We should all be thankful that the proposed “Christmas Present” of East African Policy proposed last year didn’t pass, but the battle is far from over. Indeed, the ever-controversial anti-homosexuality bill being discussed in Uganda, alternately known as the “Kill the Gays” bill for its advocacy of capital punishment, would have been a gift that keeps on giving that we all, ideally, can agree should be opposed.
Haven King, a student-leader at BC’s LGBTQ Resource Center, says the most troubling aspect of the ordeal is that the historic roots of the ordeal lie on a separate continent entirely: our own.
“[T]he history of this is that in fall of 2009, it was initially drafted by a Ugandan minister of parliament,” said King. The timing of the writing of the bill coincides with the work of three American preachers, who came to Uganda to organize events designed to educate Ugandans about Christian family values. “They first came in mid-March of 2009, and the bill was introduced in fall of 2009. If you look at Ugandan newspapers between those times, you see a dramatic change in exactly how they feel towards homosexuality.”
King isn’t the only one who feels this way. Last Tuesday, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams published a short documentary on the American link to the Ugandan anti-gay legislation, entitled “Gospel of Intolerance.” The disturbing video accompanying the article follows the unashamed ideology of sexual discrimination, combined with a powerful fundraising, exported from mainstream American churches to the legal code and society of Africa.
The Reverend Jo Anna Watson, a missionary involved in one such church, spoke to one congregation: “If you place the map of Africa over you, Uganda is right over your heart.” This inane comment was met with applause and cheering. “There’s [something] missing, and I think it’s that father-heart of love they just miss, because they haven’t been fathered properly.” One could imagine a reality-based interpretation of this to take seriously, but she later clarifies that the fatherhood that African people are missing out on is spiritual, a loss that can lead to “sexual immorality and perversion.”
The link between American churches and Africa is extremely disturbing, particularly because it isn’t coming from fringe or “extreme” churches, but rather from the mainstream, generally accepted ones. If we are to deal with these kinds of problems as a society, we have to acknowledge that ideas have consequences, and we can’t sit back and ignore them as mere cultural differences without any real moral high ground between the two sides. The threat of bigotry and death is coming from our own shores, funded by money we give to our own seemingly harmless churches. People should be aware of this, and if it bothers them that this is going on, it might be worth taking a bit more of an inquisitive attitude towards how one’s religious donations are spent on humanitarian foreign ministries.