Friday, October 25, 2013

"God Loves Uganda": a chilling account of "Christian" evangelism leading to scapegoating of gay people and a harsh anti-gay bill

Tonight, the documentary “God Lives Uganda”, by Roger Ross Williams, opened at the West End Cinema in Washington DC with a lively Q-A after the 7:20 PM show, and there will be similar sessions next week (Monday and Tuesday, I believe). Other guests will include Urban and David Kim.  The writers include Benjamin Gray and Richard Hankin as well as Williams.  
     
The film starts in the heart of the evangelical community of mid-America, especially the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  The early parts of the film show young people being “recruited” as Christian missionaries to go to the “heart of darkness” in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Uganda, but probably other countries, to win over converts from Islam.

Gradually, the focus of much of the ministry shirts to scapegoating gay people.  In the end, there seems to be no pretense of any rational moral ideology or reading of Biblical scriptures. Making an “example” of a susceptible group of people seems to be a way to gain political control, in a way no longer possible in the United States or western countries in general.   It sounds like a kind of radical “Christian” fascism.
  
The film goes trace this transition back to change in US aid policy following the AIDS epidemic in Africa, which, in general media reports, was largely a heterosexual disease.  At one time, condoms were part of public health policy, but during the (second) Bush administration the emphasis changed to abstinence only, with the idea that all sex out of traditional marriage is sinful (even though the implications of such a belief vary on different people)/.

Eventually, public furor over homosexuality leads to the introduction of the “Anti-Homosexuality Law” in the Ugandan parliament in 2009, with a sickening demonstration. This is no longer a world of “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  People are hunted down and outed in local tabloids like the “Rolling Stone”. 
    
The film often focuses on an appealing young couple, who think they are preaching the Gospel and look the other way on the rumors of the bill and anti-gay violence.

The film follows several other people. One of them is Rev. Kapya Kaoma, who had fled Uganda and now lives in Boston. At the other end is, for example, Rev. Scott Lively, who even claims (ironically) that the Nazi Party was founded by gays (although rumors about Hitler have been the subject of books and film by people like Lothar Mochtan, and the film “The Hidden Fuhrer”.  The film also shows the angry rhetoric of Martin Ssempa.
  
Near the climax of the film, an angry speaker (I think it’s Ssempa) takes on the question like, “Why is what you do in the privacy of your own home my business?”  He then shows explicit still black-and-white photos of the most possible graphic sadomasochistic male gay sex.  The crowd goes into a furor.
  
It’s well to remember, though, that the same kind of rhetoric used to be made by people like Paul Cameron in the US during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, especially before there was a clearcut test for HIV. We’ve climbed a huge mountain in the west from those days toward military and marriage equality.

The official site (Variance Films) is here.

Earlier news stories in the Metro Weekly (a gay paper in Washington DC) had reported that Ugandan (and African in general) culture emphasized the idea of having descendants because people had little economic opportunity on their own.  Homosexuals, particularly males, were perceived as 'weakening" or "killing"  their families by not having children.  In their culture, older siblings have to raise kids because parents have died because of AIDS or other disease or violence.   This viewpoint didn't come up in this film.  
      
In the Q-A, Williams mentioned a trip to Maldives, with anti-gay culture, and also said that a law similar to Uganda’s bill has actually passed in Nigeria (now having a piracy issue) even though it was little noticed.  Nigeria at one time actually had several Metropolitan Community Church congregations.

Williams also explained how we was able to trick his way into being able to film people with extreme anti-gay rhetoric.  

See also a related BBC film about Uganda and anti-gay attitudes here Sept. 15,  

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