THE power of this book is signaled in the title: “reinventing”. Christianity in Africa is often commodified in such a way that Christians on all sides of the sexual diversity debate conclude that God is done with us all. Then the relevance of this subject to growing in faith becomes unintelligible. This book resists static theology and facilitates a more mature approach to African Christianity and sexual diversity.
As shown in this book, the Christian faith has multiple contexts and often conflicting possibilities for various political visions and social struggles. Its meaning cannot be fully controlled by those who hold power in the world. “On the contrary, its symbols, texts, languages and rituals can be appropriated, negotiated and transformed to shape counter-narratives and inspire counter-mobilizations. Here is the truest power that God reveals in Jesus: reciprocal love, which creates imaginary worlds alternative to those of colonialism and hegemony.
One of many assumptions is that Africa is a country, not a continent. This is an assumption that is found in Westernized education and stereotypes that are also found in Western Christianity. Thus, African Christianity only emerges as a conservative force in contemporary Africa, fueling opposition to homosexuality and LGBTI rights.
Also, the narrow outlook of Christianity as the only Western religion must be countered. For many, Western missionaries brought Jesus to Africa. This book challenges this image by drawing attention to the progressive and innovative ways in which Africa’s diversity engages with religion, particularly Christianity, in support of sexual diversity and the pursuit of justice for LGBTI people.
Specifically, the authors, Adriaan van Klinken and Ezra Chitando, by discussing specific examples and movements across the continent, help us visualize where African Christian traditions hold strong potential to counter conservative and anti-LGBTI dynamics. The authors also provide case studies of leading African writers who are reinventing Christian thought to shed its stereotypes about Africa.
Additionally, the authors profile specific African theologians, philosophers, and Christian-inspired groups who are transforming religious practice, but who are unknown to many in the Western world. Thanks to this important work, a general readership can discover how contemporary African cultural creativity appropriates Christian beliefs and symbols.
There is, unfortunately, a greater tendency to dismiss African agency in many of our human endeavours, including our response to pandemic crises. For me, as an African-American theologian, it is refreshing to read a book that breaks down idols and stereotypes and helps us reimagine how Christianity can lead us to see our neighbors as ourselves, especially our brothers and sisters. LGBTI sisters in Africa.
This is not a vision born out of naivety, however, given that Ghana, for example, offers up to ten years in prison for LGBTI people. One step out of naivety and into maturity is simply by reading this book.
The Most Reverend Michael Battle is Herbert Thompson Professor of Church and Society and Director of the Desmond Tutu Center at General Theological Seminary in New York. His latest book is Desmond Tutu: A Spiritual Biography of South Africa’s Confessor (WJK, 2021).
Reinventing Christianity and Sexual Diversity in Africa
Adriaan van Klinken and Ezra Chitando
Library of the house of the church 18 €