Four years ago, due to strong international pressure the Ugandan 2009 Anti-Gay Bill did not go through. Four years later, in December 2013 the bill was passed, slightly modified, and signed into law by the President of Uganda on 24th February 2014. Today being a practicing homosexual in Uganda is a serious crime that leads to a long-term imprisonment. Four years ago I wrote the following article condemning the anti-gay legislation in Uganda. The article, originally published in December 2009, remains to be even more relevant today.
They are playing God. This was my immediate response to the recent move in Uganda to institute death penalty for practicing homosexuals.
Some Ugandan leaders, reportedly under the influence of some right wing Evangelical leaders in the US, are pushing forward the Anti-Gay Law. If passed practicing homosexuals, especially the HIV positive, will be sentenced to death, and long term imprisonments will be awaiting those who protect, hide or fail to report them. The later could apply to their parents, friends, neighbors, landlords, church pastors – anyone who could have the information about practicing homosexuals but fails to inform the Ugandan law enforcement agencies.
I am not a pro-gay movement sympathizer. Nor am I convinced that their agenda represents a legitimate human rights cause. I believe that the issues such as poverty, widespread forms of injustice and modern-day slavery, abuse of children, and increase of wars and violence speak with more demanding urgency. However, when in the 21st century a government desires to Christianize the country by introducing a sharia-type law, then I have no choice but join a few who have already taken a stand against it. For how much difference is there between a Christian nation that kills homosexuals and a radical Islamic country that religiously executes women supposedly caught in adultery?
Christians may disagree about the legality of gay rights, but no follower of Jesus could agree, privately or publically, with any harassment or persecution of homosexuals, let alone with the introduction of death and long-term prison sentences, for the reason that those are totally out of the character with Jesus and against anything He taught and practiced. Even if the designers of the questionable legislation want to excuse its roughness on the account of the Old Testament laws and practices, the One who is the Law Incarnate defies any such excuse by broadcasting the true intent of the Law, which is to “love your neighbor as yourself”, whoever he or she is.
I do believe that the political and religious leaders in Uganda behind the anti-gay bill, many of who claim to be born-again Christians, together with their born-again mentors in the US, are familiar with the Gospel’s accounts in which Jesus, while not condoning their lifestyles, embraced a woman caught in adultery, dined with a hated tax collector, and spoke gently to a woman of questionable character at the well. Jesus often mixed with the outcasts and the ones labeled as sinners. If the Gospel accounts were written today they would no doubt include instances of Jesus meeting with homosexuals too.
This week more than sixty of them in America released a statement against the anti-gay legislation in Uganda. “Our Christian faith recognizes violence, harassment and unjust treatment of any human beings as a betrayal of Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves. As followers of the teachings of Christ, we must express profound dismay at a bill currently before the Parliament of Uganda. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation. Regardless of the diverse theological views of our religious traditions regarding the morality of homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as God’s children worthy of respect and love…” – says the statement.
Likewise an internationally acclaimed US pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, the author of a well known book “The Purpose Driven Life”, released an encyclical video statement in which he vigorously opposed the discriminatory bill. He urged the Ugandan pastors to “make a positive difference” and “speak out” against the bill. While disproving of the homosexual lifestyle he said that the proposed law is “unjust, extreme and unchristian”. He also stated that – “Church must protect the dignity of all individuals. Since Jesus Christ died for all we need to treat all with respect.”
However, most of the acclaimed US Evangelical leaders and most of the churches remain silent as if the Ugandan extreme legislation is not their concern at all. They act in the way a priest and a Levite acted in Jesus’ parable of Good Samaritan towards a traveler who fell into the hands of robbers. Yet isn’t this the time for the Christian leaders and communities in the US and the world to stand up and urge Christian and other leaders in Uganda to see the wrongness of the unjust legislation. Indeed, all of us who have friends in Uganda should urge them to oppose the bill. There must be a better way indeed to advocate Christian values, standards and ethics than playing God or quietly approving of the dangerous law.
First published in December 2009.