Homophobic pastor has a market in SA

Gugulethu Mhlungu
Gugulethu Mhlungu

I am, like many others who had lobbied the home affairs department, happy that US racist, homophobe and all-round dangerous man and bigot Pastor Steven Anderson – head of the Faithful Word Baptist Church, based in Arizona, US – has been banned from entering South Africa and the UK.

I hope that by the time you read this, Botswana will have responded to calls to follow suit and deny him entry, because he is scheduled to visit our neighbour towards month-end.

Not only should Botswana act against him, but the country should also re-examine its normalised and legalised discrimination against same-sex individuals, which can include their having to serve jail time.

Worldwide, there remains much work to be done for queer individuals to fully enjoy their rights and live in safety.

However, what concerns me is why Anderson thought he could come here – and what that says about us. His event was not going to happen in a dark corner.

Violence and prejudice often occur in plain sight, with some people loudly concurring and others, who pretend it is not happening, proclaiming: “It is none of my business.”

Anderson, who advocates death for queer people, knew he would have an audience here that would resonate with his message.

That is how and why he was invited here in the first place.

Anderson is not unique; neither is the use of religion to justify prejudice and violence.

Workplaces, schools, universities and communities showing bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people (LGBTIQ) – and, in particular, poor queer and female queer people – do so in a society that has made varying forms of heterosexism normal.

Discrimination is often disguised as a harmless “rational” and “normal” thought which is part of culture and tradition.

It is hard to accept that in a violently patriarchal society such as South Africa, with a history of abuse meted out against vulnerable groups, we genuinely believe in the human rights and dignity of queer people.

The harassment and assault of queer bodies tells us otherwise.

And while it is imperative that Christianity’s own heterosexual cisgendered sexism be examined, it is dishonest to pretend that Christianity and overtly dangerous men like Anderson are the problem.

The idea of tolerance is not useful here either.

It is not for non-queer people to “tolerate” queer people – that makes respecting the latter’s rights sound as if allowing LGBTIQ people to live their lives is a great act of kindness or selflessness, when it is not.

It is simply a non-negotiable.

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