A death in Uganda

Uganda is currently undergoing conflict over civil rights: a number of influential Christians in the country, under the influence of American evangelicals like Scott Lively and Rick Warren, have been pushing to have homosexuality condemned and people who love other people of the same sex arrested or executed. It’s an ugly place where the dreams of the Christian right are actually being realized, but of course our evangelical leaders are denying their responsibility. Just last night on CNN I caught a bit of a nauseating interview with Joel Osteen, the smirking prosperity gospel pitchman, and he came right out and smilingly declared homosexuality a sin…but his wife just loves Elton John, so it’s all OK. Rick Warren is also similarly a moral coward who will happily trigger the landslide, but refuses to involve himself in the consequences.

But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.” On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: “As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides.” Warren did say he believed that abortion was “a holocaust.” He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

Our good, kind, sinner-loving, sin-hating Christianist monsters have more blood on their hands now. David Kato, a Ugandan civil rights leader who fought for tolerance for gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people, has been beaten to death. This event followed after many death threats, and after the publication of a hit list in a local magazine.

The fight against the bill has also pushed Ugandan activists to the fore, raising concern for their privacy and safety. These deepened in late 2010 when a local tabloid called Rolling Stone, unconnected to the US magazine, published pictures, names, and residence locations of some members of the LGBT community, along with a headline saying, “Hang Them.” Kato’s photo appeared on the cover, and inside another photo appeared with his name.

Couple religious certainty and an atmosphere in which religious leaders are assuring everyone that certain people are less than human, damned, or criminal, and this is what you get: vigilante injustice. And Uganda loses another force for justice and humanity.