How Our Politics Influence Their Policies: Homosexuality Here and in Uganda

Originally @ Stanford Progressive

“It is better to have a passion for beautiful girls than to be gay,” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi quipped offhand when challenged by a recent sex scandal. Unfortunately, at least for those living in Uganda, his deplorable comment is a quite accurate assessment. The past year has witnessed the evolution of a bill in Uganda aimed at strengthening the criminalization of homosexuality by adding a death penalty for the offense.

The bill, which merited and received widespread international and media scrutiny, spurred Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to form a committee to investigate the implications of the new legislation, which ultimately led to a recommendation that the bill be repealed. Even so, it was by no means defeated handily. It did not create large-scale indignation or outrage amongst the people of Uganda. In fact, its renunciation belied the true will of many Ugandans, who view homosexuality as unnatural and criminal by nature.

It is easy to adopt the first-world perspective of pitying condescension towards the people and parliament of Uganda. After all, they live in the ‘developing world,’ isolated from the remarkably progressive insights of more ‘advanced’ societies. The cultural supremacist would argue that it is our duty, as citizens of the G-20, to provide to Uganda our wealth of education and our progressive social perspectives. Well, ironically enough, that’s how we got into this mess.


From the 5<sup>th</sup> to the 8<sup>th</sup> of March, a workshop took place in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, held by three American evangelical Christians. The assumption, when one hears of such conferences, is that these groups trying to deliver the insights and display the advances of the contemporary developed world so that the third-world may integrate these cultural facets into their own society. This is precisely what these three evangelicals - Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer – were trying to do. They wished to spread the American institutions of bigotry, misinformation, and intolerance to underprivileged Africans. (Perhaps they felt that Uganda was sorrowfully lacking in these qualities.)

The seminar sought to address the ‘insidious gay agenda’ that the Americans claimed threatened to undermine Ugandan social stability. Among other topics, the evangelists discussed how to make gay people straight through Christian healing, how gay men often raped and sodomized unwilling teenage boys, and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” with the goal of defeating “the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

It is no surprise that a Ugandan attendee commented at one point during the conference, “[The parliament] feels it is necessary to draft a new law that deals comprehensively with the issue of homosexuality and [...] takes into account the international gay agenda [and] right now there is a proposal that a new law be drafted.” Soon after, a bill seeking the death penalty for active homosexuals was born. And so it is that Americans were able to reinforce the foundations of a backwards social agenda in the impoverished world.

Tongue-in-cheek commentary aside, it is disturbing to realize the full implications of the cultural wars we wage here in the United States. The application of our ideologies to the context of developing nations highlights for us the honest conclusions of our arguments. Scott Lively, when asked about the bill, remarked that he did not support it because of its ‘harsh’ penalties for homosexuality. Of course, in the United States, public figures such as Lively and California pastor Rick Warren (who has worked with Lively on influencing policy in Uganda) need to temper their comments so as not to incite widespread condemnation. It is only in the honest and unapologetic context of the third-world that people can understand the real implications of anti-homosexual ideology.

The problems and challenges faced by the developing world (such as shedding the overly-general and somewhat pejorative brand ‘developing world’) are immense enough without American ideologues contributing to them. It is time for people who live in the privileged and developed world to examine their real intentions when they back regressive policies like those advocated by Lively. As moderate as policies may seem when we format them to apply to our world (such as opposing gay marriage) when we understand their extrapolation without the limits of our cultural barriers, we see the darkest underpinnings of the preaching of evangelicals like Lively.

Only by developing a better understanding of the ramifications of first-world policies can we come to understand their impact on the third-world. It is obvious that some, like Lively and his evangelical colleagues, have failed to truly examine the foundations of their faith and refuse to acknowledge the implications of their viewpoints. The success of their teachings can only be measured in the lives of Ugandans, many of which are now jeopardized. The greatest test of man’s humanity is his capacity to improve the life of his fellow man. Such corrosive ideologues as Lively fail even that basic test.


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