Reconciling Homosexuality and Spirituality in Africa as a Heresy and Survival Strategy: A Critical Study of House of Rainbow (LGBT Church) in Nigeria

Reconciling Homosexuality and Spirituality in Africa as a Heresy and Survival Strategy: A Critical Study of House of Rainbow (LGBT Church) in Nigeria

Floribert Patrick C. Endong (University of Calabar, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1955-3.ch017
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Abstract

The fight against homophobia in Africa has motivated the emergence of various advocacy initiatives including pro-gay religious forces. One of such initiatives – which have audaciously Christianized homosexuality – has been the Nigerian based, House of Rainbow (LGBT church). Using observations and a critical exploitation of secondary sources, this book chapter critically appraises this church in the light of four socio-religious theories namely, secular humanism, postmodernism, religious liberalism and African conservatism. The chapter is divided into four main parts. The first part provides a theoretical framework composed of four movements namely postmodernism, secular humanism, religious liberalism and African conservatism. The second part explores the origin, mission and structure of House of Rainbow. The third part examines House of Rainbow as postmodernist and religious humanist Christianity; while the last part examines the extent to which the gay-only church is more a survival strategy for Nigerian LGBT people than it is a heresy.
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Introduction

Contemporary Christianity has witnessed the emergence of various internal and external currents which have tended to affect it in multiple complex ways. In the course of years and decades, it seems subtle deconstruction of religious idioms and post-modernist interpretations of the Holy Scriptures and their resultant liberal theologies have (re)defined the face of the Christian faith in many parts of the globe. This is evidenced by the fact that hitherto controversial or “demonized” traditions – such as same sex marriage, gay sexual orientations, transgender relations and the like – are either progressively tolerated or simply “Christianized” in some modern Christian circles. A number of recent studies have, for instance, argued that human reasoning (in the form of secular humanism, relativism/subjectivism, materialism and the like) has taken the lead over spirituality in many global Christian movements, as well as in hitherto fundamentalist Christian circles, spiritual churches and related organizations or industries (Bad News About Christianity, 2014; Bailey, 2015; Colley, 2015; Cusano, 2015; Endong, 2015a,b; Endong & Vareba, 2015; Keller, 2013; Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 2015; Weldon, 2015). In line with the philosophy of secular humanism, laudable issues like human or minority rights are for instance seemingly considered by some schools of thought to be inherently divine and worthy of praise, irrespective of the fact that some of such philosophical orientations may, to an extent, be spiritually questionable. A good example is the LGBT right movement which, being systematically validated by global civil right organizations, is still seriously censured by most conservative and puritanical schools of thought, on religious or cultural grounds. Similarly, in accordance with relativism, multifaceted heresies and forms of religious libertinage have phenomenally been orchestrated in some Christian churches.

Relativism, humanism and materialism have equally created a breeding ground for multiple deviancies as well as worldly and unbiblical “ideals” in some Christian churches, particularly in those based in the Western countries. In an acerb and profound critic of contemporary Christianity, Weerstra (1999) has counted such philosophical neologisms (relativism, materialism, humanism and the like) among the “spiritual poisons” facilitating the syncretism and westernization of Christianity not only in Europe and America but also in Africa and Asia. Weerstra notes that many contemporary Christian denominations (particularly those in the west) have visibly lost their biblical roots (their Judeo-Christian heritage) in favor of a worldly (western) worldview. The lack of vision for evangelism coupled with the compromise on issues like homosexuality and “questionable” minority rights, as well as the moral failure among well-known Christian leaders have all contributed to moral and spiritual demise in good number of Christian movements.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Homosexuality: A term invented by nineteenth century German sexologists to describe an attraction between two individuals of the same sex at the physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual levels.

Secular Humanism: A philosophy or life stance which, on one hand, proffers human ethics, reasoning, (philosophical) naturalism and on the other hand, categorically rejects supernaturalism, superstition, pseudoscience and principally religion. Secular humanism rejects the theory of the existence of a personal God, creator of heaven and earth, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ who died to save the world. It fundamentally endorses the viewpoint that ideology – whatsoever its nature – be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on the basis of faith.

LGBT Right Movement: The abbreviation “LGBT” stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. Some authors prefer to employ a longer abbreviation which includes Intersexual and Queers, thus LGBTIQ. The LGBT right movement is a complex form of program aimed at advocating the rights of non-heterosexuals rights. LGBT rights include but are not limited to (i) Recognition of same-sex relationships (through same-sex marriage or similar unions) (ii) Right to adopt children (iii) Right to donate blood (iv) Recognition of LGBT parenting (v) Immigration equality rights (vi) Right for protection against discrimination in employment and housing procedures (vii) Protection against bullying of any sort, (viii) Equal access to assisted reproductive technology and (ix) Access to sex reassignment surgery and hormone, among others.

Postmodernism: Movement in a variety of fields (including arts, architecture, religion, philosophy, truth and culture among others) which preaches relativism and rejects absolutes and objectivity. Often considered a reaction to modernism, postmodernism rejects the existence of any ultimate principles (a cardinal characteristic of the modern mind). It therefore denies the notion of ultimate philosophical, or religious truth that explains all realities for everybody. It rather advocates reliance on sceptical and relativistic method for the observation of things in the universe.

Biblical Exegesis: A robust and systematic process through which one arrives at a coherent and reasonable comprehension of biblical passages. Often integrating the consideration of original (Greek and Hebrew) versions of the Scripture, biblical exegesis entails the interpretation of a biblical passage within its grammatical and historical contexts. It takes into account the time and purpose for which the passage was produced. It therefore involves addressing questions bordering on the identity of the author (of the text) and the intended readership, the time at which the text was produced, the purpose for which the text is generated (is the text generated to warn, consol, explain bless etc), the context of usage of the text, among other tenets.

Atheism: Atheism refers to a philosophical movement diametrically antithetical to the belief in God. Atheism rejects the religious basis of morality. It views no objectivity in such a religious morality.

Homophobia: A term used to refer to any irrational fear or hatred of homosexual feelings, behaviors, thoughts, or people. It equally means a bias evaluation of homosexual identities which may – or always – leads to discrimination against homosexual individuals.

Heresy: Heresy is derived from the Greek word “hairesis” meaning “choosing” or “faction”. It refers to an opinion, theory, belief or doctrine which is remarkably at variance with established traditions, belief or religious system. Heresy is therefore used within the Christian circles to mean any doctrine or opinion which strongly departs from orthodox doctrines and traditions. It equally refers to the act of upholding or supporting such a doctrine and opinion. In the Roman Catholic Church specifically, the semantic scope of heresy is extended to the act of rejecting any article of faith derived from a baptized member of the church.

Liberal Theology: Otherwise called “ protestant liberalism ”, liberal theology refers to a religious current which tends to emphasize ethics over doctrine and experience over Scriptural authority. The movement equally advocates the incorporation of modern thinking and understandings (particularly in the area of science) into the Christian faith. As a prominent theological movement, liberal theology is rooted in the religious opinions of Freidrich Schleiermacher and Immanuel Kant (all two icons of the early 19th century German Enlightenment). Contemporary liberal theologians strongly advocate greater biblical criticism.

House of Rainbow: A Nigerian gay-only church founded in September 2006 by Nigerian born gay reverend Rowland Jide Macaulay. The church is principally set with the mission to guide the LGBT community towards reconciling their sexuality with their spirituality and also of energizing LGBT people’s affirmation of their sexuality in the Nigerian socio-political sphere.

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