I am posting on Timothy Shah’s Christianity Today article about Uganda as I have time. Rather than posting one long response, my schedule has been friendly to shorter efforts.
In this one, I want to point out that Mr. Shah makes some assessments of David Bahati that are not based on contact or interview with Mr. Bahati. Shah writes:
Some American groups have thus made a crusade of opposing the anti-gay bill in Uganda largely because of the mistaken belief that American evangelical groups have made a crusade of advancing it. In fact, its origins have far more to do with the idiosyncratic insecurities of David Bahati. Mr. Bahati and some of his fellow Anglicans feel themselves under enormous pressure to demonstrate their moral and spiritual traditionalism. Increasing competition from Islam and conservative Pentecostals throughout sub-Saharan Africa makes Anglicans’ associations with liberals in the West suspect. Still, the theory of the bill’s American inspiration is a useful device that enables advocates of gay rights to attack homophobia in Uganda without appearing insensitive to Ugandans or Africans.
Mr. Shah seems intent on dismissing any American evangelical influence on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and David Bahati. Instead, Shah has his own theory – “idiosyncratic insecurities of David Bahati.” Such an assessment would normally require reporting, interviewing and evidence. Not so, here. For instance, David Bahati told me late yesterday that he has not spoken to Shah. Without interviewing Bahati or citing evidence for his claims of “idiosyncratic insecurities,” we are left with Mr. Shah’s theory about religious competition among Anglicans, Pentecostals and Islam.
In fact, Bahati denies direct American influece while at the same time, disclosing secret American support for his effort. I don’t believe Americans wrote the bill, but it is surely true that there are prominent American evagelicals (e.g., Lou Engle, Molotov Mitchell, Cliff Kincaid) who have supported the effort.
Shah’s unfamiliarity with Bahati and the facts surrounding the bill lead him to a faulty narrative – one which has opposition coming only from the left and gay activists because of the black eye it gives to evangelicals. However, in fact, the real story here is the civil war among evangelicals over the bill’s intent and provisions. American Christians and gay rights advocates have found common ground in support for personal freedom of conscience, and opposition to state sanctioned imposition of religious dogma on citizens. One does not need to religiously affirm homosexual behavior to vigorously oppose this bill.
Shah’s lack of knowledge of the situation in Uganda is also revealed in the events of this week. Shah said that Ugandan religious and political leaders were repelled by the bill and that the bill had been stopped in its tracks. However, just in the past couple of days, we now hear from Parliament leaders that the AHB could be debated as early as next week. While op-eds are not hard news, they should be based in fact. Shah’s op-ed fails both as a faithful witness and informed opinion. CT should pull it yesterday.
UPDATE: Here is another Ugandan article reporting that the AHB will be debated during the short session beginning Tuesday.
Other posts on this topic:
Christianity Today author misleads on Uganda - March 15, 2011
Has Uganda’s antigay bill been stopped by Ugandan opposition? - March 16, 2011