An interdisciplinary engagement with the human dignity of the sexual minorities in Grace Bible Church, Soweto : a case study on gender, law and religion

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Pentecostal theological notion of being “born again” stems from the mainstream Evangelical doctrines of “sin,” “salvation” and “baptism in the Holy Spirit” that are inextricably interwoven into the fabric of the Pentecostal church in general. Most theological discourses in Pentecostalism are founded upon these notions. Sexual morality is expected to be grounded on the principle that “marriage is an institution created by God in which one man and one woman enters into an exclusive relationship for life, and that is the only form of partnership approved by God for sexual relations.” This study uses the Grace Bible Church (GBC) in Soweto, a dominantly “black” township west of Johannesburg South Africa, as its case study since the church declared in its Statement of Faith (SoF) that it will only allow persons to become members in the church if they adhere to these heterosexual, monogamous, heteronormative principles. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) lifestyles are in most general cases pathologized as being a transgression, spiritual deviance among the conservative and fundamentalist Bible-literalist churches, particularly the Pentecostal-Charismatic churches. They are regarded as sinful “unnatural” acts that may result in divine judgement whilst other go as far as asserting that same-sex sexual activities are demonic and “Un-African”. This is mainly because of the widely accepted binarism views and assertions that according to the Bible God created humans as either male or female. This binary view of gender has been largely upheld within the South African religious community while gender diversity has been ignored. People born intersex have been forced to live according to this gender binary. The gender bipartite also problematizes people that are transgender and excludes people that are gender diverse. Gender identity is widely accepted as a person’s private sense of being male, female, both or of the other gender. This may or may not match the biological sex assigned to them at birth. Due to the gender binary that promotes heterosexist theological positions, sermons are preached from the most conservative Christian pulpits with the intention that non-heterosexual members will repent, be ‘delivered’, and transformed by the power of God. Such sermons are viewed by some as being derogatory and discriminatory against members who are of LGBTIQ sexuality. Their argument is based on the premise that these churches do not consider queer members’ lived experiences, but instead insist on a literalist hermeneutical approach on the Bible exegesis and the traditional heteropatriarchal views ascribed to the Biblical worldview. Moreover, such views hold that human sexuality promotes only the heterosexual perspective as a religious and societal norm. Queer persons experience a negative impact from stigmatization and victimization due to patriarchal, heteronormative and cisnormative societies, that is even argued to be dominated by the hegemonic masculine mindset. This study shows that international and South African research has found significant negative effects are caused by exclusion and other forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and queer gender identity. Sexual orientation-based discrimination presents the same risks of psychological and other harm as discrimination based on race, religion or gender. Notably, among youth who already identify as, or think they may be homosexual or bisexual, research has found that family rejection and exclusion, as well as bullying by peers, correlates highly with a range of high-risk behaviors and outcomes ranging from truancy to substance abuse to attempts at suicide. Much of the evidence shows that this stigmatization leads to deep-seated and widespread prejudice, discrimination and violence in Africa toward those who are not heterosexual. Furthermore, many gay and lesbian people suffer from stress due to ill treatment by a homophobic society, especially when confronted with religious condemnation. Public religious speeches can lead to not only grave psychological, but also social consequences, as such speeches may contain a strong element of humiliation and degradation that may promote corrective rape, bullying and belittlement. Religious homophobic speeches may cause a polarization of society as people unconsciously absorb the hidden agenda that is intended to show that people who do not conform to the heterosexual norm are inferior and should be shunned. Research and observation have found that gay and lesbian people are referred to as “detestable” or “unnatural”, which could constitute religious hate speech. Due to what is believed to be a religiously infused homophobia, the LGBTIQ church members and activists have started protesting their churches. While some leave churches, others choose to remain “in the closet” and celibate so that they may be accepted by the Christian community and participate in church activities. In other instances, some closeted LGBTIQ members in Pentecostal-Charismatic churches are experiencing heightened homonegativity when anti-gay sentiments are uttered. It is therefore, the purpose of this study to investigate issues related to gender, law and theological discourses within the context of a selected Christian denomination –the Grace Bible Church in Johannesburg South Africa. This study is interdisciplinary, since it is positioned within the fields of Christian theology, the sociological concept of human sexuality with a specific interdisciplinary dimension on the intersection between gender, law and religion. The interconnectedness of the notions on gender, law and religion is the foundational basis of this study. This is pertinent since, historically, law and theology have been accepted as the fundamental grounds of the universal notion of the recognition of the inherent dignity of persons, and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Such laws form the foundations on liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness of all members of human family in the world. These laws are also contained in the liberal Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996. The South African Constitution, recognizes and protects, in Chapter 2 Section 9 of its Bill of Rights, the human rights of LGBTIQ persons to not be discriminated against on the ground of their sexual orientation or gender identity. While there appears to be some tension with regard to understanding the Constitution’s definition of religious freedom, churches seem to be generally free to formulate the conditions of their faith and church membership and free from state intrusion and doctrinal entanglement in such matters as relating to faith dictates. Hence this study considers these issues, focusing on human sexuality, theological and legal notions of human dignity, human flourishing, and human rights jurisprudence.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Pinkster- teologiese begrip van “wedergebore wees” het ontstaan uit die hoofstroom evangeliese leerstellings van “sonde”, “redding” en “doop met die Heilige Gees” wat onlosmaaklik verweef is in die raamwerk van die Pinksterkerk in die algemeen. Die meeste teologiese diskoerse in Pentekostalisme is op hierdie leerstellings gebaseer. Daar word vereis dat seksuele moraliteit gegrond sal wees op die beginsel dat “die huwelik ’n instelling is wat deur God geskep is en waarin een man en een vrou ’n eksklusiewe, lewenslange verhouding aanknoop wat die enigste tipe vennootskap is wat God vir seksuele verhoudings goedkeur”. Hierdie studie gebruik die Grace Bible Church (GBC) Soweto, Johannesburg, Suid-Afrika, as gevallestudie omdat die kerk dit in sy geloofsverklaring stel dat mense slegs as lidmate van die kerk toegelaat sal word indien hulle volgens hierdie heteroseksuele, monogame, heteronormatiewe beginsels leef. Lesbiese, gay, biseksuele, transgender, interseksuele en homoseksuele (LGBTIQ) leefstyle word in die meeste gevalle deur konserwatiewe en fundamentalistiese kerke wat die Bybel letterlik interpreteer, veral die Pinkster-charismatiese kerke, uitgekryt as ’n oortreding en geestelike afwyking. Dit word beskou as sondige, “onnatuurlike” handelinge wat kan lei tot goddelike oordeel terwyl ander so ver gaan om te beweer dat seksuele aktiwiteite tussen lede van dieselfde geslag demonies is en “nie eie aan Afrika is nie”. Dit is hoofsaaklik weens die algemeen aanvaarde sienings en aannames volgens binarisme dat God, volgens die Bybel, die mens óf manlik óf vroulik geskape het. Hierdie binêre siening oor gender is in ’n groot mate in die Suid-Afrikaanse godsdiensgemeenskap gehandhaaf terwyl genderdiversiteit geïgnoreer is. Mense wat interseksueel gebore is, is gedwing om volgens hierdie binêre siening oor gender te leef. Die gendertweedeligheid veroorsaak dat transgendermense as ’n probleem beskou word en dat genderdiverse mense uitgesluit word. Genderidentiteit word algemeen aanvaar as ’n mens se persoonlike besef van manlik wees, vroulik wees, van beide of die ander geslag wees. Dit kan ooreenstem met die biologiese geslag waarmee ’n persoon gebore is, maar dit hoef nie. As gevolg van die gendertweedeligheid wat heteroseksistiese teologiese standpunte aanmoedig, word preke van die mees konserwatiewe Christelike preekstoele gelewer met die doel dat nie-heteroseksuele lidmate sal bely, “verlos” sal word en deur die krag van God verander sal word. Sulke preke word deur sommige beskou as neerhalend en diskriminerend teenoor mense met ’n LGBTIQ-seksualiteit. Hulle argument is gebaseer op die veronderstelling dat hierdie kerke nie homoseksuele lidmate se belewings in ag neem nie, maar eerder aandring op ’n letterlike hermeneutiese benadering van Bybelverklaring en die tradisionele heteropatriargale sienings wat aan die Bybelse wêreldbeskouing toegeskryf word. Boonop veronderstel sulke sienings dat menslike seksualiteit slegs die heteroseksuele perspektief as ’n godsdienstige en sosiale norm begunstig. Homoseksuele persone ervaar ’n negatiewe impak van stigmatisering en viktimisering weens patriargale, heteronormatiewe en cisnormatiewe gemeenskappe. Daar word selfs aangevoer dat hierdie gemeenskappe deur die hegemoniese manlike ingesteldheid oorheers word. Volgens hierdie studie het internasionale en Suid-Afrikaanse navorsing bevind dat uitsluiting en ander vorms van diskriminasie wat gebaseer is op seksuele oriëntasie en homoseksuele genderidentiteit, ’n beduidend negatiewe uitwerking kan hê. Diskriminasie wat op seksuele oriëntasie gebaseer is, lewer dieselfde risiko’s op vir sielkundige en ander skade as diskriminasie wat gebaseer is op ras, godsdiens en geslag. Dit is opmerklik dat navorsing onder jongmense, wat reeds as homo- of biseksueel identifiseer of wat dink dat hulle dalk homo- of biseksueel kan wees, bevind het dat verwerping en uitsluiting deur familie, asook afknouery deur hulle portuurgroep, ’n hoë korrelasie toon met ’n verskeidenheid hoërisikogedrag en uitkomste wat wissel van skool- of werkversuim tot middelmisbruik tot selfdoodpogings. Baie van die bewyse toon dat hierdie stigmatisering in Afrika lei tot diepgewortelde en wydverspreide vooroordeel, diskriminasie en geweld teenoor mense wat nie heteroseksueel is nie. Verder lei heelwat gay en lesbiese persone aan stres weens swak behandeling aan die hand van ’n homofobiese samelewing, veral wanneer hulle met godsdienstige veroordeling gekonfronteer word. Openbare godsdienstige toesprake lei moontlik nie net tot ernstige sielkundige gevolge nie, maar hou ook sosiale gevolge in omdat sulke toesprake moontlik ’n sterk element van vernedering en afkraking kan bevat wat kan lei tot korrektiewe verkragting, afknouery en verkleinering. Godsdienstige homofobiese toesprake kan polarisasie in die gemeenskap veroorsaak omdat mense onbewustelik die verskuilde agenda aanvaar wat ten doel het om te wys dat mense wat nie aan die heteroseksuele norm voldoen nie, minderwaardig is en vermy moet word. Navorsing en waarneming het bevind dat daar na gay en lesbiese mense verwys word as “verfoeilik” en “onnatuurlik”, en dit kan neerkom op godsdienstige haatspraak. Na aanleiding van wat beskou word as ’n godsdiens-geïnspireerde homofobie, het die LGBTIQ-kerklidmate en -aktiviste begin beswaar maak teen hulle kerke. Sommige het die kerk verlaat terwyl ander verkies het om “in die kas” te bly en selibaat te lewe sodat hulle deur die Christen-gemeenskap aanvaar kan word en aan kerkaktiwiteite kan deelneem. In ander gevalle ervaar sommige LGBTIQ-lidmate, wat nog nie “uit” is nie en wat lidmate van Pinkster-charismatiese kerke is, verhoogde homo-negatiwiteit wanneer anti-gaygevoelens uitgespreek word. Daarom is die doelwit van hierdie studie om kwessies, wat verband hou met gender, die reg en godsdienstige diskoerse, te ondersoek teen die agtergrond van ’n gekose Christelike denominasie –die Grace Bible Church in Johannesburg, Suid-Afrika. Hierdie studie is interdissiplinêr omdatdit geplaas word in die velde van Christelike teologie, die sosiale konsep van menslike seksualiteit binne ’n spesifieke interdissiplinêre dimensie op die kruispunt tussen gender, die reg en godsdiens. Die onderlinge verband tussen die opvattings oor gender, die reg en godsdiens is die grondslag van hierdie studie. Dit is tersaaklik omdat, uit ’n historiese oogpunt, die reg en godsdiens aanvaar word as die basiese grondslag van die universele opvatting oor die erkenning van die inherente waardigheid van mense en van die gelyke en onvervreembare regte van alle lede van die menslike familie. Sulke wette vorm die grondslag van vryheid, geregtigheid en die soeke na geluk deur alle lede van die menslike familie in die wêreld. Hierdie wette is ook vervat in die liberale Grondwet van die Republiek van Suid-Afrika, 1996. In Hoofstuk 2 Afdeling 9 van die Handves van Regte, erken en beskerm die Suid-Afrikaanse Grondwet die menseregte van LGBTIQ-persone en bepaal dat daar nie op grond van hulle seksuele oriëntasie of genderidentiteit teen hulle gediskrimineer mag word nie. Alhoewel daar blykbaar ’n mate van spanning bestaan oor die interpretasie van die Grondwet se definisie van godsdiensvryheid, staan dit kerke oor die algemeen klaarblyklik vry om die voorwaardes van hulle geloof en kerklidmaatskap te formuleer en hulle is vry van staatsinmenging en leerstellige komplisering soos sake wat met geloof verband hou, voorskryf. Daarom word hierdie kwessies deur hierdie studie oorweeg en daar word gefokus op menslike seksualiteit, teologiese en regsopvattings oor menslike waardigheid, menslike vooruitgang en regspraak oor menseregte.
Thesis (MTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.
Sexual minorities, Grace Bible Church, Soweto, Religion and law, Dignity, Gender, UCTD