What has some Episcopalians, as well as the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the liberal and gay-rights bloggers, in such an upset is that the Anglican Church of Nigeria has issued a five-page statement in support of the bill under the authority of its Primate and Metropolitan, the Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola. The statement quotes passages from the Bible in support of its arguments against same-sex marriage, and condemns homosexual practice, as well as those who support making it legal in Nigeria. (Existing law in Nigeria already makes criminal sex between two males, or between two females, with a punishment nearly three times as severe as that proposed for same-sex marriage. So in one sense, I suppose one could say that the proposed bill improves existing law, by encouraging same-sex couples to marry in order to reduce the time they have to spend in jail.)
My purpose in commenting here is not to join this fray, but to note that it is a campaign mounted mostly by those on the liberal side of the Church, and as such may possibly lack a certain degree of consistency---or, as I shall now say more frequently, it may exhibit a certain fuzzy logic. Consider these points, if you will:
1. Nigeria is just one country out of many in Africa in which same-sex cohabitation, to say nothing of marriage, is unlawful. Indeed, there is only one country thus far in all of Africa which has legalized same-sex marriage: South Africa (scroll down to that country).
2. There is nearly as much opposition to same-sex marriage in some European countries as there is in Africa. The January 2009 report of a study by the Pew Forum linked above shows that in heavily Catholic Poland and Lithuania, for example, the percentage supporting the legalization of same-sex marriage is just 17%. And in Greece, of all countries, the percentage of support is just 15%. So why pick on Nigeria?
3. Laws in Nigeria are notoriously passed, but just as notoriously are not enforced. One native supporter of the legislation has this to say (he is surprisingly quoted at length on an African site that says it "strives . . . to change negative attitudes towards homosexuality . . . in Africa"):
Finally, banning of same-sex marriage on paper is one thing; enforcement of the ban is another thing. In this country most of our laws are not enforced let alone obeyed. Our Criminal Code and other laws are replete with dead laws that are never enforced. For example, abortion is illegal Nigeria but some hungry medical doctors are still busy procuring abortion for quick money. Even Nigeria is a signatory to an international Convention prohibiting child pornography. But go to Cyber Cafes and Business Centres and see children browsing raw pornography. The tragedy is that policemen who ought to prosecute offenders are busy extorting money on the highways. Therefore the ban on "same-sex marriage" will not be complete unless the Federal Government devise ways of enforcing the new law otherwise it will be a dead law.
4. The clergy who are among the most vociferous opponents of Archbishop Akinola are graduates of seminaries like the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, who even as these protests are being registered is offering courses like this one:
Imperialism, Mission, and the American Frontier
..."imperialism" means the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory; "colonialism," which is almost always a consequence of imperialism, is the implanting of settlements on distant territory.
-Edward Said. Culture and Imperialism, 9.
Colonialism/Imperialism: The main colonial players in the 19th Century are Britain, France, Germany, the Nether Lands. Spain continues to lose territories (e.g. Mexican Independence War). France cedes large territories in the Americas to the U.S. under the Louisiana Purchase. The U.S. expands its territory through moves Westward, by the annexation of Texas.
On the wings of this territorial expansion, travel church men and missionaries, believing that they are helping to expand the kingdom of God.. . .Theological Challenges of Mission under Empire:
To what degree do missionaries aid and abet the expansion of empire? Is the expansion of empire seen as compatible with, even as the fulfilment of God's work in history? What if the impact on the peoples encountered is not as desired, but is destructive rather than indicative of the coming of God's kingdom? What if a missionary gets caught in between the church/ empire and the people encountered on the "mission field"?
What sense of mission might Anglicans/Episcopalians embody today?
Indeed: just what sense of "mission" might those Anglicans/ Episcopalians embody who want Archbishop Akinola to reverse centuries of African culture and tradition on a dime, and to come out recklessly in his country in support of practices which he sincerely believes the Bible condemns?
Why is he being singled out for such opprobrium? Where are the condemnations of Catholic leaders in Poland and Lithuania, or of Orthodox archbishops in Greece?
Moreover, half of Nigeria's population are Muslims. Where is the evenhanded condemnation of that religion's well-known views about same-sex relations? Where are the charges hurled at Nigeria's leading imams and Muslim scholars who are also backing this legislation (and who hand out capital punishment for gays in their own states in northern Nigeria)?
The same African LGBT website I linked to above has two previous posts describing how a Briton was jailed for having sex with two men in Morocco, and how the editor of a weekly newspaper was sent to prison for defaming a Moroccan Minister for having alleged homosexual sex at a resort. (It makes no sense to me, either, unless the mere accusation of being homosexual is deemed a criminal libel in Morocco.) For some reason, I must have missed the anger and outrage expressed on liberal Anglican blogs against the repressively anti-gay environment in Morocco.
And, perhaps even more to the point: where were the liberal condemnations of Hamas when it reinstituted the punishment of crucifixion for traitors who help the IDF in any way? Isn't that somewhat worse than being sentenced to jail? Or is it just that, because Hamas did not single out gays, then it's just another expression of native Palestinian culture, which all true multiculturalists are bound to honor and respect?
In short, until those Episcopalians/Anglicans who are refraining from condemning their fellow Nigerian Anglicans over this secular legislation see even a smidgen of consistency in the volume of opprobrium and righteous indignation hurled at Nigeria in general, and at Archbishop Akinola in particular, they will beg to be pardoned for ascribing ulterior motives to those who are behind it.
(A gentle warning to any new commenters: please read the Comment Policy at the right before posting.)