Freedom is a complex thing; one freedom invariably affects another freedom. For example if you want the freedom of a longer life, you may have to limit the freedom of being able to eat whatever you want. This can also be seen in the history of South Africa- Liberties were enjoyed by a particular group as a result of freedom being restricted for another group. While I am sure the majority of us are glad that the injustices of the past have been and are being addressed, not all new found freedoms are necessarily good.
As a Christian I have an absolute world view, with a morality clearly laid out. This is the same morality that is written on the conscience of humanity. My goal however in this post is not to comment on whether the issues I raise are moral or not; but rather to make an observation on the complexity of freedom.
Black South Africans are aware of a certain erosion of their culture that is occurring as a result of westernization. There is a desperate attempt by many to regain and hold true to their indigenous heritage and culture. This is where I come in as a white South African, since I have an interest in how my culture has been shaped and changed in history. So today I would like to consider the effect of the so called ‘gay agenda’ on western culture, and from that perspective predict what may happen to African culture.
As we begin a look at this effect on western culture consider the following observation, “Man friendships during the 19th century were marked by an intense bond and filled with deeply held feeling and sentimentality. Man friendships in many instances had a similar intensity as romantic relationships between men and women. Essentially, it was a continuation of the heroic friendship of the ancient world, coupled with the emphasis on emotion common to the Romantic Age. A fervent bond did not necessarily imply a sexual relationship; the idea that these ardent friendships in some way compromised a man’s heterosexuality is largely a modern conception. [i]” (emphasis added). Note that the photos included in this post are of normal heterosexual relationships during a time when homosexuality was unheard of or seen as a mental illness.
The observation continues, “… men were free to have affectionate man relationships with each other without fear of being called a “queer” because the concept of homosexuality as we know it today didn’t exist then… It wasn’t until the turn of the 19th century that psychologists started analyzing homosexuality. When that happened, men in America started to become much more self-conscious about their relationships with their buds and traded the close embraces for a stiff pat on the back.[ii]”
Due to the ‘normalizing’ of homosexuality, and the ‘freedom’ that individuals of said sexual persuasion now enjoy, men is Western Society have had a limiting of their freedom. An adjustment has occurred in western culture, whereby men are not free to have strong affectionate male friendships, due to the risk of being labelled homosexual.
One other writer summarises my thoughts like this, “In my travels I’ve noticed that men in other countries feel perfectly free to be affectionate. Men in Africa hold hands; in Latin countries they kiss each other on the neck. Sociologists say male affection was once more common in this country—but it waned around the same time awareness of homosexuality increased. Nowadays, many straight men are afraid to offer a consoling embrace to a friend lest it be viewed as a sexual advance[iii].”
With this historical model we can ask, ‘what will be the consequences on African culture?’ The author above rightly pointed out that African men hold hands. I remember the first time I saw that, wondering if the men I saw were homosexuals. But after going to school with black South Africans and growing up in a by-and-large multi-ethnic community I learned that there was nothing sexual in this practice. However this is something that is foreign to the majority of western society.
South African blogger Trevor Davies writes, “Displays of male friendship seem to have gone through some serious transformations in the last few years. Hold hands today in public and you may risk a homophobic attack or at least the glares and aggressive body language of disapproving men. Why the hostile change so much in one generation? It’s a shame that a fear of being called gay has polluted our ability as men to demonstrate physical affection and emotional companionship with each other.[iv]”
What will happen in South Africa as homosexuality is ‘normalized’? Will this aspect of African culture that encourages strong male friendships with physical affection stay, or will it slowly disappear as it has in the west? As one freedom increases, will another freedom decrease?
Now being a Christian I have a solution to bring. It is important to consider that truth is a lot more important than most people think; freedom is a lot more complicated than people think, and Jesus is a lot more emancipating. Perhaps the freedom of sexual expression is actually bondage? Perhaps society’s opinions or personal feelings are not the best place to discover truth? Perhaps Jesus Christ is the one Person that provides both truth and freedom. A truth that shows bigots and homophobes that they are in bondage to self-righteousness. A truth that shows sexual liberals that they are in bondage to their own self-destructive natures. A freedom that shows bigots and homophobes that they are accepted by God because of Jesus alone, and not because of how moral they appear or how much they distance themselves from sinners. A freedom that shows sexual liberals that giving in to ‘natural’ impulses is not the way to feel truly liberated and alive. If anything I hope that you would open your mind to considering Jesus Christ. Maybe you think you have in the past, but I assure you if you don’t find a perfect match of truth and freedom in Christ you have not plunged deep enough.
[i] http://www.artofmanliness.com/2008/08/24/the-history-and-nature-of-man-friendships/ accessed: 2013-11-26.
[iii] http://www.charismamag.com/blogs/fire-in-my-bones/4698-meaningful-male-friendship-in-a-disconnected-age accessed: 2013-11-26
[iv] http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/readerblog/2013/11/26/why-did-men-stop-holding-hands/ accessed 2013-11-27
Photographs Courtesy of: John Isbon, Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships in Everyday American Photography(University of Chicago Press, 2006)