Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece and is not aimed at breaking down, discouraging or coercing the views of any others. However, if it makes you uncomfortable to read this, it is especially meant for you.
Living abroad truly opens your mind to so many things and I see a lot of things differently. I regard myself as a very open-minded individual, and a lot of opinions and views that I already had, have further been affirmed.
Living in a place like South Korea has given me a new appreciation for South Africa and its diversity. I have met people from all walks of life. I don’t care about your skin colour or your sexual orientation. If you are a decent human being, I will be your friend. In fact, some of the best people I know are homosexual or transgender. And this brings me to the point of today: Who is Gretha Wiid?
Gretha Wiid is a South African Christian writer who was reported to the South African Human Rights Commission regarding certain utterances she makes about homosexuality in her book, Lyf-slim vir Seuns and Lyf-slim vir Meisies (roughly translates to teaching teenagers about their bodies). Homosexuality and gay rights is a topic I hold very close to my heart, so I was naturally interested in this story. I then did some thorough research to investigate and try to get to the bottom of it. According to her website, Gretha Wiid is a “relationship expert who loves God’s Word” (‘n verhoudingskenner wat lief is vir God se Woord). She is known in certain spheres as a “relationship expert” and a “finesse expert” (what is a finesse expert?).
What she wrote in her book has caused immense controversy. She addresses homosexuality, referring to it as “sad”. To summarize in English (I will post the full excerpt in Afrikaans below), she says on page 91 of the book, that many people want to know how people become gay. Now bear in mind, the language use is not the issue here. It is a book aimed at “educating” young children between the ages of 10 and 13, so she has written it in such a way for children to understand. She continues to say that many people believe that people “are born gay”. Wiid, however, does not believe that this is true, as she wholeheartedly believes that God created man and woman to be with the opposite sex. This is a remark made in a book for children, when it has in fact been scientifically proven that homosexuality is something you are born with. You can’t pray away the gay.
Furthermore, she states reasons for why she thinks in her unscientifically-based opinion, people become gay: when a boy does not get any love from his dad, get humiliated a lot and treated harshly, some of these boys develop feelings of hatred and hurt toward other men. They therefore do not want to be like other men who show their masculinity through muscle and power. Such boys withdraw themselves and don’t want to be part of the boys groups at school. Many of these isolated boys later believe that they are different, and eventually believe that they are gay. She continues to say that she wholeheartedly believes that such boys will be wonderful men for their wives someday, but “unfortunately they do not speak to someone about these things in time, until it is too late”. From what I saw in the media, the implications of these utterances were simply catastrophic.
In the last paragraph on this page, she says that other kids may be made fun of by silly kids because they play piano and chess, and aren’t interested in something like rugby. From a young age these kids then get called f*gg*ts (m*ffies), which is another word for a gay man. These are things left for a 10-13-year-old to read, interpreted by said 10-13-year-old, who in no way has developed the maturity to think differently to what has been written on a page. It is safe to derive that the implications of such unsubstantiated claims on a public platform are just disastrous.
She defends her utterances in the media, and says that it was wrongly interpreted. But the fact remains, by thousands of readers, this was how it was seen, and a ten-year-old child is not going to think of interpreting a book the way a grown-up would. Now this book was written a couple of years ago already, but this issue is now only surfacing. I would like to say that this may be due to the fact that the more time goes by, the more we enter a technological, information-based era where unsubstantiated claims made by certain individuals in society, are more and more brought to light. The more the books were distributed, the more some open-minded, forward-thinking individuals decided to finally question it.
In my research, I came across a very interesting article by Professor Lilly Nortje-Meyer, affiliated to the Department of Religion Studies at the University of Johannesburg. In her article A critical analysis of Gretha Wiid’s sex ideology and her biblical hermeneutics, she refers to Gretha Wiid and Angus Buchan as the self-established “moral gurus” of the “Afrikaner Christian community with their ‘Worthy Women’ and ‘Mighty Men’ mass conferences” (Nortje-Meyer 2011:1).
Some of the things that stood out for me about Nortje-Meyer’s article on what Gretha Wiid has said in the past on certain important social issues, among other things, are things like:
- When she referred to a Muslim man wearing “a dress” and told her daughter that she does not know who Allah or Muhammed is, but “this Allah cannot save anybody if he is not a child of the Lord”. Wiid’s comment on Islam is that “God does not tolerate everyone” (Nortje-Meyers 2011:3).
Let’s take a moment to think about this: if you are not educated about Muslims, their beliefs, and their faith, why do you have an opinion? I have many, MANY Muslim friends, and I admire them so deeply for their strong faith and pride in their religion. Is she saying that God will not tolerate Muslims or people of other faiths? Do we not serve a mighty, powerful God who created all of us as equals in His image?
- According to Nortje-Meyer, Wiid blames women for men’s fantasies and unfaithfulness. Apparently, “liberated women” do not know how to dress, showing their breasts by wearing tops with low-cut necklines.
And herein, ladies and gentlemen, starts that thing called rape culture.
Further, she states in her book, that regardless what the reasons are for homosexuality whether you agree with her not, “it remains sad”. “These people” will never have children the “regular way”, and if they adopt children, those kids will never have the privilege of having a mommy AND a daddy. (I have translated this for my English readers, but here is the original version of the text in Afrikaans: “Ongeag wat die redes vir homoseksualiteit is (of jy nou met my saamstem of nie), dit bly hartseer. Sulke mense kan nooit op die normale manier kinders hê nie. En sou hulle kinders aanneem, sal die kinders nooit die wonderlike voorreg hê om ’n pappa én mamma te hê nie.”)
I am strongly of the opinion that it is very reckless and irresponsible for someone (an adult) to say things like Wiid has said on public platforms, let alone in a published book. How is this book helping a young child that thinks he/she is gay? How is it helping that child figure out his/her feelings, at a time of already great confusion and pressure? How is this teaching straight children to accept everyone around them, no matter their sexual preference?
When I first went on Wiid’s website, I was uncomfortable. There are only photos of herself on her homepage. It was a lot of “Gretha”. The second thing that bothered me, was that she felt the need to make it public on social media what her qualifications are, I suppose in an attempt to defend herself after all the media backlash she has received. In my experience with people, and I know a great many people, I have never met anyone who is truly grounded in their faith and confident about who they are and what they put out in the world, who have felt the need to justify or publicise their qualifications. I have also found that she appears to be somewhat ignorant and arrogant in certain responses she makes on social media. I am just telling you what I have observed.
I watched the video of her “apology”, which for me was not an apology, but a justification. She insists that she will not defend her book or herself, yet that is exactly what she does. And then for about half of the 12 minutes, she preaches. She says that her words were twisted, and makes an awful lot of reference to how she speaks as “a Child of God”. Personally, I find it annoying. If you are a child of God and you know you are right with the Lord, and so convinced in your faith, why do you have to go around convincing the rest of us?
Here is my conclusion:
This book is a form of emotional manipulation, coercing children into not being homosexual, and if they are, forcing them to supress those feelings. The children that read this book form prejudgments at a very young age, thinking that every gay person that they will meet in life will have this background. It is indoctrination. THAT is what is sad: preying on the emotions of a young child knowing that he or she does not know any better, and using that to line your pocket.
Gretha Wiid is ignorant. Her “evangelism”, and I put this in quotations marks because she has said that she is not an evangelist, nonetheless, her “evangelism” has got nothing to do with Christianity. She is not a theologian. She and the likes of Angus Buchan have found themselves a platform to be elevated on and seen as idols by people (Christians) who have a spiritual thirst and need a “leader”, but unfortunately these same people blindly and sheepishly follow them without critically thinking what is being “preached” to them. Without forming their own opinions, or thinking for themselves. They just accept what is given to them. When people (like me and others) dare to hand out critique to those like Wiid and Buchan and there are a great many others, we are outcast as unreligious, non-believers, going against God, questioners of the Bible, and who knows what else.
And to answer all the Widd-Buchan fans that are going to say something like “what about freedom of speech” and “this is what the Bible says”, here is what I have to say to you: freedom of speech does not mean that your homophobia or any kind of hatred that you feel towards a certain group of people, can just be thrown around as you wish. Gretha has said that she has a gay brother and that she loves gay people, but my care for that went away when that sentence was followed by a “but”. These so-called “preachers”, and they are everywhere, mostly in their little churches that usually spring up overnight, or on a stage in front of thousands of fans as if it were a rock concert, without any form of formal training in theology, they hide behind the Bible in an attempt to justify, and defend the remarks that they make not realizing the consequences. Or realizing it, but just not caring.
Her utterances, and she has made many that I haven’t even published here, has attacked people in a very unpleasant way, and she used religion to hide behind it. Just the other day she put a post on her Facebook page that reads, “It’s easy to worship God; it’s HARD to worship ONLY GOD” – and I’m chilling in my room like, but people are worshipping YOU?!
In our information-based, technological era, I feel it is so important that information, especially what is given to vulnerable children, be scientifically correct and reliable, and not based on bigotry or prejudices. We can no longer sit back and allow bigotry to pass us by, saying “but it doesn’t affect me”. It is up to the young adults of today, our generation of minds that have been taught to think freely and stop forming misconceptions of how we treat people who are a little bit different to us in any way, shape or form, it is up to us to bring about change, and stand up for what is right. It is up to us to decide what kind of world we want to live in, and make sure that that is the one we leave behind for future generations.
I do not tolerate any form of discrimination against anyone who seems a little different.
So, will we leave behind a world of intolerance and abuse, or one of acceptance and mutual respect?
Nortjé-Meyer, L., 2011, ‘A critical analysis of Gretha Wiid’s sex ideology and her biblical hermeneutics’, Verbum et Ecclesia 32(1), Art. #472, 7 pages. http://dx.doi.org/10.4102/ve.v32i1.472"Gretha Wiid – Pray away the gay?",