Christian religious fundamentalism in Kenya What do we know?

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An empirical approach to the study of religion and religiosity has yet to take root in Kenya. This is why the study we conducted to explore the association between religious fundamentalism and attitudes towards sexual and gender minorities among religious leaders in Kenyaand now published in the Journal of Pastoral Psychology, is so revolutionary.

The lack of interest in taking an empirical approach to the study of religion is surprising given the significant influence that religion, and religious fundamentalism in particular, have in shaping world history – including that of from Kenya.

In this study, we sought to establish the levels of religious fundamentalism among religious leaders in Kenya and what association exists between religious fundamentalism and attitudes towards gay men, lesbian women and transgender (also commonly referred to as LGBTQ+) people in Kenya. Kenya.

Globally, religious fundamentalism has been found to be negatively associated with acceptance of lesbian women and gay men, acceptance of gender diversity, and positively associated with social distance towards gay men and social distance towards lesbian women.

A total of 113 religious leaders participated, of which 66.4% were men and 33.6% women. Male religious leaders had significantly higher levels of religious fundamentalism than female religious leaders.

[Courtesy: Twitter]

In Africa, religious fundamentalism is largely understudied. To our knowledge, this was the first such study in Kenya. There have been some studies in Egypt, where one study found that among young people, religious fundamentalism was associated with increased support for militarism, respect for religious authorities as a source of knowledge about the socio-political role of Islam , support for Islamic orthodoxy, fatalism and feelings of insecurity.

A study in South Africa, exploring the relationship between religious fundamentalism and life satisfaction and meaning, found that fundamentalist religious attitudes can in some cases provide a framework of meaning and definitive answers to life’s existential uncertainties. .

In studies conducted in other parts of the world, religious fundamentalism has always been associated with prejudice against outgroups and minorities in general and with pro-group prejudice, that is, a preferential evaluation of members of his group with respect to the outside. the group members.

Religious fundamentalism has also been shown to be associated with the stigmatization of gays, lesbians and transgender people. Additionally, people who score high in religious fundamentalism solve moral problems through the quick and unequivocal application of previously established moral codes, as opposed to a more flexible approach that pays attention to the consequences of moral choices. While religious fundamentalism has predicted attitudes favorable to forgiveness, it is not associated with the actual tendency to forgive.

In the Kenyan study, we found that, overall, religious leaders had a negative perception of LGBTQ+ people. Acceptance of lesbians and gay men, as well as acceptance of gender diversity, was very low and inversely proportional to the level of religious fundamentalism of religious leaders.

In terms of social distancing, religious leaders did not want to be near gay men, lesbian women or transgender people. Indeed, they were the most uncomfortable with homosexuals and the least with transgender people.

The influence of religious leaders in supporting the continued discrimination, violence and criminalization of sexual and gender minorities in Kenya Kenya and many African countries is well documented.

Emerging research also indicates the growing influence of religious clergy in politics, and religion is becoming an organizational basis for political mobilization. Therefore, the pervasive stigma against sexual and gender minorities among religious leaders and the politicization of that stigma actually have negative practical public policy outcomes for LGBTQ+ people.

Given this strong association between religious fundamentalism and the stigmatization of LGBTQ+ people and the growing influence of religious leaders in shaping public policy, it is necessary to question the impact this may have on equality. inclusiveness and non-discrimination as guaranteed in the 2010 Constitution for all Kenyans.

By definition, religious fundamentalism is exclusive because religious fundamentalists believe in the superiority of their religious teachings and a strict division between the righteous and the wrongdoers. Religious fundamentalists believe that there is only one set of religious teachings that provides an infallible set of truths that dictate how people should live their lives and must be defended against any other opinion that opposes these truths (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992) .

From this study, we can deduce three practical approaches that can be taken, both to advance the rights of religious fundamentalists in Kenya, but also to promote and protect the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ Kenyans. These approaches urge religious leaders and other Christians to:

  1. Embracing a Loving and Compassionate Pastoral Response
  2. Cutting the link between Christianity and colonialism
  3. Consider the theology of grace versus the law – Can there be salvation for LGBTQ+ people?

These three practical approaches are detailed in a 4-page article where we demonstrate that religious leaders’ negative views of LGBTQ+ people change as well as their levels of religious fundamentalism once they encounter the humanity of LGBTQ+ people.

We encourage religious leaders and all Kenyans of good will to read the much richer article (4 pages only). Download and read at your own pace – link to the site: leaders_LGBTQ_in_Kenya.pdf

You can also access the published results of our study in the Journal of Pastoral Psychology here:-

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