Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Hang Them, They Are After Our Kids"

That was the gently-worded and journalistically responsible headline on an Ugandan tabloid a little while back. Underneath was a list of "gay" Ugandans, including a straight 78-year-old Anglican bishop. Some of the people named by the paper have since been harassed and attacked. All of them are in danger, given the state of both rhetoric and emotions in Uganda these days. This is one of those places where it is easy to imagine an outbreak of truly homicidal mob violence.

And it's our fault.

Not the Egg's fault, mind you, nor the fault of its readers -- at least not as such. But the climate of anti-gay rage in Ugandas is the fault of Americans, and especially American Christians, a category which does include most of us.

The full take is in this story from Religion Dispatches. Here's how it works. American preachers like Scott Lively and Rick Warren have connections in Uganda. They show up to lead services, they send money, they do their thing. They say things like this:
Lively testified before parliament and told Ugandans, “The gay movement is an evil institution”; he equated gays with serial killers and sociopaths who, “do mass murder, you know, like the Rwanda stuff.”
And no, Warren isn't especially notorious in the US for any anti-gay vitriol. But consider this:

[Warren] has enjoyed close ties in Uganda ... where The Purpose Driven Life is reported to be almost as popular as the Bible. Warren was close to Pastor Martin Ssempa, though he’s since distanced himself from the pastor and come out in opposition to the AHB [a draconian anti-gay bill].

Ssempa, known for staging anti-homosexual marches where people chant “Kill the Gays” and “Arrest all Homos,” has shown gay porn movies in church to promote the AHB. ...

Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Priest and author of a report on American evangelicals and anti-gay African clergy, told this reporter back in January, after Warren finally repudiated the bill in Dec. 2009: “Ugandans,” and Ssempa in particular, “are demanding an apology from Warren; the question is why are they demanding an apology? Warren misrepresented what he said in Uganda and [it] is very different tha[n] what he is saying now [in the U.S.]”

It isn't just the preachers, either. The RD article needs some editing, but it appears that Jeff Sharlet, a journalist who has investigated a powerful fundamentalist network he calls "The Family," has evidence that this network has been at work in Uganda, directing both foreign aid money and religious fanaticism into the country. He names Oklahoma senator James Inhofe as "the point man to represent the U.S. Congress and The Family."

“Ugandans are not concerned about the finer points of the American class system,” according to Sharlet. “They look at fanatics such as Lively, or a politician such as Inhofe, and they see the same thing: a smiling white man come to preach moral ‘purity’ as a path out of poverty.”

We aren't sure how much credit to give Sharlet, since his basic idea -- a shadowy conspiracy at the highest ranks of government -- sounds so much like the premise of a paperback thriller. This sort of thing seems awfully improbable, given the realities of church life. When people object to organized religion, we typically respond that we haven't yet found any.

But the fact remains that Peter Akinola and the other Anglican bishops of the so-called Southern Cone aren't the only Christians working overtime to deny basic human and civil rights to gay people, as well as to create a climate of impending mass violence. They have help from up north.

1 comment:

PS (PSanafter-thought) said...

I've traveled to Uganda, stayed there almost three weeks, and we still correspond with a person there. One of our traveling group there was a lesbian. At that time, 2007, I didn't know about the anti-homosexual stuff in that country, but I did notice that that woman was really careful about what she said about herself and family, but I would be too with strangers. A couple of the Ugandan people we talked and worked with were very forward and made statements that made me realize that they had strong feelings. For example, one of the Canadians in our group belongs to the UCC. He was questioned about why he would stay with that church given the liberalness on this issue.

From what I've read, it seems that the Africans, in general, are quite anti-homosexual. So these preachers are feeding an already more-than-smoldering fire.

Uganda is a complex place. The culture is everything from glitzy hotels to mud huts, educated to illiterate. There are definitely British overtones, with the Anglican church being fairly dominant. But the pentecostal type of worship is growing by leaps and bounds, and may not (???) have much theological underpinning, by which I mean, that the emotionalism seems dominant.

I've read about people being mistakenly beat up on the street when people have perceived a wrong, so any reports of threat of this re sexuality seem credible.