Some folks would have you think that, in countries like Trinidad & Tobago, homosexuality is something that liberal madmen from the US and Europe brought to corrupt us. Turns out that’s not true. But homophobia definitely did. It’s not incredibly wise to debate whether it did or not. The indigenous people in the Caribbean and Africa, and the labourers who were subsequently moved to and from theses places, were not Christian (I’m asserting here that Christianity is the major proponent of homophobia worldwide). But now, in the 21st Century, where US anti-gay pastors like Phillip Lee are now travelling biannually to places in the Caribbean, the real question becomes why. My guess is this – homophobia is still a profitable philosophy here.
If you pay close attention to one of the things that are said in the above video from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, you’ll see where I’m headed. John Oliver actually says it openly for me at 10:11;
“Clearly US groups recognized that the market the homophobia state-side was dwindling and so they tried to sell it somewhere else.”
This is incredibly important. Not only for how we have conversations about homosexuality in the developing world, but maybe even for how we combat homophobia here as well.
The truth behind the passion of Christian anti-gay activism in the Caribbean and Africa might not have to do much with the spreading of God’s word. It might just be the fact that the Christian audiences in these parts of the world have been privy to the doctrine of Christianity and have not yet steeled their heart against those messages of hate. In the US, where pastors like Scott Lively and Phillip Lee come from, homophobic doctrine is being rejected in church after church. The language of discrimination and ostracism that is present in anti-gay ministry is being rejected more and more as now half of the states in the US are acting against LGBT discrimination and even providing marriage equality. The good news is that means that they’re losing ground there. But, if you’re capitalist, you know that means that you need to find new ground.
And that means a whole new scramble for the Caribbean and Africa as places to keep beating the dead homophobia horse. Think about it this way – just 10 years ago, were there any pastors coming to T&T to speak about homosexuality specifically (and only, which I always sound suspicious)? Nope. And definitely not before that. Why now? Why would American evangelicals leave their already existing places of faith, especially when they widespread homosexual acceptance they so fear is much more rampant over there than down here? That can’t be about faith, or about wanting to prevent the scourge that supposedly saw Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed. That reads as something a lot more…economic…
Let’s be real, church and faith do participate in an economic system. They sell things – hope, fear, purity, miracle, salvation. The congregation buys, through tithes and offerings and continued presence and volunteering and by their faith itself. And, historically, when people stop buying certain things from the church, the church changes its selling strategy. The Mormons used to preach against black people holding positions of leadership in the church, arguing that those with darker skin were closer to a sinful nature. In 1978, the church radically changed its doctrine to accept persons of colour. That’s the power of simply refusing to accept their messages of hate. The Catholic church has changed its doctrines more than once in response to dwindling numbers.
In this case, the Christian right just found another market to sell this particular damaging product, in spite of the calls for them to take their hate off the shelf.
Now it’s just up to us to demand that evangelicals stop bringing their surplus of hate to our countries. To be honest, I’m not sure how that happens. After we all, we have the perfect market atmosphere for those sorts of messages. We already have extremist faith and legal frameworks that allow for LGBT discrimination to take place. So, unless religious leaders started rising up and ‘selling’ something other than damnation in their sermons before the entire nation, it won’t change very fast…
But the good news, if rejection of homophobia in the US is any example, sooner or later, we’ll stop buying what the hateful are selling.