Evangelical Christians Are Shocked–Shocked, I Tell You!–To Find Out Their Anti-Gay Rhetoric Might Encourage Uganda's Push To Make Homosexuality A Capital Offense

Jeffrey Gettleman, in this New York Times article, writes about how three Evangelical Christians from the United States–Scott Lively (click here to read quotes from his talk in Uganda), Caleb Lee Brundidge and Exodus International board member Don Schmierer–are now trying to distance themselves from an event in Uganda at which they spoke about “how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution’ whose goal is ‘to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.’ The reason for their backpedaling is that the event contributed to the climate that led to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which would make homosexuality a capital crime. In a rhetorical move that is remarkably similar to the ways in which the religious right tries to distance itself from people who murder doctors that perform abortions, each of these men or their organizations has issued statements about how their message is one of love and compassion, not hatred and violence. Read the article and follow some of the links. Their hypocrisy speaks for itself.

I do have to share, though, my favorite quote from Gettleman’s article. Referring to the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Schmierer says, “That’s horrible, absolutely horrible. Some of the nicest people I have ever met are gay people.” (Makes me wonder if any of them are Black.)

Cross-posted on It’s All Connected.

This entry posted in Homophobic zaniness/more LGBTQ issues, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

22 Responses to Evangelical Christians Are Shocked–Shocked, I Tell You!–To Find Out Their Anti-Gay Rhetoric Might Encourage Uganda's Push To Make Homosexuality A Capital Offense

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    The reason for their backpedaling is that the event contributed to the climate that led to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which would make homosexuality a capital crime.

    O.K. After reading the NYT article it seems likely to me that the event may have emboldened some legislators. However, does this article overstate the influence of these people and this event? If you read deep into the article you see this:

    Despite such attacks, many gay men and lesbians here said things had been getting better for them before the bill, at least enough to hold news conferences and publicly advocate for their rights.

    Mr. Kaoma was at the conference and said that the three Americans “underestimated the homophobia in Uganda” and “what it means to Africans when you speak about a certain group trying to destroy their children and their families.”

    “When you speak like that,” he said, “Africans will fight to the death.”

    Uganda is an exceptionally lush, mostly rural country where conservative Christian groups wield enormous influence. This is, after all, the land of proposed virginity scholarships, songs about Jesus playing in the airport, “Uganda is Blessed” bumper stickers on Parliament office doors and a suggestion by the president’s wife that a virginity census could be a way to fight AIDS.

    Many Africans view homosexuality as an immoral Western import, and the continent is full of harsh homophobic laws.

    How much of this proposed bill – which in it’s present form at least I strongly oppose – was due to the conference noted here and how much of it was due to what is apparently a strong and widespread opposition to legitimization of and official sanction for homosexual behavior reacting to indigenous LGBT groups agitating for rights?

    I’m familiar with the Anglican Church of Uganda. They have been strong advocates for opposing the advance of gay rights in Uganda specifically and Africa in general. They see it as Western cultural imperialism. In fact, they have helped support outreach in the U.S. for people in The Episcopal Church of the United States of America (TEC) who want to maintain an Anglican form of religion but are appalled at the anti-Christian attitude that TEC has towards homosexuality and homosexual behavior. They do this by bringing congregations for such people under their ecclesiastical supervision, so that a congregation here in the U.S. ends up being under the supervision of a bishop in communion with the Anglican church of Uganda instead of one of TEC’s. As a member of TEC this all has been on my radar screen for about 3 years.

    My point is that there’s been a lot going on for some time on this issue. These guys may have played a role, but in it’s zeal to pursue it’s bias against Christian evangelicals the NYT may be making the actually racist mistake of viewing the Ugandans as being of limited agency and pawns of the Americans.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    How much of this proposed bill – which in it’s present form at least I strongly oppose – was due to the conference noted here and how much of it was due to what is apparently a strong and widespread opposition to legitimization of and official sanction for homosexual behavior reacting to indigenous LGBT groups agitating for rights?

    The “in it’s present form” hedging is really weird, Ron, because it implies that the present form of the law — not the core idea — is what you strongly oppose. Just to clarify that, is there any form at all of criminalization of consensual, adult homosexuality that you do not oppose? (I assume you oppose all forms, but I’d like to be assured that my assumption is correct).

    As for the rest, I don’t think it matters. It was foul and disgusting for them to contribute to the conference regardless, and you don’t have to ascribe them causal effect to say that.

    ETA: Just to clarify, Ron, if the Times article really does ascribe all responsibility to the American participants — as if Ugandans surely wouldn’t have done this at all, if not for the Americans — then I agree, that’s racist in the way you describe.

    However, you haven’t at all made a case that the article actually does that.

  3. Ron:

    I am not sure what you are arguing with or about–though I think Amp’s questions are quite apt. Regarding whether or not the Times article suggests that the Ugandans are somehow pawns of the American evangelical movement: I think that is a wishful reading on your part. The article’s point is that these men went to Uganda to advance what is really (and this my opinion) a more than hateful agenda against LGBT people and now find their rhetoric–surprise, surprise–associated with the Ugandan bill, both because of simple association and because there is evidence that their talk contributed to the atmosphere in which the bill was put forward. The article states:

    But the Ugandan organizers of the conference admit helping draft the bill, and Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it.

    I am not suggesting that any of the three men openly–or even in their heart of hearts consciously–advocates for anything like the Ugandan bill, though Lively’s position on the “gay agenda” (his concept, not mine), as summarized in this article by the Zambian Anglican priest mentioned in the article, makes the issue sound so very much like a matter of cultural and even individual (note the accusation that gay people are spreading AIDS to help them take over) life or death, that the leap from Lively’s words to what the Ugandan’s certainly characterize as self-defense through legislation does not seem all that far.

  4. 4
    hf says:

    Why do we allow these lies about “anti-Christian attitude”? When you know the principle behind a rule you can put the spirit before the letter. If you deny that, your problems go far beyond misinterpreting the Bible. And if you start from a principle of love or doing no harm, I doubt logic even allows the concept of a more specific rule with strict universal application. (See Golden Rule, nitpicking of.) Do I have to explain the difference between an attack on prostitution addressed to people in Thailand, for example, and a general prohibition on sex?

  5. 5
    Elusis says:

    Referencing the role of colonialism in third-world religious homophobia is not the same thing as treating colonized people like “pawns.” (The same forces underlie the “notorious” homophobia in Jamaican culture, which isn’t native to Jamaica at all.)

    It was convenient and culturally preferable for the white Christian churches to inculcate African and island nation people with the fear of hellfire to keep them in line and “civilize” them, and demonizing homosexuality has always been an easy religious stick to beat people with. Combine it with some racist tropes like how “natural” and “close to the earth” colonized people are, and the (mistaken) belief that homosexuality doesn’t occur in nature, and you have the making of a powerful cultural meme that “homosexuality is a Western vice” that keeps the homophobia alive even after the colonizers are gone.

    Which plays beautifully into the agenda of crypto-fascist organizations like The Family who are more than glad to exploit it.

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    I said “in it’s present form” because the law covers more than consensual adult homosexual activity. I don’t have the citation at hand (and I’ve no time for digging), but I have read that the current rape laws in Uganda reflect the culture in that they have no concept of homosexual relationships and therefore define rape strictly in a male-female context. So while forcible homosexual sex might be covered by laws against battery, etc., it’s not defined as rape under current Ugandan law.

    I find punishing conduct based on the following worthy:

    3. Aggravated homosexuality.
    (1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the
    (a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years; I presume that’s the Ugandan ‘age of consent’
    (b) offender is a person living with HIV; I would add ‘if the offender had not informed the other person of their HIV status’
    (c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;
    (d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;
    (e) victim of the offence is a person with disability; Iff the basis for this is that said disability is such that it renders the disabled person unable to give informed consent to the sexual activity, but who knows, so this is iffy

    (g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to thereby enable any person to have
    unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex.

    Apparently current law references such acts (and makes them illegal) only if the offender and the victim are different sexes. So this part of this bill should become law in my opinion, although I’d lessen the punishment in general. And I add that qualifier because if someone who is HIV positive rapes someone else and the victim becomes HIV positive … well, I’m generally a death penalty opponent, but life imprisonment would not seem too harsh to me in such a case.

    Sex between consensual (and ‘consent’ to my mind includes full exchange of information regarding HIV, syphilis, etc.) adults should not be illegal. The U.S. Supreme Court got that one right, in my opinion.

    I oppose the State favoring and granting privilege to homosexual sexual activity. I do not oppose the State toleration of it.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    Elusis, is it your contention then that a lack of acceptance of homosexuality in African culture is due to Western cultural imperialism and does not predate it? Interesting. Can you prove it?

  8. 8
    RonF says:

    Why do we allow these lies about “anti-Christian attitude”? When you know the principle behind a rule you can put the spirit before the letter. If you deny that, your problems go far beyond misinterpreting the Bible.

    I presume that it is your contention (and please correct me if I am wrong) that loving someone who engages in homosexual behavior requires accepting that behavior as normal and worthy of blessing, and protection from the disapproval and sanction of society. Find me, then, another example in the Bible where Christians are asked to do such for any other kind of sinful behavior.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    Ron, if the Times article really does ascribe all responsibility to the American participants — as if Ugandans surely wouldn’t have done this at all, if not for the Americans — then I agree, that’s racist in the way you describe. However, you haven’t at all made a case that the article actually does that.

    I’m not trying to make the case for that – I’m asking if such a case can be made. The New York Times, after all, has a known set of biases. This article puts up a proposition, lays out some information in detail that would seem to support it, and then mentions information that calls into question just how much these people really were a factor in this without exploring just how much influence it had on the process of developing this law.

    I do not mean to exonerate these men completely. But I caught a strong whiff of racism in this article, and the fact that racism in this case would support a particular viewpoint about African conservatives or American evangelists is no excuse for ignoring it.

    I should take the time to dig up the cites; it would take a while. But there have been some racist comments made in the past by American liberal Christian clerics and lay people regarding the leaders and members of the African churches over the last few years, so this would be nothing new (although less explicit).

  10. 10
    hf says:

    I presume that it is your contention (and please correct me if I am wrong) that loving someone who engages in homosexual behavior requires accepting that behavior as normal and worthy of blessing, and protection from the disapproval and sanction of society.

    In practice I do believe this, but I’m not arguing it here. I’m saying that if you want to call it “anti-Christian”, you have the burden of deriving your absurd code from the basic principle of “love thy neighbor”. You can’t depend on prohibitions for societies with wildly different conditions; surely you’ve seen people talking about the coercive nature of homosexual intercourse, and most sex in general, within Roman society. And Paul seems to say quite clearly and directly that a Christian who follows the principle of love can safely ignore any laws which you can no longer derive from it. See above re: how rules in general work.

    The only response I’ve ever seen to this argument asserts that since God will punish homosexuality, or withdraw in some way from those who practice it, loving one’s neighbor forbids accepting the practice. This boils down to, ‘God doesn’t love us, silly, that principle of behavior only applies to humans.’

    For God either chooses his alleged disapproval or He does not. If it be chosen, then God chooses to harm us, in a way that seems impossible to derive from love. If it be not chosen, then it must derive from God’s essential nature. For theologians tell us that God has no limits except those which follow from His nature as the Form of Good. Now, by this Platonist theory, a simpler Form is better. (Critics of Richard Dawkins assure us that all Christian theology worth speaking of includes this bit.) Therefore, God in his essence must consist simply of homophobia with no admixture of love. For if He contained two logically separate principles, then would he be unnecessarily complex. And as previously stated, one cannot derive homophobia from love without a pre-existing prohibition on homosexuality, which would beg the question.

  11. 11
    Elusis says:

    Ron, it really aggravates me when people try to talk about race and marginalized people and then reveal that they have no knowledge of the existing literature on the subject and act as if it is not well-documented, maybe an ideosyncratic idea someone else had.

    Because it’s not like there’s any writing on the subject. Pretty sure I just made that whole thing up.

  12. 12
    Mandolin says:

    Cheers, Elusis.

    FWIW, Ron, you’ve done the same exact thing in the other thread about the stereotypes about black women.

  13. 13
    marmalade says:

    RonF, it really aggravates me when people use a quote to make a point and carefully leaves out the most inflamatory portion of that quote.

    THIS text below is the full definition of aggravated homosexuality under the proposed law (for which the penalty is death) including letter f) which you carefully omitted:

    3. Aggravated homosexuality.
    (1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the

    (a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;

    (b) offender is a person living with HIV;

    (c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;

    (d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;

    (e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

    (f) offender is a serial offender, or

    (g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

    (2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

    (3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

    Where “serial offender” is anyone who admits to or has been witnessed having sex with a person of the same gender more than once.

    Ugandan law already does outlaw adult-minor sex without regard to gender http://gayuganda.blogspot.com/2009/12/debunking-lies-aggravated-homosexuality.html. So yes, this bill is primarily about creating a death penalty for gay people.

    And for other politcial uses. The anti-homosexuality laws already on the rolls in Uganda are being used to imprison political opponents of the ruling party http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2009/04/19/10764. The dictator and his party are soon going to be able to hang anyone they can force to confess to having had gay sex more than once. Sounds like a win-win: get those homos running for cover and kill all your political opponents in one fell swoop. And if you don’t really want to off them just yet, you can put them in jail for years for “promoting homosexuality.”

    Those American Christianists (and I don’t use that term lightly) were stirring an already hateful pot with their vitriolic speech. I cannot believe you are defending them.

  14. 14
    Elusis says:

    Mandolin -

    Good point.

    “Sassy black woman stereotype? Never heard of it!”

    “Fat women get shamed by their doctors based on zero medical evidence? Never happened to me!”

    “Religion as a colonial tool for subduing third world people? Who made that up?”

    I’ve been looking for a good essay taking down this particularly noxious form of derailing but I can’t seem to put my hands on one. My Delicious bookmarks have failed me. I mean, it’s kind of “Your experience is not representative of everyone!” and kind of “Unless you can prove your experience is widespread, I won’t believe it!” but really it’s the privilege of ignorance about discourses that aren’t broadly and easily available in the mainstream to members of the dominant group. (See also: refusal to believe Islamic feminism exists, “why don’t black people do/say anything about [violence in their communities, black men abandoning their children, etc.]“.)

    Ron: If, when you are taking part in discussions about marginalization, you frequently find yourself responding with “well I’ve never heard of it,” perhaps you need to get out more.

  15. Ron, There’s something about the law from which you selectively quoted–and I realize that you specifically left out item f because it is one you disagree with, though it is still pretty disingenuous, or at least careless, to leave it out of your comment completely–that you did not comment on: The crime for which the law was written is not rape or sodomy or whatever, but rather “aggravated homosexuality.” In other words, it is not that these laws broaden the range of violations covered by the country’s current definition of rape/sexual violence; rather, they create a category of sexual violence defined solely by its homosexuality.

    Imagine, for a minute–and I actually think, off the top of my head, as I type, that this is a pretty interesting thought experiment–if the legal category under which heterosexual rape fell was not “rape,” or sexual assault (or whatever the legal category is), but rather “aggravated heterosexuality.” I don’t have time to say more than that right now, but just imagine if that were the case.

  16. 16
    Yusifu says:

    @Elusis–I’m so glad you cited those references. There’s a good (if somewhat dated) overview of the literature on southern Africa in an article Donald Donham published in Cultural Anthropology in 1998. Zackie Achmat raises a number of issues relevant to the question of the “authenticity” of African homosexualities in “Apostles of Civilised Vice,” Social Dynamics, 1993. A cohort of younger scholars is just emerging publishing on homosexualities across sub-Saharan Africa, and there will be a lot more to read in just a few more years.

    @RonF–I actually agree with you that *some* of the coverage of recent African homophobia traffics in racist stereotypes. But as lots of people have already pointed out, that doesn’t mean contemporary homophobia isn’t a historical legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism. For many areas, various kinds of precolonial homosexual practice are well documented. However, colonialism brought two quite new things: a notion of homosexuality as an orientation–a particular way of being a person–and a societal commitment to oppressing homosexuals. These initially had little effect, since relatively few people had access to western psychiatry or high levels of education, and relatively few were subject to intensive surveillance from people attempting to wipe out homosexuality. From very early on (i.e., the late 19th century), colonial authorities attempted to wipe out practices like woman-woman marriage (relatively common in many areas) or the habit gold miners in southern Africa had of marrying one another. In British colonies, the criminal codes that were passed contained statutes punishing sodomy. Nonetheless, homophobia wasn’t a terribly big deal.

    In the postcolonial period, various social changes have increased societal awareness of homosexual practices. Urbanization and a decline in extended families have given some people a greater degree of freedom. In some places, this has led to a flowering of homosexual subcultures, often subcultures quite different from western lesbigay communities,” though also a spread of people who understand themselves as homosexual in an orientational sense. (See Rudi Gaudio’s recent book Allah Made Us for an excellent account of one such community in northern Nigeria.) Since approximately 1980, Pentecostalist Christianity and reformist strains of Islam have spread and become increasingly homophobic, in line with global trends. (And the homophobic activities of vile people like the Anglican Peter Akintola need to be understood in the context of contemporary religious struggles.)

    I’ve radically oversimplified. It’s a complex story, with plenty of room for African agency. Nonetheless, here are some basic facts: homophobia in sub-Saharan Africa is a recent phenomenon. It is tied to the activities of western homophobes. All of it is gratuitous and a distraction from basic problems of misgovernance, economic stagnation, and poverty.

  17. Yusifu, you wrote

    From very early on (i.e., the late 19th century), colonial authorities attempted to wipe out practices like woman-woman marriage (relatively common in many areas) or the habit gold miners in southern Africa had of marrying one another.

    I have made note of the sources Elusis cited, but I am wondering if you could point me to specific sources for this. Thanks.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    Richard, you make a good point. I suppose my initial statement about this law was too weak. I do not and never have advocated criminalizing homosexual behavior and supported the Supreme Court’s striking down of anti-sodomy laws. So let me say that while the specific behaviors that I referenced should be criminalized, this whole bill should be thrown out, as it’s main point is to criminalize homosexuality. A bill that simply criminalizes the acts I pulled from it should be passed into law, however.

    The rest I’ll get to when I have time – sorry.

  19. 19
    Yusifu says:

    Richard, There’s discussion of both practices in the introduction to the *Boy-Wives* anthology that was cited. Ifi Amadiume, *Male Daughters, Female Husbands* and Oyeronke Oyewumi, *The Invention of Gender* both have discussions of female-female marriage, though quite homophobic ones. There are discussions in old ethnographies (Evans-Pritchard, *Kinship and Marriage among the Nuer*) and various articles (Melville Herskovits, *Africa* 1937; Eileen Krige, *Africa* sometime in the early 70s; Regina Oboler, *Ethnology* around 1980). On the mine marriages, there are books by Dunbar Moodie and Patrick Harries that have good (though somewhat problematic) descriptions of the practice, which Achmat critiques in the article I cited above. Moodie’s is called something like *Going for the Gold.* Harries’s is called something fairly generic, but it’s about miners from Mozambique. Moodie’s also got an article in the Journal of Southern African Studies, and Harries one in Politique Africaine (I think–not sure about that, but it’s in some French journal, perhaps alternatively Cahiers d’Etudes Africaines?).

    Hope that helps!

  20. 21
    Elusis says:

    Thanks Yusifu. I almost appended a statement to my comment to the effect of “… and this is without even getting into the journals” but I edited it out. I imagine that journals (and blogs) are the place where the most dynamic and cutting-edge discourse is happening right now since books take so long to get through the publication process.

  21. 22
    Lord Cerbereth says:

    Hey it is not for us to tell Uganda how to run themselves if they feel homosexuality is punishable by death then so be it its their country and they aren’t bothering the United States.

    The only stupid thing was people pretending to be shocked over what Uganda is doing.