Siya Khumalo | Culture War Warning: Could the ACDP Grow Like EFF, FF+?

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ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe.
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe.
Conrad Bornman

If the ACDP mobilises Christians into opposing pro-LGBTI policy, it would have confronted their complacency for allowing "godlessness" (not unConstitutionality) in South Africa, writes Siya Khumalo. 

The ACDP and other stakeholders appeal to the Bible, religion, and culture when discussing aspects of the Hate Crimes Bill and the Western Cape Education Department's draft policy on gender identity and sexual identity.

While policy can contain religion, it's difficult to have policy sponsored or contained by religion. Faith is rarely practiced consistently even by its adherents.  What instead happens is one group (eg LGBTI people) is picked on for civil marginalisation by believers who, while hypocritically violating less popular rules, use the marginalised group as scapegoats.

Nevertheless, the ACDP wants the Western Cape's draft policy to be consulted on by groups the DA-led province could deem hostile. I initially opposed the ACDP about this on theological and sociological grounds, but ACDP MP Marie Sukers raised procedural issues as well:

  • The draft policy would be impractical to implement for schools in communities with varying economic resources;
  • The Department could instead assist principals deal with such issues on a case-by-case basis;
  • The guidelines uncritically accept a particular gender ideology;
  • This is a governance issue of national interest in that the processes by which these guidelines were developed involved poor, even secretive, consultation; and, 
  • Without a detailed socio-economic impact assessment, policy is sentiment and applies limited resources to an unending list of problems.

READ | RIGHT OF REPLY | No lies: Why ACDP is protesting Western Cape school gender policy

It's tempting to think that the ACDP will never grow into a large party and there's no need to engage their positions seriously. But the ACDP represents more than just the South Africans who vote for them; possibly 75% of South Africans view their policy positions as a God-given way of life. They harbour anxieties that they've capitulated to secularism.

Churches following the ACDP 

If canvassed as Sukers suggests, they'll likely side with the ACDP. Any progress or delays in the rollout of LGBTI-friendly policy will "prove" that God has placed the responsibility for saving South Africa from the corruption of its existing leaders in the hands of Christians who'll think the country's current ills are the result, not of elected leaders violating the Constitution, but of Christians neglecting God's ways.  

Intentionally deployed or not, this is a move from the culture war playbook that Sukers speaks against yet follows. I foresee churches following the ACDP on it. 

Where Sukers has a point is that democratic procedurality matters. I'd add that just as important is the coherence and consistency of laws and policies.  Popularity without consistency and other legal philosophy requirements is majoritarian populism; consistency without people's inputs is the rule of courts, ivory-towered parliamentarians, and policy experts. Beyond this specific policy conflict, however, do the ACDP's policies present a coherent and consistent alternative to a Constitution that fully enshrines the rights of LGBTI persons?  

Read | Siya Khumalo | Every letter in the ACDP's name is a lie

"The family is an institution worthy of nurturing and protecting," these policies say. "It is the ideal setting for teaching a child about godly authority, obedience, and love which are the foundations for a strong nation (Deuteronomy 6:6 — 9)."  

The word Deuteronomy means "copy" or "repetition" of the Law of Moses, an ancient legal text with a clause often referred to as the "curse of the law". It says: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." It's discussed by the Apostle Paul as well as Christ's half-brother, the Apostle James: "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it."

ACDP is possibly right about procedure followed 

So how is Deuteronomy 6 enforced? "If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son... all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you."  You can't appeal to Deuteronomy 6 (of all texts) as the basis of your view on families without this rule.

The three separate issues here are that the ACDP is possibly right about the procedure followed by the Western Cape. It may be correct on administrative costs and priorities — but why this issue, and why at this time, when there are interventions less needful, more fruitless and more wasteful for them to pick on?  Why, when LGBTI people are being killed, if not to climb higher into power over our dead bodies?  

The third issue is theological and scientific. Procedurality and cost-effectiveness can't be final arguments because the ACDP has to further justify Sukers' reduction of gender and sexual science to "ideology" and "gender dysmorphia". Failing this, there’s a moral and Constitutional duty to support the draft policy.

On the theology, difficulties with the Law of Moses are seen in the churches' struggles with ethics, contraceptives, and the like. The daughter of an ACDP MP once told me if the party were in power condoms would be sellable. How would the ACDP decide where to draw the line on "sin" when some churches push the envelope further?  Religious disagreements are not private club matters when there are public representatives and office-bearers whose policies are steeped in religion. 

LGBTI scapegoat for society's imagined sins 

Heterosexual teenagers who get zero sex education still catch glimpses of what to expect in movies: are we ready to read religious moralism into a ban on any exposure that could help them cope with their futures as well, or do we just scapegoat LGBTI people for society's real and imagined sins? The ACPD learned not to play with the social majority's pet “sins” when Contralesa called on South Africans to celebrate May 8 as Ancestor Day: the ACDP said South Africa needs God and not dead ancestors. One reading of the Bible certainly supports this position. Facing backlash, the Reverend Kenneth Meshoe spin-doctored and now headlines have him saying Jesus practiced democracy and his party's real complaints were the economic impact of another public holiday.  

Was the Jesus of the New Testament democratic? His followers called him Adonai and Kyrios, "King of kings and Lord of lords", and he's quoted saying, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life: no one comes to the Father except through me."  As philosophy professor Greg Boyd explains, "The definite article before 'way', 'truth' and 'life' precludes any other ways to God, any other truths about God, and any other means of receiving life from God."

Boyd is a Protestant philosopher; Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft also describes the tension between the Bible’s claims and democracy when he writes that modernism worships, "... democracy and resents the fact that God is an absolute monarch."  How absolute, you ask?  According to Romans 9, you may not be allowed to even do that when faced with the possibility that God predestined your choices from eternity past: "One of you will say to me, ‘Then why does God still find fault? For who can resist his will?’  But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?"

The ACDP's opposition to the Western Cape's draft policy rests on its own Christian policies. Those policies cherry-picked from the Bible. The Bible says no cherry-picking allowed. But as long as a critical mass of people, some of the Bible, can be used to control the godless "other" as a sacrifice to a God who's judging our moral compromise, we'll forget how a version of christianity appealed to the Romans 9 verse just mentioned to form an anti-democratic theology that justified apartheid. 

I believe the Bible is a divinely inspired text written in a socio-political context that explains its counter-democratic statements, but this contextualisation also explains what the Bible says about gender and sexual diversity. This undermines the ACDP's position on LGBTI people.

- Siya Khumalo is the author of You Have To Be Gay To Know God (2018). He is also a Mr Gay South Africa runner-up and Mr Gay World Top 10 finalist.

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