Article in Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa

The South African based Journal of Gender and Religion in Africa, previously known as the Journal of Constructive Theology, has recently published a special issue on Same-Sex Sexuality in Africa. As the editors, Isabel Phiri and Sarojini Nadar (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) explain in their editorial, in many African countries the issue of same-sex relationships has become a central topic in heated public debates. Religious and cultural arguments play a vital role in the discourses and policies regarding same-sex sexuality in Africa. Therefore, this special issue, in which mostly African scholars critically analyse and reflect on the public controversies surrounding homosexuality and also develop constructive proposals, is timely and pertinent. In our recent article on homosexuality in African Christian Theologies (see here), Masiiwa Ragies Gunda and myself concluded that progressive scholarship on homosexuality in African theology and religious studies is in an early stage. This special volume of JGRA makes a major contribution to this scholarship and serves as a foundation for further research.

I feel privileged to have contributed one of the twelve (12!) articles in this special volume. My contribution is entitled ‘The Homosexual as the Antithesis of “Biblical Manhood”? Heteronormativity and Masculinity Politics in Zambian Pentecostal Sermons’. The article offers a critical analysis of a series of sermons on the theme Fatherhood in the 21st Century, preached in a Zambian Pentecostal church, in which homosexuality is an explicit theme. The sermons are discussed in relation to the broader controversy on homosexuality in African Christianity. While it is often suggested that African Christian leaders actively oppose same-sex relationships to profile themselves in local and global contexts, the case study reveals an additional factor. Homosexuality is also used in the politics of gender, particularly masculinity, within the church. The references to homosexuality in the sermons create a counter-image of the promoted ideal of “biblical manhood”. A stereotypical homosexual is constructed, who represents two of the preacher’s main concerns about Zambian men: their preoccupation with sexuality and their indifference towards the male role they are to play. This article reveals the heteronormative politics and theology underlying “biblical manhood” and points to the problematic consequences in relation to the context of HIV&AIDS. It also suggests how to interrogate and rethink “biblical manhood” from the perspective of queer theology.

For the full-text version, see this link.

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