Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Bigotry: The Greatest Tragedy On Earth

I have always made it very clear that the aim of my writing is never to please anybody. I am not in the business of writing to promote any particular belief, religion, creed, political affiliation or whatever that is in vogue. This does not mean that I cannot criticise or praise a particular religion, political party or an ideology if they disregard or show serious commitment towards one of those principles I believe in. These principles include those of tolerance, accommodation, respect, egalitarianism, rule of law and the pursuit of happiness. They are my most cherished and beloved principles. I believe in them as I do in God.

I find it particularly dreadful to engage in any form of religious debate with people and the reason is very simple. Religion does not have solution to most of the contemporary problems we are facing. Science could play a very huge role in solving these problems. Religion could only offer a solace and that may not be what people would want when situations on ground calls for immediate pragmatic actions and solutions. This however does not mean that I do not believe in religion; yes I do though I would prefer not to be associated with any for the mean time. The implication of my statement is that I am not a fantasist. I prefer to be referred to as a realist. As a result of this I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt and despite being a Christian that there are some issues that faith cannot solve; only science could. This does not in any way oppose my belief in miracles; in fact I am of the belief that we should allow science to seek solutions to human problems and where it cannot find solutions to these problems, miracles should then come in. We should use our brains and give God time to rest sometimes! By being the originator and cause of everything, God Has set the process of discovery, evolution and invention in motion and we should take advantage of that. We cannot stay in sin so that grace would be made abundant for us.

The bible is a very old book, the last part of which was written about 2000 years ago. The collection of what makes the Holy Bible as it is today is a different story altogether. At a point in time the Church had to sit down to decide what should be included or excluded from the bible. That was what happened in the Third Council of Carthage in 397AD. Some experts are of the view that in the process the bible must have been tampered with in one way or the other to suit the needs of the church, the time, the council and the editors. The veracity of this story is not what am here to discuss. It could be a topic for another day but suffice it to say that in the process many other canonical documents were either judged unsuitable to be included or regarded as too mundane or too critical of Jesus Christ, his teachings and his followers to be included. Ever heard of the Gospel of Judas or that of Mary Magdalene? Well, am not implying that they are some of these documents excluded, however it is important to note that the Roman Catholic bible has got more books compared to that of other Christian denominations. This disparity says something. The bible therefore is the work of men allegedly written under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Considering the age of the bible, it could therefore not have all the solutions to the contemporary problems. Today’s problems are well beyond the scope of the bible. For instance, the bible never discussed anything about HIV and AIDs, not even Malaria, aeroplane, DNA, psychosexual analysis, trains, condoms and cars and many other things meaning that using the bible or other holy books as a base to judge today’s problem could be nonsensical. It makes no sense and could be a sign of delusion and stupidity. Faith does not mean gullibility; it means rationality.

Against that backdrop, it is pertinent to note that the bible was obviously not written to explain science and I pointed it out very clearly elsewhere that the main purpose of the bible ab initio was to propagate the Jewish culture and religion. This is very true of the Old Testament while the New Testament was written to propagate Christianity. The Igbo people of the south east of Nigeria or the Hutus of the Rwanda or even the Xhosas of South Africa were obviously not included in that plan. It was written and tailored to the needs of the Jewish people, as a result the bible cannot sensibly be used as a landmark to judge these three cultures since before the advent of Christianity, they have their own system of belief and worship. If Christianity did not come to them they would have still been worshipping their gods according to the dictates of their conscience.

The argument of whether the bible is or not the word of God is also beyond the scope of this writing. However suffice it to say that if we push the theory of the bible being the word of God too much, other religions would surely push theirs including Islam which may likely land us into the hot fire of actually endorsing the ‘Holy War’ and whatever it means to Muslims. It is because of this that I have always tried to be more realistic in my writings by not quoting holy books; not even the bible despite being born and baptised a Roman Catholic Christian. I have my reasons for that and one of them is what I have already cited at the outset. Another reason is what I have already dealt with in my previous article titled ‘The Ugly Side Of Religion: A Review Of Mankind Abuse Of God And Religion’, where I posited that religion being an instrument of propaganda could be used to brainwash and indoctrinate vulnerable followers into doing harm and evil to their folks. The Muslim terrorists are a good example here. The American conservative Christians who fund African churches to persecute their homosexual brothers is another example.

Against this background, I am therefore not interested in pleasing people with my writings. Man by nature is insatiable and therefore what pleases man should not be my focus but the promotion of virtues of democracy, peace, stability, tolerance, respect and accommodation. I have a mission and my mission is never to please anybody’s religious convictions. I cannot do that because I am not a theologian. To the best of my knowledge I majored in Mass Communications and minored in Print Journalism. To set the record straight, even though I was born a Roman Catholic, I do not share in the belief that any Christian denomination is more superior or more authentic than others or that any religion is better or more authentic than others. To me, just as all denominations within the Christendom is equal and do same work for the Lord, so is all religion equal and do same work for the Lord according to their modus operandi and understanding. The issue of religion is just a question of chance. An Italian Roman Catholic would more likely have been a Muslim, if he had been a Saudi Arabian, just as Pope Benedict XVI would have been a Buddhist, Shintoist, Confucianist or even a Muslim if he had been Asian. Therefore no one could claim that his religion is the best simply because he is a member of that religion. A religion becomes the best when members of that religion adhere strictly to the ‘Golden Rule’ which fortunately is one rule that all religions share in common.

Just as I defend the right of each individual to belong to any religion by choice and freewill without force, coercion or compulsion, so am I also strongly in favour of those who opted to remain in the worship of their ancestral gods especially the adherents of traditional religions as well as those who decides not to believe in anything and by this latter group I mean the atheists. In democracy every individual should be given the right to believe or not to believe; the right to the freedom of choice. That is the fundamental pillar of democracy. Religion should never be by coercion or compulsion. The use of force to convert one to a particular religion is sinful and antithetical to the meaning of religion while the imposition of our religious belief on others is as sinful as the biggest sin in the bible.

At all point in time especially when circumstances calls for religious debates and arguments, provisions must always be made to include and accommodate the beliefs and philosophies of others; no matter how old school we may think they might be when compared to our own beliefs. A Muslim must be given same platform as a Christian to market or defend his faith. Same opportunity must also be given equally to atheists and traditional believers. It is bigotry, stupidity, immaturity and idiotic to impose our religious belief on others and that brings me to the reason for all these lucubrations.

On the eve of Christmas 2009, I posted a poem on my blog ‘The Rantings Of Chukwunwikezarramu Okumephuna’ at www.chukwunwikezarramu.blogspot.com and the title of the poem was ‘Another Meaningless Christmas’. A fan, Okos Okoduwa made a comment after the poem and his comment read, ‘I have always loved your intelligent comments on National issues but am afraid to say I don't buy your position on Gay whatever. An Ibo man fronting for a cursed cause is absurd’.

I found his comment distressing, upsetting and disgusting for two reasons including the fact that he never crosschecked the gravity of the words he used to express his outburst. He was overwhelmed with the desire to insult me and ended up making the comment in the wrong place. His comment was supposed to have been made after my status update where I asked, ‘Who Is Your 2009 Person Of The Year And Why Is The Person Your 2009 Person Of The Year?’ The reason he made the comment was because of who I chose as my 2009 Person Of The Year. I chose the Homosexuals in Africa as my 2009 Person of the Year and this is exactly what I said: “ My 2009 Person Of The Year are the "Homosexuals In Africa". My reason for picking them is because of my deepest conviction as a person and a Christian that they are also the chosen children of God and part and parcel of Africa as a continent and culture. Nobody is less important or more important in the sight of God otherwise the concept of God become meaningless and questionable. No animal is more equal than others! God cannot create and condemn! These homosexuals obviously for no fault of theirs are presently going through a hard time in Africa. In Nigeria, five years imprisonment awaits them for expressing their sexuality in any form. In Uganda, they could be sentenced to death for that. In Rwanda, a country that just came out of the worst genocide of the 21st century, they are outlawed. In The Gambia, the president gave them ultimatum to leave that country or face the music. In Zimbabwe they are equated with pigs. The story is the same in different parts of Africa except South Africa which is the only country in Africa where being a homosexual is permitted and protected by law. We cannot continue to tolerate the insanity of killing, ostracising and degrading others because of their sexuality based solely on our blind cultural and religious convictions. What they are asking for is the right to love someone just as we all have someone we love. They are not asking for too much. They deserve to love and be loved! I have no doubt that if Jesus Christ is still here, He would have treated them as He treated Mary Magdalene. But the most agonising part of the whole story is that our governments instead of protecting them are making laws and even encouraging us to harm and kill our own brothers. Africa Unite And Do Not Leave Your Brothers Behind For Their Blood Would Come Back To Haunt Us! They are going through a lot and just like the civil rights activist they have been resisting all attempts to have their rights emasculated and dignity as human beings trampled upon. I therefore crown them as my "2009 Person Of The Year" even as I thank and encourage all those who sympathise with their plight to continue till Africa is made a place where everybody is treated as somebody and somebody treated as a human being. Where all would have their human rights valued, cherished and respected, have access to all the basics of life including education and healthcare and above all be happy and proud of coming Out Of Africa!”

Another reason why his comment distressed me a lot was because of his verbal attack on me. I would not have had any qualm if he had stopped at saying that he does not buy my idea, but going a bit further to tell me that ‘An Ibo man fronting for a cursed cause is absurd’ is way too far beyond the boundary. I thought he crossed the boundary of decency, ethics of conversation and civilisation because there is a clear case of argumentum ad hominem in his comments. That is basically the reason why I decided to do what I have not done before here; replying to one of my fans. It would be very stupid and cowardice for me not to. It would also amount to victory for stupidity and ignorance, if I do not. By the way I am an Igbo sometimes spelt as Ibo from the South East of Nigeria hence his attack on my ethnicity.

Once again, I am not a theologian. I see myself more as an activists than as a writer. Writing is just a medium for me to lay down my grievances. I am very confident that many things are not going the way they ought to have been going especially in Africa. My blogging is my own little way of pointing out these anomalies as well as contributing towards making the world a better place. There is too much poverty in Africa, not because we do not have the resources to be like Europe and North America, but because there is too much greed, corruption and wickedness amongst our leaders. They do not have respect for the people they are called to serve and that is why a country as big as Nigeria does not have good roads, quality education, constant power supply and all those things that are taken for granted elsewhere even in the neighbouring Ghana.

Instead of tackling the problems, the corrupt leaders who are responsible for the mess and quagmire resorted to scapegoating and the people at the receiving end are the homosexuals. They are being blamed for all the evils in almost all the African states notably The Gambia, Nigeria and Uganda. But a closer look clearly betrays this scapegoating as a ploy to deviate the attention of their citizens from the fact that they are unable to deliver the dividends of democracy to them. The idea behind this is that when they bring up issues like homosexuality which many Africans do not tolerate, it would end up being the talk of the day, a rallying point, a point of focus and eventually divert the citizens away from asking the main question; the dividend of democracy. Elsewhere, I made it very clear that I am not the right person to be asked about my opinion on homosexuality if you are looking towards getting a negative answer. I refused to join the bandwagon of condemnation simply because as I have noted earlier, the bible is not strong enough on the question of homosexuality. Psychology and science came up with a better, strong and cogent explanation on why people are gay. Their conclusion is that being a homosexual is not about choosing a lifestyle but falls under one of those situations in life we cannot control. Another good example is the colour of the body. Others include colour of the eyes, fingerprints and even where to be born. We do not have control over these and just as we do not have control over them, so do homosexuals not have control over their sexuality. They are victims of some circumstance beyond their control and they have to live with it. My call as a blogger is not to add to their already heavy burden!

It is based on these grounds that I refused to condemn homosexuals and homosexual lifestyle. My conservative Christian friends do not share same belief with me. They have many passages in the bible to justify their condemnation of the homosexuals including the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to which I always reply that there are also many other things in the bible which are forbidden and we still do them. Amongst them are adultery and fornication. Who has not done it before? Same bible they quote to justify homophobia also mandated exile for any man who sleeps with a woman during her period (Leviticus 18: 19), killing of disobedient son (Deuteronomy 21:20-21), made it an offence to mix linen and wool in any garment (Deuteronomy 22:11) and mandated that if a girl is raped in the city and no one hears her scream both she and her assailant shall be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:23-25). Same bible also placed an embargo on anyone born of undesirable marriage from worshiping the Lord up to the tenth generation and many others including the eating of sea animals-oyster, lobster, prawn-that has no fin and scales which the bible said in the book of Deuteronomy 14 are unclean.

From the above therefore, it could be concluded that the bible forbade almost everything we do today and if that is true why then singling out the homosexuals for public opprobrium? Is homosexuality the only sin in the bible? Why did the church and all of us suddenly became aware that the bible condemned homosexuality but not also these things I mentioned above? That was the basis of my refusal to condemn anybody based on his sexuality. The selective teaching and interpretation of the bible does not conform to the teachings of the bible itself. Am sure God is still almighty and can still use that almighty power to bring down fire and brimstones on the homosexuals and since He has not done that yet, it is not my responsibility to carry out that function for Him because vengeance belongs to Him and it is neither your responsibility because all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord hence his poser that anyone who have not committed this type of sin before should be the first to cast his or her stone.

After going through all these passages in the bible with my limited faith, I must admit that I find it very difficult to understand why those with faith big enough to move mountains would be the first to cast their stone or to look for a speck of wood in their brother’s eyes whereas they have a log of wood in theirs. On that note I concluded that the whole thing boils down to ignorance and bigotry and it is based on that conclusion that I replied to Okos Okoduwa. In my reply to him I posited, “As a writer, you are the conscience of the people, the fourth estate of the realm and the voice of the people. I may have personal opinions but as a writer those opinions should not becloud my sense of service to my readers and the wider audience. The fact is that my job is never to pass judgement on human sexuality. I am not interested in knowing whether people are homosexuals or not or the merits and demerits of being one. Am only interested in what people can contribute to ensure that the world is a better place to live in. As a result of this I have the deepest respect for homosexuals who are striving in their own way to make the world a better place. The problem with Nigeria and the world today is not homosexuality. They are not the reason for the massive corruption, bad roads, dilapidated infrastructures, poor economy and many other ills plaguing Nigeria and because of this fact I refuse to condemn them. In fact they are fearfully and wonderfully contributing to the will of God on earth. As a writer I am called to be on the side of the poor, the less privileged, the ostracised and others being marginalised for one reason or the other and it is because of this that my writings are clearly aimed at attacking people victimising the poor and the marginalised and I do not think I have any regret doing that. Once again, there is nothing wrong with being a homosexual but if you think there is then there is something wrong with being a Christian in Africa because Christianity is not part of African cosmology. I think it is high time we left the homosexuals alone for the simple reason that they are not the reason for corruption and underdevelopment in Africa. And by the way, to think of it deeply, what have you got to loose with two men loving themselves? You really need to think about homosexuality with an open mind and if homosexuality is 'cursed' as you wrongly said then being black is also cursed as being pushed by some white extremists. Well, we have come a long way out of that and we should rather concentrate on creating more jobs for young people in Nigeria rather than devoting precious time to persecuting the homosexuals. By the way being a homosexual is so Igbo since homosexuality has got nothing to do with tribe, ethnic group or culture. Every culture, ethnic group and tribe has got homosexuals”.

I thought he would get the message, unfortunately he did not and he replied to me, “My Bible tells me that God we will all come to judgment. If your dad was gay, you would not have been born. Little wonders you chose to send this write-up via personal message to me. It would have been better if you came out openly, let your Ibo brothers recognise you on Facebook without obscuring your face and identity. This is akin to cultural bastardisation. Your argument on this clearly shows what you are. Get on with it. If you use your wisdom and intelligence to insult God Almighty, you will surely give account. Jesus loves you. Go to the National Assembly and sponsor a Bill to legitimise this in Nigeria”.

His reply was very childish to me and the poor construction made it pretty difficult for me to perfectly understand what he was implying. Once again he made reference to my ethnicity and added my dad. I would have stopped because my further conversation with him would be akin to celebrating ignorance but because of the fear that he might think am a coward and the fact that he even involved my father in the argument, I replied to him, “I do not think am interested in going into further argument with you on this. Using your bible to judge others is a sign of ignorance. Democracy accommodates every shades of opinion and democracy is well aware that everybody does not share the same faith with you and that is why every reasonable democracy strives never to mingle religion with democracy. Every democracy should be build upon secularism and that is the way it ought to be. Your religious beliefs should be kept within you and must end in your room. It is ignorance and bigotry to judge others using your religion and even the bible you called 'My Bible' was written by people you do not know and the veracity of the stories there may not be the whole truth. In addition, I do not need to have a straight father or even a father at all to be born. Science made it possible to have kids without a father or even a sexual intercourse. Meanwhile I do not share the same opinion with my dad on various issues and I would wish that you do not involve him in a discussion like this. You can still make your opinions known without involving my ethnicity and family. My dad is a staunch Roman Catholic and I do not obviously agree with all his beliefs since most do not make sense to me. Meanwhile this reply was never sent into your inbox. It was initially replied to you on my wall and copied to your inbox to ensure that you get it. Listen if am not convinced in what I am doing, I would have stopped. At this my age and level of exposure, education and travel, I am convinced that there is something wrong with holding opinions like yours. I do not have regret on my stand on this issue. You are certainly filled with hatred probably due to no fault of yours and I do not want to be drawn into that. As a young man, I wish you would begin to change things around you. Furthermore, my writing has not in any way suggested insulting or lacking belief in God. What I know for sure is that my writing as far as possible is devoid of any stand that uses religion to condemn people or their way of life. The bible was not written to explain science or psychology. It was written by a group of men to highlight the relationship between them, their culture and their God and that does not obviously cover science and psychology as we have them today. On sponsoring a bill in the National Assembly on the same question, of course you and I know that the Nigerian National Assembly is not fit for purpose. The Assembly is akin to kindergarten filled with kids high in skunk and new wine and behaving wildly like those having an orgy. They are only after money and never about the welfare of the people. What have they done to solve mountains of problems confronting Nigerians including the newest addition of terrorism?”

At this point he left the subject of the argument and came back to attack me again. “You write like someone that is a bit exposed but you seem to believe you are the only Nigerian that is trained abroad. Thank God I hold a Masters degree from one of the best Universities in the UK as well. I will not be drawn into arguments with an atheist. It’s sad that you think you can use Facebook to indoctrinate people like me who believe God cannot be wrong. It is a sin for a man to have sex with another man. Bible says all sinners will find themselves in a lake of fire that burns with fire and brimstone. You need to give your life to God. You were created for a purpose. I am sure your dad and mum cannot even imagine what you gay men do to yourselves. I will not read any message from you otherwise you will continue to irritate me. I have got young boys. On daily basis I ask God to shield them from doctrines in favour of homosexuality like yours. You hide under the cover of freedom of speech, rule of law etc whereas what you want is freedom to "fuck" shit. Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed because of this evil.”

Following this, I become convinced that the whole drama is getting funny, getting out of hand and becoming like arguing with truck pushers, bus conductors, touts and thugs in Ajegunle market of Lagos, Nigeria. I decided to stop responding but then I said no for I am a strong believer in the fact that knowledge and commonsense would always be triumphant over ignorance and bigotry. I therefore replied to him, “You have a Masters Degree from one of the best universities in the UK? Congratulations but I'd rather end up as a Molue bus conductor than to acquire a foreign degree and end up as an empty bigot. Oh! By the way, am not struggling for heaven with you because I have already decided to rot in hell than to share heaven with people like you. I never said am an atheist but if that is what you called me; I think it is better than what you believe in at the moment. Am not really offended, am only trying to respond to you using the tone you used above to reply to me. Holding a Masters Degree is not a measure of wisdom, after all idiots and scums can have or buy one. The greatest disaster is that you do not actually allow that Masters you got from one of the best UK universities to go through you. Am sure most Nigerian leaders have Masters too including those from Toronto University but look at the mess they have put our country into. Therefore Masters Degree is nothing if it could not be applied into everyday thinking and practicalities. How can you acquire a Masters from one of the best UK universities and still think like those in the Stone Ages? Once again, I do respect your opinion and am happy that you share same room with God. But as for me I still believe in what I believe in. Any religion or belief that canvasses the persecution of others because of their sexual orientation is not worthy to be and one cannot profess to believe in God and yet in the name of same God persecute and condemn his own brethren! Religion is all about bringing all together towards God and never about excluding them and by the way what made you think you are better than homosexuals?”

He then got mad and wrote, “I have told you I will not continue in this with you. I did not read this and will never read anything from you. Jesus loves you. Give your life to him” but I refused to give up. I replied to him, “Well I thought you want to prove your blind religious convictions to me. Why are you running away? Come on, go on and talk! The greatest disaster ever to face man is hypocrisy and bigotry. On that note, I think we stop here but make sure you repent of your hatred and ego which makes you think you are better than others. Before I leave please tell me what makes you think you are better than homosexuals?”

He never replied. He chickened away quietly removing his profile from my fans page and that actually made me happy because I cannot condone ignorance ruling over wisdom, intelligence and commonsense. Everyone is entitled to their religious belief but using same to judge others is going too far. It is bigotry to use the bible to judge a Muslim or an atheist just as it would be ridiculous to use the Koran to judge a Buddhist. Everyman should be allowed to practice his religion without flaunting it disrespectfully in front of others, forcing it down their throat or imposing it on others. We have come a long way out of the stone ages and to the best of my knowledge this is 2010 and we cannot continue to tolerate the fact that people are still being ostracised, lynched, imprisoned, abused, killed and murdered just because of their sexuality. That is ignorance and that is completely unacceptable.

It is ridiculous to claim superiority over another person by virtue of birth or sexuality. A heterosexual is never superior to a homosexual just as a white man is never superior to a black man! And since there is no scientific evidence to prove that homosexuals cannot reach the same level of achievement with their straight counterparts, I once more refuse to be intimidated by any blind religious convictions until that time when the Lord shall come in judgment to settle disputes amongst nations and force them to beat their swords into ploughshares!

3 comments:

  1. Bravo, my friend. Your thoughts and convictions are those of someone guided by the compassion of Christ -- a theme often obscured bythe plagiarised biblical mythos that was superimposed over the real message. We are fortunate to have your voice among those who call themselves "Christians".

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  2. Thanks a lot Your Grace and be aware that I highly appreciate your commendation and seriously looking forward to that day when we shall return to the inclusive and not exclusive gospel. Everybody and I mean everybody is precious in the sight of the Lord no matter your circumstances in life!

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  3. It will be great to watch Blood Brothers, i have bought tickets from
    http://ticketfront.com/event/Blood_Brothers-tickets looking forward to it.

    ReplyDelete