This is an independent blog and is not affiliated with any particular church, group or conference. The term Bruderthaler refers to a specific ethnic or cultural Mennonite heritage, not to any particular organized group. All statements and opinions are solely those of the contributor(s). Blog comprises notebook fragments from various research projects and discussions. Dialogue, comment and notice of corrections are welcomed. Much of this content is related to papers and presentations that might be compiled at a future date, as such, this blog serves as a research archive rather than as a publication. 'tag

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Burning Passions in Southern Africa

May we be willing reapers of the Word, not Sowers only!

(c) Matthew Wettlaufer, The Murder of Matthew Shepherd*
    Sometimes readers’ responses can take you a little bit by surprise.  In that potential readers have been fairly warned that these essays are exercises in free-style thinking rather than stated opinions, I find it pretty easy to not take things too personally, but once in a while a negative reaction forces you to delve a bit deeper in to a topic.  Such is the case with a short paragraph written on Ludovic-Mohamed Zaheb’s intention to found a gay and feminist-friendly mosque in Paris, France ( see:  French Mosques for Women and Gays? ).

    The phrase, or I will admit, paragraph in question is as follows:
Not that we can be too hard on them.  News coverage also indicates numerous Anglo-American Fundamentalist leaders stumbling over the question of whether or not practicing gays should face the Biblical death penalty – a situation American-backed “Christian” conservatives in Uganda seem too close to implanting.  (Try placing that one in the Minnesota constitution!)
    'Them' referring to violent anti-gay Islamic Fundamentalists in Europe and North Africa.  

    The point of contention being whether or not anti-gay, often border-line hate legislation in some of Africa’s more volatile nations is being generated and funded by Fundamentalist anti-gay Christian groups out of the United States.  In this case, the clear answer is yes – in fact, many of the more extreme anti-gay Evangelical groups in the United States openly brag about their activities in Africa on their websites.

Pierre et Gilles, St Sebastien (1987)
    I will carefully state that whether or not you feel homosexuality to be a sin, and whether or not you feel that a gay or lesbian person can be a Christian, the political interference of such Evangelical groups in volatile situations such as Africa, incur a direct responsibility for the impact of these activities in the lives of real, everyday Africans – and that whether or not you are a supporter of gay rights, in continuing to support, nay, in not speaking out against such activities, the Evangelical church movement in the United States must accept responsibility for the blood, the murders, the ruined lives and massive prison sentences, bullying and abuse of the victims of this home-grown USA Evangelical propaganda. 
    It is one thing for Salvation Army leaders in the West to indicate that they believe homosexuals should be killed, for American political religious leaders to claim that hurricanes are the judgment of God for tolerating homosexuality, or groups such as the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) to claim that gays and lesbians must be excluded from society, or that AIDS is a “gay disease” – in the West.  But to purposefully spread such teachings and propaganda into places such as Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, Sudan, Congo … places where such political rhetoric is likely to be believed and implemented literally, these church groups must accept the simplicity of the situation wherein Christ’s church has gone from being martyred to supporting the killing.
    As an internationalist, I would go so far as to state that in crossing international boundaries with such propagandist intent, these groups and individuals ought to become liable to the World Court for their activities and be able to be sued by the victims in their home states and nations.  The activities of such groups under such circumstances becomes uncomfortably difficult to distinguish from similar activities by the Wahabi schools of the Middle East or anti-feminist, anti-gay groups in Afghanistan, Indonesia or southern Africa.      
   As always, I feel that it is important for readers to do their own research and to reach their own opinions.  My concern with this topic is that many persons are aware of neither the facts on the ground (in this case, in Africa), nor the real-life impact what we consider to be a political opinion in the United States and Canada, can have on real persons who are murdered, maimed or imprisoned under harsh conditions elsewhere.  The question in the United States is more-or-less should you be forced to work with gays and lesbians or to allow homosexual couples to be married – a question of social justice.  The same question is often understood in other nations as whether or not a gay person or lesbian should be killed, maimed, raped, imprisoned, tortured or forced into exile from their homeland, their family, their church and their loved ones. 
    To me, the key question is whether or not the American Evangelical individual is willing to place his or herself into the situation personally and directly in Africa and to bear direct responsibility for the victims of these opinions in their real life consequences.  If your conviction falls short of this, then my argument is that we need to stay out of the debate entirely.  If your conscience calls for you to thus continue in your conviction, then that is a matter between you and your lord.  I am not sure that a Peace church or its organs (being the MCC and the various missions bureaus) can support these convictions in the manner in which they are being interpreted in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other regions, and maintain the integrity of their ministry or even their peace identity.  MCC’s position against gays and lesbians then becomes something similar to “we oppose violence and the literally bashing in the heads of those with whom you disagree, that is unless they are gay – in that case, go ahead and give them a good kick and lashing for us as well.”  Is that the MCC mission we all wish to portray to the world?  It is not the MCC with which I grew up.
    As evangelical Christians, we believe that we are sowing the Good News of the Lord in the fertile expanses of the Mission Field.  While we are all entitled to our opinions and our politics, one shouldn’t confuse one’s political platform with the Gospel.  We need to vigilantly watch what we are putting out there in the name of Christ and of his Church.  Be careful what we sow, lest we reap the consequences.
    Just my thoughts.  And yes, I definitely understand and respect those with whom I disagree – I just ask that you fully consider the consequences of your political beliefs and aspirations on the real day lives of others.

‘tag.  Bruderthaler

(c) Melanie Nathan.  Gay Flag South Africa meeting with ANC, 2012.
Melanie Nathan article on African National Congress and Gay Flag South Africa meeting 30 Aug 2012
 Matthew Wettlaufer series honoring gay martyrs 

References for USA role in Anti-anti-gay violence in southern Africa:

American Evangelicals often leave little doubt as to their faith.
Smith, David J. - What is it about Africa and gay people? (25 Jan 2010)

May-Chang, Jody - Exporting Homophobia (08 Sept 2008)

Note to fellow students: – I am definitely interested in the impact Rawlsian thought might have in this situation if applied under a more secular, less religious context.  I believe that such strains of thought would naturally lead to different questions in additional areas even beyond social justice to considerations of the fear and motivations behind the concept of the world court and international justice and its application or pertinence to individual national foreign policies, which would then circle back and bring up questions of Mennonite participation in the magistracy and whether MCC should maintain a secular ethnic role or seek to spread religious ideals to those to whom it ministers. 
    Secondly, I believe that this situation brings up questions relating to the MCC and the concept of the Christian or religious witness.  If you are going to be a social justice witness – what is the relationship between remaining silent on an issue and being an advocate?  How do you choose to be active, passive or silently aggressive?  Does being silent on issues such as anti-gay violence in Congo, South Africa and Uganda remove discipleship Christians such as the Mennonites and Brethren from an identification with the suffering Christ and place us rather in the power position of Pilate or even Herod  who either remained silent or gave leave for others to do what they felt was right?  What are the demarcation points?  How can we speak up for puppy dogs and women’s rights but not for the rights and safety of the LGBT population?  What are the points of similarity or dissimilarity that make us morally and spiritually comfortable in our decision(s)?

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