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Hermeneutics and the Debate on Homosexuality in Africa

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  • 1 Harry and Hazel Chavanne Chair in Christian Theology and Professor of Religion, Rice University, Houston, Texas, USAbongmba@rice.edu
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In this essay, I discuss hermeneutical approaches to the debate on homosexuality in the African context. I argue that the hermeneutics of Rudolf Bultmann offers a way of understanding the debate. I start with a general discussion of the response to homosexuality in Africa and follow that with a narration of perspectives from church leaders in Africa and proceed to discuss the work of Bultmann and in the last section apply the hermeneutical insights to point a way forward.

Abstract

In this essay, I discuss hermeneutical approaches to the debate on homosexuality in the African context. I argue that the hermeneutics of Rudolf Bultmann offers a way of understanding the debate. I start with a general discussion of the response to homosexuality in Africa and follow that with a narration of perspectives from church leaders in Africa and proceed to discuss the work of Bultmann and in the last section apply the hermeneutical insights to point a way forward.

ELCT, as an LWF member, declares that our church will not be ready to entertain exchangeability of Ministers who are in same-sex marriage relations or their supporters or fanatics. Plainly, ELCT will not welcome anyone living in or supporting same sex marriage or relation to work in this Church. ELCT remains firm and cannot change its position on this matter and thus solicitation, financial conditionality and undue pressure are not acceptable.1

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania

1. Introduction

Homosexuality is a divisive topic in African Christianity and some churches treat homosexuals “aliens.”2 Some church leaders in Africa blame the Ebola virus disease on homosexuality.3 Homosexuality is now a litmus test for ecclesial independence from Western influences and culture although Western Christians support some anti-gay rhetoric in Africa. I begin this essay by discussing homosexuality in Africa, examining mostly positions taken by key political and religious leaders. I next discuss Rudolf Bultmann’s hermeneutics and his insights on New Testament theology as strategies for reading texts that address homosexuality. I will analyze two biblical passages to highlight the possibility of reading these texts differently as a basis for amicable dialogue. The methodology used in this essay is critical reflection and an exercise on interpretation. In turning to the texts of Bultmann, I do not claim that his hermeneutics resolves all the questions on homosexuality. I merely return to classic studies of New Testament to stress the historicity of texts in the faith community. This approach does not neglect exciting direction in African biblical scholarship, postcolonial perspectives, and studies of the Bible and gender in Africa.4

2. Homosexuality in Africa5

The debate on homosexuality in Africa today is exhilarating but also frightening because homosexuals, like Ugandan gay rights activist, David Kato, have been killed. Yet there is progress in the study of homosexuality because we now know that it is a life style of choice for some Africans.6 Over thirty-seven countries in Africa prohibit and criminalize homosexuality.7 African politicians and clergy have played a leading role in criticizing homosexuality. The former President of Zambia, Frederick Chiluba who declared Zambia a Christian country described homosexuality as an abnormal practice and claimed:

Homosexuality is the deepest level of depravity … That homosexuals are free to do as they please in the West does not mean they must be free to do the same here. There will be no end to the demand for rights as soon as they are permitted. There will also be no end to diseases … the things they do would multiply the rate of the spread of AIDS, which was first spotted among American sodomites in the first place … For a country like ours, beset by increasing problems of development, homosexuality as a constitutional right would simply bring the whole republic to its back, belly up.8

Chiluba demonized homosexuality, denied sexual rights, attributed diseases to homosexuality, accused Americans of being the ones who promote it in Africa, and argued that homosexuality would hinder development in Africa. These claims are inaccurate. In Namibia, former President Sam Nujoma supported the uprooting of homosexuals from society, claiming that it was Europeans who supported homosexuality because it is not natural and is inhuman.9

In Kenya, former President Daniel Arap Moi described homosexuality a scourge that violates African traditions and the teachings of Christianity. Homosexuals have been arrested and detained in many African countries. In Malawi, Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were arrested and charged with committing “unnatural offenses.”10 They were sentenced to serve prison terms of 14 years for practicing homosexuality in Malawi. International condemnation and pressure made the then Malawian President, Bingu wa Mutharika to pardon them on humanitarian grounds. He announced the pardon at a press conference attended by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. UN Secretary General praised the decision to release them. He called on Malawi to repeal laws that criminalize people because of their sexuality, arguing that criminalizing homosexuality would make it difficult for gays and lesbians to seek help and this could compromise prevention against HIV/AIDS.

In Tanzania, more than 40 gay and Lesbian activists were rounded up on charged with debauchery in 2009. Burundi passed a law in April 2009 criminalizing homosexuality. The same legislation that proscribed homosexuality contained provisions to protect human rights, abolish the death penalty, and outlaw torture, war, genocide and other crimes against humanity. Eight men were sentenced to eight years in prison for their involvement in a criminal organization and committing acts against the order of nature. The appeals court overturned the verdict, but 30 men were arrested and charged with homosexual behavior.

In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe criticized churches which recognize same-sex marriages, and said gay rights would not be included in a new constitution being written for the southern African country. “Some of the churches have very beautiful buildings but go against the Bible,” Mugabe told tens of thousands attending the annual pilgrimage of the Johane Masowe religious group.11 In Cameroon, people suspected of being homosexuals have been beaten, arrested, locked up without charge and denied services given to people infected with the HIV AIDS. In 2008, a Cameroonian court sentenced 3 individuals convicted of homosexuality to a 6 month prison term with hard labor. Egypt, Gambia, Uganda, Sudan, and Nigeria also criminalize homosexuality. In Senegal, people suspected of being homosexuals have been beaten. It is also reported that mobs have pulled out the corpse of a gay man from his grave, spat on it and then dumped that corpse in the house of the person’s parents. In other parts of the continent, those who hate homosexuals have created an environment where it is “normal” to kill a homosexual and get away with it. In South Africa where gay rights have been a shining example of the possibilities for a new kind of society, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS, Eudy Simelane an open lesbian who was also a member of the female football team, Banyana Banyana, was kidnapped, gang raped, beaten, and stabbed to death in the outskirts of Johannesburg. More than 31 lesbians have been murdered in South Africa since 1998.12

The most public confrontation on homosexuality has taken place in Uganda. In October 2009, David Bahati, a member of Parliament from the ruling party of President Yoweri Museveni, tabled an anti-homosexuality bill in the Parliament calling the death penalty for what was described as “aggravated homosexuality” in which an HIV positive man practice homosexuality with a disabled individual or a minor, considered to be below 18. World leaders criticized this move and President Museveni, fearing international repercussions did not push the bill forward. The bill was controversial in all respects because it also amended current provisions to make it illegal for anyone to promote homosexual behavior through writing or talking about it. The Bill called on citizens to report any one they suspected of being a homosexual. The sponsors of the bill claimed that the law was necessary to protect the culture of the people of Uganda and push back the work of sexual rights advocates that encouraged promiscuity in the country. Bahati responded to criticism by telling the Observer: “The section of the death penalty relates to defilement by an adult who is homosexual and this is consistent with the law on defilement which was passed in 2007. The whole intention is to prevent the recruitment of under-age children, which is going on in single-sex schools. We must stop the recruitment and secure the future of our children.”13

Some Ugandan Church leaders, including Pastor Ssempa of the Makerere Church in Kampala supported the bill. In the West the media criticized Archbishop Rowan Williams of the Anglican Communion for not criticizing the Ugandan Anti-Homosexual Act.14 The United States Department of State persuaded the Ugandan government to drop the Bill and Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton said that there would be consequences if the Act became law in Uganda. The Center for Global Health Policy gathered over 1,400 signatures from health officials who criticized the Ugandan move and argued such legislation would promote discrimination against People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIA) and further compromise the relationship between patients and health care delivery personnel.

Critics of the bill claimed that anti-homosexuality in Africa was driven by zealous American evangelical missionaries. Californian pastor, Rick Warren was mentioned as one of those instigating the debate in Uganda, but he denied any involvement. It was widely reported that before tabling his bill, Ugandan Legislator, Bahati met with anti-gay activists from the United States of America at a conference in Uganda, and they pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality from Uganda. The Observer reports that it was during this conference that Bahati wrote his bill. Therefore, US Evangelicals provided a context. Other attendees included Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, who in a coauthored book, titled The Pink Swastika, claimed that Nazi leaders were gay, also attended the meeting, as well as Don Schmierer of Exodus International, who believes and encourages homosexuals to overcome their practice and become saved.

Although Pastor Rick Warren denied any involvement with the bill, he indicated that he would not hesitate to speak on moral issues. He described the bill as “unjust, extreme, and un-Christian toward homosexuals.” Bahati expressed regret that the influential Rick Warren surrendered to pressure. As some Ugandans continued the anti-homosexuality fight, two hundred representatives of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda called on Uganda to cut off diplomatic ties with ungodly countries such as the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Canada for imposing homosexuality in Uganda. Human rights activists like Gerald Sentogo argued that the bill was a clear violation of human rights. Another human rights activist, John Bosco Nyombi fled Uganda to escape police harassment.

3. The African Church and Anti-Homosexuality

African bishops denounced the practice of homosexuality at the African Anglican Church meeting at Entebbe.15 At the conference, the Archbishop of the Province of Nigeria, argued that the church has always had differences. He added: “Homosexuality is not a new phenomenon in the society but the only trouble is that the issues dividing us (church) now are very difficult to handle. They are threatening the unity of the church because they disobey the authority of the scriptures.”16 He charged that supporters of homosexuality prioritize culture over the Bible. Speaking at the joint meeting of the Church of Uganda and the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) attended by some 400 bishops, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda said:

We are saying homosexuality is not compatible with the word of God. We are saying that this culture of other people is against the traditional belief of marriage held by the Anglican Communion … Homosexuality is evil, abnormal and unnatural as per the Bible. It is a culturally unacceptable practice. Although there is a lot of pressure, we cannot turn our hands to support it.17

These statements bolstered efforts to criminalize homosexuality in Uganda at the time and later in Nigeria where anti-homosexual bills were passed into law.

The position of some African Churches on this matter cannot be discussed in isolation of global religious concerns and dialogue. On 5 August 2003, The Triennial General Convection of the Episcopal Church USA, a member of the Anglican Communion announced the ordination of the Reverend Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest to be the presiding bishop of New Hampshire.18 William Sachs has argued that accepting homosexual lifestyle by some members of the clergy heightened the crisis and threatened Anglican unity.19 Sachs argues: “It became a severe test of Anglicanism’s capacity to embrace varieties of religious outlook and expression in consistent ways. The church that prided itself on unity amid diversity faced the threat of division. The crisis over homosexuality became a crossroads for the Anglican world.”20 The parties have used culture and the Bible to support their claims. Among African Anglicans, the Most Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, the retired primate of the Anglican Church in Nigeria championed the anti-homosexual group, rejecting what they consider liberalism and accommodation to social pressures by Western churches. This is a concern for the church because the African bishops have the numbers. About 41 percent of the Christians in Nigeria are Anglicans and 23 percent of Ugandan Christians are Anglicans making both countries home to a large number of people in the global Anglican Communion.

Sachs argues that one wing of the church has chosen to remain traditional and argued that sexual relations should be between a man and a woman.21 These people argue that homosexuality is wrong.22 Traditionalists now contest many social issues as an attempt to restore what they consider historic Christian teachings, engage in social action, and promote justice by preserving the traditional family. They have promoted anti-gay referendums in several states in the US.23 The progressives in the church tend to argue that the church should tolerate homosexuality. They have been influential in getting the Anglican Church in Canada to bless same sex unions. Progressives who look at controversial issues often reflect on how the church has handled an issue historically, especially in the case of the ordination of women. They also see their perspective as a stand for justice in the church.24

Some Anglicans have decided to boycott the Lambeth Conference. In 2007, they announced the formation of Global Anglican Future Conference, GAFCON. The Conference which met in Jerusalem in June 2008 was attended by delegates from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda with a representative of the Southern Cone in South America. In order to avoid problems they met in Jordan which is part of the Jerusalem diocese and made visits to Jerusalem. They seek affiliation with Jerusalem as a sign of legitimacy. Their gathering reflected the challenges faced by Anglicanism. The traditionalists argue that the Bible explicitly condemns homosexuality. The progressives argue that the broad message of the New Testament should be taken in its entirety since homosexuality was not the central issue in Paul’s letters. They call on the church to focus New Testament teachings on faith, justice, and mercy. This focus does not call for a strict control of one’s lifestyle, but invites individuals to think of themselves as part of a community that practices justice and all issues cannot be reduced to morality.

The Episcopal Church of the US has tried to seek a broad appeal to a progressive agenda. In a report prepared by a select committee, titled To Set Our Hope on Christ, presented in 2005 at the Anglican Consultative Council, the committee stated: “because we live in different cultural situations, not all biblical commandments or proscriptions apply simply or in the same way to anyone person or situation.”25 The report highlights the changes the churches faces today and makes the point that today, gay and lesbians are the ones who would have been considered outcasts. The report calls on the church to focus on the message of Christ without first condemning any one.26

As the debate rages, the literature that gives insights into same sex relations in Africa and how they are perceived, is growing.27 Homosexuals have no support in many areas. For example, in 2008, three activists for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities in Uganda were arrested and thrown in jail because they had protested the remarks made by the Chair of the Ugandan AIDS Commission, The Rt. Reverend Barnabas R. Halem’ Imana, Bishop Emeritus of Kabale. They did not agree with Bishop Halem’ Imana when he said that homosexuality is one of the drivers of HIV/AIDS and since his Commission had “meager resources [means] we cannot direct our programs to them at this time.”28 The claim that homosexuality was encouraging the spread of HIV/AIDS is contested by experts who have studied the pandemic in Africa. HIV/AIDS affects everybody and there is no conclusive study, other than earlier speculation, that blamed gays and lesbians for spreading HIV/AIDS.

One key voice that describes homosexuality as a Western disease, it is that of Pastor Martin Ssempa of the Makerere Community Church in Kampala. He has argued that certain Western practices such as homosexuality, abortion, prostitution, and pornography have affected the church negatively. Pastor Ssempa who is also a spokesperson for the Uganda Interfaith Rainbow Coalition, speaks regularly against homosexuality. He has led public rallies to encourage the government of Uganda to keep its tough laws against homosexuality.29 In 2008 he opposed attempts to include members of the gay and lesbian community in Kampala in the country’s HIV/AIDS program. He stated categorically: “Previous experience showed us that bringing homosexuals into campaigns against HIV only gives them a chance to propagate their illegal and unnatural acts.”30 He is accused of publishing the names of gays and lesbians in the local newspaper, a gross violation of privacy rights by any standard and sets them up for abuse in a context where they have been portrayed as enemies who ought to be eliminated. Western donors of HIV/AIDS relief have called for a greater analysis of his activities. Some American human rights organizations even suggested that Congress should cut PEPFAR funding from Ssempa’s HIV/AIDS programs.31 In 2014, the Ugandan Parliament passed the controversial anti-homosexual bill and President Museveni signed it into law, because “arrogant and careless Western groups had tried to recruit Ugandan children into homosexuality.”32

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act is important because it illustrates first how religion has been used to pass legislation that discriminates against a small section of the political community. The current fights over homosexuality make it difficult for religious communities to play a mediating role. Second, the Anti-Homosexuality Act raises the specter of extraversion. The economic decline in African countries has created a new wave of missions by a variety of donors, non-governmental organizations, (NGOs), private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) and Faith Based Organizations (FBOs). These new mission activities are important because the organizations fund activities in the African countries they work. African pastors like Ssempa are connected to the global networks that support their ministries. Ssempa admits most of the support for his work comes from outside Uganda and stated in an interview with the New Republic, that about “ninety-nine percent of our support comes from the U.S.33 He reportedly received US $60,000 from a church in Columbia, Maryland to buy land and build his church in Kampala. Since a majority of churches in the West who support these ministries hold anti-homosexual positions the African pastors they support have taken anti-homosexual positions also. This correlation does not rob the African pastors of the responsibility for their positions on homosexuality.

The anti-homosexual discourse in Africa is polarizing because some of Africa’s leading theologians have ignored the question of homosexuality, or oppose homosexuality.34 The journal, African Ecclesial Review published a special issue in which several authors argued that homosexuality was un-African and anti-scriptural and a taboo subject because it is not a sexual norm and goes against biblical principles.35 Scholars who have discussed it speak of the biblical role of the complementarity of men and women as a way of grounding the biblical institution of marriage and African culture.36 During the debate of the Nigerian bill to ban homosexuality, Archbishop Akinola issued a statement supporting the bill. He argued that the Bible forbids homosexuality, and ordains marriage between a man and a woman. He described same-sex relations as “ungodly is also unscriptural, unnatural, unprofitable, unhealthy, uncultural, un-African, and un-Nigerian … a perversion, a deviation and an aberration that is capable of endangering moral and social holocaust in this country.”37 He called on the Nigerian government to outlaw it immediately. Since these statements refer to the Bible as the main reason for opposing homosexuality, it is necessary to think about the issues through a hermeneutical lens.

4. Hermeneutics and Homosexuality

The question for the church of Africa today is whether one can then turn to the New Testament or the Hebrew Bible for a solution. I think the work of Rudolf Bultmann invites a new reading of texts on difficult questions. Bultmann’s fidelity to the texts of the New Testament was matched by his celebration of liberalism because it promoted freedom from the tyranny of dogma and contributed to the scientific study of the Bible, enabling one to understand faith in light of the historical context and contemporary experiences.38 Post-Kantian philosophy and his Lutheran background influenced Bultmann.39 Bultmann was a Lutheran churchman whose father was also a Lutheran pastor. His grandfather had been a missionary to Sierra Leone, in West Africa. Bultmann wrote not only for his intellectual colleagues at the university, but also for the faith community.

Bultmann’s first major thesis on the New Testament, Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition was published in 1921.40 Bultmann employed the notion of genre to understand the New Testament in the context of the early Christian community. Bultmann employed this hermeneutical method to identify the sayings of Jesus that included wisdom, prophetic, and apocalyptic sayings, as well as counsel for community life. Some of the sayings were attributed to Jesus either by the Jewish or the Hellenistic community, and Bultmann argued: “When there is a contrast to Jewish morality and piety and a specifically eschatological mood, characteristic for the pronouncement of Jesus, and where, on the other side, a lack of any specifically Christian feature can be found, one [might] easily … have a genuine parable of Jesus.”41 Bultmann used this classification and developed the idea of Kerygma (proclamation) of the followers of Jesus and the early Church. He argued that the Christ preached by the disciples and the early church was not the historical Jesus, but the Christ of faith. “The kerygma of Christ is therefore the cult legend, and the Gospels are expanded cult legends.”42 Bultmann used redaction and form criticism to demonstrate challenges in the historiography of Jesus because the documents did not offer a conclusive historical picture of Jesus. Hellenistic Christianity saw Jesus of Nazareth as transitional figure while the Palestinian community regarded him as a prophet, and Saint Paul introduced the mystical dimensions by expanding on the role of the spirit and centrality of the resurrection of Jesus.43 The kerygma, of the early and Hellenistic Church, constituted a “rereading of an ancient scripture.”44

Bultmann introduced key ideas that shaped interpretation of texts. First, the objectivity of the text depends on grammatical rules, linguistic analysis, the historicity of the text – its provenance, and the social (Bultmann would say existential) location of the reader. Thus, the questions about God raised by the texts are also questions about the reader’s situation. I should point out that the practice of critical discourse analysis (CDA) today is an intellectual enterprise that offers similar ways of analyzing discourse (and communication) in many fields because it involves the analysis of grammar, socio-political context, ideological orientations and positioning, social movements and their politics, and group discourses that frame a certain perspective, such as religious groups.45

Second, Bultmann introduced demythologization and claimed: “I take the term demythologization to mean a hermeneutic procedure which inquires after the real context of mythological assertions or texts.”46 Bultmann raised doubts about the three-tier cosmology which recognized heaven, earth, and hell, arguing that mythology ought to be interpreted from an anthropological perspective and not a trans-historical perspective. This called for downplaying myth even though mythic accounts helped humans to experience reality in a symbolic and meaningful way, but is inadequate to explain things we understand through scientific studies. Bultmann emphasized existential experience resulting from faith in the proclamation of the early Christians for whom redemption was reflected in self-commitment and love.

Demythologization works because the reader is guided by a sense of history in the search for an understanding of the world. “Understanding of history sees reality as the reality of man [sic] existing in history.”47 Thus, human beings themselves are subjects of interpretation, his or her mode of being in the world is not only determined or restricted to natural interactions, but a responsible practice that makes life as history constituted by the choices, and decisions people make. “History is the realm of human decisions”48 and those decisions change as part of the structure of authenticity, which indicates a future orientation because the experience of human reality is not settled. The text offers materials and a potentiality for self-understanding and existential interpretation, enabling the individual see reality as past and future and makes sense of the moment in a concrete situation.

Third, drawing from Martin Heidegger, Bultmann argued that human beings face reality in two ways. From an authentic perspective, one understands him or herself from the perspective of “the unavailable future.”49 From an inauthentic perspective, one understands the self from an available world. Existential interpretation involves assuming “responsibility for one’s self [which] is always simultaneously responsibility for the world and its history.”50 Existential understanding is a journey undertaken in community. One assumes responsibility in historical contexts where the events of history invite reasonable discourse about human experience. We use science to interpret myth because mythic accounts of God do not give us any certainty. Human beings are only able to talk about faith and wonder about God whose historical activity in Jesus grounds eschatological hope.

Therefore, Bultmann argued that the kerygma (proclamation) of the early church was surrounded by myth and one had to peel away mythic layering to get to the meaning of the text. This process included both a destructive and a constructive activity in which mythology, the non-essential part of the kerygma, was disregarded to get rid of an antiquated cosmology, but the kernel of the text was maintained. This was necessary because the early writers compiled texts from several sources and from different contexts. The sense of history is what gave interpretation its objectives sense. Readers then encountered and questioned texts for its meaning in a hermeneutical circle because the reader brings a pre-understanding that is challenged, confirmed, rejected or changed.51

The ethic implied in the kerygma and its critical theology introduced no new piety but gave followers of Jesus a new self-understanding.52 The central theme of the kerygma in the Synoptic is the eschatological reign of God as a new era. Jesus added new content to the apocalyptic message by stressing its certainty and urgency; it is at hand. Jesus talked about the signs of the times, and he himself, his presence, ministry and message were also signs of the time. Jesus said: “The blind see, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead arise and the poor have the message of salvation proclaimed to them” (Matt 11:5).53 Human effort could not actualize the coming reign of God. The early preachers appealed to listeners to be ready for it by joining the revolution Jesus started and living an ethical life.54 The kerygma prioritizes love above legal approaches to life. “The demands for love needs no formulated stipulations; the example of the merciful Samaritan shows that a man can know and must know what he has to do when he sees his neighbor in need of his help.”55 Love was not a temporary ethic but reflected the will of God and Jesus’s call for repentance.56

The kerygma emerged as followers of Jesus regrouped to tell his story; claiming he was a prophet, messiah, teacher, bearer, and proclaimer of the message who “became the proclaimed,” and as the coming Messiah.57 The early followers transformed the mythology about Jesus who was raised from the dead into a historical and visible Messiah and the proclaimer of the radical vision of the God who will bring about a new age. Treating Jesus as a divine person came in the early tradition of the church when the Easter faith emphasized the cross as the central ingredient of salvation in preparation for the eschatological experience. Paul proclaimed the synoptic tradition that the church was an eschatological community because they expected the risen Christ to return to take his followers who described themselves as a congregation like the Jewish community and placed themselves in the hope of those who expected the apocalypse.58 The rites of incorporation into the community such as baptism signified repentance and purified a person to live in anticipation of the coming messiah. The practice of the common meal reflected the eschatological community in Jewish community. The gift of the spirit signified the gift of the last days, which had been promised would come. What is often called the community of property in the earliest Church based on Acts 2:45, 4:34ff. was a practical sharing of property based on love which Bultmann argues was not communism because it lacked the apparatus of social production.59 During the Hellenistic and Pauline periods, the starting point for the kerygma was the idea of one God. Bultmann stated that the Jewish nation “anticipated the Christian in the preaching of monotheism.”60 This statement reflects the view that dominated Christian views that Judaism was a preparation for Christianity. The fact that the early Christian drew from Judaism does not make Christianity the successor to Judaism.61

Hellenistic preaching by the Christian movement invited people to come out of ignorance and accept God. Saint Paul, borrowed the Jewish idea that the rest of the world was heathen, lived in sin, and had to repent from sin and believe in God, the creator who will judge the sins of the whole world. The preachers of the Christian movement appropriated key passages of the Hebrew Bible, such “the day of Yahweh.” Future judgment would take place after the resurrection from the dead and everyone will account for the things they have done in life. Christ as Savior and Judge was preached as part of this eschatological project, and Christian hope was grounded on the parousia of Christ who was raised from the dead. This was the evangel (good news) in Hellenistic Christianity.

5. Bultmann’s Hermeneutics and Homosexuality Today

Most African Christians reject homosexuality because they believe that the Bible condemns it. If this reading of Bultmann is correct, then biblical texts, even the ones that deal with homosexuality do not present final dogma. There are several implications from the hermeneutics of Bultmann. First, texts should be read in their historical contexts. Biblical texts address overarching issues, but they cannot be completely divorced from the readers’ own existential situation. Here we can only reaffirm that texts speak to people in different existential situations. I do not claim that New Testament texts should be used to let those who are homosexuals to change their lifestyle. What I claim is that in their own given existential situation in which they found themselves already “thrown” to such a situation and are homosexuals, the texts of the Bible addresses them as they are, complete as followers of Jesus Christ. Demythologization, historicity, and ethical implication of the kerygma should be important aspects of the debate on homosexuality. History for Bultmann referred to concrete history in which individuals experience life, make rational decisions, and assume responsibilities for their actions by bringing together time, ideas, beliefs, scientific developments, and new information about us as human beings.

Second, African Christians should practice a new kind of demythologization that focuses on sexuality. Christians in Africa live at time of rapid changes that have affected the way people think about sexuality. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has brought renewed interest in sexuality, consequently churches in Africa are seeking ways of coming to terms with the literature that discusses sexuality, and they must include a reconsideration of homosexuality. Historical developments have given the church new information about human sexuality and we know that sexuality is expressed in different ways and there is nothing strange about same-sex relationships.62 We know also that sex does not merely mean vaginal sex between a man and a woman. With this knowledge, we understand that what others considered a cultural taboo is no longer the case. Christians need to understand homosexuality in today’s historical context. An appreciation of history invites us to rethink old essentialisms because there is no single meaning for the biblical account that we can hold up and claim that this is the single view on homosexuality for all Africans. Differences exist but we are invited to bring up those differences in a dialogue, rather reject the existence of homosexuality in Africa, or merely call it an abomination.

Third, the historicity of understanding invites a new reading of the New Testament texts for the historical situation. One must examine the debate on homosexuality in light of the texts of the tradition and mission of the church in a changing global culture. The central idea here is that the biblical record is a cultural text that has provided guidance and as such, its message has to be interpreted in light of the context in which it was written as well as the realities of today. Gerald West has argued that one has to use the texts strategically to convey not only the divine will, but also the text should be seen as a site of struggle.63 This calls for balancing the message of the text with that of the receiving community – in the language of Bultmann, our own existential situation.

Opponents of homosexuality have cited both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament to argue that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible. Kendall Harmon argues that the texts that proscribe homosexuality are vital to understanding human sexuality or any attempt to develop a theology of sex. He grounds his arguments on Scripture, particularly Romans 1:26 and argues that homosexuality is unnatural, and a further “perversion of the natural order.”64 Peter C. Moore, who also argued that sexuality is at the heart of the Christian tradition and any deviation would be away from orthodoxy, argued that homosexuality is a threat to the integrity of the Bible and would “fatally corrupt the faith.”65 However, some churches are beginning to take a different look at such texts. While they do not deny the text, they suggest that the Christian community ought to give it a different reading. Some members of the Episcopal Church of the United States argue that many in the communion should think about the faith of those who live in same-sex relationships. The church needs to reexamine the inner intention of Scripture. On the progressive side, Jeffrey John, the first openly gay bishop of the Church of England, argues in Permanent, Faithful, and Stable, that the passages in the Bible on homosexuality are not many so it is important to see passages of Scripture in their context.66 He calls on the church to take a spiritual approach to sexual relationships and the fact that it is part of a committed relationship, something gay and lesbian relationship have no trouble complying with. Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada has argued that the problem is that the gays and lesbians and their friends are victims of a community that has not understood their ecclesial tradition deeply.67

I am convinced that it is time to read the Bible differently. The Bible is a human product and invites a new appreciation, which should depart from protecting it as a text. Jennifer Wright Knust has argued that the Bible must be taken seriously noting its contradictions about human sexuality and it is therefore a mistake to enforce one view of sexuality.68 One of the texts that have been debated on the homosexuality debate is Gen 19:1–19. The story begins when angels who were sent on a mission to Sodom visit Abraham. Abraham entertains them and they tell him they want to see if there is any person in Sodom who is doing the right thing because it has been reported that there is sin in the city. They continue and as they arrive in Sodom, Lot, who like his uncle Abraham invited them to say with him, welcomed them. The men of the town gathered in front of Lot’s house and demanded that he should bring them out so that they will “know” them. Lot went out and pleaded with them, telling them that he will give them his two daughters who are virgins so that they can “know” them. The people refused this offer and threatened him, and called Lot an alien who should not make laws for them. They push harder to get into the house, but the two strangers open the door and pull Lot inside and close the door. The guests make the men outside blind so they could not see Lot and his guests. The angels then told Lot to get all his relatives and leave town because God will punish the city because for their evil deeds. The two young men engaged to be married to his daughters refused to go, and the next morning the angels hurry Lot and his family out of the city just before doom comes to the city.

D. Sherwin Bailey interpreted the term “know” in the text as a desire to know and become acquainted with the men.69 Most Bible interpreters today argue that the term “know” referred to sexual intercourse.70 Michael Carden argues that Philo of Alexandria presented one of the first homophobic readings of this text and later readings even by Thomas Aquinas focused on homosexuality as an unnatural act.71 However, Carden argues that alternative readings focused on oppression and injustice. In Zimbabwe, Masiiwa Ragies Gunda argues that what the men of Sodom wanted was to carry out a rape.72 By giving his daughters, Lot acted in a patriarchal manner and treated his daughters as objects. Given the broader historical and cultural context, scholars point out that the story of Lot was more about hospitality than with the question of homosexuality. The Sodomites acted with disrespect towards the strangers who had come to their town. When the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is mentioned in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, what is criticized is the desire of the men of Sodom to dominate other human beings, and not necessarily their homosexual desires. Ezek 16:49 indicates that the people of Sodom who had everything were punished because they did not help the poor and needy among them.73 The question here is, do Christians who insist that homosexuality is the sin in the text missing other perspectives?74

Jesus commented on the Lot text when he sent out his disciples and told them that anyone who does not receive them, would have a tougher punishment than Sodom because they have refused to show hospitality to the disciples, Luke 10:12. Scholars have pointed out that the church father, Origen, did not engage in an anti-homosexual reading of the Genesis text. Instead, Origen praises Lot for showing hospitality to the two strangers and for that action, Lot and his family were saved, but the Sodomites who did not show hospitality perished. Origen would later argue that the sin Sodom was guilty of was lack of hospitality.75 The traditions of Jesus and Origen call attention to the Lot account as a major event. However, both do not emphasize homosexuality, but focus on the fact that the Sodomites failed to show hospitality. I think these readings invite people of faith to be open to multiple meanings in the biblical text and learn to prioritize which meaning reflects the divine will for people. The men of Sodom had a desire to commit a homosexual act, but they were also determined to rape Lot’s guests.76 In their obsession with their own desires, they did not show any hospitality, and both Jesus and Origen point out this egregious behavior.

Romans 1:18–32 is also cited as an anti-homosexual passage. Paul discusses human failures in light of the fall of Adam from grace and in that context calls homosexuality unnatural. Homosexuality according to this passage violated God’s design that men were to have sexual relations with women. Romans 1:25–27 is also quoted to emphasize the natural order of things. Men penetrate women to procreate and many as the natural order of things have read that. However, one cannot miss the social construction of this passage that emphasizes gender divisions in sexuality. This passage reflects Leviticus 18: 22 and Leviticus 20:13 where men in that culture thought that it was wrong for a man to have carnal intercourse with another man because to do so was to treat another man as a woman. It is this cultural understanding, which Paul refers to when he condemns people for abandoning natural sex with a woman for another man. Scholars have pointed out that most Jews despised the penetration of men by men because the man that was penetrated was treated like a woman, who was considered less than equal with a man. Therefore, there was something cultural about it that had nothing to do with idea of homosexuality itself, but just that the man being penetrated was treated like a woman.

This passage provides ammunition to those who oppose homosexuality on grounds that it is an unnatural act. The idea of natural is used in a manner that suggests that there is a natural order of things that one must follow. This argument also holds that the world or cosmic system is governed by natural laws. These laws are thought to be self-evident and discoverable by all who just take time to consider the way things work. However, more than that, since they are natural and regulate the cosmic order, these laws are supposed to be universal and applicable to all people. One should grant that there is orderliness to nature and laws from which we derive principles that order the world. However, the problem is that in much of the discourse in the Christian tradition, natural law is often synonymous with divine law. Advocates of natural law then argue that God made a man and woman to have sexual relations to procreate. Sexual relations then are for procreation, a position that would call into question all types of sexual relations.77 But we know that many people engage in heterosexual sex, even when the goal is not procreation. Yet we live at a time when new scientific discoveries and technologies allow humans bypass conception by natural sexual intercourse. The babies born this way are as normal, thus natural as anyone else. My point here is that we cannot claim that there is a definitive natural law which governs sexuality. Peter Coleman has argued that the concept nature has become ambiguous today. It is something that is just there and human beings are part of it.78 Coleman also argues that from a theological perspective, people tend to see nature as a teleological ideal, which is moving forward and changing. One cannot talk of static nature because it does not remain the same. The constant change actually allows people to catch a vision of God. The claims that natural law offers humanity some immutable rules by which to play the game of life leaves a lot to be desired.

The issue of natural law has received philosophical and theological focus for a long time. However, when used in the homosexual debate, the question remains one of interpretation. Biblical literalism is problematic because of the many cultural idioms and the social world in which the Bible was written. The irony of such a position is that when some Christians around the world have called for contextualization of the sacred texts, many are not willing to entertain the possibility that biblical texts on human sexuality requires a critical reading and new interpretations. There is wide support for a contextual reading of the biblical texts in Africa in light of the colonial influence on Christianity in Africa.79 The discourse on the Bible in Africa is an attempt to situate the reading of the Bible in contemporary African concerns. Such readings should address sexuality and same sex relations to be sure we do not project our own ideologies.80 This calls for new questions about sexuality as Christians seek to understand the Bible in their own day.81

Biblical texts give us information on how same-sex relations were perceived in the community that produced those texts at a certain time. In Gen 38:1–11, the common belief in the culture was that sex is to be used mainly for procreation. Therefore, in refusing to impregnate his sister-in-law whose husband has died, Onan committed an offense. Additionally, withholding male semen from fertilizing a female egg was condemned and the homosexual acts, which would not produce a child, were condemned. If you were to ask interpreters why the community held this belief, many could speculate these texts reflect a community interested in self preservation among competing ethnic groups. These texts and others like Lev 18:22; 20:13; Deut. 23:17, IKings 14:27 offer important perspectives on the kinds of things that the people paid attention to as part of their worship of Yahweh. However, it is also the case that these were not seen as definitive condemnation of same-sex relations that had existed in many communities before the formation of the Hebrew nation, as we know it.

Understanding the message of the biblical text and the kerygma has something to offer to the African church as its members wrestle with biblical texts. The major criticism of homosexuality in the New Testament comes from Saint Paul in Rom 1:26–27. New Testament scholars have suggested that one has to take the broad picture and place the criticism of Paul in the context of his concerns for what they way thinks the rest of the “world” is influencing the young church at Rome. But one would say, wait a minute, Paul has more to say about this matter. For example in 1Cor. 6:9–10 he lists a number of things which are considered an abomination which will keep people out of the reign of God. We all know the list which includes the kinds of things that clearly is disobedience to God and dishonors neighbors. These things include theft, drunkenness, kidnapping, lying, etc. One cannot ignore these things and highlight only homosexuality, as people tend to do today. People should also pay great attention to things that compromise social relationships.

Third, openness to new ways of reading biblical texts invites readers to a new sense of responsibility for others in the community. In the epilogue to his two-volume New Testament Theology, Bultmann argued that one could not assume that the thoughts of the New Testament (NT) is systematic and has a distinguishable order to it.82 He preferred instead to draw perspectives from the different writings of the NT in light of historical continuity of the ecclesial community where the kerygma was lived. There is no “normative Christian dogmatics” that settled all theological questions.83 Theology involved an understanding God and the world in light of faith in every historical epoch. Theology should not be taken as a set of propositions but “as thoughts of faith, that is: as thoughts in which faith’s understanding of God, the world, and man [sic] is unfolding itself, not as products of free speculation or of a scientific mastering of the problems involved in ‘God’ ‘the world’ and ‘man’ [sic] carried out by the objectifying kind of thinking.”84 This remains a bold statement which invites readers to a contemporary and multiple readings of the bible in light of their situation and in dialogue with the context of the text.85 The horizons today are complicated but readers are invited to examine that their own horizon in dialogue with the past to negotiate an existential situation that promotes wellbeing. We are not only talking about individual horizons which themselves are complicated; but we are also referring to social horizons which continue to shift and invite new ways of thinking about human social interaction in a global context.

Thinking and theologizing in light homosexuality in the African context does not mean that one neglects the biblical perspective. It invites a responsible hermeneutics that recognizes a broad interpretive spectrum that offers many possibilities for consideration. The lack of finality on doctrinal issues is an incompleteness that is part of the task of interpretation and also a promise for understanding itself because “my understanding of myself in my world of work and destiny by the light of a love conferred upon me or of a responsibility entrusted to me is necessarily always incomplete.”86 To illustrate this, Bultmann argues that the NT understanding of state and society is different from what we have come to know about the state and society, largely because of historical processes which introduce changes not only to the structures of society, but changes which in my view, affect the way we understand and live in the society. Science and technology has also introduced new ways of thinking and relating to the world. Bultmann repeats, that NT theology can only be normative when it helps “the believer to develop out of his faith an understanding of God, the world, and man [sic] in his own concrete situation.”87 Later Bultmann adds that the NT theology actually is part of “one’s self understanding,” an expression which Bultmann insists, refers to existential and a particular understanding of the self.88 Theological statements result from self-understanding which comes out of the kerygma, and cannot be separated from living regardless of how one tries to cast that theological interpretation as a view that comes from the human mind or given through revelation.89 The kerygma rather than theology is the right teaching and is also “what theology can never seize in definitive form; it can always take hold of it only as something conceptually stated, and that means as something already theologically interpreted.”90 Although Bultmann has already claimed that the kerygma which comes in human language already contains some theological interpretation, it does not contain universal truth, but is something which must be worked out through the individual’s self-understanding, and makes sense to the individual and, we could add, the community, if it is recognized “as a word addressed to him in his situation …”91

This self-understanding must take place in concert with the tradition. According to Bultmann, Christianity is a rational religion and one’s interpretation “must peel off everything local and temporal, everything individual and particular, in order to win that which is timelessly general.”92 Bultmann also reiterated that in the post-Enlightenment era, New Testament theology ought to be seen “as a phenomenon of the history of religions, and it is then no longer proper, so it seems, for the science which presents it, being an historical science to be interested in the question of truth.”93 This last statement requires greater analysis that cannot be pursued now.

The church today like the early disciples is an eschatological community that lives between times expecting the reign of God. While the ecclesial community may not share similar apocalyptic beliefs, the historicity of faith communities ought to remind people that our knowledge of the faith deepens with new understanding. One area where that knowledge has deepened is in our understanding of human sexuality. The more we learn of homosexuality, the more convincing is the view that those who oppose it on grounds of culture, stand on very shifting ground. In casting such an eye back, some scholars of religion and theologians in Africa have recognized that homosexual life style has always been part of life in Africa.

Second, in light of its own cultural traditions of love, compassion, and the ideals of ubuntu which emphasizes being-for-the-other, it is time for the African church to engage in a new dialogue on homosexuality to remain a community of love and acceptance. The love of God is boundless and as far as the church is concerned, there is no homosexual agenda. The real agenda is the love of God. If the agenda is the love of God, the ecclesial community moves forward, knowing that it is love which should direct its search and quest for social justice in the church and the world. In asking to be recognized as human beings who have done nothing wrong, homosexuals have been branded and hence people talk of the homosexual agenda. I think we have a heterosexual agenda, which wants to limit the love of God and the opportunity to serve God and other human beings.

In the African church today, some think the matter is closed and homosexuals should be killed or locked up in prisons. That position has generated a lot of support among evangelicals who are willing to support the fight against gays and lesbians. The attack on the Anglican Communion is regarded as a new reformation; an awakening which should call the American church to repentance. After all Christianity is growing fastest in Africa and Africans are now taking the gospel to the West with the proliferation of African churches everywhere. While it is good to celebrate the growth of the church in Africa, one ought to ask, must the growth of the church itself preclude who receives the love of God? Must the growth of the church limit who can serve? It might be good to remember, as William L. Sachs has pointed out, that the results of an awakening can take various forms. Some people who have experienced an awakening may push on with a moral perspective, which they believe was missing in their lives. In some cases, the people who have experienced an awakening may turn to a progressive perspective.

The progressive outlook revolves around an instinct to chart moral progress according to the criterion of social justice … The conflict over homosexuality originates in two different sorts of awakening which portend different views of the world and propose different views of the church. One perceives a world and a church riddled with sin and needing redemption; the other sees a world and a church that are essentially good and still in the process of realization.94

I think it is time that the African church focuses on issues that will move all of God’s children forward on the journey to full sanctification. That journey includes all people regardless of the sexual orientation.

Finally, at a time when the existential situation in Africa calls for love and tolerance, one can only hope that the churches would focus on serving and meeting the needs of all people rather than focus on debates that are exclusionary, not because they are polarizing, but because they demonstrate a lack of love and appreciation for difference. This is the time for the churches in Africa to rise up and live the ubuntu spirit. As the HIV/AIDS crises caused accusations and counter accusations, Musa Dube wrote a liturgy for people involved in same-sex relations who were being discriminated against by others in the society.95 The time has come to create inclusive liturgies that would be a reminder that the ecclesial community stands in anticipation of the reign of God in one accord. It is time to end the demonization of brothers and sisters who have different sexual references.

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*

First presented at the Fourth Annual Symposium in New Testament and Early Christian Studies at the University of South Africa, 3–6 September 2012. I thank Professor Pieter Botha and the Department of Biblical and Ancient Studies for inviting me to participate in that symposium.

1

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, http://www.elct.org/news/2010.04.004.html. Accessed February 13, 2015.

2

Paul Germond and Steve de Gruchy, Aliens in the Household of God: Homosexuality and Christian Faith in South Africa (Cape Town: David Philip, 1997).

3

John Aravosis, “Catholic, Episcopal Leaders in Liberia: Ebola is God’s Punishment for ‘Penetrating Homosexualism’,” n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://americablog.com/2014/08/catholic-episcopal-leaders-liberia-blame-gays-ebola.html.

4

See Musa W. Dube and Gerald O. West, eds., The Bible in Africa (Leiden: Brill, 2000); M.W. Dube, Postcolonial Feminist Interpretations of the Bible (St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press, 2000); Itumeleng J. Mosala, Biblical Hermeneutics and Black Theology in South Africa (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1989); Gerald West, Biblical Hermeneutics of Liberation: Modes of Reading the Bible in the South African Context (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 1991); Chris Manus Ukachukwu, Intercultural Hermeneutics in Africa: Methods and Approaches (Nairobi: Acton Publishers, 2003); Madipoane Masenya (Ngwana’ Mphahlele), How Worthy is the Woman of Worth: Rereading Proverbs 31:10–31 in African-South Africa (New York, N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2004).

5

Sources include published statements in the media, online sources, and in popular literature and press.

6

For attitudes to homosexuality in Africa, see “LGBT rights in Africa,” n.p. [cited 11 February 2015]. Online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Africa.

7

PlusNews Service, 19 January, 2010.

8

Times of Zambia, October 19, 1998.

9

“Nujoma and Swapo Join Mugabe Gay-bashing,” Mail and Guardian, 14 February, 1997, n.p. [cited 29 March 2015]. Online: http://mg.co.za/article/1997-02-14-nujoma-and-swapo-join-mugabes-gay (also distributed through Africa News Online).

10

In a letter addressed to the then Malawian president, President Bingu wa Mutharika, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission points out that the imprisonment and harassment of the two accused – and other gays – violent the principles of human rights as established in the charter of the African Union, “In Letter to Malawi’s President, IGLHRC Condemns Conviction and Ongoing Discrimination,” International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 18 May 2010, n.p. [cited 29 March 2015]. Online: http://iglhrc.org/content/letter-malawis-president-iglhrc-condemns-conviction-and-ongoing-discrimination. As a result of this intervention, as well as that of the United Nations, the two accused were pardoned. Subsequent to these events, the new president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, temporarily suspended the enforcement of laws that criminalize same-sex conduct in 2012.

11

“No to Homosexuals, Yes to Polygamy Mugabe Tells Apostolic Members,” The Zimbabwean, 19 July 2010, n.p. [cited 29 March 2015]. Online: http://www.thezimbabwean.co/news/32781/no-to-homosexuals-yes-to-polygamy-mugabe-tells-apostolic-members.html.

12

For an overview of GLBT-related human rights issues and transgressions of human rights, see for instance Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/search/gays%20right%20south%20africa#.VRfBZ-Eavfc.

13

The US State Department told Bahati he was not welcome in the US and was asked to leave 14 December 2010: “Uganda: Anti-gay MP Bahati Ordered out of USA,” Africa News Update, Norwegian Council for Africa, 14 December 2010, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.afrika.no/Detailed/20152.html.

14

See Tracy McVeigh, Paul Harris, Barbara Among, “Anti-gay Bigots Plunge Africa into New Era of Hate Crimes,” The Observer, 13 December 2009, n.p. [cited 29 March 2015]. Online: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/dec/13/death-penalty-uganda-homosexuals.

15

Ephraim Kasozi, “African Bishops Unite to Denounce Homosexuality,” Sunday Monitor, 29 August 2010, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/998598/-/x4kdcm/-/index.html.

16

Kasozi, “African Bishops Unite.”

17

Kasozi, “African Bishops Unite.”

18

For a historical perspective see Stephen Bates, A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality (London; New York, N.Y.: I.B. Tauris, 2004).

19

William L. Sachs, Homosexuality and the Crisis of Anglicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1.

20

Sachs, Homosexuality, 4.

21

Sachs, Homosexuality, 12–14.

22

See Sachs, Homosexuality. See also Bates, A Church at War; Philip Groves, ed. The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality: A Resource to Enable Listening and Dialogue (London: SPCK, 2008); Christopher Craig Brittain and Andrew McKinnon, “Homosexuality and the Construction of Anglican Orthodoxy: The Symbolic Politics of the Anglican Communion,” Sociology of Religion 72, no. 3 (2011): 351–373; Peter Coleman, Christian Attitudes to Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 1980).

23

Sally K. Gallagher, Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 3 (I am indebted to Sachs for this reference). See also Adrian Wooldridge and John Micklethwait, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America (New York, N.Y.: Penguin, 2004).

24

Sachs, Homosexuality, 14–16.

25

To Set Our Hope on Christ: Response to the Invitation of Windsor Report, 135 (New York, N.Y.: The Office of Communication, the Episcopal Church Center, New York, 2005), 19. Cited 29 March 2015. Online: http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/documents/ToSetOurHope_eng.pdf. I am grateful to William Sachs whose work first pointed this report to me.

26

Sachs, Homosexuality, 42.

27

For instance, Will Roscoe and Stephen O. Murray, Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities (New York, N.Y.: Palgrave MacMillan, 2001); Mikki van Zyl, Jeanelle de Gruchy, Sheila Lapinsky, Simon Lewin, and Graeme Reid, The Aversion Project. Human Rights Abuses of Gays and Lesbians in the SADF by Health Workers During the Apartheid Era (Cape Town: Simply Said and Done, 1999); Laura Pollecut, Gays in the Military: Report on the Project of Gay and Lesbian Archives of South Africa and South African History Archives (Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand, 2003); Oliver Phillips, “Conscripts in Camp: Making Military Men,” African Gender Institute Newsletter 8 (Cape Town: University of Cape Town, 2001); Henriette Gunkel, The Cultural Politics of Female Sexuality in South Africa (New York, N.Y.: Routledge, 2010).

28

See Human Rights Watch, 2008.

29

British Broadcasting Corporation News, hereinafter BBC, August 21, 2007.

30

BBC News, May 24, 2008.

31

“Letter to Congressional Caucus about US Support for Ugandan Homophobia,” Human Rights Watch, 12 October 2007, n.p. [cited 29 March 2015]. Online: http://www.hrw.org/news/2007/10/10/letter-congressional-caucus-about-us-support-ugandan-homophobia.

32

Rodney Muhumuza, “Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, Signs Controversial Anti-Gay Bill,” The Huffington Post, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/ugandan-president-signs-anti-gay-bill_n_4845722.html.

33

Andrew Rice, “Enemy’s Enemy,” New Republic, 4 August 2004, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/enemys-enemy.

34

Adriaan S. van Klinken and Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, “Taking up the Cudgels Against Gay Rights? Trends and Trajectories in African Christian Theologies on Homosexuality,” Journal of Homosexuality 59 (2012): 114–138.

35

See the special issue of African Ecclesial Review 46, no. 4 (2004). Articles included: C. Chukwu, “Homosexuality and the African Culture” (294–314); F. Nwaigbo, “Homosexuality: A Distortion of Christian Marriage” (315–338); J. Njino, “Christian Marriage in the Era of Homosexuality” (339–365); J. Tumwesigye, “The Church in Defence of the Institution of Marriage Against Homosexuality” (366–379); and J. Kahiga, “Homosexuality: An Antithesis to Life” (380–386).

36

Laurenti Magesa, “The Challenge of African Women Defined Theology for the 21st Century,” in Challenges and Prospects of the Church in Africa: Theological Reflections of the 21st Century (eds. N.W. Ndung’u and P.N. Mwaura; Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 2005), 88–101.

37

The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, “Position of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) on the Bill for an Act to Prohibit Marriage Between Persons of Same Gender, Solemnization of Same and for Other Matters Relating Therewith,” 5. Cited 12 February 2013. Online: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/CoNposition.pdf.

38

Rudolf Bultmann, “Liberal Theology and the Latest Theological Movement,” in Faith and Understanding 1 (Fortress Texts in Modern Theology; ed. Robert Funk; trans. Louise P. Smith; Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1987), 28–52.

39

R.A. Johnson, The Origins of Demythologizing: Philosophy and Historiography in the Theology of Rudolf Bultmann (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1974), 34. I am indebted to Johnson for his insightful analysis which I have gained from in preparing this paper.

40

Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition (trans. John Marsh; New York, N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1963).

41

See Bultmann, Synoptic Tradition, 222.

42

Bultmann, Synoptic Tradition, 396.

43

I am grateful to Henning Graf Reventlow for this perspective, idem, History of Biblical Interpretation, Volume 4: From the Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century (trans. Leo G. Perdue; Atlanta, Ga.: Society for Biblical Literature, 2010), 396. See also Paul Ricoeur, Essays on Biblical Interpretation (ed. with intro. Lewis S. Mudge; Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress Press, 1985), 49.

44

Ricoeur, Essays, 51.

45

I indebted to Gerhard van der Heever of the University of South Africa who encouraged me to study the literature on discourse analysis. See Jann Scheuer, “Habitus as the Principle for Social Practice: a Proposal for Critical Discourse Analysis,” Language in Society 32, (2003): 143–175.

46

Rudolf Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” in The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present (ed. and intro. Kurt Mueller-Vollmer; New York, N.Y.: Continuum, 1989), 248.

47

Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 249.

48

Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 250.

49

Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 251.

50

Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 251.

51

Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 232.

52

Rudolf Bultmann, “Ethical and Mystical Orientation in Early Christianity,” in The Beginnings of Dialectical Theology (ed. J.M. Robinson; Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1969[1920]), 221–235.

53

Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament 1 (trans. Kendrick Grobel; intro. Robert Morgan; Waco, Tx.: Baylor University Press, 2007 [1951–1955]), 7. The two volumes of the Theology are included together in this edition with their original pagination, hence the reference here to the volume number.

54

Rudolf Bultmann discusses several specific instructions that Jesus gave about living an ethical life in the light of the coming reign of God, Bultmann, Theology 1, 9–11.

55

Bultmann, Theology 1, 19.

56

Bultmann in this section also spends time discussing the God who makes the eschaton possible but he also claims God retreated and Jesus then became “God at hand.” The demands of God should be seen in light of God’s mercy, Bultmann, Theology, 23–24.

57

Bultmann, Theology 1, 33.

58

Bultmann, Theology 1, 37, 38.

59

Bultmann, Theology 1, 62.

60

Bultmann, Theology 1, 65.

61

Schleiermacher also thought that the Jewish faith would die. See his On Religion, Speeches to its Culture Despisers (intro. and trans. Richard Crouter; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), especially chapter 5.

62

Marc Epprecht, “Sexuality, Africa, History,” The American Historical Review 114, no. 5 (December 2009): 1258–1272, esp. 1258–1259.

63

Gerald O. West, The Academy of the Poor: Towards a Dialogical Reading of the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 154–162.

64

This phrase comes from New Testament scholar, C.K. Barrett. Quoted in Sachs, Homosexuality, 19.

65

Sachs, Homosexuality, 20.

66

Jeffrey John, Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-Sex Partnerships (Affirming Catholicism; 2nd rev. ed.; London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2000).

67

Those who have taken a progressive position include, Daniel A. Helminiak, What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality (Tajique, N.M.; Alamo Square Press, 1994); L. William Countryman, Dirt, Greed, and Sex: Sexual Ethics in the New Testament and their Implications for Today (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 1988). See also L. William Countryman, Interpreting the Truth: Changing Paradigm of Biblical Studies (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 2003).

68

Jennifer Wright Knust, Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire (New York, N.Y.: HarperOne, 2011)

69

D. Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1955).

70

Peter Coleman, Christian Attitudes to Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 1980), 275.

71

Michael Carden, Sodomy: A History of Christian Myth World (London: Equinox, 2004), 58–60.

72

Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, The Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe: A Socio-Historical Analysis of the Political, Cultural and Christian Arguments in the Homosexual Public Debate with Special Reference to the Use of the Bible (Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2010), 263.

73

Martii Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective (trans. Kirsi Stjerna; Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1998), 46. See also Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

74

Gunda, The Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe, 266.

75

Origen, “Origen Against Celsus,” in Ante-Nicene Fathers 4 (ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2012), 518.

76

Andrew Mein, “Threat and Promise: Old Testament on Sexuality,” in An Acceptable Sacrifice?: Homosexuality and the Church (eds. Duncan Dormor and Jeremy Morris; London: SPCK, 2007), 22–32.

77

Peter Kasenene, Religious Ethics in Africa (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 1998), 15.

78

Peter Coleman, Christian Attitudes to Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 1980), 279.

79

Dube, Postcolonial Feminist Interpretations.

80

Canaan S. Banana, “The Case for a New Bible,” in “Rewriting” the Bible: The Real Issues: Perspectives from Within Biblical and Religious Studies in Zimbabwe (eds. Isabel Mukonyora, J.I. Cox and E.J. Verstraelen; Gweru: Mambo Press, 1993), 18–19.

81

Donald J. Wold, Our of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998), 17.

82

Bultmann, Theology 2, 237.

83

Bultmann, Theology 2, 237.

84

Bultmann, Theology 2, 237.

85

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (trans. Joel Weinsheimer; New York, N.Y.: Continuum, 1984), 256.

86

Bultmann, Theology 2, 238.

87

Bultmann, Theology 2, 238.

88

Bultmann, Theology 2, 239.

89

Bultmann, Theology 2, 239.

90

Bultmann, Theology 2, 239.

91

Bultmann, Theology 2, 241.

92

Bultmann, Theology 2, 248.

93

Bultmann, Theology 2, 243–244.

94

Sachs, Homosexuality, 205.

95

M.W. Dube, “Service for/on Homosexuals,” in Africa Praying. A Handbook on HIV/AIDS Sensitive Sermon Guidelines and Liturgy (ed. M.W. Dube; Geneva: WCC Publications, 2003), 209–214.

  • 2

    Paul Germond and Steve de Gruchy, Aliens in the Household of God: Homosexuality and Christian Faith in South Africa (Cape Town: David Philip, 1997).

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  • 7

    PlusNews Service, 19 January, 2010.

  • 15

    Ephraim Kasozi, “African Bishops Unite to Denounce Homosexuality,” Sunday Monitor, 29 August 2010, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/998598/-/x4kdcm/-/index.html.

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  • 19

    William L. Sachs, Homosexuality and the Crisis of Anglicanism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1.

  • 20

    Sachs, Homosexuality, 4.

  • 21

    Sachs, Homosexuality, 12–14.

  • 24

    Sachs, Homosexuality, 14–16.

  • 26

    Sachs, Homosexuality, 42.

  • 28

    See Human Rights Watch, 2008.

  • 32

    Rodney Muhumuza, “Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, Signs Controversial Anti-Gay Bill,” The Huffington Post, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/24/ugandan-president-signs-anti-gay-bill_n_4845722.html.

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  • 33

    Andrew Rice, “Enemy’s Enemy,” New Republic, 4 August 2004, n.p. [cited 12 February 2015]. Online: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/politics/enemys-enemy.

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    • Export Citation
  • 36

    Laurenti Magesa, “The Challenge of African Women Defined Theology for the 21st Century,” in Challenges and Prospects of the Church in Africa: Theological Reflections of the 21st Century (eds. N.W. Ndung’u and P.N. Mwaura; Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 2005), 88–101.

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  • 37

    The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, “Position of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) on the Bill for an Act to Prohibit Marriage Between Persons of Same Gender, Solemnization of Same and for Other Matters Relating Therewith,” 5. Cited 12 February 2013. Online: http://www.episcopalcafe.com/lead/CoNposition.pdf.

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  • 38

    Rudolf Bultmann, “Liberal Theology and the Latest Theological Movement,” in Faith and Understanding 1 (Fortress Texts in Modern Theology; ed. Robert Funk; trans. Louise P. Smith; Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1987), 28–52.

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  • 39

    R.A. Johnson, The Origins of Demythologizing: Philosophy and Historiography in the Theology of Rudolf Bultmann (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 1974), 34. I am indebted to Johnson for his insightful analysis which I have gained from in preparing this paper.

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  • 41

    See Bultmann, Synoptic Tradition, 222.

  • 42

    Bultmann, Synoptic Tradition, 396.

  • 44

    Ricoeur, Essays, 51.

  • 46

    Rudolf Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” in The Hermeneutics Reader: Texts of the German Tradition from the Enlightenment to the Present (ed. and intro. Kurt Mueller-Vollmer; New York, N.Y.: Continuum, 1989), 248.

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  • 47

    Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 249.

  • 48

    Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 250.

  • 49

    Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 251.

  • 50

    Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 251.

  • 51

    Bultmann, “The Problem of Demythologizing,” 232.

  • 52

    Rudolf Bultmann, “Ethical and Mystical Orientation in Early Christianity,” in The Beginnings of Dialectical Theology (ed. J.M. Robinson; Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1969[1920]), 221–235.

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  • 55

    Bultmann, Theology 1, 19.

  • 57

    Bultmann, Theology 1, 33.

  • 58

    Bultmann, Theology 1, 37, 38.

  • 59

    Bultmann, Theology 1, 62.

  • 60

    Bultmann, Theology 1, 65.

  • 62

    Marc Epprecht, “Sexuality, Africa, History,” The American Historical Review 114, no. 5 (December 2009): 1258–1272, esp. 1258–1259.

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    • Export Citation
  • 63

    Gerald O. West, The Academy of the Poor: Towards a Dialogical Reading of the Bible (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 154–162.

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  • 65

    Sachs, Homosexuality, 20.

  • 66

    Jeffrey John, Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-Sex Partnerships (Affirming Catholicism; 2nd rev. ed.; London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2000).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 69

    D. Sherwin Bailey, Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1955).

  • 71

    Michael Carden, Sodomy: A History of Christian Myth World (London: Equinox, 2004), 58–60.

  • 72

    Masiiwa Ragies Gunda, The Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe: A Socio-Historical Analysis of the Political, Cultural and Christian Arguments in the Homosexual Public Debate with Special Reference to the Use of the Bible (Bamberg: University of Bamberg Press, 2010), 263.

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  • 73

    Martii Nissinen, Homoeroticism in the Biblical World: A Historical Perspective (trans. Kirsi Stjerna; Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 1998), 46. See also Mark D. Jordan, The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1997).

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  • 74

    Gunda, The Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe, 266.

  • 75

    Origen, “Origen Against Celsus,” in Ante-Nicene Fathers 4 (ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2012), 518.

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  • 76

    Andrew Mein, “Threat and Promise: Old Testament on Sexuality,” in An Acceptable Sacrifice?: Homosexuality and the Church (eds. Duncan Dormor and Jeremy Morris; London: SPCK, 2007), 22–32.

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  • 77

    Peter Kasenene, Religious Ethics in Africa (Kampala: Fountain Publishers, 1998), 15.

  • 80

    Canaan S. Banana, “The Case for a New Bible,” in “Rewriting” the Bible: The Real Issues: Perspectives from Within Biblical and Religious Studies in Zimbabwe (eds. Isabel Mukonyora, J.I. Cox and E.J. Verstraelen; Gweru: Mambo Press, 1993), 18–19.

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  • 81

    Donald J. Wold, Our of Order: Homosexuality in the Bible and the Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998), 17.

  • 82

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 237.

  • 83

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 237.

  • 84

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 237.

  • 86

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 238.

  • 87

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 238.

  • 88

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 239.

  • 89

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 239.

  • 90

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 239.

  • 91

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 241.

  • 92

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 248.

  • 93

    Bultmann, Theology 2, 243–244.

  • 94

    Sachs, Homosexuality, 205.

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