What do you do if you’re an evangelical Christian and you’re asked about the new law in Uganda criminalizing homosexuality, sentencing gay people (in some cases) to life in prison?
You distance yourself from it as much as you possibly can. Which is tough to do when your own stance is still in the realm of, “Gay people shouldn’t have the same rights that I do.”
In Sarah Pulliam Bailey‘s article for Religion News Service, she quotes a few Christians who attempt to explain why Uganda’s laws are bad while also implying that their own views are perfectly fine… which is like a really dark grey pot calling the kettle black.
[Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:] “Those of us who hold to a Christian sexual ethic don’t want to see those who disagree with us jailed; we want to see them reconciled to God through the gospel.”
“I have mixed feelings about the final law,” [Abiding Truth Ministries president Scott] Lively said. “I support the portions that increase penalties for homosexual abuse among children, intentionally spreading AIDS through sodomy. The penalties in the law for simple homosexuality are still too harsh.”
“There are many who are compelled to same-sex behavior, like alcoholism or any other behavioral disorder,” Lively said. “The government should be concerned with helping them overcome their problems and not just punish them for it.”
I’m not suggesting that Lively, a hate group leader, is representative of all evangelicals, but it’s hard to argue that Pastor Rick Warren isn’t. While Warren is quoted as opposing the Ugandan law, he hasn’t exactly been a leader for LGBT rights. He’s part of the problem, not the solution. Same with Moore, quoted above, who thinks gay people have a problem that requires godly reconciliation. This is a group of people who pride themselves on getting in the way of progress — and now they’re upset because the Bible-based rhetoric used by some of them was taken seriously by Ugandan leaders.
To paraphrase one commenter at RNS, it’s hardly a sigh of relief that American evangelicals only want to treat LGBT individuals as second class citizens. Yes, it’s better than what’s happening in Uganda, but that country’s leaders are batshit crazy on this issue. Our country should know better, but it doesn’t. Not all of us. Not yet. And the reason LGBT people don’t have equal rights here has as much to do with what evangelical Christians say in church each week as anything else.
I don’t think they deserve complete blame for what’s happening overseas, but that slippery slope began somewhere. You can’t denounce an entire group of people for decades, blaming them for so many of society’s ills, and then act surprised when someone tries to “fix” the problem by punishing those who are LGBT.
Can pastors do anything to change this? Well, they could start by denouncing the Ugandan law in no uncertain terms. They could also stop supporting American laws that allow discrimination against gays and lesbians in the name of “religious freedom.”
“Evangelicals have missionaries [in Uganda], televangelists have shows on TV there. There is a substantial American Christian presence there,” [Patheos blogger Warren] Throckmorton said. “From the Ugandans’ point of view, the bill was passed as a way to make Uganda a more Christian nation; evangelicals could’ve been more vocal by saying, ‘This is not how it’s done.’”
It’s not too late to start.
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