NPR: US evangelicals exports culture war to Uganda

This morning, Barbara Bradley Hagerty explores the connections between the US evangelical scene and Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Extensive material from Scott Lively is included with a brief comment from yours truly.  The transcript is at the link; go read and listen to the entire program but here are some segments.

The battle over the Bible and homosexuality has torn apart Christian churches and entire denominations in the United States. But what happens when that culture war is exported to other countries? Ugandans are finding out — with potentially deadly consequences.

Uganda is now considering a bill that would impose the death penalty or life in prison on gay men and lesbians for some homosexual acts.

To understand how this bill came to be, one needs to know the story of King Mwanga. In 1886, Uganda’s king ordered some two dozen male pages to have sex with him, and when they refused because of their Christian faith, he ordered that they be burned to death. Every year on June 3, Ugandans celebrate a national holiday honoring the Christian martyrs and deploring the pedophile king.

Into this climate stepped Scott Lively, an American evangelical and president of Defend The Family International. In March 2009, Lively traveled to Uganda to speak, along with two other Americans from “ex-gay communities,” about the “gay agenda.”

I agree with Jim Naughton when he said:

Jim Naughton, a former canon in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, D.C., says their message plays one way in the U.S., but differently in a place like Uganda. And they should have known.

“If you go to countries where there’s already a great deal of suspicion and maybe animosity towards homosexuals, and begin to tell people there, ‘Well, actually these people are child abusers, they’re coming for their children, that they’re the scourge that is being deposited on you by the secular West,’ you’re gonna get a backlash.” Naughton says it’s like “showing up in rooms filled with gasoline, and throwing lighted matches around and saying, ‘Well, I never intended fire .‘ “

Spot on.

I was interviewed Tuesday for this segment. I did not know some things then that I know now, particularly about the College of Prayer.

If [Rev. Rick] Warren was slow to condemn the bill, other Christian conservatives have yet to do so, says Warren Throckmorton, who teaches psychology at Grove City College and has been monitoring U.S. evangelical response. He says some of the Christian groups most publicly tied to Uganda have been the quietest. Joyce Meyer Ministries, Oral Roberts University, the College of Prayer in Atlanta — all have close ties and declined to express reservations about the death penalty.

“Silence is often interpreted as consent,” says Throckmorton, who is himself a conservative evangelical. “So I think those kinds of responses may lead those individuals in Uganda to think that perhaps what [they’re] doing really is according to the evangelical faith.”

I have since learned that the College of Prayer wants it to be clear that for them, at least, silence should not be taken as consent. To be sure, they have been pretty silent, but Rev. Fred Hartley told me that the College of Prayer has no involvement in any way with the bill.

Here is the audio. If the player doesn’t work, try this or just go to the site.