This Is Why I Have A Problem With Fundamentalists

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This morning, I heard about Uganda. Have you heard about Uganda? Their Parliament just passed what could only be described as tyrannical anti-gay legislation.

Basically, the Ugandan government wants to make it completely illegal to be gay. Well, being gay is already illegal, but if this bill is signed into law, repeated homosexual acts between consenting adults in Uganda can get you a life sentence in prison.

When it was introduced in 2009, the bill was nicknamed the “Kill The Gays Bill” because it called for death sentences. In essence, Uganda wanted to legally kill gay people for being gay. The death sentence provision has since been removed. Instead, they’ll just lock them up and throw away the key. How generous.

Not only that, but if your friends, neighbors and coworkers don’t narc to the authorities that you are gay, they will also be prosecuted. “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, it’s actual name, makes it a crime to ‘promote’ homosexuality, which could mean simply offering HIV counseling”[1] and “prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who ‘conducts a marriage ceremony’ for same-sex couples. [It also makes it a crime to rent] an apartment to an LGBT person, punishable by five years in prison.” [2]

Jessica Stern, executive director of the The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in New York, said “If you’re perceived to be LGBT, no one’s going to rent to you, for fear of their own criminal responsibility. So if this law is enacted in its current form, it’s basically a homelessness sentence for LGBT Ugandans.”[1]

It was passed unanimously by the parliament with no one voicing an objection. This awful piece of discriminatory, hateful legislation has yet to be signed into law by the Ugandan President. Yoweri Museveni was careful to neither publicly support nor condemn the bill. He has 30 days to sign it.

Wow, that’s absolutely monstrous, you might say, if your soul isn’t made of pure molten evil, but what does that have to do with the title of this post?

Allow me to explain. American evangelical bigots helped write The Kill Bill along with Ugandan bigots. Specifically, these evangelical bigots: “The Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s sponsor, is the secretary of the Ugandan branch of The Family, the secretive American evangelical organization whose members include Sens. James Inhofe, Jim DeMint, and Tom Coburn. Martin Sempa, a Pentecostal preacher who has championed the bill, was a protege of Rick Warren and, during the Bush administration, a recipient of at least $90,000 of American aid earmarked for abstinence promotion. Another major anti-gay activist, Stephen Langa, the head of Uganda’s Family Life Network, is an affiliate of the Phoenix-based group Disciple Nations Alliance.” [3]

“Uganda is a predominantly Christian country with a significant (about 12%) Muslim minority. According to the National Census of October 2002, Christians of all denominations made up 85.1% of Uganda’s population.”[4]

It wasn’t always that way. Let’s go back in time to figure out how all of that happened since it doesn’t make a lick of rational sense that American evangelicals would be writing odious anti-gay legislation in Uganda and get it passed through Parliament. We need a history lesson to see the big picture here.

Christian Fundamentalist missionaries first arrived in Uganda (then called Buganda–where did the B go?) in 1877, which was nearly a century later than the rest of the continent as far as busybody missionary tinkering in Africa goes. Yet, by the turn of the century, Uganda was one of the most successful conversion missions in all of Africa.

Islam already had a foothold in the region by the time Christian missionaries arrived. The ruler of Uganda was smitten with Islam. He learned some Arabic and led some prayers. This all changed when Egypt decided it wanted to consolidate parts of the Nile river, including Uganda, into an Egyptian Empire. The Ungandan ruler, Kabaka (king) Muteesa said nuh uh.

Kabaka Muteesa. When He says "nuh uh," you listen. Image from wiki.
Kabaka Muteesa. When he says “nuh uh,” you listen.
Image from wiki.

Instead of learning a valuable lesson on how religion and politics shouldn’t mingle, Muteesa greeted the first busybody Christian missionary, Mr. Henry Morton Stanley with open arms. This is totally the hat and mustache of someone you can trust, right?

Mr. Henry Morton Stanley, 1872/ Image from wiki.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Henry Morton Stanley. Never mind the fact that, in a few years, I’ll be openly advocating a British takeover of Uganda.”
Image from wiki.

Muteesa saw Christianity as a way to counter the Muslim threat from Egypt. Besides, the first-world Christians had some cool technology, or as we like to call it, magic.

Stanley sent a letter back to the church more or less saying, “Man, these Ugandans are swell on Christianity. We must convert them all post-haste.” That turned out to be a bit of an overstatement, but the white man came anyway, and we all know how well it goes when the white man brings the “right way” to the lowly heathens. See Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or read what happened to the indigenous people of America.

Anyway, things fall apart. The problem was, at the same time Stanley’s Protestant missionaries came from England, some French Catholics arrived, too. The English were all, like, “Uganda is ours, chaps. Be good fellows and scurry off,” while the French were all, like, “No, zees ees ours. Le French az ad our eyes zet on zees plaze pour le while,” which was true. Meanwhile, the Ugandans were all, like, “WTF?”

Muteesa allowed both the French Catholics and the English Protestants to stay so that he could use both of them for whatever they were worth, which at that point, wasn’t much besides keeping Egypt off his back.

Then came a new king, Muteesa’s son, Mwanga II of Buganda in 1884, who happened to be gay. As we all know, things don’t go too well for homosexuals in either Christian faith. So, Mwanga killed some Christians. It turned out to be a political mistake, which led, of course, to killing more Christians.

King Mwanga II Buganda. Image from wiki.
King Mwanga II Buganda. Sup?
Image from wiki.

In 1886, Mwanga massacred a lot of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant. The real cause for the killings was the king’s anger that his Christian pages refused to get down with the gay way. The religious sects–Muslim, Protestant and Catholic–formed some armies like they’ve been known to do throughout all of recorded damn history. Before we invented fire, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics had armies.

At first, Mwanga rooted for these armies as a way to stick it to the man, i.e. the older generation of chiefs, forgetting that he was actually the man, metaphorically and literally. But, by 1888, he realized that maybe having three religious armies roaming around the countryside wasn’t the best idea. He tried to get rid of them, but getting rid of armies isn’t the easiest thing to do and they started a coup. The three armies joined forces to oust him.

Once Mwanga was out, the Muslims, Protestants and Catholics stopped mid-high five and said, “Wait a minute, dude, we’re enemies!” They turned their guns or swords or slingshots or whatever they used for warrin’ in 1888 on each other. The English Protestant missionaries came out top of the heap and that’s how Christianity got a stranglehold in Uganda. Then, years later, along came the American fundamentalists and anti-gay hate legislation. The end.[5]

Except, not the end at all. Several however many years after the gay king, Christianity still has a damned stranglehold on Uganda. Much like Bart Simpson accidentally loosing a frog in Australia and destroying an ecosystem, Christianity has completely uprooted the country. The indigenous belief system is all but gone. The government is ruled by religion. Stupid rules that are not inherent to the region are now in place, such as imprisoning people for life for being gay like Mwanga.

Now, if the current president of Uganda does, in fact, sign this heinous bill into law, countless people will suffer, because foreign aid will dwindle down to a trickle. The entire population of Uganda will suffer, not just the people who are accused of a crime–the same crime, by the way, committed by the very ruler who allowed Christianity to choke the life out of Uganda in the first place.

So, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan President, tread lightly. You, sir, are in a bit of a pickle. If you pass the bill, Western countries have threatened to withhold financial aid.[2] If you don’t pass the bill, the Ugandan population will most likely oust you from office since “it is highly popular among Ugandans who say the country has the right to pass laws that protect its children.” (Don’t even get me started on the “think of the children” defense).[2] It’s an internal versus external battle and you are damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I sincerely hope you don’t.

What really infuriates me about this story, besides the gasp-worthy human rights violation, is that this hatred, segregation and discrimination all boils down to religion once again. And not just any religion, but old-fashioned American-style evangelical Christianity.

I am disgusted by Uganda’s politics. I am ashamed to be an American. I am sickened when I see news reports like this one or this one, dangling the term “American” in front of Uganda’s extreme homophobia, that the same word can be used to describe both the root of this vile hate and myself.

To the Fundamentalist Christians responsible for this abominable bill: Stop spreading hate around the world. It’s bad enough that you’ve been doing it in America. Christianity isn’t about hate. You’re doing it wrong and you totally suck at religion.

To the Ugandan government: Stop this nonsense now before anyone else[6] gets hurt. Do not pass this bill.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”


[1] Source: NPR: Uganda Passes Anti-Gay Bill That Includes Life In Prison
[2] Source: NPR: Uganda Passes Tough New Bill Against Homosexuality
[3] Source: “Globalizing the Culture Wars: US Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia” report by Political Research Associates
Source: Wikipedia: Religion in Uganda
[5] My history of religion in Uganda was severely paraphrased from and “A History of Christianity in Uganda” by Kevin Ward, Senior Lecturer in African Religious Studies, University of Leeds.
[6] Source: The Guardian: Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato found murdered

Continued in Part 2.