Gay man, you're on your own: Homophobic Christians and hypocrisy go hand in hand
I have always despised the term "gay community" - it suggests separation or "othering". However, I am learning to embrace it because now, more than ever, homosexuals are on their own. That's the real communion, writes Andile Ndlovu
Imagine a scene in which an unsettled teenage boy, sick from self-loathing brought on by taunts from peers and relatives, decides to do something he has never done before: he goes to church, uncoerced, to seek guidance. (Normally his parents drag him out of bed so he can polish his shoes and brush his teeth and wash his face before they all make their way to church.)
After the service, when the worshippers and patrons have greeted and complimented each others' lovely Sunday dresses and headed home to begin lunch, he remains behind so he can head into the confession booth once everybody has left.
In the booth sits a revered bishop, Dag Heward-Mills. Not all churches possess confession booths, but this one does and the bishop is said to be the only man who can absolve humans of their sins. In this scene, the bishop has no equal; he doesn't bleed like the boy does; he is afforded higher-power status. The boy's sin is his homosexuality.
The confession doesn't last long. It's a one-way conversation. The bishop labels the boy an abomination, comparing him to an animal - as he did last week at Johannesburg's Grace Bible Church, which led to choreographer Somizi Mhlongo boycotting the "sermon".
Heward-Mills orders the boy to repent or burn in hell. The lecture is similar to the one he received from his father once, when he refused to play soccer with the other boys "just like a normal boy".
He is a precocious talent - chess champion at school, he dances better than them all, and he is never outside of the top two in maths and science. He is a future neurologist, and in years to come he could identify the cure for Alzheimer's disease.
But he kills himself following the confession.
At school, teachers and parents and their sons comfort the boy's parents as if they really knew him. They talk about his intelligence and his amiability.
They do not mention that they were wary about their sons befriending him. At every assembly the principal would digress from the scripture and lambast "boys with funny tendencies and mannerisms" (another reason religion should be kept out of the classroom). And each time the boy shrank. And each time his peers giggled and teased.
Church offered a joyous refuge, a respite, a place of communion. This was the best place to connect with his God.
The boy is not me. But he is one of many young, confused boys. A good number will find some sort of salvation, yet even more will follow the fate of the boy. Shunned until death. Upon their deaths, they will be mourned publicly but remain shunned privately.
Homophobic Christians and hypocrisy go hand in hand. It means to conveniently overlook cases of sexual abuse of children in the church, but to poke your nose in the business of homosexual adults. They desecrate the very Bible they worship by underlining what suits them and erasing their wrongs. Even women, so long seen as allies by gays, have either fallen quiet or revealed harmful ignorance and beliefs.
The boy, who might as well be Mhlongo or me, never realised until it was too late that he didn't need the validation of other humans. He was made to believe that a mere human with flesh and bones like him could forgive his trespasses.
Mhlongo might have believed he had friends in that church, but now he knows it is only those who pretended to be brothers.
Even if he rightly doesn't see his homosexuality as a sin, he would have believed that, as Romans 3:23 reads, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God".