Hell coming to earth: Uganda

The legislature of Uganda is poised to pass what the main stream media is calling an “anti-homosexuality bill”… This bill is quite possibly the most vile, putrid distillation of hate to be transcribed as law in recent human history.

The legislature of Uganda is poised to pass what the main stream media is calling an “anti-homosexuality bill” (text here [PDF]). I don’t think the words “anti-homosexuality” even begin to describe this bill. This bill is quite possibly the most vile, putrid distillation of hate to be transcribed as law in recent human history.

Here are some of the basics I’ve been able to glean from a cursory reading of the bill:

  • Having any sort of sexual encounter with a member of the same sex would be punished by lifelong imprisonment.
  • Knowing someone who is gay and not turning them in will be punished with 7 years imprisonment.
  • Providing a safe house or safe harbor to an LGBT person will be punished with 7 years imprisonment.
  • HIV and AIDS prevention organizations would be banned.
  • Tweeting a link to a pro-gay website (like this blog) would be punished with 7 years in prison (as it would constitute “promotion of homosexuality”).
  • Officiating a commitment ceremony for a same-sex couple will be punished with life in prison.
  • A Ugandan man working on a green card in the U.S. and living with his boyfriend can be prosecuted and extradited to face live in prison.

Many offenses listed are punishable by death. At the outset, these portions of the law look more “reasonable”, until one realizes how they will inevitably be twisted:

  • An 18 year old boy in a relationship with a 16 year old boy could be executed.
  • A female supervisor having a relationship with a woman who works for her can be executed.
  • Having any sort of sexual contact with someone of the same sex while infected with HIV will be punishable by death (even if both persons are HIV-positive, or using protection, on prophylactics, etc).

What is even more sickening to me, is that this codex of hatred likely owes its existence to hostility exported from right here in the U.S.A. The US-based extremist group “College of Prayer” and other noted evangelicals like Rick Warren have spent the last few years exporting pseudo-science, anti-gay “third wave” propaganda and Christian supremacist ideology to Uganda.

As I read – on a frighteningly frequent basis – accounts of Dominionist Christian interference in government, two alarming things have come to my attention:

  1. The leaders of this movement are extremely well-funded and positioned.
  2. The “core issues” these Dominionists care about almost inevitably involve the infringement of the basic human rights of other people groups.

They often attempt to hide these facts behind lies, obfuscation and cries of “religious oppression”, but the fact that their leaders refuse to condemn an infringement on basic human rights and decency as immense as this one gives the lie to their true goals. In time, I truly believe that the word “Evangelical” will hold the same weight and terrifying connotations in other parts of the world that the word “Taliban” holds here in the U.S.

As a former Christian, I am disconsolate that the religion of love and peace that I learned as a child has been so skewed and twisted. What happened to the Beatitudes? What happened to “God is Love”? Where is the Golden Rule, and the concept of “do unto the least of these”? It is as if every redeeming quality of the Christian Faith has been lost in the burning desire to beat the twisted dogmas of these wannabe Hitlers into every living person.

Somewhere along the way, I stopped feeling guilt for leaving the faith – stopped worrying about being wrong about my logic. Now, for the first time in my life, I find myself fearing “god’s children” and abhorring what they’re “teaching”.

If you’d like to find more information on the U.S. Government’s response to this bill, click here for the Council for Global Equality website.
To read the HRC Back Story post on the bill, and their protest at the Ugandan Embassy, click here.
For less political, but possibly equally important coverage of the issue, check out Perez Hilton’s post.
To send a letter to Congress asking for their help in stopping this assault on human rights, click here.

Additionally, see the comments on this post for follow-up information.

MissionGathering Church Says Sorry.

MissionGathering Church of San Diego, CA uses their float in San Diego Pride to apologize for the Christians who voted for Prop 8.

MissionGathering Church Says Sorry.
MissionGathering Church Says Sorry.

MissionGathering Church of San Diego, CA uses their float in San Diego Pride to apologize for the Christians who voted for Prop 8.

The Least of These: The Correlation Between American Christianity & Torture

A new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a strong direct correlation between American’s support for the torture of detainees and the number of church services they regularly attend.

Christian Cross depicting Jesus' crucifixion. A new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life shows a strong direct correlation between American’s support for the torture of detainees and the number of church services they regularly attend.

54 percent of people who attended services at least once a week indicated that they believed the use of torture was “often” or “sometimes” justified.  In contrast, among those who “seldom or never”attend church services, only 42 percent agreed. Over 60 percent of white, evangelical Protestants responded that torture was “often” or “sometimes” justified, a higher rate of approval than any other religious group. Those lacking any religious affiliation were least likely to agree on the necessity of torture, at an approval rate of only 40 percent.

Thankfully, some religious groups seem to retain their sanity: so-called “mainline”, non-evangelical Protestants (Lutherans, Episcopalians, etc.) where the most likely to say that torture was “never” justified.

The religious group most likely to say torture is never justified was Protestant denominations — such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians — categorized as “mainline” Protestants, in contrast to evangelicals. Just over three in 10 of them said torture is never justified. A quarter of the religiously unaffiliated said the same, compared with two in 10 white non-Hispanic Catholics and one in eight evangelicals.

Rest in Peace, Matthew

In honor of Matthew Shepard, I’d like to post a homily by Father Geoffrey Farrow, given this last Sunday at his church. Would that men like him were more common, and events like Matthew’s death far more rare.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Matthew Shepard today. I wear a commemorative pendant with the words “Understanding, Compassion, Acceptance. Erase Hate” engraved on it. I’d read about Matthew, and I knew what happened to him, knew his story. Today, strangly, was the first time I ever watched the archived press coverage, or footage of his parent’s reaction. Watching them brought me a whole new level of understanding.

In honor of Matthew, I’d like to post a homily by Father Geoffrey Farrow, given this last Sunday at his church. Would that men like him were more common, and events like Matthew’s death far more rare.

As most of you know, I was appointed pastor here at the Newman Center on April 15th of this year. When I arrived, I set out to address a series of various projects to repair our facilities. To date, most of these deferred maintenance items have been addressed. In the middle of dealing with contractors, the parish finance committee, the building department of the diocese, neighbors, etc., I received a FAX from the bishop’s office on the 30th of June. It was the bishop’s pastoral letter for the month of July.

Matthew ShepardThis single FAX threw my whole summer, and in fact, my whole life into a turmoil. Recently, I was speaking with some of our parishioners who advocate for the ordination of women. In the course of our conversation, a question arose which has haunted me: “At what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice?” By asking all of the pastors of the Diocese of Fresno to promote Catholics to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the bishop has placed me in a moral predicament.

In his “Pastoral,” the bishop states: “Marriage is much more than simply two persons loving each other. Marriage is naturally, socially, and biologically, directed to bringing forth life.”

Actually, there are TWO ends to marriage: 1) Unitive and 2) Procreative. The unitive end of marriage is simply a union of love and life. The Procreative end is, of course, to create new life. It is important to understand that the unitive end of marriage is sufficient for a valid marriage. The Church sanctions, and considers a sacrament, the marriage of elderly heterosexual couples who are biologically incapable of reproduction. So, if two people of different genders who are incapable of reproduction can enter into a valid marriage, then why is that two people of the same gender, who are incapable of reproduction, cannot enter into a valid marriage.

The objections which are raised at this point are taken from Sacred Scripture. Scripture scholars reveal the problematic nature of attempting to use passages from the Hebrew Scriptures as an argument against same gender relationships. Essentially, these scriptures are addressing the cultic practices in which sex with temple prostitutes was part of an act of worshiping Pagan gods. With regard to the Pauline epistles, John J. McNeill, in his book: “The Church and the Homosexual,” makes the following point: “The persons referred to in Romans 1:26 are probably not homosexuals that is, those who are psychologically inclined toward their own sex-since they are portrayed as ‘abandoning their natural customs.'” The Pauline epistles do not explicitly treat the question of homosexual activity between two persons who share a homosexual orientation, and as such cannot be read as explicitly condemning such behavior. Therefore, same gender sex by two individuals with same sex orientation is not “abandoning their natural custom.”

In 1973, as a result of a greater understanding of human psychology, the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. In 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Church’s watchdog for orthodoxy) produced a document entitled: “Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.” In this document, they made the most remarkable statement. They stated that there are “homosexuals who are such because of some kind of innate instinct.” While these statements are hardly glowing affirmations of gay and lesbian persons, they represent a watershed in human perception and understanding of gay and lesbian people.

These new insights have occurred as a result of the birth and development of the science of psychology and understanding of brain development in the 19th and 20th centuries. The California Supreme Court cited and quoted an amicus brief filed by the APA in the Court’s opinion issued on May 15, 2008 that struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage. Specifically, the court relied on the APA’s brief in concluding that the very nature of sexual orientation is related to the gender of partners to whom one is attracted, so that prohibiting same sex marriage discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, rather than just imposing disparate burdens on gay people.

In directing the faithful to vote “Yes” on Proposition 8, the California Bishops are not merely entering the political arena, they are ignoring the advances and insights of neurology, psychology and the very statements made by the Church itself that homosexuality is innate (i.e. orientation). In doing this, they are making a statement which has a direct, and damaging, effect on some of the people who may be sitting in the pews next to you today. The statement made by the bishop reaffirms the feelings of exclusion and alienation that are suffered by individuals and their loved ones who have left the Church over this very issue. Imagine what hearing such damaging words at Mass does to an adolescent who has just discovered that he/she is gay/lesbian? What is the hierarchy saying to him/her? What are they demanding from that individual? What would it have meant to you personally to hear from the pulpit at church that you could never date? Never fall in love, never kiss or hold hands with another person? Never be able to marry? How would you view yourself? How would others hearing those same words be directed to view you? How would you view your life and your future? How would you feel when you saw a car with a “Yes on 8” bumper sticker? When you overheard someone in a public place use the word “faggot?”

I remember the first time I heard that word, faggot, I was hanging out with my cousins. They all played on the football team of the Catholic high school in our town. One of them spat out the word in the form of a curse. I was just a kid in the 5th grade, I’d never heard the word before, and so I asked: “What’s a faggot?” A faggot is a guy who likes other guys, was the curt reply. Now pause. Think. What would those words mean to someone in junior high school who discovers that he/she is attracted to people of their same gender? The greatest fear that he/she would have is that they would be rejected by the people they love the most-their family. So, their solution is to try to pass as straight, deceive, and in effect-lie. Of course, this leads ultimately to self loathing. It should come as little surprise that gay teenagers have elevated suicide rates. According to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (1999), 33% of gay youth will attempt suicide.

The bishop states: “The Church has spoken out constantly that those with a homosexual orientation must be respected with the dignity of every child of God. Every individual is created in the image and likeness of God and should never be subjected to prejudice or hatred.” A pious thought uttered by a cleric, robbed of any substantive meaning, as the executioner begins his work. Only a few select people actually read those documents. What most Catholics hear about being gay or lesbian at their parish church is–silence. A numbing silence, which slowly and insidiously tells them, “You don’t belong here, this is not for you, and you are not welcome.” It is not the crude overt vulgarity of some churches. But rather, it is the coldness of a maitre d’ who simply won’t seat you, or the club which has put you on a waiting list with no intention of allowing you to join. And simply asks you to wait in polite almost, apologetic tones.

In effect, the bishops are asking gay and lesbian people to live their lives alone. Why? Who does this benefit? How exactly is society helped by singling out a minority and excluding them from the union of love and life, which is marriage? How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives? What is accomplished by this? Worse still, is to intimidate a gay or lesbian person into a heterosexual marriage, which is doomed from its inception, and makes two victims instead of one by this hurtful “theology.” This “theology,” which is parroted by clerics in polished tones from pulpits, produces the very prejudice and hatred in our society which they claim to abhor.

When the hierarchy prohibited artificial birth control, most of the faithful in the United States, Canada and Europe scratched their heads in wonderment and proceeded to ignore them. There is an expression in theology: “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” If your son or daughter is gay/lesbian let them know that you love them unconditionally. Let them know that you are not ashamed or embarrassed by them. Guide them as you would your other children to finding true and abiding love. Let them know that marriage is a union of love and life and is possible for them too.

I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally compelled to vote “NO” on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people of California will join with those others around the world such as Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to marry.

I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them, would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” He didn’t promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth.

Do you want to make a difference? Would you like to help erase hate? Here are two organizations that can help you start:

    The Matthew Shepard Foundation
    Barack Obama for President