obviously there is no comparison between Bain’s research and the Nazi regime in which “… science was often called upon to legitimize practices of genocide…” Nor can his be seen in the light of those scientists, who, “…during slavery… often shared findings that seemed to prove the negro race was inferior mentally and were best suited as livestock…” There was absolutely no truth to the Nazi’s claim or the scientists who promoted the theory that Black people were mentally inferior.
I think one of the sore points between the LGBT lobby group and the church has to do with the teachings concerning same sex relationships presented both in the Old and the New Testaments.
It is written that no man shall add to nor take away that which is written in the Holy Bible, as those are the words of God. In that regard, the church is determined to stick to its guns, whereas the LGBT community is obviously determined to take away the judgement referenced in the Bible to their life-style.
One question keeps jumping up in my mind: if Prof. Brendan Bain’s findings were in support of LGBT life-style, would they have lobbied for the University of the West Indies to terminate his service?
Thanks for coming to this and engaging. But just a couple points of information: surely you read my context and my acknowledgment that the examples of the Nazis and supporters of slavery are extreme and not quite equivalents. I repeat that my point is a simple one – that it is fair and correct and ethical to ask, what is this science being used to advance? But more importantly, you’re simply incorrect to claim that there was ‘absolutely no truth’ to the science they deployed. I encourage you to do just a little bit of research before you make false pronouncements based on your conviction and based on the enlightened place that we’ve thankfully all come to where we rightly know to dismiss the evil of those regimes. But you simply can’t make a statement as you have without knowing the material. You’re spreading misinformation. The science was very much accurate, if not one-sided, selective, and carefully used to support the status quo and the continued infringement of various groups – the very things that some are accusing Bain of doing. The comparison, though an extreme one, holds.
Wham bam thank you, ma’am, my quseitons are answered!
Kei, you say: ” if this were an unbroken world, and if relationships happened as prescribed by Christian culture – one man faithful to one woman – HIV/AIDS would have never become an epidemic”
Shouldn’t it be “one man faithful to one or more women of the same race”?
A most insightful and thoughtfully written piece, which squarely calls out the not-so-scientic-after-all findings and conclusions. I would only re-post a comment I made a few days ago in response to the lobby for Prof Bain’s reinstatement….
“I think two issues are being mixed up in this whole debate. The central issue it seems to me is whether someone who publicly states that it should be legal to keep slaves should be appointed to lead the organization that is trying to assist with treatment of slaves. Substitute “slaves” for whatever you want. I think the topic of homosexuality in Jamaica evokes such fear and paranoia that it often causes us to muddle our judgement. Just saying…”
Very moving article indeed, but I can’t help feeling it suggests that both sides are shouting with equal strength without listening. Isn’t it more the case of one side being tired of hearing without being heard? In Jamaica, we certainly know who the loudest voices are. It’s a minority versus a majority, is it not? When you truly listen to a person, you hear their humanity, i dare say this, when Christians listen to the LBGT community, they hear people suffering from an “illness” and they genuinely want to “help”. It is a balanced article about an unbalanced situation at best. At worst, it’s a bias in sheep’s clothing.
Very well said. I accept this is as an important critique to what I’ve written and how I’ve written it. I hope people see what you’re saying.
Thank you Kei for a heartfelt, open, honest and moving response to this issue.
Even as you wrote this there is evidence that as the world’s leading AIDS researchers gather for the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., scientists report that despite gains in controlling the spread of HIV, the disease has continued to spread at an alarming rate in the very population in which it first appeared — gay men.
In a series of papers in the Lancet dedicated to the dynamics of HIV among gay men — a group epidemiologists define as men who have sex with men (MSM) — scientists say that the continued burden of AIDS in this group is due to a combination of lifestyle and biological factors that put these men at higher risk. Rates are rising in all countries around the world. YOUR UNCLE IS RIGHT!
Uhm…well thanks for coming to this and remaking a point that absolutely no one has disputed in this whole saga. You’ve even helpfully typed it in ALL CAPS. But what exactly are you adding? The risk to MSM is particularly high because of biology and behaviour – a point Bain makes, and which I remake, and which now you’ve made again. The figures, as I said, are staggering and calls for some serious and meaningful intervention. On this, every jack man and woman is agreed.
The key point made for me is the value of listening to each other. As a communicator I try to encourage my colleagues and students when I lecture to listen more. Culturally we do not as our pre-meditated views creates a lot of noise. Your points are clear though. Regardless of the secular position, it is always of value to listen. Thanks for taking the time to publish this.
I want to thank you whole heartedly for writing this piece. It has indeed took a more logical, reasonable, objective approach to the issue. We often times find ourselves on one side of the fence without trying to understand what is happening on the other side and that’s why I have been so ambivalent on the issue. I hope this article will open the eyes of all that may read. God’s blessings! 🙂
As long as this attitude remains people will feel the need to hide that will not help to reduce the spread of aids having said that maybe firing him was too heavy handed, as for the Church people seem to avoid the fact that many molestations occurred withing the Church and was commited by some Christians so let us not forget this kindly have some compassion.So keeping an antiquated law on the books will not call an halt to a deep issue.Not every child has a safe haven.The difference bettween places like Jamaica and so called first world is that in the first world there are now more resources
Reblogged this on Read Robyn and commented:
On the recently fired Professor Bain . . . (he says it all so well).
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“It is unlikely that at any time soon, the gay community will accept the simple truth that if this were an unbroken world, and if relationships happened as prescribed by Christian culture – one man faithful to one woman – HIV/AIDS would have never become an epidemic, and so Christians are perfectly within their right to point out that the lifestyle that they promote is one that would radically confront the spread of this disease.”
Is the gay community really the only people who need to accept this? What about non-monogamous heterosexuals? Christians who are non-monogamous? For example in the US the group hit statistically hard right now are young black women. I highly doubt they are contracting HIV from gay men. Poverty, lack of access to healthcare and societal stigmas surrounding prevention and treatment are some of the reasons this became an epidemic and gay men suffer dually under those burdens and the added lack of access due to homophobia. Seems disingenuous and a bit homophobic to assert that it’s only the gay community who doesn’t practice monogamous safe sex. HIV is actually a less deadly virus compared to something like EBOLA but because it is contracted through sex and in drug use- two areas in which shame and public stigma prevent real adequate prevention and treatment regimes- it has blown into an epidemic. I would argue that the Buggery Law and homophobia directly facilitate the transmission of HIV and fuel the epidemic by continuing to drive a lifestyle underground where information, quality of life, prevention and treatment are illusory or out of reach. Harm reduction- reducing the harm in someone’s behaviour regardless of that behaviour (needle exchanges, distributing free condoms etc) assumes that people make choices based on the world around them (have unsafe sex because to carry condoms would signal promiscuity or homosexuality, use drugs because they have no adequate support system to stop, have unsafe sex because they feel worthless/are depressed etc.) would be the only way to address this in a compassionate manner. I have to conclude that Dr. Bain simply wants homosexuality to be illegal and perilous rather than do what needs to be done to help reduce the spread of HIV and treat those who have already contracted it. As such he might be a lovely man but he has no space in academia or public health.