This morning’s email newsletter from the NYTimes contained an “Op-Doc” (Opinion Documentary?) that led one to this video. (There is no capability to embed, you’ll have to follow the link.) It was presented with this written introduction:
The American evangelical movement in Africa does valuable work in helping the poor. But as you’ll see in this Op-Doc video, some of their efforts and money feed a dangerous ideology that seeks to demonize L.G.B.T. people and intensifies religious rhetoric until it results in violence. It is important for American congregations to hold their churches accountable for what their money does in Africa.
This is pure propaganda that fails to makes its case, but its effects and conclusions remain frightening. It deals almost entirely in anecdote, citing but a single statistic. (Uganda is 85% Christian.) It strings together a series of unrelated facts, leaving out one extraordinarily important fact, to build a case that Evangelicals are try to pass laws in Uganda to kill homosexuals. What are the facts it presents?
- Lots of American Evangelicals give money to African mission, and some specifically target Uganda. No surprise there, Africa is the poorest continent, of course, Evangelicals give money to help them.
- Christianity identifies homosexual practice as aberrant and sinful. Again, this is not news. Nor, and this is vital, is it a rejection of the individual that feels homosexual impulses. It simply asks those with such impulses to control them, as those of us with other sinful impulses are asked to control ours.
- Because Uganda is 85% Christian, “God’s law often becomes government policy.” Uganda is a democracy, more or less – no African democracy functions really well, and as such it will tend to reflect the opinion of the majority. As the continued liberalization and falling church statistics in this democracy demonstrate. But that is a far cry from the theocratic accusation this video makes – it is simply democracy at work.
- A bill was introduced in the Ugandan Parliament that that provided for the death penalty for serial homosexual practice. OK, that’s a bit overboard, but not as unreasonable as it sounds if you have the missing facts. The piece does not in a superimposed written admission toward the end, but not spoken out loud, that the bill in its current form has removed the death penalty provisions.
- They then attempt to help us conclude that Evangelicals in America and Uganda seek to kill homosexuals, perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not.
Now, I trust when it is laid out that way without the stirring music, passionate voice over, and impactful images that absolute absence of a causal relationship between these facts is obvious.
Its the missing fact that is really troubling to me. AIDS remains a virulent and massive killer in Africa. Uganda is one of only two nations on that continent where AIDS is on the rise. Now, while AIDS can be transmitted heterosexually, it remains primarily and overwhelmingly transmitted by homosexual contact. Further, while advanced and extraordinarily expensive medical treatment has greatly eased the AIDS issues in this nation and Western Europe, such is often not available in Africa. In a nation with the AIDS issues Uganda has, it could be argued that homosexual practice is an assault with intent to kill. Under such circumstances, a discussion of extraordinary penalty, rightly rejected by the democratic process, is not so out of bounds.
What is truly troubling is that in all this there are very real issues for Christians in Uganda and Evangelicals in America to face. How do we teach about the dangers, both moral and health related, of homosexual practice while keeping the conversation “in bounds?” How do American Evangelicals give their money which is much needed, and insure that it is not used wrongly? I could go on.
But reason is not the goal of this film maker. The condemnation of Christianity, and especially American Evangelicals seems to be the sole purpose of this video.
Let the record show that it is not the conservative Christian forces that are escalating the culture war.