Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Law. Catholic Opposition? Western Influence?

This is most definitely not what I'd expected to be writing about this afternoon. 

I hadn't been expecting to be writing anything at all.  The plan was to check Facebook and then go to a quiet room and read a book.  A book by Elizabeth Chadwick, The Love Knot.  Not the sort of thing I'd have even thought of reading a year ago.  Coming out as transgender means that I feel I can experiment with reading things that I wouldn't have tried as a "man".  The experimentation is all part of finding out what kind of a woman I am and revelation comes whether or not I like something.

Yes, I'd been expecting a quiet afternoon, free of any controversial subjects and free of thinking hard about difficult topics.  But then I checked Facebook and found myself reading something someone wrote about the "bold opposition" the Catholic Church has made since 2009 against the new anti-gay law in Uganda.

Ever suspicious of claims, the cynic in action, I wondered how "bold" the opposition was.  As a result of easy research - for the answers are easy to find.  I was cross about what I found.  How could their "opposition" possibly be described as "bold"?  The Catholic Church is powerful.  Bold opposition would use that power in a way that risks consequences, risks persecution.

I'm sure what I found out isn't the full story.  I'm sure there were plenty of faithful Catholics who did bold things.  But the story I found wasn't good.  To be fair, the Catholic Church did more than any major local church to oppose the bill.  No other major denomination in Uganda spoke against the bill at all.  The Ugandan Anglicans didn't.  And many of the other churches are greatly influenced by and often financed by American evangelicalism - with all its fundamentalist homophobia.

Indeed the genesis of the bill springs at least in part from those American fundamentalists.  It grew from a seminar called “Seminar on Exposing the Truth behind Homosexuality and the Homosexual Agenda."  There, a Ugandan group financially supported by US groups teamed up with two anti-gay activists.  You can read about the seminar here.  The entire article is worth reading.  Another article on the same subject can be found here.  It's also worth reading.

The second article gives more information about one of those activists, Scott Lively.  He's a holocaust revisionist who believes that homosexuals founded the Nazi party and were responsible for much of the holocaust.  He wrote a book about it, The Pink Swastika.  Not a book well received by historians who agree the premise is "utterly false".  And it's offensive to anyone who knows anything about the pink triangle - which was used to identify people sent to prison camps by the Nazi regime because of their homosexuality.

The article quotes him from a transcript of the seminar: "I know more about this [homosexuality] than almost anyone in the world ... The gay movement is an evil institution. The goal of the gay movement is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity."  Later he met with the Ugandan parliament and after he left parliament announced the need for the new law. 

The other activist was from Exodus International which was a prominent anti-gay group calling for conversion therapy until June 2013 when it shut down and the leaders apologised for all the hurt they caused.

Both articles point to other first-world, Christian visitors to Uganda.  One of the most prominent, Pastor Rick Warren, visited in 2008.  I already knew that but it's good to find myself reminded.  Warren is the pastor of the Willow Creek Church, a "seeker friendly" mega-church and author of the astoundingly popular book in Christian circles, "The Purpose Driven Life."  I've owned a copy and at least one church I've been part of has studied and worked through the book en masse.  But that was just after I left it and I've not actually read the book!  Warren told political leaders in Uganda that homosexuality isn't a human right because it's unnatural.  Fuel to the growing fire.  And others have visited and funded massive satellite broadcasting channels on which similar speakers preach.

It's hard to know what can be done to help LGBT people in these nations.  It is almost as if the fires are so big that whatever action we take would be like pouring a jug water onto a vat of burning oil.  David Cameron spoke out.  Ban Ki-moon spoke out.  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke out.  But the situation is such that they are all told "what right have you to impose yourselves on us."  The result, at least in the short-term, is often that things become worse for LGBT people.

At least in part first-world people stepped in to help create a problem that we, as first-world people, can't step in to solve.  The influence of certain branches of western Christianity on Africa is sobering and, at least to me, disgusting.

Anyway, I quickly wrote a response on Facebook about the Catholic claim - not about the influence that we first-world people have had on the situation in Uganda.  And in Nigeria.  And in other nations where homosexuality is illegal.  And then decided to put it here, at which point it was only fair to mention non-Catholic Christian responses and influences.  And then I got carried away with the writing.

It won't do any good here - but it wouldn't have done any good on Facebook either.

Again, the two articles, here and here, are really worth reading.  A part of our shared history that we will, in time, look back on with shame.  Read them!

To close, here's that response.  Written in too much anger to be a picture of tact and diplomacy.  And not posted on Facebook.

Oh, such bold opposition.

In 2009 the Catholic Archbishop of Uganda said the bill was unnecessary because "acts of sodomy" were already illegal and said the death penalty was too severe and that gays should be rehabilitated.  True - no other major religion in Uganda opposed the bill at all but the statement suggested the laws in place - which could already include a sentence of life imprisonment - were good things.

When the Ugandan Ambassador visited the Pope in December 2009, the anti-gay laws (that at the time included the death penalty) didn't get a mention.  Instead the Pope talked about the climate of freedom in Uganda and praised the country for respecting the Catholic Church.

Then in 2012 the Catholic Church in Uganda changed its views - to support the bill.  Catholic leaders there said the bill was necessary because of "“an attack on the Bible and the institution of marriage."  The Catholic bishops, discussing the bill at that time, stated "“We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values.”

The Catholic Church in Uganda thus threw its weight behind the campaign to revive the bill - which the government had shelved due to international pressure, largely of a financial type.

Such bold opposition.

Please don't look at this issue and portray the Catholic Church as some bold moral crusader standing up for the lives of human beings.  Because in this case it really isn't.

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