The Malawi Council of Churches (MCC) has of late been in the news, unfortunately, all for the wrong reasons.
When the news circulated that government has issued a moratorium on laws criminalising same-sex relationships, MCC quickly reacted, threatening fire and brimstone as if that were equivalent to turning Malawi into a Sodom and Gomorrah.
Now, the same organisation wants government to enforce a Christian dress code and keep Sunday morning ‘holy’ by closing markets and stopping political rallies. Reason: to respect the fact that many Malawians in this country are Christians who go to church on Sunday!
Are MCC leaders retrogressing to the Dark Ages when, in the name of Christ, cruel church leaders depended on secular laws and courts to burn fellow believers—equally created in God’s own image—for the crime of disagreeing with them on biblical doctrines?
The Executive moratorium on laws criminalising same-sex relationships, controversial though it may be among legal practitioners, is a secular issue. The reasoning behind it is to relax the enforcement of laws criminalising same-sex relationships pending their review to determine whether such laws are in tandem with the Constitution.
True, the issue of minority rights is very sensitive within the donor community and some have openly threatened to pull out should we continue to deny bail and slap a 14-year jail term on two consenting adults who have chosen to celebrate their engagement just because they belong to the same sex.
What we fail to see is that not all the countries incensed by the way we treat same-sex relationships here have legalised such relationships. Some have, many have not. Citizens, including Christians, in such countries make legalisation of same-sex relationships an election issue.
There is a difference between decriminalising and legalising same-sex relationships. What decriminalisation means is that people do not get arrested and made to serve time in jail for being gay or lesbian. But unless such relationships are legalised, same-sex couples do not enjoy recognition and the same rights as do married couples of the opposite sex.
As for the dress code, should MCC not try to tame the ‘animal instinct’ in some of its Christian members who see members of the opposite sex, especially women, as sex objects? Cases of rape and incest are rampant in Malawi.
MCC should speak out against such evil, instead of blaming it on dress code. Just what does the wearing of mini-skirts or tight pants got to do with the raping of babies, toddlers and grandmothers?
Since government serves Christians and non-Christians alike, it is the Constitution—not Christian dogmas and doctrines—that must guide its policies and laws. To suggest otherwise can be a recipe for chaos for there is no consensus even among Christians themselves on dogmas and doctrines.
Still, even if, for argument’s sake, we all agree with the Malawi Council of Churches’ position that people who practise homosexuality are “abnormal”, I do not see how criminalising the practice makes it normal.
Even if we also agree with the stand of the majority in the faith communities that homosexuality is a sin, I still don’t see how treating those who practise it with handcuffs and long jail terms will constitute purification or sanctification.
MCC and other members of the faith communities have all the justification to be concerned about the practice of homosexuality. The problem comes when they argue against the call to de-criminalise the practice on the grounds that it is against the will of God.
God did not ask governments to fight for him by criminalising sin. If that were the case, all of us, including our MCC leaders, would be convicts serving time. The Bible from which Christians draw their authority, says all of us “have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory”.
As for Christians, we are commanded to love, and not hate, our neighbours regardless of whether or not they are righteous. The Bible also cautions that while I am able to see a speck in my neighbour’s eye, there is a whole log in my own eye.