Homophobic US pastor Steven Anderson should have been granted a visa, because of what we are and not necessarily what he is, says the writer.

* This column was written before Minister Malusi Gigaba announced that Home Affairs had denied US pastor Steven Anderson entry into SA.

These decisions are not a reflection of what we think of the illegal miners or anti-gay pastor, but of the type of people we are, writes Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya.

Durban - Drama unfolded at a disused mine on the periphery of Johannesburg this week.

An unknown number of people were trapped inside the shafts and by the time you read this, we might have a fair idea of the number of fatalities.

There is no doubt or dispute that what the miners were involved in was an illegal activity.

We can debate whether it is right for the state to deny people the right to eke out a living when there is some to be made, even if it is not a big enough incentive for the wealthy conglomerates.

We can discuss the socio-economic factors that make people end up risking their own lives as they seek their fortune.

Whatever your view, one thing for sure is that the miners’ presence at that mine was unlawful.

I am sure there are a number who in private and in public are saying that the state should allow the miners to die because they were involved in an unlawful act.

Even if this was a universally popular call by South Africans, the state would be duty-bound to do what it can to save lives it can save.

This decision to save them if it can, is not a reflection of what we think of the miners, but what type of people we like to think we are.

The same logic that applies to the evidently criminal miners must apply for the homophobic pastor Steven Anderson, whom some believe should not be allowed a visa to visit South Africa because he is virulently anti-gay.

I say he should be granted the visa, because of what we are and not necessarily what he is. This should not be read as condoning his homophobia and bigotry, but as not allowing a bigot to define how we as a country make state policy decisions.

To deny Anderson a visa because he is a homophobe will make us more like him than us. We would be living his values rather than ours.

We would be making public policy on the grounds of people’s private decision about their likes and preferences.

It must be pointed out that Anderson has not called for the killing of homosexuals. He has celebrated their deaths. It is an important difference.

He is an idiot, but that should not be a good enough reason to deny him a visa.

Ours is a legal framework that says we will not kill killers or rape rapists. We choose to take the high road. We have chosen to govern our land on the basis of everyone being equal before the law.

The high road is never easy. It demands that we place everyone on the other side of the curtain and ask ourselves if we did not know what their bigotry vice was about.

It means that unless we have laws that say that bigots, be they of race, sexual orientation or religious views, are prevented from coming to South Africa, we should not create a special category for Anderson.

If you asked me as a black person if I would be happy for an arch white supremacist to visit South Africa, the answer is an emphatic no. But my wishes should not trump what is lawful.

Those who make the decision to allow or not allow such a person based on our collective passions rather than what the law of the land says, would be on a slide to rule based on whims of the decision-maker instead of what is lawful.

We cannot legislate against people having hate in their hearts. A lot of our compatriots would be in trouble if we did. We can and should jail them for acting on the hate, even if they are itinerant preachers.

Anderson’s views are that his God will not allow homosexuals into his heaven. Personally I’m better off away from a heaven lorded over by a God who punishes people for who they fall in love with.

It says more about Anderson and his God than it does about homosexuals that he and he and his God would celebrate the senseless slaughter of men having fun at a nightclub. I would not be surprised if he also advocated the stoning of unmarried woman who turn out to have “lost” their virginity.

I am certain that this is not a universal view of the God all other Christians believe in.

It is bad enough that we have indulged him as we already have, including writing this article.

Anderson would have been the perfect recipient of Professor Robert May’s famous retort (often but incorrectly attributed to Richard Dawkins, who was quoting May).

May told the nondescript pastor propounding Sunday school theology who had challenged him to a debate: “That would look great on your CV, not so great on mine.”

* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is the editor of The Mercury. Follow him @fikelelom or email [email protected]

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