Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Double jeopardyÔÇösins in an unforgiving Society

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” This line from John Chapter 8 must have stirred chaos in the lives of those who pretended to live a perfect life, yet their sins were as dark as a scarlet. Human beings lead such false lifestyles where what you hear us proclaim is not near what we live out in private. We are all pretenders. We are pretty much like the Pharisees and the Scribes that wanted to trick Jesus into condemning the adulteress (Mary Magdalene) by parading her in the middle of the temple.

The year 2016 is slowly losing its newness given the weighty issues already in the public domain eliciting extreme reactions and positions. While I have learnt to respect matters before our courts to be properly concluded before I can see value in adding my voice to the chorusÔÇölistening to my favourite morning radio segment as I drove my eight-year old to school, I reflected on my roles as a minister of the word and practitioner of Justice and Peace. The matter that has come into the crossfire is the appeal made by our Government against the registration of a society for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people called LEGABIBO.

I have no idea how one becomes any of these people in sexual orientationÔÇöfor my guidebook being the Bible is clear that a man named Adam was created from dust and one day he was put to sleep and a woman created from his ribcage. So I know of these two sexes ONLY. With this ignorance I am not qualified to make a meaningful statement on the rights of these minorities. Yet still, I pondered on my roles as a minister and peace practitioner because of the extreme and outrageous comments made by those who belong to the sex orientation as I. The nouns and adjectives employed to refer to fellow human beings who are different from them have all the hallmarks of hate-speech. One such that made me jump out of my car seat was ‘bestiality’.  I feel discomfort when words are thrown around without due care as to their appropriateness.

What is even worse to notice is that not only are citizens making such outrageous comments, but Christ-professing citizens reveal their inherent hatred for homosexuals and their cousins. I am inspired to ask, but how can hatred show ‘Christ-centred’ approach in the way we relate with fellow human beings?

As before, I have in my personal capacity expressed disappointment at the unpopular and in my view, not well-prayerfully-meditated position by the Evangelical Fellowship Botswana to condemn and ostracise homosexuals. It does seem to me that my fellow Christians refused to open their arms to loving-kindness that our Master and Lord Jesus modelled, when he sat around and ate with sinners, so they could learn of the power of Love and repent of their sins. I have stood out to be counted at a gathering of our own Organisation of African Independent Churches’ conference two years ago to caution the leadership to tread carefully and reflect on this matter rather deeply and prayerfully. I am ever glad that the leadership understood what I was articulating and backtracked, while we continue to debate the issue and find a loving-kindness approach of helping these people turn to God and experience a life-giving hope in Christ.

Outright condemnation is not reflective of what Jesus did to those he did not agree with including the adulteress mentioned in the passage I have used as the opening of this piece. Christ clearly says to Mary Magdalene:  ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’

‘No one, Sir,’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus. ‘Go away, and from this moment sin no more.’

I felt even more obligated to add my voice to the ongoing debate around morality in general after reading last week Friday’s edition of Mmegi where the staff writer condemns freed rape convicts who have served their jail term. These two have probably let their musical stardom in folklore corrupt their minds as they became the centre of attention and attracted females even those of younger ages to consent to sexual intercourse. I for one was appalled when they were accused of rape in separate incidents and I was elated after they were given their day in court to be proven beyond reasonable doubt that they had committed these heinous crimes. Like most people, I was happy that our judiciary condemned such barbaric acts through sentencing both musical icons to jail terms. This I viewed at the time as a learning experience to the would-be criminals hiding under the guise of celebrity status that fans give them. I have no doubt that these men have learnt that committing offences and crimes will inevitably get any person into prison, no matter the social ranking.

However, I have a problem with this article in that the writer certainly shows no room for forgiveness even when the state that put them behind bars has decided their release was due. The writer of the article is, but a representative of the unforgiving society called Botswana that is steadily growing too judgmental and hypocritical in the way we are quick to throw stones, forgetting too quickly that we live in glasshouses. He has a point that the fans must not idolize such men as heroes for this alone, has the danger of teaching our boys that it is masculine to rape or commit sexual offences so long you are a celebrity. I was also annoyed to learn that one of the released criminals did not show remorse by insisting that he might have ‘been planted’ or his was consensual. Such behaviours are upsetting and provoke negative reactions from those who believe in retribution as the article writer.

What is of concern to me however, is the everyday approach that some of us are better-behaved than others and because we are the ones to decide on a moral code that is acceptable to human beings, we can condemn homosexuality by proclaiming from the rooftops while the same ministers won’t raise a voice about adultery and thievery because we are busy ‘sexing up the females we call prayer warriors’ or ‘looting money from our flock because Malachi talks about a generous giver’. Honestly, rapists and homosexuals should not be encouraged to live in the way they doÔÇöthey need help and help can come by if they are looking for it themselves. By opening up and telling us what drives them into these acts, I believe as fellow human beings, we can work out something that can address the emptiness in their lives.

But condemning and refusing to forgive their sins is hypocritical and too myopic because the one who has the audacity to play ‘holier than thou’ is most certainly sinful, it is only that he has mastered the craft of carrying out sins that have not been labelled by the society as heinous or immoral. It may well be that we conceal our sins in closets under the guise of privacy and personal space. But like all the skeletons, our sins will come out tumbling from the closets and we will be worse off than the homosexuals who publicly declare their orientation. Who among us is without sin, and who decides on the premium we place on each sin to be able to talk openly and condemn, while we remain mum about other immoral acts? 


(Rev Ditsheko is Bishop of New Temple of the New Jerusalem and is Executive Chairman of Little Eden’s Justice and Peace Centre)


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