Reflections on the implications of Religious Faith for African Gays and Lesbians (Part 1)

The journey to reconcile sexuality and spirituality has never been an easy voyage, nor will the world around us facilitate such an easy path. The construct of understanding sexuality is mired with the audacity and ferocity of the dominance of religion; this often makes it less easy for those who already struggle with their sexual orientation – and in many cases sampled with my own experiences, the challenges of finding the right balance or footing.

As a person of faith who is gay, the acknowledgement of my Christian faith and the fight to remain within this community continues to be a challenge. I have to accept many times the crown of being a pioneer and leading people to an inclusive and loving God has not come easily, but at a terrible price that often not only questions my faith as a Christian, but those who claim to be Christians too.

Many people like myself often give up, and there is no doubt that statistics around the globe show a high rise in mental cases and illnesses of those who are unable to find a resting place on the issues that dogged and ache. The terrible ways in which many gay people have been treated by Christians, question the teaching of Jesus, that says “love thy neighbour as thy self”, unless of course if the neighbour is a homosexual, then it would be justifiable to hate and or kill them.

Frequently, when asked to speak or write on these matters, it is seldom difficult to alienate one’s self from the equation of calamity that dogs a percentage of humanity.

Personifying my information, I once updated my Facebook status to read ‘Proudly Gay, Proudly Christian, Proudly Black, Proudly African, Proudly Nigeria etc’, a moment of considered sanity and the thought of what makes me the real person I am. Did I have to make such note on a social network for approval or to acknowledge my existence – this is what many African Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people are facing today. The continuous barrage of mental reminder of who we are, in a world that does not consider the legitimacy of sexual minorities, including popular religious communities.

At the same time many LGBTI people, not just Africans have abandoned religion. I can guarantee you that in the time that many are faced with tragedies of exclusion, let alone accepting they are Not Heterosexuals, the religious communities they are accustomed to clearly are rejecting them; alienating them and that is what I want to focus this writing on. I have carefully prepared this response to address some of these issues.

Whilst I believe I speak for many African LGBTI people, I will also speak of my own experiences as a Black British African Gay Christian Theologian with experiences of working & living in the UK, working & living in a hostile country Nigeria, as a trained legal practitioner, theologian and openly gay.

There is an increasing expectation from the African family, and mine was no exception; my parents dreamed that I will be a lawyer, so I studied law, but am a theologian with a twist for liberalism – after all I trained under my father and received my first Masters degree under his supervision. I am a licensed minister and in September 2006 founded the first and only inclusive and (gay) affirming Christian church in Nigeria, called House Of Rainbow Fellowship, currently we have eight active groups in five countries.

With my religious experiences as a young person, I was dedicated, I was loyal, and I was controlled in my understanding of a religion that will later haunt, degrade and punish me. What I read and understood in the bible deluded me. After many years of conforming and agreeing, I started to see things differently, this came with so many piled up baggage of experiences, including an acrimonious divorce from my ex wife.

Ephesians 4:14 “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” This verse was my liberating verse, I began to question everything I have learnt and been taught.

John 20:30 “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31But these are written so that you may come to believe* that Jesus is the Messiah,* the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”

There was “Peer pressure” as a youth, everyone was having girlfriends, whilst I fantasised about being with boys and men. I was no doubt involved in a few heterosexual relationships that made me scared of my own life and sanity. After four years of dating and creating all manner of excuses to avoid marriage, I was married to a beautiful and truly nice woman. I was the envy of my family and friends, I loved her but there was very little knowledge of my sexuality; as often I was to believe that it was the work of the enemy and demonic spirits, and that my homosexual feelings will simply dissipate.

As a young person, I had and experienced homosexual relationships in Nigeria. Like any teenager, I thought at the time it was a habit and when I returned to the UK life just rolled over, and continued.

….. the reflection continues in Part 2

Copyright © 2011 Rowland Jide Macaulay.

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