The Christian Council of Ghana has declared homosexuality un-African. A statement issued by the Council said: “same-sex marriage was unbiblical, unchristian and un-African.” This was reportedly part of a sermon preached by the General Secretary of the Council, Rev. Dr. Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong, at the Ridge Church in Accra.
“Marriage is between a man and a woman. This is supposed to be the foundation for every family as prescribed by God. Therefore, for a man to marry a man and a woman marry a woman is very ungodly and unnatural. The family is the bedrock of every nation. This means that if we compromise on our Christian and cultural family values, then the nation will virtually have no values to sustain her. This will ultimately lead to a weaker, chaotic, and morally decayed nation.”
First of all, if anything is un-African in this situation, it is Christianity. Africans were here having all kinds of sex before the slave traders and colonialists arrived with the bible. And Victorian ideals. And the Qu’ran. Before them, sexuality was more fluid on the continent.
Gay people were found and tolerated on the continent. They were found in many ethnic groups across the continent including the Asantes and Nzemas in Ghana, the Baganda in Uganda, the Zandas in Sudan, and the Khoikhoi in South Africa.
Or as Sylvia Tamale points out: “African history is replete with examples of both erotic and nonerotic same-sex relationships. For example, the ancient cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depict two men engaged in some form of ritual sex. During precolonial times, the “mudoko dako,” or effeminate males among the Langi of northern Uganda were treated as women and could marry men. In Buganda, one of the largest traditional kingdoms in Uganda, it was an open secret that Kabaka (king) Mwanga II, who ruled in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay.”
And although some insist homosexuality is alien to Ghanaian culture, some words indicate the contrary. Some researchers trace the origins of the phrase supi, a local term for female same-sex relationships, to the 1930s. Others believe the supi existed during the colonial and even pre-colonial periods. And I suspect the term Kojo Besia and others were not derogatory but used for transgender and effeminate men.
Marc Epprecht argues in Heterosexual Africa that “while most African societies historically and still do tend to place a high priority on heterosexual marriage and reproduction, many allowed or even celebrated “pseudohomsexualities” and “sex games”provided they occurred with the bounds of specific rituals, sacred or secret spaces, and designated social roles.”
Of course, not every ethnic group tolerated people who did not conform to sexual and gender ideals. But contrary to claims by anti-gay people, gay people have always been present in African. Things changed upon Studies the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Epprecht notes that “complex histories of African sexualities came under stress in the colonial era. The point is, it is false, simplistic for anyone to claim that homosexuality is un-African.
Secondly, If any group is qualified to declare anything un-African, it should be the Wulomei or the Sumankwahene and the other traditional priests of the land. Homosexuality is the one issue that unites the religious front in Ghana. It is considered, as reiterated by the preacher, foreign and ungodly. Now and then, triggered by happenings elsewhere, the religious crowd will fervently agitate against gay rights as if it is the issue that harms people around here. Never mind that no Ghanaian has ever advocated for gay marriage. This new rage was sparked by the legalization of gay marriage in the United States of America. Ghanaians have taken the ruling personally.
They have earmarked America for God’s destruction. For ‘redefining marriage’ to include gays, they expect their God to destroy America like the Bible says he did in Sodom and Gomorrah. Some threatened to beat up people they suspect to be gays. They have warned the government against granting gays any rights as if they are not human persons and therefore entitled to the same rights. The Christian Council’s statement is just an affirmation of the rage.
Christian leaders need to focus on the real problems facing the nation. Ghana is a profoundly religious country; it was even ranked the world’s most religious nation twice. About 70 percent of Ghana’s population are Christians. New Churches are springing up every day, and the church ‘planting’ business is undoubtedly booming. We wear our religion on our sleeves with the Christian God presiding over national and private events.
Despite all the religiosity, nothing here suggests a fear in any God. Our towns and cities are heaving under filth. A recent study found South Sudan (a new and poorer country) cleaner than Ghana. According to the Ministry of Finance, Ghana loses GHC 30 billion to corruption every year. About GHC1.8 billion was lost in the SADA/GYEEDA scandal and dubious judgment debts in the last three years alone. The Opportunities to ‘create, loot, and share’ are created by Ghanaians who go to church every day of the week.
These are “un-African, unnatural, and unbiblical” and threats to national cohesion and development. The Christian Council should be troubled and concerned because Jesus would be appalled. How can people be so religious yet so corrupt? And dirty? Sure, the Council has been vocal about corruption, the economy, and the state of the nation, it’s not enough to criticize when you can campaign for accountability at all levels.
Rather than criticize adults for their sexuality, the Council needs to tell all the corrupt people sitting on the right hand of pastors to repent – tell those who have been made elders to return the monies stolen from the state. They need to stop rewarding the corrupt with seats on church boards and committees. They need to use their considerable power to force the government to stop dumping liquid waste into the sea. I am a Christian. I’m used to these sermons. I know what the Bible says about homosexuals, but I also understand that Romans 13: 8 also says: “Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.”
Ghanaian homosexuals are not asking for marital rights. It’s not like straight couples get any privileges from the state, anyway. Why are we hounding them? They are only asking for the space to live openly and freely as citizens of the land. They are not hurting anyone. Can we treat them with love and respect and leave the condemnation and judgment to God, that is, if there is any condemnation at all. Both Jesus and Paul preached love and tolerance amidst great persecution. The Christian Council of Ghana and all the other Christian religious bodies ought to start asking themselves, ‘what would Jesus have done?’ I know for sure, he would have looked out for the oppressed.