Last summer I visited 2 African countries, Malawi and Uganda. As a woman who has short hair and rarely wears a dress, I was viewed as an anomaly. However my status as a North American, the wedding band on my finger and the fact that I work for a international non-profit was enough to quell any troubled folks. The reason? They wanted to make sure I wasn’t ‘wrong’. In other words, that I wasn’t gay or ‘two-spirited’ as the First Nations say. Friends in those countries also warned me that even being sympathetic to gays was cause for punishment or even jail. So I wasn’t overly surprised, (but grieved, nonetheless) when I saw this article in the L.A. Times and similar articles in other publications.
In December of 2013, the Ugandan president made it not only illegal to be gay but punishable by death. (Now, technically the bill removed the death penalty, but folks on the ground say differently)
Now, normally I’d be inclined to be upset because this is a human rights issue and demand that my country’s government step up and denounce such atrocity. However, this particular issue is magnified by the fact that the leading proponent of the anti-gay bill is none other than an American ‘pastor’ (and I use the term loosely), Scott Lively. In recent years the conservative right wing Christian faction in America has not only been whipping African countries into frenzies with anti-gay rhetoric, but has been spending millions of dollars in doing so.
Just re-read that last sentence again. Millions of dollars. To spread hate. In the name of God.
Now, I’m no theologian. But when I read the Bible, I read about a loving God and loving your neighbor. I read about loving the stranger and taking care of the widows, orphans, and children.
It baffles me that in a city like Camden, NJ, USA, can exist, and that no church will come and help with funds to support programs that feed, educate and create safe places. But, MILLIONS of dollars will be funneled to a country half way across the world to ensure that a tiny percentage of people will be humiliated, beaten, jailed and murdered.
How is that living out the gospel? How does that at all reflect what Jesus taught?
We have known the danger of colonizing countries in the way of Western religion. God knows that our Western fingerprints have done incredibly damage to indigenous cultures around the world in the name of God. So you would think that we would learn from that history. But what remains the same is man’s thirst for power and control and fame. That is what happened here. The author of the article, Kapya Kaoma says it best, ” The people of Uganda, Nigeria, Russia and elsewhere are leading their own struggles for human rights. Their fight is difficult enough without campaigns of vilification designed by a handful of Americans who distort the meaning of the Gospels to justify the criminalization of innocents.”
It only took a few to change the good news into horror and death, but I fear it will take a nation to redeem it back to life.