Don’t Save Uganda


Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press
Rick Warren on Meet the Press. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

As Christians in Uganda push legislation that proposes the death penalty for homosexuality, Christians in America race to condemn the bill.  Conservative Christians like Rev. Rick Warren, the wildly popular author of The Purpose-Driven Life, roll out the old “ALL life […] is precious to God,” as if not killing innocent people displayed a particularly enlightened world view.  Expect Rick Warren to return to his compassionate comparisons of homosexuals to pedophiles once this all blows over.

Meanwhile, more liberal American Christians are writing heartfelt editorials about how tragic it is that homosexual-hating Ugandan pastors “misunderstand” their own religion.  Really, Michael Gerson?  I am not sure how anyone could misunderstand this: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” (Lev 20.13).  Maybe it is a commandment against lying down.

Fortunately, Christianity in America has moved on from the days when state laws against sorcery, homosexuality, and atheism were copied directly from Bible passages like the one above.  These days only fringe Christian figures think of homosexuality as evil—marginal leaders like popular televangelist Jerry Falwell, best-selling author Rick Warren, and “completely heterosexual” mega-church pastor Ted Haggard.  Just a few isolated cranks, really.  But opposing homosexuality on principle is not the same thing as wanting all homosexuals to die.  Almost all Christians in America want to persuade their brethren in Uganda to staunch the flow of blood.  Nevertheless, I would advise against sending Uganda more bibles.  People might read them.  Judging from the media, Christian America thinks the solution to Uganda’s atrocious legislation is for Ugandan to take its moral guidance.

Too bad they already have.

The New York Times recently reported that in March, “thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers, and national politicians, listened raptly” as American evangelical Christians visiting Uganda explained how “the gay movement is an evil institution … [seeking] to defeat the marriage-based society.”  These touring homosexuality “experts” confirmed what Christian Ugandan pastors had been saying all along.  After they left, the legislator who proposed the new anti-homosexuality law bragged that he had evangelical supporters in America.

Rick Warren is not helping matters.  Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor well known for printing the names and addresses of suspected homosexuals in local newspapers, was surprised by his old friend Rick Warren’s position against the new anti-homosexuality legislation.  In an open letter, Mr. Ssempa reminded the world that in his 2008 trip to Uganda, Rick Warren condemned homosexuality as “not a natural way of life, and therefore not a human right.”  This statement is confirmed by GlobalPost and the AllAfrica news service.  Rick Warren denies having said this.  He is also on record as having stated that “The Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop […] evil.”  It certainly does.  Rick Warren’s visit led Ugandan Christians to believe their anti-homosexual agenda had the support of one of America’s most influential pastors.   And it wouldn’t be a first for Rick Warren.  His church has worked with homophobic religious leaders in Rwanda and Nigeria as well.  New, harsher anti-homosexuality laws are brewing in all three African nations.

If sex laws in these countries get any more “purpose-driven,” gays will be stoned to death in public squares.  Oh wait, that is already legal in northern Nigeria.

Neither Rick Warren nor any other moralizing Christian crusader can solve Uganda’s human rights problem.  Uganda’s gays deserve protection by people who actually like homosexuals, not some narrow-minded evangelists trying to “save” their wicked souls.  Uganda does not need Rick Warren spreading anti-homosexual messages and legitimizing rabidly homophobic Christian pastors in Uganda by calling them “partners” in the fight against AIDS.  Nor does Uganda need Christians aggravating the AIDS crisis by advocating “abstinence only” sexual education.  The condescending and offensive attitude so many Christian leaders in America take toward homosexuals cannot simply be glossed over every time a truly despicable sex law surfaces somewhere abroad.  American Christians are part of the problem.

Merry Christmas, Rick Warren.

Chris Carothers is The Independent’s new Religion columnist. He writes and rants about religion, in a way that’s tangentially related to current events. Welcome aboard, Chris.

  • George

    I am surprised at how much hullabaloo this bill has created in the west. I have lost count of the number of times the words ‘genocide’ and ‘witch hunt’ have been used in the same sentence as Uganda.
    That said, I admire the way pro-gay rights proponents never run out of words to describe people who don’t consider one man sleeping with another man a human right. ‘Bigot’, ‘fascist’, ‘dictator’ and whatever. What does all this name calling add to the discussion?

    Am Ugandan and live in Uganda and boy, does this article make for compelling reading! If you are ignorant about Uganda, that is.

    This bill is not about you Americans. The sooner you realise that the better for all concerned. Making it the latest excuse in the evangelical-bashing business will only add to your narrow-mindedness.

    If I may ask, why is it okay to protect girl minors from rape by heterosexual men and unfair to protect boys under 14 from rape by homosexuals? Are girl children more special or are the gay men more special than the straight men? Uganda is just trying to extend the same protection to boy children especially if the accused person knowingly infected a minor with HIV in the course of raping them. Do we have observe human rights selectively, allowing gay men to behave as they wish without protecting the human rights of the minors they come into contact with?

    But I have to give it up to all of you gay apologists. You guys can really make yourselves heard. Seriously, we never thought we would come in for this kind attack from people who have even never heard of Uganda.

  • Morgaine Chya

    I agree with Mr. Carothers: the last thing countries like Uganda and Nigeria need is the kind of demonic Christianiy pimped by Rick Warren and his disciples like Uganda’s Ssempe.

    There is a big problem when American churches attempt to bring 21st-Century Christianity into a foreign country whose society has had little exposure to Christianity, and is not as “advanced” as other countries where Christianity has been present for centuries.

    Christianiy has evolved over the last 2000 years, and after 2000 years of it, most Christians interpret the Bible and the “words of God” in the Bible differently than they did thousands, or even hundreds, of years ago.

    Many of the people in an African country–say, Uganda or Nigeria–where the the locals are relatively recently exposed to the Bible and have probably been told it is the word of God—interpret the Bible literally.

    So when these neophyte Christians read, as in Exodus 22:18,”Suffer not a witch to live,” they may do what was done in Nigeria to children who were called “witches” by Christian pastors: tortured and killed.

    To those who interpret the Bible literally, the Bible is a nuclear holocaust waiting to happen. There is some demonic, evil shit in the Bible, and the Old Testament, especially, is not for sissies.

    In America, we see the American Christian bigots use the Bible as an excuse to hate and discriminate against gays. We don’t often see them pouring acid down a child’s throat just because some crackpot pastor said the child is a witch, and that the witch inside the child had to be burned out by the fires of God for the child to live.

    Unfortunately, countries like Uganda and Nigeria are not as “sophisticated” as their fellow Christians in America, who have learned to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to be interpreted literally…which would be those parts that suit their purposes.

    While the Christian pastors like Rick Warren piously claim they take Christianity to Africa for the glory of God, the reality is that they take Christianity to Africa because it makes them rich. In a country where there is a LOT of gold–say, Uganda–when Warren claims Uganda as one of “his” “purpose-driven countries,” he’s delivering to Uganda’s leaders, and the foreign interests who are determined to profit from Uganda’s gold, a means to control the country’s population.

    Christianity has been used throughout the ages to control indigenous populations. Everytime I encounter a comment about Negro slaves softly singig a spiritual song in which the good Christians will live on high with Jesus after they die, it makes me ashamed of being part of humanity that would so cruelly and brutally enslave a human being, with the only solace the slave will have is to believe it will be better when they die.

    But when there is gold to be mined to make foreign interests richer, Christianity is the cheapest way to produce the large numbers of docile, worshipful mining work crews needed to strip Uganda of its gold.

    And if the price of those docile work crews include parents murdering their kids who have been identified as witches, to appease the Christian God that now enslaves them…it’s a price Rick Warren is more than willing to pay.

  • Tom

    If it’s the rape of boys the Uganda bill is seeking to prevent, George, then why not outlaw that? Outlawing homosexuality in order to prevent the rape of boys is like outlawing heterosexuality in order to prevent the rape of girls. Both are stupid overgeneralizations. You might also want to read the proposed legislation again. The death penality is to be imposed whether rape is involved or not. Clearly your altruistic concern for your children is not why you want to kill gay people, although that does make a convenient excuse.

  • Chris Carothers

    NPR did a little piece on the Ugandan Anit-Homosexuality bill this morning, for those of you want to learn more. Here it is:

  • Roger

    George, that was a very ignorant comment you made. Who said anything about not protecting minor-age boys from homosexual predators? If the bill includes that, bravo. But the bill seeks to criminalize homosexual relations between consenting adults. Even non-homosexuals who fail to report homosexual relations between consenting adults are to be punished.

    You may abhor homosexuals, but that is your problem. By your warped thinking, it should also be okay to criminalize heterosexual relations because some straight men rape minor girls!

  • Tom

    Thanks for the laugh George. Your arguement is rediculous. You say this new bill is about protecting young boys from homosexuals in the same way that your country protects young girls.
    Of course you know that is a LIE. How Christian of you!
    In order for this new law to be the same all your heterosexual men would be in prison or dead. All people in Uganda would be required by law to report Heterosexuals to the authorities. We all know that is not the case at all.
    There is no comparison and you insult our intelligence by suggesting there is!
    You are, however, right about this law not being about Americans. It is about Human Beings, Human Rights. Like the right to live.

  • Tom

    Oh, George, you left out the part about ‘corrective rape’. You know, where your heterosexual men feel obligated to rape lesbians in order to cure them!
    Human Rights are a worldwide issue.

  • josh

    I came to this site to read about the hypocrate, Rick Warren. This pastor is a piece of shi.. and I only wish him a painful cancer for all the money he is stealing from his blind followers. I live less than 5 miles from this shameless fat pig.

    To George: It is not right for Americans to tell you how to run your own country. Especially those American Christian a55holes whose only “Purpose Driven Life” is to intervene in your affairs. Let it be known, they are only in it for the money. You can see that Dickhead Warren quickly backed out of the death penalty becuase back here at home he would get his head chewed off.

    I personally wouldn’t send gay people to their death for simply being gay. But if it was a case of rape, then yes, they should get the death penalty. In my country.

    We need to worry about our own issues here in the US. We certainly dont like Muslims coming here telling us who and how we should prosecute our people. So why do we feel the right to intervene in other countries’ affairs?

  • Matt

    Religion is a lie.. It’s not real. These people clearly didn’t understand drug effects or mental illnesses back In those days.