"DEMAND same rights and same opportunities as the heterosexual community. After all, Female, Black, Asian, Homosexual, Male, Jew, Muslim, Christian, we are all part of the soup that makes up HUMANITY. Our differences make us the same. We need to stop the atrocities than man puts on man."
This quote I found on a website is a comment on a very provocative concept today - human rights - and who is or isn't "human enough" to qualify. As always, it raises more questions for me.
One of the issues surrounding religion is hatred, mistrust and for some strange reason, the need to compete. Why can people of faith not simply co-exist peacefully with each other? How often have we seen media campaigns to strip sections of society of civil rights? We have seen a few in South Africa, fine and well - but how often have you seen such campaigns driven by Hindus? Or Buddhists? Or Jews? But yet it seems the two biggest faiths on Earth, Christianity and Islam, are riddled with fundamentalism and a fanatical agenda to "take over the world" for their religions. If they can't convert the rest of the world peacefully, they are intent on forcing others to believe what they believe, whether by influencing or taking over governments, passing laws to criminalize anything of a religious nature they don't agree with, or committing acts of violence and even war. So what's their excuse? Some religious people seem to be able to live in peace with other folk, so why can't they?
Fundamentalists would say it's because they aren't "real" Christians. I find this to be an astonishing revelation.
Where does this fundamentalist rubbish flooding modern society come from? What makes people who follow a loving God or savior suddenly turn vicious towards other people? What has poisoned their faith and twisted their drive to include all people in their faith into a desire to exclude certain groups which they happen to personally dislike?
Gay people cannot "recruit" and make others gay as the fundies claim - but it seems they certainly can.
I'm kinda lost - what is the actual choice here - being born gay/bi/trans/intersex, or choosing to follow a religion - or choosing to persecute anyone who doesn't feel like following it the same blind and fundamentalist way you do? What exactly is the threat?
One question others may ask is "why do gay people stereotypically avoid church or leave the Christian faith for more tolerant religions such as Buddhism?" Well, firstly, there's your answer - tolerance. People in the pink community are used to hearing messages preached in churches and temples condemning them, trying to change them or making them feel very unwelcome. Many know the sting of being banished from their religious communities, or even from their families because of religious intolerance and ignorance. Because of this, many people turn away from their God and lose faith. Some ask around for "gay friendly" or inclusive churches, often not getting any answers and not easily finding such places.
The funny thing is, when people ask you, and you tell them where there is a friendly inclusive church raring to support them inclusively, and even to go beyond simply welcoming them into church as equals by extending to them invitations to join home groups - they fall silent. Why is this?
THAT is one question I cannot answer.
Religion is a complicated subject, filled with duality and ruled by people who like to have their toast buttered on both sides.
Add to this the conundrum that arises when religious figures enter politics or try to influence affairs of state from a religious motivation. Let's take marriage equality as an example. They start by attacking gay people as "sinners" and "evil" people who "choose to sin", revile them as threats to "the family unit", "civilization", in fact anything that pleases them to do so - and then when this fails, they shift their focus to try to prove their claim that these matters threaten their "religious freedoms" - despite the minor detail that gay rights and marriage equality are a CIVIL matter, and not a religious one.
Nobody is forcing ministers or churches to conduct gay marriages in South Africa, but they take any deviation from their own religious fundamentalist bias as a threat to them. In this case it is clear that religion is trying to interfere in state matters - and not the other way round. Is this not paranoia in the extreme? Trying to shift the focus from the facts, they then try to create the impression that the mere use of the word "marriage" is the exclusive property of their religion - and that their version of God created marriage exclusively for them as a heterosexist union of man and women (woman being subservient to man) for the sole purpose of creating offspring.
It is ironic that the word "marriage" can be used freely and without redress or objection to describe the union of two corporations, the mixing of two alcoholic beverages, or even as a technical term to describe the joining of two pieces of machinery - but not the union of two people who love each other and happen to be of the same gender.
Why so silent now, folks? Why aren't you objecting to this blatant infringement of your "copyright"?
People of one particular religion, who perpetually rebuke the use of the word "marriage" to describe same gender unions, object because they say their version of God "created marriage", and yet they do not object when people of other religions - even those who do not have a central or particular deity - or even the same God, use the same word which they claim as their own. So who owns the rights to use a mere word like "marriage" now? Does anybody? I would say further, that everybody does - it is like Coca-cola and hamburgers and fries today - it is a part of every culture, everywhere on Earth. If marriage is for individuals, then every individual has the right to marry. So why do they begrudge only us the same right?
Is it because we are or have been reviled by almost every society, including them? Is it because we seem to be an outsider group who make a convenient and easy target for their bigotry? Is it because they seem to think that we have no voice to answer their hate? Or is it because they keep on getting away with it?
It would be interesting indeed to hear the comments and replies to such questions from fundamentalist figure heads of the anti human rights movement, such as James Dobson, Ray McCauley and Errol Naidoo.
Who is James Dobson? He sits in a plush air conditioned office, planning strategies which affect the lives of millions around the world, a man who speaks on the air as a representative and spokesman for a God whom many believe to be a loving father figure, for which he claims to receive no salary - and yet draws millions of dollars in royalties. He claims the money goes into his "ministry" - a worldwide campaign through "Focus on the Family" to deprive millions of gay people around the world of the right to be considered equal, to live freely and openly and without fear.
Who is Ray McCauley? He is a man who speaks on the radio and on satellite TV from a pulpit at the center of a multi-million Rand fundamentalist franchise, and who is now dabbling in politics while claiming to be fighting a war for "righteousness" on what he calls "immorality" and "corruption", and flies around in his own private Lear-jet. Like Dobson, he has taken it upon himself to attack the equal civil rights of gay and transgender people and women in South Africa, and who disguises his wolf-like ambitions with the "sheep's clothing" of "godliness" and "morality".
Who is Erroll Naidoo? He runs a small so-called "pro-family" group with offices in Parliament Street in Cape Town, situated so that he may catch a glimpse of parliamentarians as they sweep past him on their way to the real corridors of power. He plots and schemes for the banning of gay rights and their removal from the SA Constitution.
Naidoo has for years been campaigning to remove gay rights from the SA Constitution, and turned his focus to the abolition of the law which allows marriage equality for gay people. This offer of Jacob Zuma's and Ray McCauleys initiative under the guise of the illegitimate NILC must seem like heaven-sent. In the mean-time he is still mouthing off about the drive to legalize and regulate prostitution. The rhetoric and twisted logic he and his allies use in this battle stink to high heaven of the same twaddle they have been using in the battle against decriminalizing homosexuality and the subsequent "war to reclaim marriage". And let's not forget the never-ending circular nonsensical argument around abortion.
How is clamping down still harder on prostitution "protecting women and children"?
Seems like they are trying to make people believe that their motives are to "end the exploitation of women" - but at the same time they fight the right of women to have any say over their own bodies by campaigning to abolish abortion laws. They in effect side with rapists who strip their victims of the right to say "no", by seeking to forcing them to live with the physical consequences of the actions of the patriarchal oppression of women.
His latest communique' from the FPI is replete with references to "the culture war" and "the battle for family values". His references to "prophecy" and "anointing of God" indicates at the least, hubris. This man actually believes that his self-important, insidious and unwarranted attack on the humanity of other people could be in agreement with that of a loving creator-God. How incredibly arrogant and incredibly deluded.
The first half of his latest letter resonates with thank-yous to all the people in Gauteng who praised, listened to and entertained him and stroked his ego - which we all know by now is so big it occupies a wireless frequency all of its own. The list of non-mainstream churches who provided audiences for him to punt his fundamentalist agenda at, is virtually a who's-who of the right wing religious radical wannabes in SA. Worrying however, is the fact that a Methodist church would even entertain the idea of letting this bigot spread his poison in their community.
"My message resonated with many of the men present." He brags. "Men" indeed. I'm not at all surprised. I am disappointed though. I thought the Methodist Church, a stalwart in the battle for human rights during the apartheid years, was above that - although I have to say, just like homosexuality or transgender is no respecter of persons - neither is bigotry.
"The anti-family movement" Naidoo calls his opponents and those who dare to defend human rights against his attacks, "is growing nervous at FPI’s bold initiatives to engage in discussions with government to re-look at abortion & same-sex 'marriage' legislation that were forced through Parliament."
He said this in reference to an article in the Mail & Guardian discussing his recent trip to Gauteng to try to influence politicians to see things from his narrow point of view in agreement with the NILC and Rhema. Do you notice his interesting reference to abortion and marriage equality being "forced" through parliament? The question this man and his supporters need to ask themselves is "were these laws in agreement with the constitution or not?" If yes, then how were they "forced" through? Or does Naidoo view any laws which he didn't agree with and couldn't stop as being "forced" on everybody else?
How can gay people be a "threat" to "the family" when we are family?
The absolute irony at the heart of this state of affairs, bearing in mind that all three of these people claim to be Christians and followers of Christ, is this:
Christ asked people who follow him to be the voice for the voiceless - not to wire their mouths shut.
The one flaw which is ever present in their "logic" and argument is the one thing that strips them of legitimacy, compassion and humanity. What is that? Their obsession with religion, and their fanatical fundamentalism.
How can religion, which is open to any number of interpretations, be used as a sure reference for law and the determination of "crime" and "punishment"? After all, sexuality is not a "lifestyle choice" but an inborn characteristic - a biological fact of life, as surely as hair and eye color and even racial characteristics and laws of heredity. Some people don't like the burden of having to decide for themselves whether other people are right or wrong or to decide the fate of others. They like to defer actually thinking about something to others better, don't they? Choosing to believe that gay people "choose" to be gay - and choosing to enshrine this belief in law - makes it easy for some people to feel better about targeting them, doesn't it?
To conclude, people who persecute gay people, "hate the sin, but not the sinner" and turf them out of churches - then "wonder" why gay people don't keep coming back for more of the same - are just plain stupid, malicious or being pedantic.
Accepting the truth that we are born and not products of childhood abuse, trauma or nurture - or by choice tends to disarm them and kind of makes them look like unfeeling monsters doesn't it? They say "all people have a choice" yadda, yadda, yadda - "but we will all have to give account to God for our actions on the day of judgement" (with appropriate Gothic capitalization). But fundamentalist political parties and groupings around the world today are taking this far too personally for the rest of us to believe they are of that persuasion.
Know what those folks are really saying? They're not just saying we shall give account to God for our lives in the hereafter - but they are saying that we shall also first give account to THEM.
If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.
If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Contact form.
All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.