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Opinions of Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Columnist: Coleman, Robert G.

Thinking Through The Homosexuality Debate

What are we to make of the current debate on homosexuality? Perhaps you have
felt this struggle at least briefly at an intellectual level. On one hand
you find it odd that someone’s personal life should be criminalized. On
another hand, you probably do not want to advocate for a law that will open
up the flood gates for a lifestyle that you have been nurtured to see as
going against the natural order.

Those advocating for the right of homosexuals to freely practise their
lifestyle are advancing arguments on grounds of human rights. Voices
(especially Christian ones) against this lifestyle are also taking a firm
stand and clarifying their beliefs about homosexuality. My objective in this
piece is not to propose which law should be enacted but to assess some of
the logic being used in thinking and arguing about this issue of
homosexuality and also shed some light on the Christian response.

Former Presidential Advisor on Reproductive Health, Professor Fred Torgbor
Sai, was quoted in the June 25, 2011 edition of the Daily Graphic as saying:
“My personal position on this practice is that, I wouldn’t practise it but
who am I to judge someone who does it? Especially as a doctor, I don’t know
whether there is a biological basis for it, a psychological basis for it, or
simply a person’s choice. I don’t know” The statement sounds noble. But a
few important questions spring to mind: Why wouldn’t Professor Sai practise
homosexuality? Is it just a matter of his preference? Is he conceding that
there is nothing objectively wrong with the practise? If yes, then why is he
personally against rather than indifferent to the practise of homosexuality?
There are clearly moral underpinnings to the professor’s stance.

It is deception to think we can wrestle the morality element of this issue
away from its legal aspect. You see, even when framing our laws we cannot
escape the fact that our decisions either come from the moral constructs in
our worldview – it may be one of an absolute morality or a relative
morality. And whichever perspective it is, needs to be defended in the
public square.

Absolute morality insists that if something is wrong for one person in a
certain circumstance then it is also wrong for everyone else in the same
circumstance; the moral wrongness or rightness of a thing is fixed and not
subject to people’s opinions or feelings. Relative morality, on the other
hand simply, says that “this may be right for you but wrong for me and I am
not going to impose my morality on you because I believe it is wrong and you
also have your own morality which is right for you.” The funny thing here is
that we end up doing the very thing we are claiming not to be doing –
imposing the view that it is objectively or absolutely wrong to impose our
relative morality on another. So while rejecting absolute moral values, we,
at the same time affirm it.

The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rt. Rev. Professor
Emmanuel Martey was quoted in a Daily Graphic article (titled: *Homos are
filthy – Presby Moderator*) posted on, on June 21, 2011, as
saying that homosexuality is "unbiblical, unnatural and it is filthy." There
is the sense among some people that Christians in this country are being
intolerant by speaking out against homosexuality in these terms. Well, while
I concede that rhetoric such as describing homosexuals as struggling for
diapers with babies is essentially substituting mockery for refutation and
thus not appropriate for the debate, I contend that generally the Christian
voices have been consistent with and in the spirit of their religious
teachings on the subject of homosexuality. For instance, what is the
Christian to say to Ghanaians when he has read the reasoned defence of the
Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome that says that the
moral law of God is written on the hearts of all men and that men are guilty
when they live contrary to it?:

“Ever since God created the world, his invisible qualities, both his eternal
power and his divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in
the things that God has made. So those people have no excuse at all! They
know God, but they do not give him the honour that belongs to him, nor do
they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and
their empty minds are filled with darkness. They say they are wise, but they
are fools; instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made
to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles.

“And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts
desire, and they do shameful things with each other. They exchange the truth
about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of
the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever! Amen.

“Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even
the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts. In the
same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with
passion for each other. Men do shameful things with each other, and as a
result they bring upon themselves the punishment they deserve for their

“Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God,
he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that
they should not do.” – Romans 2:20-28 (GNB)

Further, in the Apostle’s letter to the church in Corinth he names
homosexuals as one category of people who will not inherit the kingdom of
heaven saying, “Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God's
Kingdom. Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols
or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are
drunkards or who slander others or are thieves – none of these will possess
God's Kingdom.” - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (GNB)

To a Christian the message cannot get any clearer. It is not one of the grey
areas in the faith. Homosexuality is condemned as sinful and a real
Christian cannot be true to his Lord and support or preach otherwise or even
tone down this teaching. Indeed to tell Christians to review their teachings
because of the rising phenomenon of homosexuality is in a way telling them
that their religious beliefs are now wrong, outdated and unacceptable
because it does not fit into modern ‘progressive’ Ghanaian society. As
heated as this debate presently is, it is presenting many of us in Ghana
with the opportunity to scrutinize the consistency and coherence of the
various worldviews we have held hitherto.

One thing must be clear, the Christian is under obligation to preach to and
persuade all men (homosexuals included) and women who are engaged in all the
forms of sins which the Bible so clearly talks about, to repent of their
sins and be reconciled to God. This is because the initial premise for the
gospel, which means good news, is that we have all missed the mark – we have
sinned against God – but in Jesus Christ, we can be saved from the power of
our sinful nature and God’s coming judgement on all sinners. I believe,
however, that for the Christian message to get through to people, it must be
conveyed with compassion and the desire to see them change because God loves
them and wants to save them from their sins rather than with hatred for
their very human existence. I conclude by stating that, in saying that
Christians are right in advocating (and should advocate) for their
convictions, I do not in any way encourage violence against one’s opponents.
We can oppose arguments while leaving the dignity of the opponent intact by
treating them with respect and gentleness.

By Robert G. Coleman, Accra