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Problem or solution?

Christianity and the controversy surrounding Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill

Problem or solution?

LAW OF THE LAND: Ugandans demonstrate against homosexuality in Kampala. (Associated Press/Photo by Stephen Wandera)

Going ballistic: When the Ugandan parliament shortly before Christmas passed a bill legislating long prison sentences for homosexuals, The Huffington Post quoted one activist calling Dec. 20 “the worst day” in history, and the U.S. State Department (which looks the other way as Muslims murder Christians) was quick to “condemn” the bill. On Jan. 17 Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni chose not to sign the bill, citing a technicality, and columnists blamed American Christians for manipulating the purportedly ignorant and easily led Africans.

A deeper analysis came from Chris Howles, a missionary in Uganda who in his blog, Namugongo Life, called the national opposition to homosexuality historical rather than religious. Howles wrote online (“Homophobia in Uganda: Is Christianity the problem or the solution?”), “The vast majority of Christians in this country have never met or spoken with a Western missionary. Nor have their leaders. Many of these attitudes about homosexuality come direct from traditional Ugandan culture.”  

Who ya gonna believe? I side with Howles, in part because in November I visited his central Ugandan township of Namugongo and saw a memorial to 26 pages, young royal servants who professed Christ and were martyred in 1886. That page scandal reminded me of when U.S. representatives in 1983 and 2006 came under fire for sex scandals involving congressional pages, except in the United States no one died (except politically). Uganda’s scandal was different: King Mwanga II had the 26 pages burned to death, and a national holiday now honors them.  

Why the king killed them is important in understanding the recent Ugandan legislation. Students learn that Mwanga II expected the royal pages to submit to his homosexual advances. After all, the traditional saying Namunswa alya kunswaze (the queen ant feeds on her subjects) indicated that the monarch is licensed to kill those who reject him. The pages, though, fed on Christ and chose to die rather than to sin so blatantly. 

Given that fact, many Ugandans see tolerance of homosexuality in Uganda, let alone praise for it, as historical treason. Does that mean I applauded the parliamentary legislation (which is likely to return to President Museveni’s desk in some form)? No: It was harsh and unlikely to be effective. I write that because ancient Israel’s experience shows how sinners like all of us tend to act when faced with a long list of laws: We break them. The ancient Israelites had the best laws, since God gave them. They had every reason to be confident in their lawgiver, since God had delivered their ancestors from slavery. They had every reason to fear breaking them, since the penalty often was death. But, under these best of possible conditions for obedience, they disobeyed. 

Howles has a better idea: Promote Christianity, not tradition. He argues that if Ugandans temper their desire to put homosexuals in prison, “it will most likely be because of Christianity, as churches preach a message of godly love and kindness towards active homosexuals.” Homosexuality is wrong and laws can be useful educators, but our hope is in “the gospel that shows us that all people are created in God’s image … the gospel that welcomes all people to confess that Jesus is Lord and unite together in a broken but re-built community of Christ,” as Ephesians 2:17-22 explains. 

Anti-Christians shudder at that notion and desperately need to pretend that Ugandans would be positive about homosexuality if not brainwashed by missionaries—because if that’s not true, two liberal axioms crumble. One is that Africans are natural allies of the left in a war against “religious reactionaries.” The other is that “multiculturalism” is an ideological ally in the war against Christ. When Africans line up with Christian conservatives, the religious left can choose to change its thinking or fall into conspiracy theorizing. The latter is popular, even though the idea that African Christians are puppets demeans them as much as past racists ever did.   

Fear-based laws may work for a while, and laws to protect life are certainly important, but rules imposing morality usually sweep problems under the rug instead of solving them. If law doesn’t work for long, what does? Only the gospel. Christ loved us enough to die for us. Once we stop thinking of ourselves as the center of the world and recognize that God owns it and us, we realize that our greatest pleasure comes not from indulgence but from feeling God’s pleasure.



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  • adoniao
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    I agree with Marvin Olasky.  We need to love and pray for the homosexuals not hate them, and certainly not kill them.

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    I feel that Mr. Olanksy has made several pretentious assumptions and gross exaggerations in his concluding statements. As a Christian and a liberal (yes, in that order) I am offended to read such malicious statements regarding my sociological opinions. Firstly, I do not make racist assumptions regarding the people of the African continent; to claim that I believe they are weak and impressionable is the furthest thing from accurate. Secondly, I blame no part of this upon missionaries. Though I'll acknowledge resentment toward the Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries from the from both the Colonial and Exploration ages, I do not believe it reasonable to accuse missionary presence of inciting this inhumanity. I believe the issue is the native conservative extremism of the Ugandans, and given the circumstances, I would come to this conclusion regardless of the continental positioning of Uganda. There is no racism attached to my belief that these people are simply wrong, and are far too willing to needlessly end human lives. This proposed law is immoral, inhumane, and a disgrace, whether its causes are religious, cultural, or political. I am offended by Mr. Olasky's statements, and would prefer if he addressed the topic at hand, and left American liberals far out of his article. This does not concern us directly, and even if it did, that was certainly not the way to diplomatically address a political adversary.

  • Cosmo
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    In the scripture from Corinthians that Phil Roberson (Duck Dynasty) paraphrased and got into trouble over, none of the sins are ranked by order of magnitude.  It says that all sin is basically the same in the eyes of God.  Therefore, homosexuality is no worse than drunkeness, etc.   All of these sins lead to death, meaning the second death of separation from God.  The main difficulty in the USA (at least that I hear from others and I also feel) is we are having laws crammed down our throats to give special recognition to homosexuals.  All the things that people do that caused the laws to be passed are already covered by laws that make these things illigal already, but, they are not enforced.  Address that problem.  Enforcing the laws we already have would fix most of our ills in a lot of areas.  The cultural issue is quite correct.  I worked in Angola for 13 years and the African culture is something most people here in the USA do not understand.  The muslim culture does not tolerate homosexuals either. Mr. Olasky, your summation of the issue is spot on and I don't know how anyone could construe it as problematic.  But then there will be those that will probably launch on what I've said.  I enjoy your articles in World.Let ye without sin cast the first stone.

  • kcmacstat
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    For a rebuttal to some of the thinking expressed here, please see a reasoned response at

  • Anonymous (not verified)
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    @Marvin Olasky
    Thanks for calling out the racism of Western secular liberals who
    think Ugandan opposition to homosexuality is the result of American Christian outsiders. 
    I do wonder if such liberal rage against Uganda is also due to mixed signals on homosexuality from  the Black Church in America.  On one hand, Black
    American Christians say that homosexuality is sin.  On the other hand,
    these same Christians will support Black politicians (e.g., President
    Obama) and organizations (e.g., NAACP) who endorse this sin.  As a
    result, Western secular liberals view Black American Christians as
    useful idiots who help advance their cause.

    By contrast, the walk of Black Christians in Uganda regarding
    homosexuality matches their talk.  Hence, they elect anti-gay lawmakers,
    who then pass "anti-gay" laws.  The idea of Black Christians standing
    by their principles would naturally infuriate Western secular
    liberals used to dealing with lukewarm Black American Christians.Just my two cents.

  • Richard H's picture
    Richard H
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    The first question to ask is "what does God say about the role and responsibility of civil government?"  Romans 12:19 - 13:6 is quite clear.  Praise those who behave properly and punish those that don't.  The role is based on God's ethics.  Since homosexual behavior is sinful the civil government should rightfully have something to do about this sin.  If it remains silent then that gives tacit approval for open homosexual behaviors be that public baths, bars, want-ads, promotion in the media, etc.  Just look at what has happened to the USA over the past 30 years or so as civil government, for the most part, remained silent on the issue.In addition, normalization of homosexuality is a heavily pushed agenda item by Marxists worldwide to destroy the traditional, patriarchal family.  Every civil government should have laws that protect and promote the traditional family as this is the foundation of every society.  

  • Sawgunner's picture
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    It is such rank hypocrisy that western progressive/pro-homosexual agenda folks cannot accept the idea that this law arose from the local culture and wasnt somehow "imposed" on the Ugandans. Closer to home gays in Jamaica now assert that the anti homosexuality ethos in that nation was planted and cultivated by western Religious Right extremists. It says a lot about 3rd world Christianity that so many Anglican churches are affiliating with Nigerian Anglicans who reject compromises in Biblical sexuality/morality.

  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Mon, 04/11/2016 03:55 pm

    I grew up in an area and in a church each of which would be considered "homophobic" but I never heard anyone insist that active homosexuals be locked up or harmed.  While I will admit most people I grew up with had little contact with homosexuals and they were considered quite odd no one I know wanted them arrested.  Even though they are now actively involved in dismantling the pillars of the family I now am more aware of them and agree they have a right to have the Gospel presented to them in a meaningful and loving way.  But like everyone else, then they must decide.