I tend to think that most religious people are not interested in flying planes into buildings or making themselves a belt out of dynamite, but that doesn’t excuse them: they still make irrational decisions with evil consequences, they are simply a bit more remote and indirect. The same people who would be horrified at the idea of personally lynching someone for blasphemy have no problem with praying that someone else will do the job for them, as we all saw in the reaction to that little cracker incident last year. One of the most revolting examples of this principle at work is the recent attempts to create a legal justification for imprisoning and killing homosexuals in Uganda, a situation which, as it turns out, was fomented by American evangelical homophobes. This is not to excuse Ugandans, who were apparently primed to commit violence against gays already, but it was our preachers who sparked the flame.
For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed 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.”
That’s pretty much standard anti-gay rhetoric here in the US; we’re inured to it, and unless you’re a victim of it, it’s fairly easy to ignore it — which is why the evangelical haters are still allowed to babble on the news. These wretched liars for Jesus have their audience that loves to hear their nonsense about gays as predators on young boys, being evil and hating heterosexual marriage, and all that other dishonest crap, including their bizarre touting of ‘cures’, but at least we in the US also have vocal proponents of equality and civil liberties. We just need more of them.
In Uganda, though, that rhetoric and false assumption of authority led to horrid abuses of civil rights, like the anti-homosexuality bill. At least now, though, we can get specific and name names for the people responsible for inciting hatred of gays in Africa.
The three Americans who spoke at the conference — Scott Lively, a missionary who has written several books against homosexuality, including “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child”; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-described former gay man who leads “healing seminars”; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, whose mission is “mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality” — are now trying to distance themselves from the bill.
I’m sure they are trying to get away from the guilt…but the thing is, if you read the anti-gay literature here, that’s the direction they want to go in: the criminalization of sexual acts that they find repugnant, the encouragement of loathing of people who don’t love the people they approve. They want homosexuals to be despised, second-class citizens who don’t have all the rights of good Christian heterosexuals. The only reason they are running from it now is that it happened far faster in Uganda than they expected, and they’re suddenly standing their with a smoking gun and blood on their hands, rather than at a safe remove with the apparatus of the state peeling away the rights from people, one by one.
And look who else is involved, President Obama’s friend:
Uganda has also become a magnet for American evangelical groups. Some of the best known Christian personalities have recently passed through here, often bringing with them anti-homosexuality messages, including the Rev. Rick Warren, who visited in 2008 and has compared homosexuality to pedophilia. (Mr. Warren recently condemned the anti-homosexuality bill, seeking to correct what he called “lies and errors and false reports” that he played a role in it.)
First you associate them with evil, then you disenfranchise them, and only when they’re sufficiently dehumanized do you get to kill them. America’s Christian evangelists are on step one, and working hard on step two; Uganda’s problem is that they moved on to step three a little prematurely.