Magazine article The Spectator

Who's to Blame for African Homophobia? We Are, of Course

Magazine article The Spectator

Who's to Blame for African Homophobia? We Are, of Course

Article excerpt

These are exciting times to be a worshipper in the Church of England. We may be about to have a schism. It was a schism which, if you recall, led to the creation of the Church of England. As a result of that schism, we have Christians today who believe that the Pope is godly and infallible, and omnipotent. And then there are the rest of us, who think that he's just a bigoted old Pole.

This latest proto-schism is not about whether or not the Pope's a bigot - we can all agree on that, these days - but whether or not it is OK to bugger someone. Someone of the same sex, I mean. There is no schism yet about heterosexual buggery. I don't think the bishops have thought about that. Maybe they should sit down and watch Sex and the City or read that new novel, Politics, by Adam Thirlwell and subsequently pronounce their views on what has become, beyond question, a new hobby for the shiny metropolitan elite. We all of us need guidance, I think.

Anyway, this being the Church of England, there is the prospect not simply of one schism but of about 20 schisms. For example, there are those who say that everything which smacks of homosexuality is a crime against God, and the perpetrators should repent or burn in Hell, tormented for eternity by Satan's vindictive and deeply homophobic imps. Most of those who think like this are black people, although they are usually referred to as 'evangelicals'. And then there are those who say that homosexuality is absolutely tickety-boo and a valid expression of God's love, so bugger away and peace be upon you. Most of these are white people, although they are usually referred to as 'Anglo-Catholics'.

But between these two fundamentalist positions there are plenty of bishops occupying what we might call the middle ground. There are those who say that the trappings of homosexuality - an inordinate affection for Doris Day and Gloria Gaynor songs, too careful attention to grooming and an overwhelming desire to present late-night chatshow programmes on Channel 4 - are perfectly fine, but that felching and rimming and fisting are definitely out. You won't find the words 'felching' or 'rimming' or 'fisting' in Deuteronomy (a favourite reference point for the evangelicals, or black people); God has instead presumably spoken to these bishops directly.

The Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola, is a most outspoken persecutor of the sodomites and he's definitely black. He compares the disgust that he and fellow Africans feel towards those who are gay to the way we feel about the practice of genital mutilation of women, which is common in (especially northern) Nigeria. In Pete's country you can get locked up for 14 years for consensual gay sex. If you're lucky. If you're discovered enjoying consensual gay sex in the north of his horrible, lawless, primitive, corrupt country - the bit run by the mad mullahs - you'll get stoned to death instead.

Almost all the African bishops hate homosexuals, except for one or two enlightened souls in South Africa. Homosexuality is illegal in some 29 African states; basically, if you want to bugger somebody of the same sex in Africa, safely, you have to move to Eritrea or Chad. And - just a tip - stay away from Zimbabwe altogether. When they don't actually screech about the horrors of homosexuality, they pretend it doesn't exist. Take this quote from Bishop of Michael Luger of Sudan, a country even fouler than Nigeria, by the way: 'In the Sudan we know nothing of homosexuality. …

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