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Opinions of Thursday, 21 August 2014

Columnist: Joe Chebonkeng

Homosexuality is evil, Un-African - Joe Chebonkeng

The President of the Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC, Joe Chebonkeng has called on African leaders not to accept homosexuality on the continent. He describes the practice as un-African, a sin, evil! In the following interview, Chebonkeng states the position of the CBC on homosexuality.

Read on: There is so much pressure and clamour from the West for the legalisation of homosexuality in our country; what is your take on that? It is quite interesting what is happening in the world today where others feel that they can impose their culture on others. What is happening makes me begin to wonder where the world is going to. We are moving gradually to a situation where what obtains in the West has to be imposed elsewhere as the standards. The West, maybe, doesn’t feel that people have their own cultures.

Q: The argument the advocates of homosexuality pose is that it is a fundamental human rights issue which should stand everywhere the world...? Africans have not been used to things of that nature. I will begin by saying that the laws of this country prohibit the practice of homosexuality. It is punishable by law. And from the moral standpoint, the Church does not admit the practice of homosexuality. Sex, as described in the Church, is supposed to be between a married man and a married woman, that is, a man and his wife. The Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC, General Council of December 2013 took a stand on this and issued a press release reiterating and supporting Government’s stand on homosexuality because the laws of this country prohibit it. As a Church, we cannot tolerate such things. And, again, as a Church, we cannot admit what God has prohibited. I think it is out of the question, the West might have their own stand on it. Some of them see religion from a different perspective and if one were to depend on what the Bible says, then, there is no gainsaying that the Bible prohibits the practice of homosexuality. It is a very big sin, as the Bible says.

The situation now in Cameroon is that homosexuality is illegal as provided for by the law, but if Government were to yield to the pressure from the West and give a veneer of legality to the practice of homosexuality, what will be your reaction?

First of all, we don’t want to imagine a situation where Government will yield to pressure from the West on this practice. It is not only the CBC; there are other groups who have been voicing their opinions on this and the Cameroonian public as a whole. But should it happen, I don’t want to imagine the situation where the Government will yield because such a bill will have to go through Parliament to become a law. I believe Cameroonians, the representatives of the people, are there in Parliament to debate on such laws. If the MPs begin to think about a thing like that, the Church will be able to make its own point. The MPs should vote laws taking into consideration the aspirations of the people who elected them, irrespective of party discipline. Cameroonians in their majority do not want the practice of homosexuality. It is not Cameroonian, it is not African practice.

You might have heard that the Presbyterian church of America finally gave into homosexuality, this means that their Christians now are allowed to practice it, how do you feel?

Disappointed in the sense that, that group is moving away from the prescribed norms of the Bible and we as Baptists believe that the Bible is the final judge in matters of faith and practice and as long as the Bible remains what it is to us, we will abide by what it says. What has happened in America is as a result of what the society there is. To me, it will sound as if they want to rewrite the Bible, but they are taking selective portions of the Bible to apply to themselves. They are supposed to apply all and not part of the Bible and the Bible doesn’t prescribe anywhere that a man should get married to a man. The Bible says; “A man will leave his family, a woman will leave her family and they will become one,” which means God said that they will be one and will procreate. God did not say a man will get married to a man. Why should it happen that way and they want to adopt children. Who are those who will get married to women and will give birth to children? The world is back-pedaling with such reasoning and the mind has all types of philosophical explanations to this type of comportment. But if you look at the human aspect of it, you will see that those are societies doing what the Bible says happened in Sodom and Gomorrah and so they might be moving towards Sodom and Gomorrah and calling on God to destroy them eventually.

Recently the American Government said it will no longer be giving aid to countires that are against homosexuality. Do you see you this as a form of blackmail that is also closing in on Cameroon and other African countries?

What the West is playing on is their assistance which they give African countries and they think that they will peg the conditions for having that aid on the practice of homosexuality or on the legalisation of homosexuality. I think it is time for Africans and African governments to make a clear cut stand on that at the AU summit so that the West should know. Secondly, African governments should be able to work out their own salvation plans for their economies and their countries so that it will not depend on aid elsewhere. Countries have done that in the past. We have resources here that can make us to develop. We now need to strategise on our part to see that if these people want to impose malpractices on us because they hold the cord of aid, then, we have to develop other strategies. There are other partners that can give us assistance without necessarily pegging that assistance to homosexuality and so they are not the only people that assist us. Gone are the days that everything that had to come to Africa or the Third World depended on the West. Today, China has come up, Russia is there, India is there and many other developing economies that can give Africa the necessary technological know-how to be able to help Africa out of underdevelopment. But again, Africans should begin to count on themselves before they turn to the West.

Spiritually speaking, where do you think the idea of homosexuality is coming from?

It is coming from the devil because it is not prescribed by the Bible which means that if you practise unorthodox things, these are things that are coming from the dark world and they know what they do with such things, because, it is unthinkable. Only recently, Cameroonians began to know that a man can get married to a man. And many people confront me to ask what it means for a man to get married to a man? You begin to imagine some devilish type of a thing. I think that Cameroonians should be resolute on issues of homosexuality and these are not practices that are common in our societies. These are imported ideas, imported ways of life which are alien to our society. It is time Africans spoke out on this ill.

As the President of the CBC, have you had situations where pastors want to be practising homosexuality within the Church?

No, it is alien because they know that if such a thing crops up, they would be sanctioned.

There were reports of a CBC pastor involved in same-sex…?

No, that did not have to do with a CBC pastor. There was a rejoinder in the paper that carried that story initially to say that, the pastor in question had nothing to do with the CBC and so they tendered their apologies to the CBC. I think that things like that might happen when one doesn’t know about but when it comes to public knowledge and the knowledge of the authorities in the Convention, we are going to put such a pastor or such a Christian on discipline and try to help him to recover from such ill because that is sinful.

If it comes to your knowledge that a majority of your Christians are practising that, would you send away the whole Church?

Of course, we cannot condone sin because it is being practised by the majority of the Christians. They would be put on discipline. Any Church that finds such practices and does not sanction or discipline the Christians; that church is sin itself and the Bible says that the soul that sins must die. So, if a member of your church is involved in that type of sin and the Christians don’t discipline those members, then, that Church itself has to be disciplined. There are situations where the ministerial council of the Convention can hear such a thing and the whole church would be disciplined because they failed to discipline those who were supposed to be disciplined. So, we are not saying that it might not exist. If we get such information on such things, we would have to deal with that and deal with that conclusively.

Besides homosexuality, what are some of those moral issues that are ailing the church in our country today?

I will say that the first thing is the quest for materialism and this has pushed a lot of church leaders to deviate from the gospel and they are preaching prosperity, miracles and then promising heavens for Christians on earth who will end up not seeing it. They also have programmed miracles making monies from ignorant Christians because they are either destitute or they are in helpless situations. Those are some of the ills, including the fact that some of our leaders are not accountable to their churches, institutions they are leading to the point where you find a situation where a church leader or a pastor is involved in misappropriation of funds in the church. I think those are some of the ills which are condemnable and if we find such a situation, such church pastors or leaders need to be disciplined. I hear some of those things are happening elsewhere but I think in the CBC, if we have instances of that, such church leaders are put to discipline or called to order.

Are you insinuating that those who are running the CBC are saints?

They are not saints but they are accountable to their organisation. Each member and leader of the CBC is accountable, first; of all to God, secondly; to the Convention. The Bible tells us to work as unto the Lord which means that you are working as if there is nobody around but God. It is your conscience and God. Secondly you are accountable to your fellow man because he is the one who put you there and you have a duty to offer him the service. You are working not as the master but a servant because when you are chosen as a leader, you become the first servant to those choose you.

What would you tell the public on these issues? It is important we continue to reiterate to our people and to Cameroonians and Africans as a whole that it is not everything that is concocted in the world that is good for society. It is an opportunity even for the powers-that-be to be able to see what is given to us from foreign television channels; the things that will not destroy this country. What is given to us through the internet will be things that will not destroy this country. The President of the Republic said a couple of years ago that the Mosque and the churches should take the responsibility in the moral upbringing of the youth, which is an indication that the situation in our country has to be taken very seriously. The moral uprightness of our young people is a problem because the young people of today are exposed to many ills, coming in through the internet, television channels and others. While the Government should be able to sit up and control what comes to the internet or televisions, the churches should play their own parts. It should also begin at home. Parents should play their own part in the up-bringing of the youth of today who will be the leaders of tomorrow. The Government, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment, did come out strongly against poor dressing habits. The CBC also issued a statement supporting Government action to bring sanity in that sphere. I think that issues or instances like that are things that the Church supports freely. Those of us who have decided to be Christians should show the light wherever we are, whether in Government, in public places, the streets, everywhere, we should be able to demonstrate our good stewardship to this country to whatever things we are doing. We should not be involved in corruption, we should be involved in moral decadence, involved in things that will play down on the moral life of this country and, tomorrow, those who will succeed us will know that we gave them something worth preserving.

Interviewed by Yerima Kini Nsom