equality---web

 

This week we’re looking at Sectarian views of Family life and how they circumvent the aims of Human Rights and Gender Equality, specifically around marriage.

According to every major religion and traditional belief system in South Africa, marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman, with the family household headed by a man. This is based on “Normative Gender roles” and results in what many Christian groups publicise as the “Natural Family”. The use of natural family is to exclude legal marriages between same-sex couples and deem them as unnatural. The legalisation of same-sex marriages is touted by sectarian groups as an assault on traditional values (or religious morals) and a direct attempt at persecuting “religious followers”.

“The rise of feminism and the “gay rights” movement coincided with the death of the natural family.” Errol Naidoo, Family Policy Institute. 

With Christianity being the most popular religion in South Africa, secularism is framed as the designated enemy of the Judeo-Christian ‘God’. Secular humanism is often mislabelled and misrepresented as a religion which is being forced on people in an attempt to oppress them and their beliefs. The ideals of humanism are seen as dogma, and the rights embodied within those ideals as opposed to Christian morals and values. This includes any rights which do not reinforce a sectarian view, for instance the “right to marry without discrimination of gender orientation”, or (at extremes) the equal role of women in society.

“Secular humanists will stop at nothing to achieve their dream of complete sexual license. The only thing standing in their way is the pesky Judeo-Christian moral value system.” – Errol Naidoo, Family Policy Institute 

Errol Naidoo is the President of the Family Policy Institute, one of the most active and vocal sectarian organisations in South Africa, advocating for a “return” to a Judeo-Christian centric government and social order. Their mission statement at first sounds noble:

“Family Policy Institute believes marriage and the family is the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FPI endeavors to shape public debate and formulate public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family…”

But this quickly turns to their actual agenda :

“… Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FPI promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.”

Taking a further look on their website at the news section, it becomes clear that FPI is against the progress of the practice of equitable Human Rights by all, and position secular humanism as their enemy and in opposition to their Christian beliefs.

FPI and other Christian sectarian groups highlight homosexuality as a weapon against the natural family, polarising Christians against equal gender rights; while undermining other gender rights and objectives of the Constitution. The language used by sectarian groups is, more often than not, emotional, inflammatory and provocative in the extreme. Even when the law is being adjusted to accomplish a more equitable alignment to “Equal Rights” for all, and when those rights do not affect the lives of stoic religious believers, sectarian groups are the most vocal critics.

This focus and vehement public response to homosexuals being recognised and treated as equal citizens, completely ignores many other genders (Trans-gender, bi-sexual, intersex, etc..), and excludes the realities of gender equality issues in our society. However, this creates a subversive distraction from the male-centric and patriarchal agenda that sectarian groups are also advocating for – The return of women to their place in the household, as submissive to their husbands.

“… Had churches not been excluded from the application of the Bill, it would have made the State rather than the Bible the highest authority on the roles of men and women in the Church, and indirectly also then in the home…” Freedom of Religion South Africa – Issues: Gender Equality

And reinforced by women working within these groups:

“… In most of Society, and even within the Church, the depth and breadth of what it means to be a keeper at home is overlooked. The minimization of this role has been a priority of the feminist movement for decades. Being a godly wife and mother, or a single Christian woman desiring to marry is considered old fashioned. The empty charm of feminism lures many a woman away from the true fulfilment that God intended when He created her…” Lenora Hammond, Christian Action 

Beyond same-sex marriages, sectarian groups are also against sex before marriage, divorce, abortion and contraception, they see these as going against the natural family and God’s plan. They avoid addressing issues of physical and sexual abuse, rape, families in financial crisis and the multi-cultural society that South Africa is. Yet, sectarian groups would rather put blame on gender equality movements, the activities of secular humanist ideals embodied in an egalitarian society, than actually present real solutions. While social problems are used to indicate the threat feminist and gay rights movements pose, sectarian groups avoid mentioning social realities especially those showing that an increasing number of Christians are being or have been publicly implicated in sexual scandals and cases of abuse.

Sectarian groups profess that instating their particular religious values would solve all these problems, that their morals are tested and absolute. They ignore actual social conditions like the increase in poverty, that the world is in an economic slow down, that sexual exploitation and abuse has been present for decades – and most likely went unreported because women had fewer rights, or that religion has been used to oppress men and woman, and persecute people of non-normative gender orientation. This is hardly surprising when the typical message from religious groups is:

“People need to know that God is a just God and that what happened to them will be punished. Either the perpetrator will be punished (whether in this life or in the next) or he will confess and repent of his sin and allow Jesus to take his punishment. The choice is his. Likewise, forgiving our perpetrators is a choice many victims of abuse must make in order to find healing.” Sexual Abuse Article, New Living Way Ministry

When global statistics show secular countries as the most peaceful, having lower divorce rates, teen pregnancies, crime rates (including sexual and physical abuse) and higher levels of prosperity, should we even be entertaining sectarian ideals as a solution to social problems affecting family?

 

(All quotes link back to the original articles and sites.)

 

 

The issues that we’re exploring are sensitive and complex, we don’t want to alienate anyone. That said, we also don’t want to blame sectarian groups or specific religions for social problems. We do want to explore and show how the mixed messages coming from sectarian groups, are creating confusion and detracting from how secular governments are trying to solve real social problems, and further the work towards Human Rights in practice.