Philosopher Edmund Burke once said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” However, sometimes in their overzealousness to rid the earth of perceived evil, even good men can fall into the trap of wrongdoings. Many consider The Bahamas to be a Christian nation, one that believes and is built upon Christian principles. One evil that many Bahamians vow not to tolerate is the acceptance of the “sinfulness” of homosexuality. It has been well documented over the years; from the picketing of gay cruise ships, to the accusations by some prominent minsters of the gospel of government promoting a homosexual agenda, that the citizens of this country have displayed very strong homophobic tendencies. Under the guise of following the laws of God Bahamian churches have been the main purveyors of hate and intolerance against LGBT individuals in the Bahamas.
The Bahamas touts itself as a Christian nation, and as such, most of its citizens belong, or claim to belong to a church. According to CIA World factbook (2014), a whopping 94.9% of Bahamians affiliate themselves with a church of the Christian faith, with Baptists being the highest demographic. These large numbers can bear witness to the far reaching programming of the church into Bahamian society. Therefore, when prominent ministers preach a message that condemns the LGBT lifestyle, it is easy to draw a connection between a hate toward lesbians and gays and the church. As reported by Elijah Ward (2005) black churches have been identified as fostering homophobia and it has played a vital role in its beginnings, legitimation and enforcement on a weekly basis.
Less than a month ago, a group of homosexual Bahamians made an attempt to come together with like-minded individuals to share in positive exchange, share stories, and to offer support. However, this progressive event was met with derision by the general public, not because it was negative or harmful to the country, but because of whom the event was celebrating. There were posts of outrage on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter lamenting the silence by Bahamian religious leaders. Hearing the cries of his fellow Christians, well known pastor, Dr. Myles Munroe decided to lead the charge in condemning this gathering.
In his published attach Munroe dismissed the idea of homosexuality as a basic human right. He asked, “Is it civil, right, reasonable, logical, sane to promote a cause, lifestyle or practice of a behavior that could in its ultimate conclusion cause the extinction of the human race?” (2014). Munroe further lambasted the movement by claiming that they are “hijacking” and “raping” The Civil Rights Movement. He drew no parallels between the two kinds of activism as he claimed that homosexuals “choose” their lifestyles while black people had their identities thrust upon them at birth.
Due to nature of the governing structure in the country and the inherent conjoining of church and state, the pervading disdain of the church toward LGBT resonates far beyond the doors of the church building. Christian Counsel’s President Ranford Patterson has weighed in on the issue several times in the media. Sharing similar views to Dr. Myles Munroe, he openly asserted that he does not and will not support gay rights. He claimed not to know exactly what rights gays and lesbians are fighting for asserting that gays go to the same places as straight men and women. Although this assertion is true in most aspects, it dangerously undermines the humanistic perspective of people’s rights to freedom from discrimination and equal opportunity – opportunities such as marriage, family life and even leadership. The Bahamas Tribune Newspaper cited Patterson saying, “Do not tell me that you expect me to support you. The country would never vote for a gay candidate in an election. It is against what the Bible speaks about” (Tribune, 2014). The stance taken by the Bahamas Christian Counsel ironically infringes upon the same human rights Patterson claims not to know of and promotes the same level of discrimination akin to racism.
While Dr. Myles Munroe and Ranford Patterson have come out to condemn the entire LGBT community, it is traditionally homosexual men who have faced the brunt of the backlash when identifying as gay. Men are generally taught early on to be tough and display a particular level of masculinity that has been known to define a “real man” for hundreds of years. Any deviance from this preconceived definition of masculinity sometimes results in less-than-kind responses by peers and parents alike. People often use terms like sissy, faggot/fag or even gay when a male exhibits anything less than what is considered rugged masculinity. Pascoe (2005) explains how the boys she interviewed used the “fag” epithet.
A boy could get called a fag for exhibiting any sort of behavior defined as non-masculine (although not necessarily behaviors aligned with femininity)… being stupid, incompetent, dancing, caring too much about clothing, being too emotional or expressing interest (sexual or platonic) in other guys. (p.75)
In black men these pressures can be compounded when ideals of masculinity such as the ability to provide for their families and participation in sports is stagnated because of limited employment or socioeconomic backgrounds. These men are therefore forced to take on a persona that emphasizes other aspects of masculinity such as violence or womanizing. Shaun Harper (2010) quotes Oliver that masculinity for disempowered black men manifested itself as “tough guy” and “player of women” personas (p.136). In the Bahamas we can see the manifestation of this trend in inner cities where men often attempt to compensate for this inability to display typical masculinity by becoming violent and/or attempting to prove their sexual prowess by fathering multiple children and engaging with multiple sex partners.
The church, which is a pillar of Bahamian society, extends this view; therefore even men in church have some expectation to be masculine. Ward holds that homophobia in the church has influence of the conceptions of what it is to be a black man (2005). Consequently, the church prejudiced the lives and the behaviors of black men of any sexual orientation which may trigger hyper-masculine behaviors as a result of the repeated indoctrination of homophobic attitudes. Lemelle & Battle (2004) found that black men who attended church regularly were found to have more homophobic attitudes toward gay men.
Jesus Christ was a man who, according to biblical texts, loved everyone, fought for the rights of the disenfranchised and showed empathy to everyone he met. The modern Bahamian church often bears little resemblance to the teachings of the man they base their entire belief systems upon. The church has been well documented in showing their intolerance for the LGBT community and it encourages its supporters to follow suit. The result of this is negatively reinforced behaviors and attitudes that drive men who may seek solace in the laurels of the church, to wear a façade of machismo in an effort to exert his masculinity. Maybe instead of condemning homosexuals, the church should practice the compassion that they so often preach about.
CIA. (2014, June) The World Factbook. The Bahamas. Retrieved from
Harper, S. R. (2010). The Measure of a Man: Conceptualizations of Masculinity among High-
Achieving African American Male College Students. In Kimmel, M.S. & Messner, M. A.
(Eds.), Men’s Lives (8th ed.). (Pp. 134-146). Boston, Ma: Allyn & Bacon.
Lemelle, A. J., & Battle, J. (2004). Black Masculinity Matters in Attitudes Toward Gay Males. Retrieved from http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/glbss/PDFS/BlackMenMasculinity.pdf
Munroe, M. Dr. (2014, August). Homosexuality, Phobia or Principle. Retrieved from
Pascoe, C. J. (2010). “Dude, You’re a Fag”: Adolescent Masculinity and the Fag Discourse. In
Kimmel, M.S. & Messner, M. A. (Eds.), Men’s Lives (8th ed.). (Pp. 134-146). Boston, Ma: Allyn & Bacon.
Virgil, K. (2014, March 14) Patterson: I Would Not Support A Gay Candidate. Tribune.
Retrieved from http://www.tribune242.com/news/2014/mar/07/patterson-i-would-not-support-gay-candidate/
Ward, E. G. (Sep.- Oct., 2004). Homophobia, Hypermasculinity and the US Black Church. Culture, Health & Sexuality, Vol. 7, No. 5, Themed Symposium: Female Genital Cutting, 493-504. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org