Guest post by Leo Igwe.
A lot has been said about how American evangelists are supporting efforts and campaigns to legislate against gay marriage in Uganda and other African countries, but there is very little mention of African churches that are re-exporting a homophobic gospel to Europe and America. Many African Pentecostal groups are extending their mission overseas. They are promoting programs and activities that undermine the rights of gay people in this region. These churches are mainly from West Africa, particularly from Nigeria. They are establishing branches in immigrant communities in Western countries where they propagate “Africanized Christianity.” Yes, they qualify their Christianity as African because they think American and European Christians have drifted from preaching the true word of God. They claim that Western churches have teachings and practices that are incompatible with their Africanized Christianity. But this is only a ploy to create a gospel niche for themselves where they can promote doctrines that go against the human rights laws of these countries. One of these homophobic African churches in the United States is the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (MFM).
This church has its headquarters in Nigeria but it has branches in Europe and North America. MFM preaches against homosexuality. It regards homosexuals as sexual perverts in need of salvation and redemption. One of the prayer points of the Los Angeles branch of MFM is “Deliverance Prayers Against Homosexuality and Sexual Perversion.” The prayer point urges those who are caught in the sexual bondage of homosexuality, lesbianism, and other forms of sexual immorality to understand that their bondage can be broken “through the power of the blood of Jesus.” MFM branches in New Jersey and Katy, Texas have adopted the same prayer programs.
Another MFM branch of the church in Houston, dubbed the United States. and Caribbean Regional Headquarters, compares homosexuals and lesbians to dogs.
At the website, you will find the following wording:
The Bible refers to homosexuals and lesbians as dogs. Anyone who has ever engaged in these kinds of things would need to receive deliverance from the spirit of the dog, which has entered into him or her. Generally, in the spirit world, dogs symbolize sexual perversion. So, if you see yourself being pursued in the spirit by a dog, check your sexual life. It means that something must be wrong somewhere, whether in your heart or your activities. Psalm 22:16 says, ‘For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed [sic] me: they pierced my hands and my feet.’
Unfortunately, praying against homosexuality is a policy of the North American Network of MFM and it is documented here.
All human rights communities should be concerned about this church and its affiliates. These homophobic prayers should not be seen as innocuous intercessions and suppli- cations to God. The prayer programs are actually teachings that negatively and unfairly shape the minds and attitudes of the congregants. The hateful prayers are statements of opposition against homosexuality. Humanists, secularists, and religious individuals who support the rights of gay people should speak out against the activities of MFM. Perhaps a strong effort can be made to petition the leaders of the offending MFM branches to sanction the hateful prayers.
Just as the world came out and roundly condemned American evangelists who sponsored or supported the “Kill the Gays Bill” in Uganda, we should also condemn expressly African pastors and churches that are propagating hatred and persecution of gay people in the United States. Hate speech should not be considered a constitutional right when so many lives are at stake. Individuals and organizations must bring attention to the dangerous situation and publicly criticize African churches that are praying against homosexuality. There is a slight risk in such a protest. Criticism could be misconstrued as some type of racism. But condemning the activities of homophobic churches has nothing to do with racism. That would be a counter argument to avoid the real problem of hate speech. Protesting hate speech is a clear effort to protect the universal human rights of dignity, safety, equality and protection against fear of bodily harm.
The nontheist community can work and campaign for the respect and recognition of gay rights in the United States, Uganda, Nigeria, and in other parts of Africa. Together, we can object to African Pentecostal churches eroding the gains we have made in Europe and some of North America. We need to act now and complain about the dangerous church doctrine that equates homosexuals to dogs. Such an analogy and hatred has no place in contemporary America.
I urge readers of this article to form a protest committee and take action. Coordinate your efforts with other groups that are equally appalled by the situation. Form alliances to put an end to bigotry and hatred. It is our duty to demand social changes to better the world.
About the author:
Leo Igwe served as the Western and Southern Africa representative for the Humanist and Ethical Union. He bravely worked to end a variety of human rights violations, including anti-gay hate, sorcery, witchcraft, ritual killing, human sacrifice, caste discrimination, anti-blasphemy laws, and most importantly child and adult witch superstitions. Igwe is currently involved in a three-year research program on “Witchcraft Accusations in Africa” at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.