Sunday, March 6, 2011

Uganda, Rolling Stones, and Christian Outrage

Though not explicitly about race and Christianity, the events taking place in Uganda over the last several months touch on many issues that are relevant for us here at BTSF.

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
As a Christian, these videos are painful for me to watch because it shows my faith in such a terrible light. No wonder some of my work colleagues despise Christians and make so many derogatory comments about Christianity! We can be terrible people! Of course, not all Christians believe homosexuality is a sin, and of the ones that do most certainly do not condone hate-crimes against the LGBT community. Scott Lively is an extremist, as is the Westboro Church, and hope that the rest of us won't be judged by the fanatics among our faith. But I know we will be stereotyped and lumped together (as any American Muslim will tell you they have been). And moderate Christians must understand that we carry the burden of our siblings' sins. It effects our ability to fellowship and to show God's love to the world. It affects who feels safe enough to walk through our church doors. We must understand the consequences of this fervor: millions miss out on an opportunity to know the love of Jesus.  It is a poor witness of hatred that repels gay and straight folks alike. This is the price of our silence.



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

See Also:
Abortion and Condemnation
Colbert Report-Jesus is a Liberal Democrat
Representatives of Christ

11 comments:

  1. A comment from a conversation with Diane regarding Pastor Martin Ssempa's methods of anti-gay activism in Uganda:
    "if you did the same thing with heterosexual sex (showed porn and talked about it), we'd probably want to kill straight people too"

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  2. Have you heard about "corrective rape" in South Africa? There's a petition on change.org to get it reversed. I can't understand how people can do such things.

    Your mention of "where are all the christian voices" seems like something I could chant about many moments when "christians" should have stood up. Yet I don't know how this happens if you're also a person watching your family struggle every day to make ends meet or have your own problems to face. Mark Twain once accused missionaries of going to the ends of the earth to help people while ignoring many people with the same problems at home.

    So this post baffles me because as a person, I don't know if I can help out or even have the resources to help. So what does "loving thy neighbor" mean when the ideal practice of love goes beyond one's capacity?

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  3. Yes, I have been following those issues for a while. It has gotten a lot of attention recently, which is good.

    I feel you with your concerns about local vs. distant atrocities. And also, your thoughts on limited personal resources. When have I given enough? Should I raise more funds for the poor by selling my house? my laptop? my grandmother's heirloom silver? I articulate some of this internal struggle here: http://bytheirstrangefruit.blogspot.com/2010/09/freedom-writers.html

    The most important thing, of course, is to know that God is control, is bigger than all of it, and He is generous enough to want us to participating in it with Him--even if that means change comes more slowly.
    The important thing is avoid feeling defeated and in so feeling, do nothing in a paralysis.

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  4. Thanks for this post, Katelin! It brings attention to a very important and under-reported topic!

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  5. Boo on that statement. :) It's almost like you're saying to be brave or something. What, I can't be secure in my insecurities? :)

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  6. :-) You are a super brave person! I have always been impressed by you~!

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  7. :-) We are both brave people in our own ways and weak in our own ways. Brave people think sometimes that they exist in isolation, but only by being able to look past themselves can they see that they are't truly alone. It's a hard lesson, but still true. Now, back to my own way of being brave...:)

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  8. Boo on that statement. :) It's almost like you're saying to be brave or something. What, I can't be secure in my insecurities? :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yes, I have been following those issues for a while. It has gotten a lot of attention recently, which is good.

    I feel you with your concerns about local vs. distant atrocities. And also, your thoughts on limited personal resources. When have I given enough? Should I raise more funds for the poor by selling my house? my laptop? my grandmother's heirloom silver? I articulate some of this internal struggle here: http://bytheirstrangefruit.blo...

    The most important thing, of course, is to know that God is control, is bigger than all of it, and He is generous enough to want us to participating in it with Him--even if that means change comes more slowly.
    The important thing is avoid feeling defeated and in so feeling, do nothing in a paralysis.

    ReplyDelete
  10. :-) You are a super brave person! I have always been impressed by you~!

    ReplyDelete
  11. And now Ghana? http://colorlines.com/archives/2011/08/evangelical_backlash_against_ghanas_growing_gay_pride_is_a_familiar_refrain.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+racewireblog+%28ColorLines%29

    ReplyDelete

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