For decades the church has avoided open discussion on sexual issues. For many church-going couples the act itself was done behind closed doors – preferably in the dark. Meet Agrippa Khathide. The media has described him as an « X-rated pastor » whose Bible-bashing sermons have put the bounce back into the bedroom.
It is Saturday night in Boksburg on the East Rand and Agrippa Khathide is delivering his sex-gospel to married couples – not your average pillow talk coming from a man of the cloth.
With explicit language intimating steamy bedroom scenes, Agrippa takes his audience on a roller-coaster sex ride. For many couples here tonight, this was a first experience of the pastor’s frank sex talks. For Agrippa, this was only one of many nights over the last few years where he has been bringing sex out of the closet and into the open.
“You know people associate sex with darkness. They associate sex with the devil. A lot of Christians, I’m sorry to say, associate sex with the devil. As far as I am concerned sex is holy,” says Agrippa
Agrippa Khathide is a pastor of the oldest Pentecostal church in South Africa – the Apostolic Faith Mission. It is a charismatic church that believes in the laying of hands, the speaking of tongues and the literal interpretation of the Bible. For Khathide this church has been the podium from which he has been preaching not only to his own congregation in Thembisa on the East Rand but also nationwide.
But is the church the place to talk about sex?
Agrippa says yes: “The reason why HIV/Aids is spreading in sub-Saharan Africa, even all over the world, is because the church is keeping quiet about these matters. I really believe with all my heart that it is not the will of God for us, as the church, to keep quiet.”
Agrippa has made it his mission to break the silence forever. He has been rapped over the knuckles in particular for a quotation from his newly released “adults only” Zulu cassette which might have offended some churchgoers.
Agrippa has been quoted as saying a wife should be a lady outside and a bitch in the bedroom, which seems rather blasphemous coming from a pastor.
“I had a friend saying that the reason why he was going out of marriage was because his wife was not active in the bedroom… sleeps like a log. This guy was saying I want my wife to have complete, total freedom in the bedroom, and I am fully in agreement with that,” says Agrippa.
Perhaps 22 years of marriage is proof of his theory. Agrippa lives with his wife Malefu and their five children in Thembisa. Why does Malefu think the marriage has lasted so long?
“Number one – because of the foundation, which is God. Number two – the two of us are working on our commitment,” she says.
Malefu also works closely with Agrippa in the counselling of married couples. She says many women experience problems in the bedroom, but that they are quiet and don’t expose the problems.
Looking at exactly this problem, Agrippa has written a number of books over the years. The latest one « Bone of My Bones » gives advice on how to build functional marriages in an African context.
“The Bible believes in equality of man and woman. In this country we talk about reconciliation between races, different people and backgrounds, but I don’t think we have effectively spoken about that in Christ there is no male or female,” explains Agrippa.
Preaching to thousands of people, Agrippa’s message has echoed through many towns and cities in South Africa. We followed some of his disciples to Witbank in Mpumalanga.
Carte Blanche met Vusi Mgwenya and his wife Chasline and their two children. As members of the Apostolic Church, Vusi and Chasline have known about Khathide and listened to many of his sermons.
In African culture, the man is superior to the woman, but for them, how does this relate to what Agrippa is saying?
“We should be equal, and its not the man who should be superior all the time… who should be the aggressor, especially in the bedroom, unlike past times when it was not expected from a woman to tell a man what she wants in the bedroom,” says Chasline.
For Vusi it was an eye-opener. After attending a seminar of Agrippa on his own one night, Vusi came home to put into practice what the pastor preached. When asked how she would describe the evening’s “practical”, Chasline said it was “steamy”.
“I’ve also realised that I have to satisfy her – not only myself. If we couples can be able to be open, discuss these issues with each other, the better marriages will be,” says Vusi.
But easier said than done. According to Agrippa, couples find it difficult to talk openly on sex: “It’s easy for people to talk about money, talk about love, talk about whatever, but it`s too close to talk about sex, and for me that area has been neglected.”
Carte Blanche visited the local Apostolic Church where Agrippa has also delivered sermons. We were welcomed by some of the members of the congregation and the local pastor and his wife – Sipho and Mologadi Motshele.
When Sipho and Mologadi experienced problems recently, they had nowhere to turn. As the pastor and his wife, the congregation expects them to set an example of a perfect marriage. Their marriage was in trouble.
Sipho says he was afraid to talk about sex openly, but Agrippa “broadened” his mind. Mologadi agrees: “The way I used to think about sex was like it is an obligation… instead of seeing it as an enjoyment, I used to see it as an obligation of a married woman.”
“After some time they opened up, and I began to talk to them and I’m glad that from that day they started talking openly about their sexual needs,” explains Agrippa.
“Pastor Khathide takes it from a spiritual point of view. Where is it coming from? We need to understand that this is not sin. The more you listen to him, you come back with a fresh mind and an idea, which is commit yourself to your partner,” says Mologadi.
Sipho and Mologadi are faithful in their commitment to each other, but many couples out there face sexual dissatisfaction in one way or another. But it is perhaps Pastor Khatide’s unorthodox ways of preaching that has opened the doors for a more honest approach towards sex between a man and a woman.
“I believe that in South Africa, even if we are not ready, this message is breaking all the silence about sex. From a spiritual point of view, I would say we are redeeming sex for God. We are redeeming sex and putting it where it rightfully belongs. It does not belong to the church or the devil or demons. Sex belongs to God,” says Agrippa