The Bible and Homosexuality, Book Review
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 , MASIIWA R. GUNDA, VOL. 3, BIAS-BIBLE IN AFRICA STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF BAMBERG PRESS, ISBN: 978-3-923507-74-0, EISBN: 978-3-923507-75-7, 2010
By Brian Maregedze
Classroom practitioners and students have been preoccupied with efforts to deal with resource material inadequacy whilst to some absorbing anything and everything found on the internet, information circulating on social media when attempting to deal with questions has been the order of events. The book under review is still timely and worth reading as it deals with a controversial topic in Christian circles as well the general public in general. The issue of authority of the Bible as well as the topical aspect of homosexuality leaves many emotional, due to the varying magnitude of (re)interpretations. The book was written at a time when Zimbabwe was under the Government of National Unity (GNU) [2009-2013]. The homosexuality debate became even more contentious in Zimbabwe’s political landscape as the author of the book alludes to. Before any attempt to review this work under study, l shall make an attempt to enlighten the reader/s the relevance of the work in relation to Advanced Level Family and Religious Studies. The authority of the Bible, concept of sin, church-state relations, Christianity and marriage can be well addressed by the book as per demands of the syllabus. This book was written by a seasoned scholar and attempts are made to interpret the various texts in the Bible beyond the confessional approach that classroom practitioners and students encounter when dealing with such sensitive topics both in the classroom as well in various social interaction forums. How then does this author unpack the topic of, The Bible and Homosexuality? What challenges do we have as a country in dealing with this aspect of sexuality? The foregoing review identifies the debates on the Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe with a summative approach to the various topical issues dealt with in the whole book.
A corpus of works on homosexuality have been written in Zimbabwe and beyond. Gunda’s work contributes to this body of literature that attempts to take a critical socio-historical analysis on the Bible and Homosexuality. Other scholars like Marc Epprecht gave a foundational historical orientation. Is homosexuality a western culture or it has always been found in Africa prior to colonialism? These are vital questions that have dominated public discourse during the Mugabe era with Morgan Tsvangirai being allegedly accused of supporting homosexuality. With only eight chapters, the 501 page book always pushes anyone to continue reading with energy as every chapter follows thought after thought. The introductory chapter informs the scope of the study and situate it within the scholarly works of this interesting topic. The second chapter develops into a contested terrain as western views and African views with particular focus on Zimbabwe come to the fore, positioning the way the westerners brought the Bible to indigenous people. The questions on ownership of the Bible are dealt with, although the reader is challenged particularly on indigenous Zimbabweans who are divided on the importance of the Bible in daily interaction.
Chapter three then traces the historical background of the aspect of gays, lesbians from the pre-colonial era in Africa-Zimbabwe, moving in epochs, to 1995 whereby the former President Robert Mugabe made it clear with a radical tone that homosexuals are, “worse off than dogs and pigs”. More observable is that, Tabona Shoko (2010) deals with the issue in a seventeen page article, demonstrating the attitudes that Zimbabweans have towards homosexuals. Generally, these works identify homosexuals in light of same sex marriages, relations. Reflections on human rights and sexuality are dealt with again, although the hostile Zimbabwean milieu demonstrate a long walk to come to terms with such a situation.
Chapter four moves into the complex political landscape, with commonly held traditional leadership beliefs and modern political grounding pointed out. The un-African element is pointed out although recent research from the likes of Ezra Chitando and Mateveke (2017) call for the need to Africanise homosexuality.
Chapter five, six and seven appeals fore-mostly to Christians as attempts to explain why Christians condemn homosexuality using the scriptures are pursued. However, challenges associated with such scriptural approach are posited thereby moving away from the confessional approach of the Bible. The authority of the Bible in dealing with such matters as sexuality become more apparently philosophical as the author critically deals with challenges involved. The Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) world, Old Testament and New Testament milieu is analysed based on same-sex marriages with Biblical and scholarly skill.
Last but by no means least, chapter eight succinctly deals with the debates on homosexuality in Zimbabwe with a critical overview. Collections from Bible in Africa studies are vital for every classroom practitioner, researcher and student as well with articulated researches put across with a wealth of information. However, to the uninitiated academically in Religious Studies, the confessional approach reader is compelled to retire before finishing the book. A good reader may only need not more than seventy-two hours to quench the thirsty for, The Bible and Homosexuality in Zimbabwe.
Brian Maregedze co-author of Advanced Level Family and Religious Studies Focus on Christianity and Islam (2018), historian, independent researcher, and blogger. Feedback email [email protected]
Author, historian & columnist