Before we go any further, if you can't locate Uganda on a map, or are unfamiliar with it's political, historical, and cultural background, take a minute to educate yourself. Good, now we can continue.
In a brief summary of the current events , the largely Christian nation has been considering legislation to legalize the death penalty for homosexuality (it is already against the law to be homosexual, but jail time is the current punishment). It is believed that an American Evangelical influence has had a role in whipping up the recent fervor. Last fall, a Ugandan paper, Rolling Stone (no relation to US-based music magazine) published 100 names, photos, and home addresses of members of the Ugandan LGBT community, under a banner reading "hang them." And sure enough, David Kato, prominent LGBT activist and one of the people named in the article, was found beaten to death a little over a month ago.
So where are the Christian voices on this matter? I recognize that there is not agreement within the Christian community about what the bible has to say about homosexuality. But surely we agree that murder is wrong! Yet the church remains largely silent on these events, too afraid to speak out in support of human rights if those humans happen to be homosexual. We should be screaming out, decrying murder done in the name of Christ. Instead we hear equivocation and qualified responses: "it's the lesser of two evils"--their methods might be harsh, but somehow their motives are in line. A recent Vanguard documentary, reveals the stark situation in full (view the trailer, or the more explicit full video--warning: NSFW. Jeff Sharlet, author of 'Straight Man's Burden: The American roots of Uganda's anti-gay persecutions' also makes some good points (for those without a Harper's subscription, listen to him in a recent interview) Gay rights activist, Val Kalende, exhorts “The Ugandan government and the so-called U.S. evangelicals must take responsibility for David’s blood.” and Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda adds "The blood of David is on the hands of American preachers who came to Uganda...they share much of the blame for presenting us as less than human."
|Rev. Scott Lively|
And I have to wonder how we as Christians got so fixated on the issue of homosexuality. Why is it when you survey the secular public, we are most often known for our stance on homosexuality and abortion, not on our excitement about Jesus and His love? Doesn't that seem odd? Why aren't we so impassioned about world hunger, or human trafficking, illiteracy rates, or homelessness? Aren't those of concern in protecting 'family values'? And I'll grant that there are some thorny verses about sexuality in the Bible. But in reality, there are basically six main verses that get referenced as maybe having something to do with homosexuality in a bible that contains about 30,000 verses (that's .02% for those keeping score at home). And Jesus never even mentions it, so surely it shouldn't be the foremost issue we are known for. Jesus does talk a whole lot about money, both on the dangers of being rich and the blessedness of the poor. He also talks a whole lot about love: of neighbors, of your enemy, of self. And he talks about condemnation for hypocrites and false prophets. Just saying...
Some final notes:
As with the recent Egyptian revolution, we must be careful not to egocentrically overstate the role the United States plays in Ugandan politics. It is a sovereign nation that makes it's own policies and decisions. We did not plant homosexuality in Uganda, nor are we the founders of homophobia there. Secondly, though this post is specifically about Uganda, don't think that the United States is a safe place for LGBT individuals. We just haven't legalized the thousands of hate crimes that take place every year.
I recognize that this post was a little off topic this week, but I couldn't stay silent anymore. How about you?
UPDATE (05/13/11): Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Stumbles, But Still Not Off the Table
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