Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Making a (negative) difference

Uganda's Draconian Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S. Yup, once more the US, in both words and deeds, has inspired other nations to enact or threaten to enact oppressive legislation. In particular, the role of right-wing US pastors deserves highlighting:
The bill has an American genesis of sorts, inspired to a large extent by the visits of U.S. evangelicals who are involved with a movement that promotes Christianity's role in getting homosexuals to become "ex-gays" through prayer and faith. Ugandan supporters of the bill appear to be particularly impressed by the ideas of Scott Lively, a California conservative preacher who has written a book, The Pink Swastika, about what he calls the links between Nazism and a gay agenda for world domination, which, by itself, would have raised the anti-colonial sensitivities of Ugandan society. Says the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopalian priest from Zambia who authored a recent report on anti-gay politics in Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya: "The U.S. culture wars have been exported to Africa."

One of the bill's loudest supporters is a charismatic pastor, Martin Ssempa, who heads a Ugandan campus AIDS eradication organization that is funded in part by the U.S. and who was associated with the global outreach of Southern California's Saddleback Church, run by Rick Warren, author of best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life. Ssempa has a penchant for burning condoms. In 2007, he organized a rally against homosexuality to protest "homosexual agents and activists" who were "infiltrating Uganda." Asked how the anti-homosexuality bill might affect the fight against HIV and AIDS, Ssempa seemed bemused. "I don't see what this bill has to do with HIV," he told TIME. Warren, who has called Uganda a "purpose-driven nation," cut ties with Ssempa in October as controversy over the bill grew.

Somehow, I'm not the least bit surprised to see Rick Warren's name pop up. And although the deaths that Uganda's proposed new law would cause should permanently weigh on Warren's conscience - as well as those who support his ministry - it probably won't. Although religions can often inspire, the down side is that religions are often at the center of some of the worst structural violence ever perpetrated by humanity. Uganda's law is merely one shining example.

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