Christian extremists in Uganda’s parliament are hoping that hunger and high gas prices will provide the cover they need to finally subject gay men to punishment of biblical proportions. They have introduced a bill, up for vote on May 11, that seeks life imprisonment for gay sex and, for repeat offenders, the death penalty. Last year, similar legislation was averted by international outrage. President Museveni was afraid of losing valuable aid dollars, and after outcry arose across the West, with Barack Obama calling the law “odious,” Museveni prevented the bill from coming to a vote.
Stopping the bill was insufficient to save the life of one Ugandan, David Kato, who was beaten to death with a hammer in January. Kato was Uganda’s most outspoken gay rights advocate and had received many death threats before he was killed. In the winter months before his death, one newspaper ran a front page photo of Kato with an anti-gay rant and a banner urging “Hang them.” Last spring I traveled in Mozambique, where a full-page article in a local paper interspersed Bible verses, exhortations to spiritual living, and similar anti-gay vitriol. Although leading fundamentalists like Albert Mohler appear increasingly resigned to “tolerance” here at home, across Africa the marriage of Christianity and homophobia appears to be thriving—thanks in part to an American tendency to take our outdated wares and social movements overseas.
Two years ago, I wrote an article that asked, “If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?” It described some of the thirty six causes for capital punishment listed in the Good Book, including cursing parents, witchcraft, being raped (only within the city limits), adultery, and of course, homosexual sex. Mercifully, even the most old school American Christians seem to ignore the Bible on these points. But one of the unfortunate consequences of Americans exporting biblical literalism to developing countries is that people in those countries take the Bible literally – including the parts we all, missionaries included, wish they wouldn’t. In Nigeria, American Pentecostalism has fused with local animism and resulted in children being beaten and burned as witches, just like the Bible prescribes.
In Uganda, American evangelism may be similarly responsible for Kato’s death and the proposed law. In March 2009, frustrated by their inability to block the gradual inclusion of gays in the universal human rights umbrella at home, Evangelical leaders traveled to Uganda and led incendiary workshops seeking to increase Ugandan fear that gay men are a threat to straight marriages and children. It would appear that Uganda’s already fractured and restive society is reaping what the American missionaries have sown: further contention and violence.
“I don’t want anyone killed,” said Mr. Schmierer, one of the Evangelical leaders who traveled to Uganda two years ago. “But I don’t feel I had anything to do with that [Kato’s death].” Many evangelicals, those who see the Bible as literally perfect, find it almost impossible to imagine that the Bible itself could be responsible for inciting violence or that those who preach biblical inerrancy could be complicit in that violence. And yet other Christians, those who see the Bible as the imperfect record of the imperfect struggle of our spiritual ancestors, find this causal chain quite plausible. According to theologian Thom Stark (The Human Faces of God), the biblical record attributes divine sanction in places to some of the worst of Iron Age impulses, including human sacrifice. Unless we understand those writings in their human context we are bound to glorify passages that instead should teach us about the darkness in the human spirit. And glorifying human darkness puts us at risk of enacting it.
It is troubling that of the many offerings that might have been carried to Africa by American Christians in the service of the Great Commandment, what has been carried instead are seeds of homophobia that produce fear, hatred, and death. It will take many voices raised together to reverse the damage done. I hope those voices will be raised this week (petition here) and again next year, and for as many years as are needed until Uganda’s gay community can live in love and peace.
More about gays and Christian fundamentalism
Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like If We Actually Followed the Bible
Why I hope Conservative Christians Will Fight Gay Marriage Tooth and Nail Till Their Teeth and Nails Fall Out
More about toxic missions:
Our Public Schools, Their Mission Field
Many Unaware of World Vision’s Evangelical Mission
Eight Ugly Sins the Catholic Bishops Hope Lay Members and Others Won’t Notice
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Thanks for bringing attention to this issue, Valerie. My father was a homosexual, and I am passionate about one’s sexuality being a free choice.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have a beloved gay brother who has a beloved gay partner. It is beyond me that anyone would want to harm them because they love each other.
Being gay and living in Africa, I see the marriage of religion and government all too clearly. Thankfully here in South Africa, on the most-part, religion is not brought into politics and the gay issue does not form part of the political agenda. However, our ambassador to Uganda was recently convicted of hate-speech for an article he penned for a local tabloid which forms part of a media-group also known for it’s very pro-Christian writers. It was worrying to see such aggressively religious and homophobic material published in the popular media by a state official – sadly, he was promoted to ambassador AFTER writing the column. Thanks for taking the time to share your very sober an unbiased viewpoints. Having been an evangelical who studied Christian Counselling previously too, I really relate to your viewpoint and your blog has really been of a lot of inspiration to me!
Valerie, the biggest problem with Xianity which you still seem unwilling to confront is that the entire Gospels were written by a church that wanted to push hatred on Jews, women, gays and anyone else who wasn’t a church father or brother. You inherited a 2000 year old sick puppy and nothing can save it except to jettison it completely and start all over again. You know this, yet you still cling to your faith. WHY? Valerie, there is no God or gods and Jesus was a fake false messiah prophet and the Hebrews had it all wrong, too. If you really want to heal the world, grow up and face reality. First, tell me which untruth of Xianity is the one you are most wiliing to admit to and tell the world? Dish! (danny in his wireless cave in Taiwan, Tufts 1971) . SMILE
Huh. Dan, I’m confused and wondering if you have taken the time to read my articles. If so, I should think you would discover fairly soon that my spiritual journey has taken me to a set of conclusions much like your own.
Well, yes, of course, Valerie, i was typing fast here in Taiwan yesterday and you didn’t reply to my emails so I thought you were ignoring me. Glad to know you are here, and in full bloom yourself. What attracted to me your posts and writing especially is your insights into how World Vision pretends to be a charity for all, and plays on the heartstrings of tragedy, be it in Japan or Taiwan and elsewhere, two places where they raise a lot of money playing on the Japanese and Taiwanese gullible people who donate money in spades completely unaware that that WV is using the funds not only to help people but in the end, the raison d’etre, to bring them to their false prophet Joshie, er, Jesus. Every summer in Taiwan they run a 30 hour WV fast and get thousands of high school and college students to join the 30 hour fast for world hunger and it is all a huge religious thing in the end, Yes the media here is unaware of what WV is all about. Do you know they kids they help in foreign countries are also sent Xmas cards each year to further recruit them for the fake religion WV reps? Your kids in India got the same cards. This kind of lying must stop. But how. that is why i contact you. i love your work, I love your writings, I love you and am glad you escapes the cage of fake religion inherited by you. Me too. I was brainwahsed and mindcotntroleld as a kid in Boston too. I was born into the Jewish mindcontrol cult and I loved it and still do, but i rejected the religiouis stuff at age 13, the day after my bar mitzvah, haha, and I rejected the Zionist stuff at 18 when i woke up to the perils of imperialism married to religion. Sigh. Now i am freelance world citizen critic of all untruths. Nice to meet you. My email is really bikolang AT gmail — and i used to live on a houseboat on lake Union 1970s….. danny, 1949-2032
And World Vision also only hires Christians for its staff. Sickness untold! It’s okay, they have a right to do their thing, my beef is how the media in USA and overseas glosses over the fakeness of WV religion base and presents it as mere charity, when in facts it is a religious FRONT organization which exists not to help kids to witness to the faux gospel of a faux Joshie….SIGH
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