Uganda, Homosexuality, and Evangelical Signaling

I used to say that, whatever American evangelicals had to say about banning gay marriage, hardly any of them seemed to be trying to ban homosexuality itself, and that this distinction said a lot about what both conservatives and liberals think conservatives believe about the intersection of legislation and morality. Muslims in Iran may kill homosexuals, but Christians in America do not.

But apparently that’s not quite true in Uganda, where evangelical Christian president Yoweri Museveni just signed into a law a bill that, as I understand it, would put those repeatedly convicted of homosexual sex in prison for life (a slight reduction from the originally proposed death penalty). I’m hesitant to hastily judge brothers from an unfamiliar culture on a continent I have never visited, but Jesus prevented the religious leaders of his day from stoning a woman caught in adultery, and even remembering the call to “go and sin no more” I’m having trouble understanding how he would approve of his followers laying similar legal sentences on those caught in other types of Levitically-denounced sexual activity.

Even more disturbing is the apparent right-wing American evangelical influence on the creation of this law. I think the media is likely exaggerating the connection, and much of it seems to be guilt by association (Rick Warren is bad because he was once buddy-buddy with one of these guys, but Barack Obama is not bad because he was once buddy-buddy with Rick Warren?), but even the most charitable interpretations of such claims are, well, not very charitable. This is compounded by the fact that I can find lots of media attempts to connect American conservatives to this shameful Uganda law, but I have neither heard nor found any attempts by conservatives to defend or disassociate themselves.

I find it hard to believe that a significant number of conservative Americans agree with this law, but I also find it hard to explain their silence in the face of the recent flood of accusations (please point me to any defenses I may have missed). This would be a perfect opportunity for right-wing evangelicals to denounce the sort of theocratic legislating that liberals often caricature them as wanting, signaling that their real political beliefs are at least not that unreasonable, campaigns against gay marriage and potentially misrepresented but admittedly vague state laws included.

But “politics is not about policy.” Are American conservative evangelicals so caught up in political tribalism that they are afraid of signaling disagreement with others who are on “their side” when it comes to homosexuality, even if they are extreme enough that such association damages the credibility of their religious beliefs? Yet I have not generally found that to be true in other instances, as the average evangelical is more than happy to hastily disassociate themselves from the protestors of Westboro Baptist, for instance.

I have never liked the far-left attempts to compare the Tea Party with the Taliban, as if throwing acid on women who don’t cover their heads is somehow remotely equivalent to thinking bosses should be able to let employees buy cheap, publicly available birth control pills with their own money. The Taliban kills their political/religious opponents; the Tea Party does not. But unless the Tea Party starts to disassociate themselves from these alleged connections to those putting their opponents in prison for life, such comparisons might start to make me a little more uncomfortable than they ever did before.

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2 Responses to Uganda, Homosexuality, and Evangelical Signaling

  1. While I’ve only paid marginal attention to the Uganda thing, I hadn’t heard about any possible link to American evangelicals. The whole thing seems sketchy to me. Not only does it rely on some shadowy organization called “The Family”, but according to the Daily Beast article you linked to, Rick Warren “denounced” the Uganda bill, apparently even before Obama did (if that means anything).

    Apparently Hillary Clinton is also supposed to be part of The Family, so I’m not sure why only conservatives get stuck with guilt-by-association. To me it sounds like just another conspiracy theory that conveniently hits all the right politicians. Even if The Family really does exist, its apparently secretive nature means anybody can read anything into it. Claims about The Family have just as much practical meaning as claims about the Freemasons or the Knights Templar.

    • Joshua Hedlund says:

      You’re probably right… I guess I just found it odd that all the usual left-ish media suspects were trying to highlight a link and none of the usual right-ish media suspects seemed to be acknowledging the thing altogether much less defending or disassociating themselves from their alleged connection. But maybe I’m reading too much into what I’ve seen in my limited sample about a piece of international news.

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