Last week Friday, a number of Nigerian activists, writers, journalists, non-denominational religious people, Christians and Muslims all gathered at the US Embassy for a dialogue on religion and sexuality.
Now, this is an important conversation to have in a country that is predominantly Christian/Muslim and has everything from government policy to food choices influenced or directly regulated (in Sharia states) by religion.
The conversation was long and interesting, and challenging for many of the Christian clergy men who were ably represented in the forum. The clergy men surprisingly were quite receptive to the idea of ‘letting’ (using that word very loosely) LGBT people exist in their spaces and were quick to admit the church was quite homophobic.
What was unsurprising however was how defensive the clergy men got when one of the participants of the forum suggested that the homophobia often exhibited by religious institutions is a direct consequence of the misogyny that is rife in these communities.
The clergy men were quick to assert that misogyny doesn’t happen in their churches, even though many of the participants in the dialogue, especially the Christian women told them explicitly that they had all experienced misogyny. For many of the clergy men, they resorted to quoting the Bible out of context and talking down to the other participants before shutting down the topic altogether. This is troubling.
Misogyny is the very backbone of the modern church. The Apostle Paul, on whose teachings many of the modern Christian doctrines were based has under further scrutiny, proven to not be immune to the misogyny of Judaism, the religion of which he was converted. His misogyny crept into his teachings and have continued to be perpetrated to this day. It is Paul, not Jesus, many Christians turn to, to justify their hatefulness.
When they accuse women of promiscuity and ask ‘purity’ of them, it is Paul they turn to, not Jesus. Jesus was very pro-women. He was so pro-women that he spent his entire ministry freeing women of the burden of domestic labour in lieu of the pursuit of knowledge, freeing women of the burden of chastity, asking men instead to cut off their eyes if looking at a woman would cause them to sin.
He asked that no man judge a woman based on her past, and sought out temple prostitutes (who were often bisexual, as pagan rituals usually required). He was the biggest feminist, he cared about women.
If these men who lead thousands of adherents are unwilling to see their misogyny, misogyny that is directed at their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers; how can we expect them to empathise with LGBT people who they consider different and alien?
Perhaps its time LGBT people turned their focus to helping religious organisations tackle their misogyny and see if it will not spill over into better treatment for LGBT peoples?
It’s worth the shot.