It's been reported recently that Pastor Hamilton Nala of the Nala Mandate International in Durban has been claiming to have "faith water" that delivers people from homosexuality. The story has lead to LGBTI people and organisations considering approaching the Equality Court over the claim.
These activists should be supported because it is clear that the insinuation made by the pastor is a serious violation of the Constitution, as it aims to dehumanise people because of their sexual orientation. Pastor Nala is ignorant and his insinuation runs against an overwhelming body of scientific evidence. The pastor seeks only to popularise himself with the view to enriching himself.
The motivations behind his claims should be exposed for what they are. Recently, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities released a report that laments the growing commercialisation of religion in South Africa.
Commercialising religion manifests itself through the selling of blessed water and holy oils to members of unassuming congregations, often at extremely high prices. Pastor Nala unashamedly comes on the heels of such a report, exposing his ignorance.
The name of the institution itself tells us a number of things, making clear that Pastor Nala's intentions are neither godly nor biblical. It is about him, his mandate and his institution. The claim begs the questions: Who is Pastor Nala? What theological and/or ministerial training has he received in teaching and leading a congregation? Who is he accountable to?
According to the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), there is "no sound scientific evidence that innate sexual orientation can be changed". The idea that we can or should pray away homosexuality is easily debunked when the testimonies of LGBTI people are heard. These false religious therapies have contributed immensely to social prejudice and discrimination against LGBTI people, which has a high toll on the self-esteem and mental health of LGBTI people.
LGBTI people must be recognised as valued members of society with the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens.
An established scientific body of evidence exists and points to the fact that same-sex sexual orientation, as well as gender identity, is not a disorder, nor is it a pathological condition. According to the World Health Organisation, in 1992, "same-sex attraction, orientation and behaviour are normal variants of human sexuality" and the WPA, in 2016, declared that LGBTI people must be recognised as valued members of society with the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens.
Pastor Nala reportedly said that "If it was true that they [LGBTI people] were created by God, then that was not the God he believed in... It is my belief that God would not create a woman with breasts and a womb just for decoration purposes so that you can take it out when you want."
Pastor Nala's declaration of unbelief is unbiblical when faced with uncertainty about God and the things of God. Instead of discernment, he declares unbelief. His is not a singular experience, Saint Peter has lessons for him and those who are like him in Acts 10:9-23.
Clearly, this is a denial of the humanity of LGBTI people. Pastor Nala does not know the hymn lyrics "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to person; He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon every storm". The hymn ends "Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His works in vain; God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain".
It should go without saying that LGBTI people are God's creation and no one has the right to deny them their humanity. Claims like the ones made by Pastor Nala are deeply irresponsible and result in harm to an already marginalised group of people.
The word of God should not be used to preach hatred, nor should it be used to capitalise on societies' vulnerabilities. You only have to read Mark 12:31 to know that you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself. It is this love that will heal society of the real pathology, that of homophobia, transphobia and the hatred of the other.
Reverend Teboho G Klaas is the religion programme officer at The Other Foundation and a pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church