Friday, October 21, 2011

Pastor Demonstrates The Power Of Hatred And Hypocrisy

Regarding the matter of the Rev Oscar Bougardt, who delivered a letter filled with astonishing hatred and venom this past week to the Pink Community, I believe that his hatred (self-admittedly) demonstrates what is wrong with organized Christian religion today.

The comments in Bougardt's letter are typical of the right wing Christian bigot who doesn't know a thing about human sexuality, or their own holy books, but merely interprets these to suit their own prejudices and phobias. The majority of Christians appear to be indifferent towards the goings-on in the private lives of other people, or choose to live and let live rather than start a full scale war on them, unlike Mr Bougardt.

Nobody forced him to view the website to whose Webmaster he sent his letter, nobody provoked his hatred - but he took it upon himself to act out his hatred in a calculated demonstration of vindictiveness and malice against what is still a persecuted and marginalized minority in our country today.

Gay people in South Africa of all races, religions and cultures, still face remarkable intolerance, discrimination and danger which is still the result of ignorance which is reinforced by societal and institutionalized prejudice - and which is largely fostered and encouraged by people in Bougardt's position - that of a low-level religious leader who doesn't know what he is talking about, but who acts out his personal prejudices in the name of that ignorance and encourages others to follow suit.

Instead of following the wonderful example of people like Arch Bishop Tutu (whom he castigated in his letter), Bougardt chooses to vent his personal opinion that the Christian God hates gay people, or at the very least, supports his own all too obvious personal fear and prejudice of gay people, or hates those who embrace and include all people in the loving embrace of the Christ most Christians believe loves all of God's creations.

In doing so, he alienates not just the gay people he obviously hates and wishes removed not just from his own church, but from society - but also other members of the faith he claims to represent, and embarrasses not only loving and tolerant Christians who try to live as Christ did, but even those who share his views but do not actively participate in campaigns of persecution and intolerance against gay people - which is exactly what his letter appears to incite.

One would expect a man who is so obviously proud of his theological accomplishments, a learned man, to be more aware and sensitive that his words and deeds have consequences, that they may reinforce ideas and prejudices which run strong in some parts of South African culture, and which see many South Africans suffer injury, persecution, loss of dignity and even loss of life, based on the very same sentiments he expressed in his letter, and no doubt echoes from his pulpit.

His letter demonstrates a very clear lack of a basic understanding of the nature of human sexuality, and even of the mechanics of the very religion which he purports to represent - as well as a complete disregard for human rights and the SA Constitution, which grants gay people the very same rights to respect, dignity and protection under the law from precisely the form of discrimination he espouses and encourages.

In his letter he makes wild and unsubstantiated claims against gay people of drug abuse and pedophilia which echo exactly what is being said in the anti-gay propaganda in Uganda, where people live in fear of being murdered by their family members or the government on account of their sexuality - and all in the name of the "Christian" faith.

In this respect he demonstrates a complete disregard for truth, scientific or otherwise, and a propensity for embellishment and blatant thumb-sucking which also echoes the trend prevalent in the United States, where groups recognized and monitored as hate-groups use fraudulent "studies" and pseudo-science to prop up their lunatic claims about gay people in order to win support for their genocidal hatred in the name of freedom of speech and expression and in the guise of democratic liberty.

Most striking to me, he seems to display no single token or sign of Christian love or charity towards the millions of gay, transgender or otherwise non hetero-normative people in the world around him, who daily face the challenges and perils set by those who, like him, choose to act like those who nailed Christ to the cross instead of like the Christ who allowed himself to die for everyone's sake. Nor does he express anything but bitterness and contempt for others of his faith who do, but arbitrarily condemns them to death and destruction while using the name and authority of God as if he wields it like a hammer.

He appears to see no wrong in his attitude, or his words, or his deeds, which show to me no sign whatever of actual "Christianity" - but more likely, indications of what drove people like Adolf Hitler to purge "undesirables" - including gay people, Jews, blacks and others - from the human race.

On a personal level, I find his arrogance, ignorance, cruelty and hypocrisy, staggering.

Indeed, Bougardt is misrepresenting Christianity as a religion of intolerance, prejudice, oppression, violence, bigotry - and very prominently, hatred - and along with his own obvious personal feelings. He is misrepresenting himself as a spokesperson for his God, a sort of prophet if you will, who has intimate knowledge of the workings of God's mind as regards God's views on gay people, and he is involving others in his campaign of hatred, by so brashly and callously declaring "war" on gay people, and encouraging others to do the same in sympathy with his own bigotry and hypocrisy.

I wasn't surprised by this unprovoked outburst. I have become rather used to the intensity of the hate directed against our community by people claiming to be Christians. Nevertheless, it is still shocking to me how someone can hold a position of leadership and guidance in a religious or community group and make such a mockery of their faith and their followers. The ferocity and intensity of the hatred in Bougardt's letter is very much like other so-called Christian pastors who run small fringe groups based on anti-gay hatred and persecution, and who often freely admit hating gay people in the name of God. Well known examples of this are Erroll Naidoo and Peter Hammond, who have in the past made strikingly similar claims.

This is the very first time I have ever been aware of this man. I have dealt with several other outspoken bigots and homophobic religious figures in the past few years, but he is completely new to me. As such, I can only guess what caused him to react in so violently un-Christ-like a manner as to declare "war" on an entire community - many of whom are also Christians, but in my opinion, it is often those who are afraid of people who seem different to themselves, or too much like them, that react so xenophobically.

I feel the best way to move forward, is for loving Christians who embrace the teachings of Christ, to address the problem of growing hate and promulgation of violent victim-blaming evident in their religion. It is time they spoke out against people of this sort, who take it upon themselves to act in their name out of their own personal hatred. People like Bougardt are an embarrassment to their religion, and to a society which claims to cherish human rights and freedom and equality for all, because they encourage the abuse of human rights, and persecution, and tarnish the image of the entire religion. They are part of the vicious circle of ignorance, fear, hate and violence - and somewhere, the circle needs to be broken.

To date, no Christian minister or church group has responded publicly to this incident, but I believe that is because this matter has not made it to public media as yet. Naturally there has been an outcry from Christian clergy who are part of the Pink Community.

SA GLAAD will continue to raise public awareness around the hatefulness, religious based persecution and the untruths and willful ignorance being employed as weapons in what can only be called an unfortunate example of religious extremism and institutionalized tolerance of such hypocrisy and the promotion of the abuse of human rights among clergymen.

We will continue to work for increased tolerance and acceptance of the Pink Community in all societal groupings and cultures and for the respect, dignity and civil rights of all citizens of South Africa.

Christina Engela