A Call for Christian Action in Uganda – A Time to Show the Love
October 28th, 2009
Dr. Warren Throckmorton has written an article for Crosswalk.com in which he asks Should American Christians Care about Gays in Uganda? Throckmorton explains the excesses in the new proposed anti-gay law (banning speech, imposing the death penalty, requiring suspected homosexuals to be reported) and makes a strong case for why American Christians should own responsibility for the law and take action to oppose it.
While there are many cultural forces which oppose homosexuality in Uganda, a dominant one currently is the evangelical church. Most recently, in March of this year, three Americans were recruited by the Uganda-based Family Life Network to speak at workshops on ways to change people from gay to straight. Two of the Americans, Caleb Brundidge and Scott Lively, spoke in favor of keeping homosexuality illegal but giving those convicted an option of therapy to cure them of their gayness. Both Brundidge and Lively spoke to the Ugandan parliament regarding their view that homosexuality is learned and curable. Their ideas took hold. The proposed bill bases the need for stronger regulation on the concept that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.”
Throckmorton also notes that the main evangelical cheerleader for this crackdown on civil liberties is Martin Ssempa, a darling of American evangelical leaders who is closely tied to Rick Warren and Saddleback Church. And, as we know, the government of Uganda has repeatedly listened to instruction and direction from American preachers.
Indeed, this latest anti-gay pogrom is directly tied to American evangelical Christian interference in the African nation. Throckmorton’s point is that because American evangelical Christians made this mess, they now must own it. And I agree.
But will Christians respond?
For years, those American Christians who espouse conservative theology in their social activism in opposition to civil equality for gay citizens have loudly proclaimed that such activism is not founded in hatred. Rather, they will assure you, they love you so very much that they are warning you away from the dangers and sinfulness of “the homosexual lifestyle”.
This argument is familiarized in the trite phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
Though it might surprise some, I think it likely that most of those people who oppose your civil rights for religious reasons do not hate you. They don’t necessarily wish you ill. And if given a choice, they would prefer that you be happy, and healthy, and come to enjoy life (heterosexually, of course) as much as they do.
But I also believe that they don’t love you, either.
Rather, they do something worse than hate you; they don’t consider you – your life, your dreams, your loves, your hopes – at all. The extent to which their imposition of their faith system on your life will impact your ability to live freely never ever crosses their mind. Your health insurance, your immigration, your kids, your adoption, your hospital visitation, your inheritance rights, your military service, none of this enters the equation.
Not because they hate you, but because you don’t really matter to them at all. They don’t hate you; they’re just contemptuous of your existence or worth.
But, contrary to their assertions, they feel no love. It is impossible to love without caring about what the object of your love cares about. It is impossible to love without showing concern for injustice or unfairness. It is impossible to love without seeking to help those who are victims of oppression and attack.
I hope I am wrong. I hope that there is an abundance of love flowing from evangelical Christianity towards gay men and women.
And the situation in Uganda will tell us whether or not I am falsely accusing the Church. This situation provides us with a “put up or shut up” moment.
Should the Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God and Saddleback Church and all the other mega-churches stand up and speak out against this evil law, it will go far to show me that they feel love. Should conservative Republican Senators who ardently “defend marriage” against the threat of our relationships send a delegation to the African nation, I’ll consider that perhaps they do not base their policies on scapegoating of an unpopular minority. Should Maggie Gallagher and Peter LaBarbera and Laurie Higgins write stirring pieces about why Christians should oppose coercive laws, I may consider that their objection to my rights is not based in personal animus.
But should, as I suspect will be the case, Dr. Throckmorton be but one of a few voices willing to oppose evil – and this bill IS EVIL – then I will know what my heart will tell me the next time an opponent to fairness tells me that they love me.