Ugandans, American Evangelicals, & the Soft Bigotry of Liberal Expectations

Homosexuality is a serious crime in Uganda, and has been for more than 100 years.  Gay Ugandans are subjected to unfathomable atrocities ranging from beatings to jail time to the horrifying practice of correctional rape. Public outings are a popular political weapon, leading not just to shame, but to violence, discrimination, and imprisonment.

And now, members of the Ugandan parliament are considering a draconian piece of legislation known as the Anti Homosexuality Bill of 2009 (PDF). Written by freshman MP David Bahati, the proposed law could institute the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” including acts that involve HIV-positive individuals and repeat offenders.  The penalty for other homosexual acts would increase from 14 years to life in prison.  In addition, friends, neighbors, and even clergy would be deputized as informants, and imprisoned for “aiding and abetting” homosexuality.

Who is to blame for this inhumane proposal?  Surely not the Ugandan people, all of whom are pure in thought, word, and deed.  And certainly not the beneficent legislators, eager to do what’s best for the people.  So who bears the blood of Ugandan gays on their hands?

American evangelical Christians, of course!

You see, not one, not two, but three American evangelicals visited Uganda last March to speak at a conference about “the gay agenda – that whole hidden and dark agenda.”  When these evangelical serpents arrived in Uganda, the noble savages fell from gay-loving grace upon tasting the forbidden fruit of homophobia and hatred.  And as the sweet, sweet juices of Western exported Christian fundamentalism ran down their chins, the epiphany set in:  death to Sodomites!

At least, that’s the implication of the meme that’s been sliming its way through the liberal smear machine, culminating last week with the publication of “Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push” in the New York Times:

For three days, according to participants and audio recordings,thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

NYT writer Jeffrey Gettleman eventually gets around to a grudging admission that anti-homosexual bigotry existed in Uganda before three American nobodies showed up to enrapture thousands. But the intended takeaway is clear: it is not Ugandans, but American evangelicals who are to blame for the Anti Homosexuality Bill.  And untainted by the nefarious influence of three Americans you’ve probably never heard of – Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer -  the good people of Uganda would have maintained their anti-gay status quo.

Western homophobia: it’s magically delicious!

Without a doubt, the trio of American anti-gay activists are among the rankest of human garbage, and the Ugandan event was permeated by the unmistakable stench of hatred and bigotry.  There is even video evidence of Scott Lively at the Ugandan conference describing gays as serial killers, child molesters, and sociopaths.

These are the same falsehoods spread by anti-gay groups in the United States. Are we to believe the average Ugandan is far more susceptible to hateful rhetoric than the average American?

Sounds like the soft bigotry of low expectations to me.

And it’s precisely those low expectations of the poor, unwitting Africans that we hear echoing throughout the liberal mediasphere.

The Seattle Times editorial board makes it clear the Ugandans aren’t to blame for the anti-gay extremism in their government:

Gays and lesbians are a frequent target for those who preach a theology of exclusion and holier-than-thou dividing lines. Familiar language at home, but now it is a vile export.

Homosexuals in Uganda are literally in fear for their lives after three American evangelists traveled to Africa to find far-flung converts for the rhetoric of the U.S. culture wars.

Shakesville blogger Melissa McEwan theorizes (conspiracy-style) that “the extreme anti-gay legislation under consideration in Uganda was underwritten by the secretive American evangelical organization known as ‘The Family.'”  In her defense, McEwan didn’t expel this steaming pile of crazy on her own – she picked it up on MSNBC.

Professional moby turned liberal lapdog Charles Johnson writes:

What a shock — preaching hatred leads to hatred. Who could ever have guessed?

Just appalling. This is where the rhetoric of the religious right leads, and don’t fool yourself — there are many people on the right who support Uganda’s persecution of gays, and would like to see the US do the same thing.

True to sycophantic smear formula, Johnson then attempts to tar the entire right based on anonymous comments of unknown origin at Free Republic.

PZ Myers calls the three evangelicals who attended the Ugandan conference “the people responsible for inciting hatred of gays in Africa.”  He continues, “The only reason they are running from it now is that it happened far faster in Uganda than they expected, and they’re suddenly standing their with a smoking gun and blood on their hands, rather than at a safe remove with the apparatus of the state peeling away the rights from people, one by one.”

And Jill at Feministe relieves the Ugandans of culpability like this: “This is a tried-and-true pattern among religious radicals. They set a fire, fan the flames and then feign shock when something burns down.”

Sure thing. In a matter of hours, an entire country of Africans was radicalized by a trio of inconsequential Westerners.  These evangelicals must be to Uganda what David Hasselhoff is to Germany!

The thing is, anti-gay sentiment is rampant in Africa, much more so than in the United States.  While American gays are fighting for the right to marry, many of their African counterparts are fighting against imminent execution.  Are we to assume that the same three idiots from America been running amok in Africa, filling innocent, impressionable minds with Christianist hatred and bigotry?

And here’s a question: if even “Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has linked gay practices to Western influences,” why would the country’s leaders turn to the imperialist West to pile on with more advice?  Couldn’t it be that the Ugandan conference organizers were using Lively and company as pawns to promote their anti-gay agenda?

“When you demonize lgbts as predators, just what do you think would happen?” asks a blogger at Pam’s House Blend.

What do I think? I think the Ugandan people aren’t unruly teens succumbing to peer pressure at a kegger. And they aren’t smooth wax tablets awaiting the stylus of their Christianist overlords.  Ugandans are just as capable as Americans of shrugging off outrageously bigoted rhetoric, but the fact is, the bigotry was already there.

So let’s put an end to fetishizing the Ugandan people as noble savages sullied by the West. And let’s stop infantilizing Africans by relieving them of their moral responsibility and capacity for self-determination.  If Fred Phelps and the Westboro bigots haven’t managed to Pied Piper the vast majority of Americans into the river of hate, three self-important American evangelicals aren’t responsible for pervasive bigotry in Uganda.

Unless, of course, you don’t think Ugandans are capable of thinking for themselves.


6 Responses to “Ugandans, American Evangelicals, & the Soft Bigotry of Liberal Expectations”

  1. Rob Taylor on January 11th, 2010 6:14 pm

    This is racism pure and simple, a bunch of White liberals (and their house slaves like Pam Spaulding) telling the world that Africans have no internal drive beyond what White’s put into them. Disgusting.

  2. Paul on January 12th, 2010 6:39 am

    I am an African, and actually Ugandan. I’m sorry to have to admit this, but most of my comrades are irrational, superstitious and backward thinking.

    What the 3 evangelicals achieved through their visit was this:

    1. Successfully conflating homosexuality with pedopehelia. “Homosexuals specifically target teenagers” ranted Scott Lively at the March 2009 conference. They “RECRUIT!!”. This was perhaps their most important contribution to paving the way for this bill.

    2. Successfully portraying gays as deviants who want to ruin society.

    3. Making Ugandans believe in a global homosexual agenda.

    4. That gays can change if they want to

    What was formally just a cultural disdain for homosexuals turned into VICIOUS HATRED of homosexuals, thanks to the literature and speeches of Scott Lively.

    Religious and political leaders in Uganda quote verbatim from Scott Lively’s books about the gay agenda, destroying families, recruiting children, etc..Just read the Ugandan newspapers – its all there to see.


  3. Jenn Q. Public on January 12th, 2010 12:19 pm


    Scott Lively and his nasty little crew of hatemongers spread the same lies in America. Why is it that the vast majority of Americans don’t believe in a global homosexual agenda? Why isn’t the United States Congress considering a “death to gays” bill?

    The fact is, people will search high and low to find “proof” that justifies all kinds of bizarre beliefs. Ugandan leaders could have dredged up nineteenth century phrenology texts and started counting the bumps on the heads of gays and lesbians to build a case against them. They could have found so-called experts to support any manner of nonsense. But they chose to bring these three people to Africa, the conference attendees chose to find them credible, and David Bahati chose to submit a bill that proposes extermination of gays as a “solution.” By your logic, I could pen a book on human sacrifice, head to Uganda to make a few speeches promoting its virtues in combating the anti-family agenda, and suddenly the right to human sacrifice would be well on it’s way to becoming Ugandan law.

    In addition, there was clearly far more than a “cultural disdain for homosexuals” if it was against the law before Scott Lively was even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye.

  4. Rob Taylor on January 12th, 2010 1:01 pm

    Paul – You’re a liar “comrade” who is spreading anti-Black bigotry at the behest of your Soros-funded masters. Uganda had those beliefs before the White Christians came, it is racism to state that an entire country of Black Africans can be controlled by a couple of White guys.

  5. Paul on January 13th, 2010 1:48 am

    Jenn, homosexuality is illegal because that section of the law was inherited from colonialists. Some guy called Sir Thomas Macaulay drafted the Indian penal code in 1860 and that became the template to be applied in most of Britain’s colonies. The prominence of Christianity and Islam reinforced the necessity of that provision in our laws. As it is, that particular provision also criminalises oral sex, and any sex not intended for procreation. Yeah, it’s outdated.

    Those 3 ‘experts’ were not invited by the government – they were invited by a fundamentalist Christian organisation. In Uganda we are suffering from such over-Christianisation. We have about four terrestrial 24-hour evangelical “prosperity gospel meets faith healing and demon busting” channels in this small country. All of them spewing virulently homophobic messages. Every street corner has a Pentecostal church – even in residential areas! Evalngelicals and Pentecostals are the most vocal of religious groups and they are the ones guiding the Christian agenda in this country – dragging Catholics and Anglicans along with them.

    So when 3 ‘experts’ find an already superstitious society – were fundamentalist Christianity has captured more or less the entire population, having been exposed to years of anti-gay messages on TV – and tells them that gays are here to DESTROY YOUR FAMILY and RECRUIT YOUR CHILDREN, you shouldn’t surprised that bills like Bahati’s emerge.

    Why this hasn’t happened in America is that you have a strong civil rights culture, and wide spread mainstream secularism that acts as a buffer against such lunacy. You ARE aware that many Christians in America would be quite happy to see the same legislation introduced in Uganda, right?

    You said: “By your logic, I could pen a book on human sacrifice, head to Uganda to make a few speeches promoting its virtues in combating the anti-family agenda, and suddenly the right to human sacrifice would be well on it’s way to becoming Ugandan law”

    ME: News flash – whether or not it is currently illegal – MANY Ugandans practice child human sacrifice. Even without misconstruing my logic (like you just did), you wouldn’t even need to pass a bill to legalise it. Child sacrifice is rampant, and there has not been a SINGLE conviction to date.

    Rob, Uganda is a country where belief in witchcraft – even by university degree holders is widespread. I live here. I know. My friends go to witchdoctors. I am therefore right to call them irrational. Do you have another word that best describes belief in witchcraft, besides ‘irrational’? If so, I’d certainly like to hear it.

  6. Jenn Q. Public on January 13th, 2010 2:39 pm

    Paul, I’m not even sure where to begin with your condescending and bigoted comment.

    Your “News flash” about human sacrifice makes you look extraordinarily silly, considering the third paragraph of my original piece links to a story on child sacrifice in Uganda. In fact, that’s why I chose the example: it’s something that already exists without a Western nobody showing up to preach to the converted. Your emphasis of that fact only proves my point.

    You also write that “homosexuality is illegal because that section of the law was inherited from colonialists.” You sound like Barack Obama insisting everything that goes wrong in America is due to the problems he inherited from the Bush/Cheney cabal. At some point, we all have to own our circumstances and cease blaming others. And again, you reemphasize my point: laws against homosexuality predate the anti-gay conference last March.

    The rest of your post is anti-Christian bigotry and smears. Why shouldn’t there be churches in residential neighborhoods, Paul? Also, you write that “many Christians in America would be quite happy to see the same legislation introduced in Uganda.” That is complete and utter bull, and bigoted bull at that. You are railing against a bigoted stereotype.

    The solution to bigotry is not more bigotry, and your time is wasted tilting at American windmills. It is a homophobic culture hungry for validation, and not the validation itself that needs to be addressed.

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