When I read about the recent incident at St John’s College, in Harare, Zimbabwe, I was saddened and appalled. Sad because this is a Christian school where ostensibly Christian parents, in blind ignorance and prejudice not only chose to end a man’s career, but put the critical preparation of A-Level exam students in jeopardy.
The deputy headmaster was under threat of having his sexuality revealed to the whole world by the reporter of the biggest daily newspaper in the country. This is in a homophobic nation where homosexual acts are punishable with a jail sentence. When he revealed his sexual orientation to the students and teachers at assembly, there was an uproar by elements of the staunchly conservative professedly Christian parent body. He was forced to resign after receiving death threats.
The school badge has a sheep and the motto is Dominus Pastor, meaning the Lord is my Shepherd. Symbols are powerful. They are tell the world that this is a school with Christian values. The Good Shepherd is Jesus Christ in Psalm 23. Jesus preached and modeled love, service and above all compassion. Parents agree to uphold these Christian values when they apply for admission of their children to the school. It is appalling that in 2018, in an technologically advanced global society, learned and wealthy people, who should know better, behave like this in a professedly Christian country.
Why was he forced to resign? The parents were aghast that they had a homosexual teacher at the school all this time. Out of ignorance many people associate homosexuality with paedophilia. There have been no reports of sexual abuse at the school. This is unlike the case of Parktown Boys High in Johannesburg, South Africa where a waterpolo coach was convicted of over a hundred counts of sexual abuse of students. The reaction suggests a collective fear that he would influence their sons into becoming cross-dressing, make-up wearing, heavily perfumed Nancy-boys. This is totally irrational, he had been there for years and there was no problem. However, Zimbabwe is a patriarchal society, so there is zero tolerance of views or activities that fall outside the heterosexual masculine supremacist norm.
Surely the parents had a right to object? Yes by all means. But was their objection based on facts and evidence of abuse? Or was it based on an unfounded fear based on the collective ignorance about and suspicion of homosexuality as an orientation and a lifestyle choice. My view is that their objection was based on the latter.
In terms of individual responsibility, was it necessary for the reporter to even ‘out’ the man? After all he had been living what appears to have been a respectable life, exercising his personal relationship choice without bothering anyone? One would think that corruption, the cholera outbreak, the cash crunch, the deteriorating economic conditions and post-election political shenanigans are more news-worthy stories of public interest. The fact that the teacher in question is white, teaching at an expensive elite private school made this an opportunity too good to pass up. What about the other more high profile black politicians and business people who are rumored to be closet homosexuals or those who engage in homosexual transactional sex for business deals? What about those that are bi-sexual, yet engage their proclivity for the forbidden on the down low? Ironically some of these men and their wives may well have been among the vociferous mob that forced the man to resign.
We pray daily for God to deliver our nation from bloodshed, injustice, oppression and poverty. We have worn ourselves out praying and claiming the promises of Chronicles:
“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 .
We have fasted, cried and prayed, begging God saying
“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
And what is God’s answer?
““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
This is God’s Word to the prophet Isaiah in Chapter 58 says what he requires of true fasting. True fasting that brings the answer to our prayers for a better world. That true fasting begins with you and me. What are the choices that we make daily between what is wrong and what is right that make this world what it is today? You may wonder what impact your choices have as an individual. A society is made up of individuals whose character and actions collectively influence the behavior of the group. So the world we live in today is a result of the sum of choices made by many individuals today.
We as Christians cannot pray to a loving and just God to deliver our nation from injustice when we ourselves are unjust and oppressive to one another. We steal from the public purse; murder our enemies; do not pay our bills; deprive workers of their just wages; commit adultery; sexually abuse children; beat our wives; rob our employers and bribe public officials. We gossip, slander and malign people’s characters for sport. Then on a Sunday, we praise God with the same tongue that tells lies and give the church as offerings, money that has been swindled or stolen from others, while denying help to our families when they need it. We still visit traditional healers in the dead of night seeking charms for success and curses for our enemies. We go to the graves of our loved ones to cast spells of doom on our families. We follow the heretic teachings of false prophets who tell us what we want to hear, but do not preach salvation, love or mercy. What kind of people are we? Do we deserve this mercy that we cry out for? Why should the Lord as our Shepherd come to our rescue when we behave like wolves preying on the innocent and vulnerable in our society?
The book of James, chapter 3:11 the writer asks : “Can salt water and fresh water flow from the same spring? ” The answer is no. Enough of the self-deception. Let us stop pretending that our souls are wells of living water when in reality they are contaminated and salty to an extent that, the people drinking from them become sick and are thirstier than ever. We must stop praising God with our mouths when our hearts are far from him. If we really want God to deliver us, we have to stop: being selfish; repent of our evil deeds; and we must show love and compassion to other people. Only then will God hear from heaven and turn and heal our land.