Two recent articles have kicked me out of the dark hole I was beginning to seek refuge in and have given me renewed hope.

The first is In Bed with the President of Ghana? by Andrew Solomon.

Nana-Oye-Lithur The recent wahala in Ghana around the appointment of Nana Oye Lithur to Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection fired up the rather unpleasant spectacle of hatism once again. An unrelenting human rights activist, Ms Lithur’s ‘crime’ was that she also supports the dignity of LGBT people.

Unable to understand that many Ghanaians can no longer stomach the distasteful expressions of intolerance reinforced by the importation of religions agendas, the Hatists are resorting to smears, suggesting that the President, John Dramani Mahama, and Ms Lithur are really the Trojan horses of foreign human rights activists (as if the concept of human rights and diversity is foreign to Africa and that human rights positions are forced from outside).
med133_93177AndrewSolomonThe publication of the President’s memoir, “My First Coup d’État,” launched in New York, was assisted by award winning writer Andrew Solomon, who also hosted a launch party and interviewed him on stage during its launch. The hatists have now dragged up the fact that Sullivan happens to be gay and are suggesting the President will attempt to remove the colonial laws which criminalise homosexual activity, by stealth.

Rather than grasp the bull by the horns, the President’s press office disappointingly distanced themselves from Solomon pretending the President didn’t know about his same-sex desire and then embarrassingly having to admit he did!

Solomon must have felt deeply betrayed and angry by the behaviour of some in the Ghanaian government, yet what impressed me was the humility and compassion that shines through in his writing. It stands in stark contrast to those who posit themselves as the upholders of morality and ‘Christian love’ whose words are nothing but violent, angry, aggressive and abusive in their desire to denigrate the humanity of other Ghanaians. It cannot have been easy for Solomon to overcome his disappointment but love and respect for others clearly did win through.

Megan-Phelps-Roper-before-the-epiphanyThe second article, Damsel, Arise: A Westboro Scion Leaves Her Church, was about how 2 staunch members of the hateful Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), Megan Phelps-Roper and her sister Grace, have now left. WBC is closer to a cult, mostly inhabited by family members, overseen by their grandfather Fred Phelps.

WBC are a church group that prioritise the issue of homosexuality above everything else. They are well known for their banners proclaiming “God Hates Fags” which they display whilst picketing the funerals of people murdered because of their sexuality and also the funerals of soldiers who died in the war on Iraq. Their position is that God hates America, Canada, and everyone else who has shown respect to LGBT people and is now enacting His wrath on the people. It is not a far call away from the voices of the Hatists in Ghana who are screaming that God will destroy Ghana if people with same-sex desire are allowed to live their lives with dignity.

Like some in Ghana, WBC believe that their abusive and violent language is helping people see their “rebellion against God” and is more in keeping with the message of their religious texts than positions of tolerance and love. This ability to invert moral values must create cognitive dissonance in these believers and the oft heard phrase ‘God’s morality is not our morality’ is perhaps an attempt to rationalise the feelings of injustice they must instinctively feel as human beings.

Leaving a group such as WBC means you are shunned by your family and friends. It means leaving the world you were born into – everything that you’ve ever known – a world of certainty that is never questioned. Their bravery cannot be underestimated as they move into the real world of uncertainty and doubt where every aspect of their religion has to now be questioned, dismantled and some thrown out, and towards love. One of Megan’s reasons for leaving was because of her church’s denial of the possibility of forgiveness.

What struck me was a paragraph from the article:

“I definitely regret hurting people,” she says. “That was never our intention. We thought we were doing good. We thought it was the only way to do good. And that’s what I’ve always wanted.” That’s not how the message was received. “I think I’ve known that for a long time, and I would talk to people about how I knew the message was hurtful,” Megan says. “But I believed it couldn’t matter what people felt. It mattered that this was what God wanted.”

Quite often those who appear to be the aggressors are also victims, trapped in the prisons that also damage themselves, not just others.

In the midst of hate, where we can sometimes feel surrounded by darkness, compassion and love can still overcome.