Democracy, Belief, and Belief in Democracy

BahamasPrideFlag-AranhaThere's a petition circulating right now. I've signed it. I'm also promoting it. And I'm apologizing right now to those people for whom my promotion of the petition is problematic. I recognize the dilemma you might be facing. It's not my dilemma, but if it is yours, I respect it. I even apologize for not allowing the issue to go away.But I'm not going to allow it to go away. Because discrimination is not right, and I will not support it in whatever form it takes.Here's the issue:

"ATTORNEY General, Allyson Maynard Gibson said yesterday the Constitution should be amended to end all forms of discrimination, except discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (Tribune 11/06/2013)Amendments to existing law or introduction of new legislation (whether constitutional or statute) should include provisions for the protection and free expression of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the Bahamas.-----------------Original story:"I Have Been Discriminated" ~ Erin Greene:

And here's the petition:

To: Allyson Maynard Gibson, Attorney General

Sincerely, [Your name]

I believe that in a democracy, one citizen should not be any less equal than another citizen. If we are removing discrimination from our constitution, let us remove it altogether, even if the process of making everyone equal may open up challenges to our personal convictions. It is that equality under the constitution that guarantees us our right to hold our convictions.If you agree with me, consider signing the petition. Let us stand for democracy together.

Evangelicals Looking Beyond a Literal Interpretation of Genesis?

According to the Bible (Genesis 2:7), this is how humanity began: "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." God then called the man Adam, and later created Eve from Adam's rib.Polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe this account. It's a central tenet for much of conservative Christianity, from evangelicals to confessional churches such as the Christian Reformed Church.But now some conservative scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account.via Evangelicals Question The Existence Of Adam And Eve : NPR.

First of all: wow.Second of all: welcome to the Christianity of the post-industrial world, guys.Third of all: time to start teaching literature so that the reading of sacred texts can be approached in such a way that meaning can be gained without having to believe that every word written is literally and completely true on the human, physical plane. Time to start understanding some symbolism.The article is interesting but doesn't go nearly far enough. First, it assumes that evangelical Christian theology is the core of Christian thinking. Second, it takes the position taken by many evangelicals that the literal story of a man, a woman and a snake in a garden whose existence has a geographical place and a historical time is crucial to Christian belief, but is it? And third, it misses a point that has rarely been discussed in all the heat generated by "creationism", the only Christian philosophy that really requires the existence of a literal Adam and Eve for its existence—that the moving away by certain evangelical intellectuals from their indefensible scientific position that rests on the creation of the earth and of humanity in seven 24-hour days also implicitly allows for the rise of a neo-Darwinism among those same intellectuals. The danger inherent in the American evangelical movement's acceptance of the symbology of Genesis (rather than its literal truth) lies in the fundamentally political (and economic) expression that American evangelical Christianity has always had. I have never been convinced of the theological soundness of that strain of Christianity, as its manifestations have been peculiarly political. This change can also express itself politically; and I would not be surprised if it took an even more fascist turn than it currently has.Just sayin'.

A little meditation on faith

you only get anywhere near the truth when all the easy things to say about God are dismantled – so that your image of God is no longer just a big projection of your self-centred wish-fulfilment fantasies.What's left, then? This is the difficult moment. Either you sense that you are confronting an energy so immense and unconditioned that there are no adequate words for it; or you give up. From Paul to Luther, George Herbert or Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Hitler's prisons, there are plenty who haven't given up; and they haven't given up because they see their experience in the light of something like this understanding of Gethsemane and the crucifixion.via The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman | Books | The Guardian.

Womanish Words: Teach the Children Well

Hear, hear, Lynn.

It upsets me when I hear the little children I know and love speaking in the the racist/religious/hateful language of the local Bahamian press/the moneyed elite/the generally ignorant. There are probably more than a million orphan children struggling to get through the day today in Haiti. It is natural for children to want to help. That natural inclination in our children is at risk. It is hard to hear a child you love speaking about Haiti with no compassion, no natural wanting to help. We Bahamians who enjoy wealth and privilege (and that means anyone not in Port au Prince right now with time and ways enough to read this blog) must wake up and face the fact that we were mis-educated when it comes to Haiti, stop defending the ignorance and selfishness and get on with doing some reading, some learning, some changing and transforming, and some GIVING. Because our innocent children are watching. Teach the children well.via Womanish Words: Teach the Children Well.

Thoughts on Independence

I don't know whether this is the best title for this post.  All I really wanted to do was to quote this paragraph from this post:

"Say nothing of my religion," Jefferson once said. "It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one."

This is exactly how I feel about myself and my religion, my own faith.I'm thinking about it because last night we held the Independence Gospel Extravaganza at Arawak Cay for the first time since the 30th Anniversary, and naturally that got me thinking about God, faith, and so on.  I do not worship as many of us do.  My faith is not worn on the outside.  I have never much liked the uniform.  I hope that my faith in God guides my life from within.When I was nineteen, I prayed for integrity.  One thing I've discovered -- one shouldn't pray things lightly.  I also prayed once for patience, and was rewarded with a position in the government of The Bahamas! Integrity is something else again, and it comes with all kinds of burdens and responsibilities.  I don't know about the rewards.  I'm not all that interested in the car and the house and the clothes that some people's faiths seem to come equipped with.Last night I was moved by the music and by the singing of almost all of the performers.  We were exhorted to get up and dance in the spirit.  I felt the same way I felt when I hear all good music; I find the Holy Ghost in the human creative spirit.  This is holy.But really?  I feel as Thomas Jefferson did.  Not that I would read my Bible the way he did.  But I return to his comment about his own belief, and say it again:

"Say nothing of my religion ... It is known to myself and my God alone. Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life; if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one."

Shout-Out to Eemanee & Long Bench

Hypocrisy & HIV in the Caribbean (Eemanee)

Responses to HIV in the Caribbean are hampered by an entrenched hypocrisy, homophobia and false trotting out of “christian” values when convenient. meanwhile people continue to have sex, all kinds of sex, a lot of it unsafe.We feel free to talk around sex, to joke about sex, to sing about sex, to simulate sex, to have sex but we refuse to really talk about it- to talk about power and pleasure and vulnerability. So JFLAG, the Caribbean’s most progressive gay rights group, has been blocked from attending a UN meeting on HIV/AIDS and Jamaica’s poster girl for the Ministry of Health’s HIV education programme has been fired for getting pregnant! The heads continue to suffocate in the sand!As part of my job, i accompanied a group of young people all between 14 and 17 at an HIV Education workshop. Before the facilitators could begin one girl inquired loudly whether or not condoms would be distributed.“No!”“Well, how yuh supposed to protect yuhself without condoms?”“That’s what we’re going to teach you today.”

 When Women Violate The 5 Commandments (Long Bench) 

I’ve been thinking about sex a lot these days. And I’ve come up with the 5 Commandments that women are asked to follow here in Jamaica:1. Have as much sex as you want.2. Hide what you are doing at all costs.3. Tell one ‘hole ‘eap a lie when yuh buck yuh toe an mek dem see seh yuh fall dung.4. Expect all k’i'na fiyah fi bun fi yuh when backra fine out.5. Lie dung an beg fi mercy like sey yuh a ‘ungry belly mongrel dog.And those of us who, for all kinds of reasons, decide not to abide by all of these commandments - well, a pyere problems, yes? Kwame Dawes just wrote a really insightful piece in the Washington Post about Annesha Taylor, who was the poster girl for the Ministry of Health’s public education campaign about HIV/AIDS. Just like Sara Lawrence, the Miss Jamaica World 2006 who was the target of public scorn and hypocrisy when she disclosed that she was pregnant last year, Annesha was immediately disappeared by MOH when she disclosed that she too was bearing a child.


There are days

There are days, Mama, when there is far too much to do to do anything much at all.This week has been pretty much like that.  It's a week when I wish I was like earthworms or amoeba -- slice me up and let me regenerate into six or seven mes.  (Biologists, don't bother -- leave me wallowing in my ignorance!)So it was with some relief that I read the following post by Helen Klonaris, which pretty well covers some of what happened this week, and more:Wellington's RainbowHere are some excerpts.

The conversation about the rights of gays and lesbians in this country is stuck in a Christian fundamentalist scriptural war that cannot see gays and lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people as integral to the wide spectrum of human existence. And the few (read one or two) public spokespersons for the GLBT community who dare to engage in this conversation publically are time and time again hooked into a circular argument which begs the question: how can you ask for human rights if God says you shouldn’t exist at all?And by presuming firstly that all Bahamians are Christians, and assuming, secondly, to know God as absolutely as they do, Christian fundamentalists not only reduce and limit that God, but reduce and limit the scope of what it means to be human. And I cannot help but see the metaphor: It is God lying in a pool of his own blood, head severed, and no one has been held accountable.

Hear, hear.I am often struck by the raw hatred that we so often spew in the name of God in this country, so much so that I'm glad that I didn't turn on my radio to hear the discussion about this crime today.  Homosexuals, after all, like Haitians (try not to be anything beginning with "H" in this Bahamaland, people, else we'll toss another "H" your way), are easy targets.  In anthropology, we study the phenomenon of witches, who are not what we think they are when we see the word.  In anthropology, witch-hunting tells us far, far more about the society that is doing the hunting than it does about the objects of the hunt.  The salient point about the process is that societies create scapegoats out of individuals who fall outside the social norms, who make the status quo uncomfortable, and every bad thing that happens in the society is transferred to them.When people call in to radio talk shows to talk about "them" (all those deviants beginnings with "H") and invoke God and divine law and the Scripture, I always wonder where and when the Gospels fell out of their Bibles.  Like where these bits went, or this bit, or this.But I don't need to say a whole lot more.  Helen's already said it.Go read it for yourself.

Murders, Christianity, and Research

There's a lot of fear going about out there. My mailbox lights up on a regular -- almost daily -- basis. I receive local news circulars, you see, and the focus of every one is violent crime. There's one email update that keeps count of 2007's murder rate; there are others that blaze headlines across their tops when you open them. And talk shows and newspapers keep us thinking about our crime rate.The most common response to the murder rate, the crime rate, all the rest of it, is that we need to turn to God. Now I have to confess that I find this strange. After all, the same people who pontificate that God is the Answer to our Crime Problem are the same people who proclaim, loudly, that The Bahamas is a Christian Nation, that Adulterers and Homosexuals will not enter Heaven, that God Blessed The Bahamas, etc.And yet. We have a screamingly high rate of violent crime. Paradoxical, no?Well, here's the thing.At least two studies of religion and society suggest that the higher the religiosity of any society, the more violent that society is.The studies I'm talking about are both published in the Journal of Religion and Society, an electronic publication that examines religion in its social dimension.The first one, conducted by Gary Paul and published in 2005, begins with the following question:

If religion has receded in some western nations, what is the impact of this unprecedented transformation upon their populations?

The popular conception, of course, is that belief in God, or, in our case, commitment to Christ, leads to a better life and a stronger society. But the facts appear to contradict this idea. What Paul, who focussed on developed democracies in his study, seems to have discovered is that the more Christian the society, the more violent and dysfunctional it is.The results are summarized thus:

In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies. ... No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional.

The study says considerably more, and I encourage people to read it for themselves.There's a second study, carried out by Gary Jensen, that pushes that idea further. Jensen begins by considering Paul's research, and recognizes the weaknesses in it. As he says:

His conclusions were based on an examination of scatter-plots for a small set of nations with no attempt to consider alternative explanations nor to encompass the research in the larger body of sociological theory and research on the topic.

So Jensen examines a wider swath of nations, using a different methodology -- he refers to a compilation of data collected during the 1990s called the World Values Survey. In this survey, Jensen explains, which covered up to 54 countries, "respondents were asked questions about the importance of God and religion in their lives, beliefs in the Devil, Heaven and Hell, belonging to a religious faith, and attendance at religious services." (paragraph 11) He's more cautious in his conclusions than Paul is, taking into consideration a number of possibilities, and being more specific in his observations, but he still suggests the following:

A more reasonable explanation for the high homicide rates would focus on religious and moral cosmologies. Indeed, it is reasonable to propose that variables such as inequality may have significant, but indirect, consequences for homicide by reinforcing dualistic moral cosmologies. High levels of inequality may be associated with high levels of “us-versus-them” views of the moral cosmos and tendencies to blame external forces for interpersonal problems.

He's saying two main things here. One, that high levels social inequality may affect both the cosmology of the society -- inspiring a greater tendency to believe in both God/Heaven and the Devil/Hell, for instance -- as well as the crime rate. His data appears to suggest that where societies have a strong belief in God and the Devil, the level of lethal violent crime is high. What's interesting about his study is that simply believing in God doesn't appear to be enough to make societies' homicide rates spike; societies have to believe in an opposing evil force as well.Go read it for yourself. It has some interesting things to say about belief and action, especially when it comes to violent crimes. If you've got a high tolerance for academic jargon, read this passage to see what he's suggesting:

It seems quite reasonable to hypothesize that the evangelical movement encourages high levels of passion and moral and/or religious dualisms. It is plausible to propose that religious and moral dualisms may coincide with other forms of dualism at the individual level. ... homicide is one outcome of situated transactions where honor is at stake with a narrow range of options for responding and heightened sensitivity to what might appear to be minor affronts. Whether called a “culture of violence” or a “code of the street” ... disputes are easily triggered and there is little flexibility in acceptable responses. In short, other cultural or sub-cultural dualisms may help explain variation in behavior at the individual level. If a youth grows up in a world where there are rigid boundaries for attaining honor, a wide range of situations that are interpreted as disrespect, and limited cultural means for reestablishing honor, the range of situations generating interpersonal violence are enhanced.

My point? That the persistent invocation of "God", which appears to be the only solution offered by anybody in discussions of this current crime wave, could be as much a part of the problem as it might be a solution. We have to be careful with our cosmologies, and avoid transmitting intolerance and hate along with our religious beliefs. These studies suggest, and I believe, that our apparent piety is as much a source of the problem of our social violence as it can be a solution.It's something to think about, at least. Go on. I dare you.

Amazing Grace: Corresponding with the distributors

Not wishing to wait for Galleria Cinemas to get back to us, the National Commission on Cultural Development (of which I'm the Deputy Chair) contacted the distributors for the film Amazing Grace to see what the story is on the release of the film to the Caribbean.Now. Let me make my position clear here, lest people get sidetracked by the politics of the whole thing. I tend to agree with Frances-Anne about the reasons behind the abolition of the slave trade and of slavery itself, although I would go further and say that I believe that the abolitionist movement sprang from a genuine crisis of conscience. The fact that this gained political mileage when it did had plenty to do with power-struggles and economics, and the fact that the industrialists and factory owners who were gaining economic strength in Britain wanted to break the backs of their powerful predecessors, the land-owning aristocracy and the planters overseas. I don't, however, discount the question of conscience.The problem is that conscience is often compromised by prejudices and bigotry, which are often so unconscious that they are invisible to those who practise them. The release of the film Amazing Grace provides a fascinating study in the juncture of bigotry and conscience -- if indeed there are no plans to release it in the Caribbean.This is one fact I'm still investigating.So here is the email sent by me on behalf of the Cultural Commission to the distributors:

Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 3:04 PMSubject: Amazing Grace - Limited Release?I am writing from Nassau, Bahamas, to inquire about the release of the film Amazing Grace in The Bahamas.I currently serve as the Deputy Chair of the National Commission on Cultural Development, a government-appointed group whose purpose is to monitor and oversee cultural activity and development for The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. One of our main foci in 2007 is the Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Countries throughout the former British West Indies are observing this Bicentenary, which has fundamental significance for our populations and for our nations.As part of our commemorative activities, we wish to urge all Bahamians to view the film. However, it is not currently screening here. Inquiries of the Galleria Cinemas, the only distributor of mainstream movies in the nation, revealed that the film is in limited release and is not available to The Bahamas for showing.Given that the Abolition Act championed by William Wilberforce and his Abolitionists directly affected the British West Indian colonies, of which The Bahamas is one, we find the unavailability of this film, which provides an account of his struggle, beyond our comprehension.The National Commission on Cultural Development for The Government of The Bahamas wishes to invite a response from the distributors of the film regarding the screening of Amazing Grace in The Bahamas, and would be grateful for any light you might shed on this matter.Sincerely,Nicolette BethelDeputy Chair, National Commission on Cultural DevelopmentNassau, Bahamas

I received the following response from Roadside Attractions, one of the distributors (there are two - Samuel Goldwyn's the other):

Unfortunately, we don't hold the international rights to the film. Any inquiries about the Bahamas should go to the film's producers Bristol Bay Productions. They can be reached here:

Amazing Grace Update

I just got off the telephone from Galleria Cinemas.

Several inquiries were received by the Cinemas about the movie Amazing Grace.  Accordingly, I was told the following:

  • Although the film is showing in the USA at the moment, and will open in the UK and Ireland tomorrow (March 23, 2007), it is in limited release. Galleria's distributors will let the cinemas know when it is available to be shown in The Bahamas.
  • I expressed the concern -- shared, clearly, by the National Cultural Commission -- that the anniversary of the signing of the Act is on Sunday, and that the only film currently available about the event is not showing in The Bahamas, a country fundamentally affected by the Act.

If the film is not intended to be released in the Caribbean at the time of the Bicentenary of the Abolition, then that is a significant lapse of judgement of the filmmakers and the studio. There is really very little to be gained, either for history or for Christianity itself, to show the film in the homes of the people who perpetrated the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, and not to do so in the homes of the societies that were created by that very trade.

Something is askew.

edit: It seems as though the film was indeed initially in limited release. Since then, however, the distributors have increased its availability. Whether that availability extends beyond the USA or the North American continent remains to be seen; I am emailing the distributors to find out for myself.

Still More - Amazing Grace

Letter sent by National Commission on Cultural Development to Galleria Cinemas re: Amazing Grace:

ManagerGalleria CinemasNassau BahamasDear [Sir]:

Re: Commemoration of the Bicentenary of the Abolitionof the Trans-Atlantic Slave Tradeandthe Film Amazing GraceAs you are no doubt aware, 2007 marks the Bicentenary of the Abolition by the British Parliament of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.In 1807, following a decades-long struggle in Britain on the part of the Abolitionists, led principally by William Wilberforce, the British Parliament agreed to outlaw the capture and enslavement of Africans and their transportation across the Atlantic to the colonies of the Americas. The Act in question was signed on 25th March, 1807.It was with some interest and excitement that the members of the National Commission on Cultural Development noted that a film had been made, inspired by the life and work of William Wilberforce and the activities of the Abolitionist Movement in Britain at the turn of the Nineteenth Century. Even more than that, Amazing Grace examines the role of the Protestant and Evangelical churches in this movement. Given the strong Christian sensibilities that prevail among Bahamians, the Commission looks forward to promoting the film as an official activity of the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.Amazing Grace opened in the USA on February 23, 2007. It is set to open in the UK on March 23, 2007. The official date set by the United Nations for the observance of the Abolition of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is March 25, 2007. However, to date, Amazing Grace is nowhere to be found in The Bahamas. We wish to inquire when your cinemas plan to bring the film to The Commonwealth, and invite you to join with us in commemorating this awesome milestone in the struggle of our ancestors towards Emancipation.We look forward to your response.Sincerely, etcTHE NATIONAL CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

Amazing Grace

On February 23, 2007, the film Amazing Grace opened worldwide in the USA.For people who don't know (and I'm assuming that there must be many of them here in The Bahamas, for reasons I'll tell you later), this film is, among other things, a look at William Wilberforce's abolitionist movement, the one that focussed Britons' eyes on the inhumanity of slavery, and which led the British Parliament first to abolish the transatlantic slave trade (whose bicentenary we celebrate this year) and, ultimately, to abolish slavery in the British Empire (1834), and to free the slaves (1834-1838).I have to say all this because nowhere is the film showing in The Bahamas.Now I have no idea why this is. One good reason, of course, is that commercial films in The Bahamas are controlled by a single conglomerate: Galleria Cinemas, which owns four commercial theatres in Nassau and Freeport, and which usually decides what the Bahamian public sees or doesn't see. So it is entirely possible that Galleria, looking at the costumes in the movie, thinking about the "dryness" of the subject, decided to pass on the film.This is something they do fairly regularly. As with many purveyors of mass entertainment in The Bahamas, the assumption is made that we are an undifferentiated mass of ignorami, and that no one will spend money on shows or performances that engages thought or reflection. (This attitude is as true of people producing live entertainment as it is of people importing films.) And so many films that I would like to see pass us by. It's one of the reasons that I don't go to the cinema; it's one of the reasons that our DVD collection is so vast. And it's one of the dangers -- a main and looming danger -- of having a monopoly governing commercial film distribution in the country. At least when RND Cinemas were still in operation, you had two sets of people making decisions, and sometimes those decisions would be different. Competition, what.There is, however, another, more sinister possibility. And it's this.The Bahamas Films and Plays Control Board viewed Amazing Grace and decided that it was not something that Bahamians ought to see.Now I don't have time to go into the implications of this. They are, I can assure you, rich with irony and fundamentally alarming. I'll come back to this blog to do this. But I'll leave you with these thoughts.

  • Ours is a nation made primarily up of the descendants of slave-owners and their slaves.
  • Ours is a nation whose political history is grounded uniquely and solely in the British Empire (yes, our social history is American. For the purposes of this discussion, that's irrelevant).
  • Ours is a nation that never tires of referring to itself as "Christian" (even though some of us, who respect and worship the Almighty in relative quiet, would like to take one step back to avoid the lightning bolt when it falls upon us for gross hypocrisy and overweening hate).
  • Amazing Grace is a movie about how the British Empire moved towards the abolition of the institution of slavery and the emacipation of the slaves.
  • The movers and shakers behind the Abolition crusade were Christians, and it was Christian principles that they used to argue their case and it was in the name of Christ that the battle was won.

Draw your own conclusions.

Sexual Selection

On Monday past, a group of people gathered at the College of The Bahamas to debate the topic of censorship, inspired by the controversy over Brokeback Mountain. Featured speakers were COB lecturers Michael Stevenson, Ian Strachan, and Canon Kirkley Sands, one-time chair of the Bahamas Plays and Films Control Board, as well as Patricia Glinton-Meicholas and myself.Although the discussion stayed mostly on topic, and didn't get bogged down in the whole homosexual red herring, the idea of the unnatural quality of homosexuality was raised.Well -- as anybody who has owned dogs can attest -- the homosexuality of animals is quite evident if one sits around and looks hard enough. I've seen enough female potcakes dry-humping one another not to have made that argument myself. And now, scientists who have studied the sexuality of animals have proven that the universal heterosexuality of nature are as much a construction of our own minds as anything else.The article is here.An excerpt:

Male big horn sheep live in what are often called "homosexual societies." They bond through genital licking and anal intercourse, which often ends in ejaculation. If a male sheep chooses to not have gay sex, it becomes a social outcast. Ironically, scientists call such straight-laced males "effeminate."Giraffes have all-male orgies. So do bottlenose dolphins, killer whales, gray whales, and West Indian manatees. Japanese macaques, on the other hand, are ardent lesbians; the females enthusiastically mount each other. Bonobos, one of our closest primate relatives, are similar, except that their lesbian sexual encounters occur every two hours. Male bonobos engage in "penis fencing," which leads, surprisingly enough, to ejaculation. They also give each other genital massages.As this list of activities suggests, having homosexual sex is the biological equivalent of apple pie: Everybody likes it. At last count, over 450 different vertebrate species could be beheaded in Saudi Arabia. You name it, there's a vertebrate out there that does it. Nevertheless, most biologists continue to regard homosexuality as a sexual outlier. According to evolutionary theory, being gay is little more than a maladaptive behavior.

And again:

Given the pervasive presence of homosexuality throughout the animal kingdom, same-sex partnering must be an adaptive trait that's been carefully preserved by natural selection. As Roughgarden points out, "a 'common genetic disease' is a contradiction in terms, and homosexuality is three to four orders of magnitude more common than true genetic diseases such as Huntington's disease."So how might homosexuality be good for us? Any concept of sexual selection that emphasizes the selfish propagation of genes and sperm won't be able to account for the abundance of non-heterosexual sex. All those gay penguins and persons will remain inexplicable. However, if one looks at homosexuality from the perspective of a community, one can begin to see why nature might foster a variety of sexual interactions.According to Roughgarden, gayness is a necessary side effect of getting along. Homosexuality evolved in tandem with vertebrate societies, in which a motley group of individuals has to either live together or die alone. In fact, Roughgarden even argues that homosexuality is a defining feature of advanced animal communities, which require communal bonds in order to function. "The more complex and sophisticated a social system is," she writes, "the more likely it is to have homosexuality intermixed with heterosexuality."

And again:

Of course, most humans don't see sex as a way of maintaining the social contract. Our lust doesn't seem logical, especially when that logic involves the abstruse calculations of game theory. Furthermore, it's strange for most people to think of themselves as naturally bisexual. Being gay or straight seems to be an intrinsic and implacable part of our identity. Roughgarden disagrees. "In our culture, we assume that there is a straight-gay binary, and that you are either one or the other. But if you look at vertebrates, that just isn't the case. You will almost never find animals or primates that are exclusively gay. Other human cultures show the same thing." Since Roughgarden believes that the hetero/homo distinction is a purely cultural creation, and not a fact of biology, she thinks it is only a matter of time before we return to the standard primate model. "I'm convinced that in 50 years, the gay-straight dichotomy will dissolve. I think it just takes too much social energy to preserve. All this campy, flamboyant behavior: It's just such hard work."All quotes courtesy of Seed Magazine.

Hee. Turns out fundamentalist Christians are in the same boat regarding the "nature" of sexuality as fundamentalist Darwinist evolutionists. Who'd'a thunk it?

Christianism and other perversions of faith

I have the great fortune of being a subscriber to  Now that may not mean anything to many people, and it may mean something politically suspect to others, but for me it means that I have the opportunity to access and read a very interesting op-ed article on the political movement that has called itself "Christianity".It's a movement that has very little to do with actually loving and following Christ, apparently, which is a personal choice and commitment and which -- in part thanks to Gutenberg and Martin Luther and the Protestant revolution -- can be carried out in the privacy of one's own home and the privacy of one's own head.  (Catholics, lest you get offended, admit that without Luther and Gutenberg most Christians would still be relying on clerics to tell them what and how they should believe instead of having the option of reading Scripture for themselves.  Admit it.)   Rather, it interests itself in what people -- believers and unbelievers alike -- do, and opts (as it did here with Brokeback Mountain -- yes, I am still harping on that) to force everyone to behave as believers should choose to behave.Andrew Sullivan, op-ed writer for Time, has proposed that a distinction be made between Christianity, which interests itself in following Jesus Christ and in believers' personal responsibility to please him in their lives, and Christianism, which is a political movement.  Here's what he has to say on the subject:

... let me suggest that we take back the word Christian while giving the religious right a new adjective: Christianist. Christianity, in this view, is simply a faith. Christianism is an ideology, politics, an ism. The distinction between Christian and Christianist echoes the distinction we make between Muslim and Islamist. Muslims are those who follow Islam. Islamists are those who want to wield Islam as a political force and conflate state and mosque. Not all Islamists are violent. Only a tiny few are terrorists. And I should underline that the term Christianist is in no way designed to label people on the religious right as favoring any violence at all. I mean merely by the term Christianist the view that religious faith is so important that it must also have a precise political agenda. It is the belief that religion dictates politics and that politics should dictate the laws for everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike.That's what I dissent from, and I dissent from it as a Christian. I dissent from the political pollution of sincere, personal faith. I dissent most strongly from the attempt to argue that one party represents God and that the other doesn't. I dissent from having my faith co-opted and wielded by people whose politics I do not share and whose intolerance I abhor. The word Christian belongs to no political party. It's time the quiet majority of believers took it back.(for fellow subscribers to, here's the rest of the article)

Of course, he's situated it in the USA and limited his observations to American political parties.  He's American; can't kill him for that.  That aside, though, his observation rings true for us as well, for those who believe that pastors have the right and the responsibility to set the agenda for all Bahamian citizens, regardless of their personal faiths and beliefs.I'm a Christian too, and I definitely don't believe that pastors have any such rights or responsibilities.But then, one of my favourite parts of Jesus' Gospels is the "Woes" (Matthew 23).

Larry Smith on the so-called Gay Agenda

Over on Bahama Pundit, Larry Smith responds to a letter from a trio of pastors published in the Tribune in response to the media firestorm about Brokeback Mountain.Here's an excerpt:

Pastor Lyall Bethel (of Grace Gospel Chapel) and others recently drew our attention to the "Homosexual Agenda" to take over the world.After much research we were able to confirm that this master plan does exist. Here’s an excerpt from the document that we were able to pull down from a secret web site:6am - Gym8am - Breakfast (oatmeal and egg whites)9am - Hair appointment10am - ShoppingNoon - Brunch2pm - Convert all straight youngsters to homosexuality, destroy all heterosexual marriages, establish a global chain of homo-breeding prisons where straight women are turned into artificially impregnated baby factories to produce prepubescent love slaves for the gay leadership, and secure total control of the Internet for the exclusive use of child pornographers.2:30pm - 40 winks of beauty rest to prevent facial wrinkles from stress of world conquest4pm - Cocktails6pm - Light dinner (soup, salad. with Chardonnay)8pm - Theatre11pm - Bed (du jour)Actually, Pastor Bethel’s remarks are not as silly as the above parody makes out. They are drawn from the strong views of powerful religious and social groups in the United States, led by conservative preachers like Jerry Falwell (of Moral Majority fame) and Pat Robertson (of the Christian Broadcasting Network).

What's really interesting about that post is the discussion that follows.  It's well worth a look.

A little something for non-conservative Christians to think about

I just discovered this post, by Amy Sullivan. Though it's nearly two years since it was posted, it's still a good read.I specially liked this bit (read all the way to the end to find it):

... when the only Christian-themed entertainment in the marketplace is laced with conservatism, Christianity itself will increasingly take on a conservative cast. The faith of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King Jr. and Reinhold Niebuhr is not the faith of Tim LaHaye and Mel Gibson. Yet the more that single interpretation of Christianity dominates airwaves and bookshelves, the more people of faith are tempted to believe that the only way to be a "good" Christian is to be a conservative.

Conservative is not the only way to worship Christ. And anyway, in Roman Judea, He wasn't conservative at all.

A story of hope

Imaculee(for Ruse)Imaculée Ilibagiza, who survived the Rwandan massacres and forgave the perpetuators of the genocides.We in The Bahamas can learn something from her story -- as much from the hate that made her who she is as from her reaction to that hate -- a reaction that is far more Christian, to my mind, than anything I hear coming out of the mouth of pastors, the saved, and other so-called godly Bahamians.

Sir Arthur on Censorship

On Bahama Pundit, Sir Arthur Foulkes writes about censorship.The most interesting bit is the part about the sweeping social change that took place the last time an arbitrary decision of this kind -- an arbitrary decision that challenged the democratic principles of The Bahamas (or of the free world) -- was made.In his words:

A half century ago – in December 1950, to be exact – the arbitrary banning of a movie by the Censorship Board caused an uproar in the Colony of the Bahama Islands and unleashed a chain of events that helped to change the social and political history of the country. The movie, No Way Out, was about racism in America and featured black Bahamian actor Sidney Poitier in his first major role. It was a performance that launched the brilliant career of the 22-year-old from Cat Island.[...]The local Censorship Board, the white owners of the leading movie houses and the political establishment known as the Bay Street Boys regarded No Way Out as a dangerously inflammatory movie for a society in which blacks were routinely discriminated against socially, economically and politically. So even if black Bahamians desperately wanted to see their boy Sidney in an important role on the silver screen, the Bay Street Boys decided they could not risk showing a black actor in such a performance, particularly one dealing with strong racial themes. That was a mistake.The protest spread and a group of black Bahamians including Dr. Cleveland Eneas, Maxwell Thompson and Kendal Isaacs started an organization to campaign not only for a reversal of the ban but for social and political reform in the colony. The Citizens Committee achieved its immediate objective and the movie was finally shown. Although it never became a full-fledged national political party the Committee is regarded as the forerunner of the Progressive Liberal Party which was established three years later.Six years later discrimination against blacks in public places – hotels, restaurants, movie theatres – came to an end when Sir Etienne Dupuch moved his antidiscrimination resolution in the House of Assembly. Then in 1967 the Bahamas got its first government reflecting the black majority.

Censorship and our constitution

  Perhaps I should call this our constitution, full stop.I had a conversation today in which one of the participants (I don't think I'm really at liberty to call names) raised the point that he found the media's preoccupation with the banning of Brokeback Mountain disproportionate. His concern was that there was a report earlier this year of lesbian gangs in Freeport who were allegedly pressuring young women to join their ranks, and no one raised their voices. He wasn't going to take sides on the Brokeback issue but he did think that we Bahamians were misguided in our focus.Now I happen to agree with him about the misplacing of priorities. I'm not sure what I think about the lesbian gangs, which I took to be just another piece of the sensationalism and disproportion that our press is fond of. If I did think about them, I'd probably think that what they did was their business. Of course, if there was coercion going on, that would be a different matter; but I'm not exercised by the lesbianness of the coercion particularly. I think we need to discuss the prevalence of forcible sexual relations everywhere in society. But that's another matter.What I wanted to talk about in this post is that the Bahamian Constitution, which, despite its being readily available online, and despite its being much maligned and misquoted, is really quite a democratic document, and rather at odds with the way in which we tend to behave. The preamble talks about an abiding respect for Christian values and the rule of law, but not even the preamble states we are a "nation founded on Christian principles". The principles to which it refers are "spiritual" ones, and we do recognize God. We just don't say which one we prefer, which is, I suppose pretty wise in this day and age.The thing is, all this banning and censorship is entirely unconstitutional, as my husband discovered and posted elsewhere. The relevant article is the 23rd, which reads (obliquely, as is the wont of legalese) as follows:

Protection of freedom of expression.23.-(1) Except with his consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, and for the purposes of this Article the said freedom includes freedom to hold opinions, to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his correspondence.(2) Nothing contained in or done under the authority of any law shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of this Article to the extent that the law in question makes provision-(a) which is reasonably required-(i) in the interests of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or(ii) for the purposes of protecting the rights, reputations and freedoms of other persons, preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, maintaining the authority and independence of the courts, or regulating telephony, telegraphy, posts, wireless broadcasting, television, public exhibitions or public entertainment; or(b) which imposes restrictions upon persons holding office under the Crown or upon members of a disciplined force,and except so far as that provision or, as the case may be, the thing done under the authority thereof is shown not to be reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.