Southern Religion

Ugandan president to block gay genocide bill [Updates]

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told members of the National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) legislative caucus on Jan 13 that he was going to block the gay genocide bill. George Conger of Religious Intelligencer wrote:

“I [Museveni] told them that this bill was brought up by a private member and I have not even had time to discuss it with him. It is neither the government nor the NRM Party’s” bill, he told legislators, according to Ugandan press reports.

“This is a foreign policy issue and we have to discuss it in a manner that does not compromise our principles but also takes care of our foreign policy interests,” the president said.

Xan Rice of the Guardian reported today:

Uganda has indicated it will bow to international pressure and amend draconian anti-homosexual legislation that includes the death penalty for HIV-positive people convicted of having gay sex.

. . .

,p>The proposed law, which has been pushed by local evangelical preachers and vocally supported by senior government officials, also threatens life imprisonment for anyone convicted of gay sex.

While broadly supported domestically, the legislation has caused a storm of protest abroad and consternation from western donors who fund a large chunk of Uganda’s budget.


VOA says nothing has changed:

The Ugandan foreign minister denies the government is backing away from proposed anti-gay legislation because of foreign policy implications, saying the government is still discussing its position on the issue. Gay rights activists express caution over reports the president has backed away from the bill.

Jim Burroway foresees a move toward compromise legislation.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Crime, Law, Religion | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Ugandan president to block gay genocide bill [Updates]

Sanctions deserved if Uganda adopts hate law [Addendum]

The Obama administration should make it clear to Uganda, now, that passage of the anti-gay law will result in a cutoff of aid. That “legislation is a violation of human rights,” as Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said Friday. Embodiment of the hate it represents in law, without answering consequences from more human nations, will encourage others to take similar actions.

Oppression is already a fact of life for the Ugandan gay citizenry. The New York Times wrote in an editorial on Monday:

The government’s venom is chilling: “Homosexuals can forget about human rights,” James Nsaba Buturo, who holds the cynically titled position of minister of ethics and integrity, said recently.

What makes this even worse is that three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” gays and lesbians have been widely discredited in the United States, helped feed this hatred. Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge and Don Schmierer gave a series of talks in Uganda last March to thousands of police officers, teachers and politicians in which, according to participants and audio recordings, they claimed that gays and lesbians are a threat to Bible-based family values.

Now the three Americans are saying they had no intention of provoking the anger that, just one month later, led to the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. You can’t preach hate and not accept responsibility for the way that hate is manifested.

The U.S. should also lead diplomatically in standing against this evil.


Sanctions have been threatened by officials in Sweden and at the United Nations.

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Sanctions deserved if Uganda adopts hate law [Addendum]

Fact-checking Rick Warren [Update: Got $2.4 million]

The Miracle is pastor Rick Warren’s characterization of a week that included an appeal for $900,000. There are unsubtle hints on the Saddleback Community Church Web site that the appeal was successful, as Warren’s staff told the Orange County (Calif.) Register (OCR) it would be.

Blog reaction ran from supportive to excoriating (1, 2, 3) and press coverage, beyond painstaking work by the OCR, was in general competent (1, 2, 3) if disinterested. Although parts of some reports were just wrong. All to be expected in reaction to public plea for funds by an internationally controversial figure.

It didn’t suit Warren, as he made clear in a twitter comment that was as silly as the worst of the blogs and news stories:

Ann,again media got it 100% wrong.Fact-checking is dead.I’ll share the miracle this wkend.09-our best yr yet-11records set!

Because Saddleback Community Church doesn’t and isn’t required to publish financial reports, though Warren is usually uncritically admired for his personal generosity, fact-checking Warren’s financial claims was problematic.

Given his self-contradiction in the Proposition 8 controversy and other dubious claims (1, 2) revealed when he could be fact-checked, Warren has every right now to expect skeptical reactions from journalists. With the help of Mark Silk, we have argued for the creation of a science of Warrenology to handle the big guy’s penchant for having things both ways.

Under the circumstances, Warren’s suggestion that “Fact-checking is dead,” sounds like wishful thinking.

Asked $900,000 -> Got $2.4 million

Success! The OCR reported:

In what Pastor Rick Warren called radical giving, Saddleback Church members not only heeded his call to quickly raise $900,000 but exceeded it by at least $1.5 million.

A packed church erupted today in applause and cheers when Warren made the announcement at the 4:30 p.m. service. By New Year’s Eve, church members brought $2.4 million to the church, a tally that does not include mailed donations, Warren said.

“This is pretty amazing,’ Warren exulted. “That’s a record. I don’t think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter.”

“We’re starting the new decade with a surplus,” he said. “It came from thousands of thousands of ordinary people. There was not one big fat cat.”

Read the entire story here.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Christianity in new social clothing

While some evangelicals are rebranding themselves, turns out college evangelicals are also working on their image.

Christianity Today reports that there has been a shift in how campus ministries are trying to connect with students by emphasizing the social aspect of the gospel.

University of Alabama history professor John Turner told the magazine that ministries with a sincere commitment to social issues can repair the “poor image of campus evangelicals” among students who associate them with homophobia and political conservatism.

“One way for evangelicals to counter these negative stereotypes and put themselves in a position to talk about Jesus is to engage in meaningful social justice work that even non-evangelicals can appreciate. There is a danger of losing sight of evangelistic goals. But not taking these steps presents an even greater danger to those same goals.”

Scott Bessenecker, associate director of missions for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said his organization “is trying to help students embrace and engage the social dimensions of the gospel in a way that will inspire individuals to say, ‘I want to follow this Jesus.'”

One can’t read the article without thinking of the “social gospel” movement which is more than a century old and still has a strong following among mainline Protestant denominations.

Evangelical leader Rick Warren caught some flak in 2008 for saying the social gospel was in many ways “just Marxism in Christian clothing.” Still, however, he said evangelicals should care more about issues such as poverty.

Such caring would be a good start toward an image in the likeness of Christianity’s namesake.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Religion | , | 5 Comments

Rick Warren’s confident appeal: Saddleback’s strength

Rick Warren obviously has confidence in the Saddleback Community Church congregation to whom he appealed, with sound expectation of success, for $900,000 to make up for a Christmas shortfall.

LBGT community mockery and progressive critiques both overlook the collective strength evident in the letter’s frank appeal, with its notable lack of histrionics.

Warren is addressing a well-educated audience which, hard times and all, has members with wherewithal.

As he and they both know. The Orange County Register reports:

Members of Saddleback Church say they expect the congregation to respond with a big “Amen” and cash to Pastor Rick Warren’s appeal for $900,000 by New Year’s Eve.

“This is a great opportunity for God to express himself,” said Jim Walls, from Trabuco Canyon, who received the news after coming home from a ski trip. “It’s a great opportunity for the church to honor God. It’s a great opportunity to raise the points of faith that our shepherd Rick Warren lives.”

Warren’s willingness to make a frank, public appeal into the face of what he knew would be a firestorm from his critics simply underlines his confidence in his parishioners. And the lack of push-back from the Saddleback pews demonstrates theirs in him.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Churches | , , , , | Comments Off on Rick Warren’s confident appeal: Saddleback’s strength

Ssempa fires video back at Warren (hits self)

Repudiated Rick Warren friend Martin Ssempa, Pastor of the Makerere Community Church, has issued a video response [segments with analysis] which includes all of the errors and distortions of the earlier United National Task Force letter.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Ssempa fires video back at Warren (hits self)

Evangelism repositioned, de-acidified, sugar- and money-coated

Gone are the halcyon days of Jerry Falwell declaring 9/11 the result of “throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked.” Evangelism, writes Sarah Posner in the Guardian, has been “rebranded:”

The re-branding was the product of evangelicalism’s survival instinct in the face of the parody-ready Falwell prototype. One of America’s leading evangelicals is now Rick Warren, whose mega-bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life (2002), begins:

“This is more than a book; it is a guide to a 40-day spiritual journey that will enable you to discover the answer to life’s most important question: What on earth am I here for?”

The new evangelicals write books not about how God will smite you, but how God loves you and wants nothing more than your greatest personal, spiritual, and material fulfillment. The middle of the decade saw the publication of televangelist Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential (2004) and TD Jakes’ Reposition Yourself: Living Life Without Limits (2007). Joyce Meyer’s Seven Things That Steal Your Joy: Overcoming the Obstacles to Your Happiness (2004) and Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone (2005) are equally at home at Bible study and coffee klatch, in the church bookstore and at Wal-Mart.

Oh me, oh my.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Religion | , , , | Comments Off on Evangelism repositioned, de-acidified, sugar- and money-coated

Focus on the Family comes out against Uganda anti-gay law

No LBGT advocate, Focus on the Family has at last drawn a line at Ugandan gay genocide. Colorado Springs Gazette blogger Mark Barna writes:

“As a Christian organization, Focus on the Family Action (the political arm of the family group) encourages pro-family policies. As such, we respect the desire of the Ugandan people to shield their nation from the promotion of homosexuality as a lifestyle morally equivalent to one-man, one-woman marriage. But it is not morally acceptable to enact the death penalty for homosexuals, as some versions of the bill are reported to require.”

“My reaction is to denounce this. It sets a horrible precedent and has a potential for developing hatred.”

Otherwise the Barna news story on the same topic isn’t quite as rife with errors as a Richard Land exposition on health care reform. Nonetheless sweepingly erroneous, Barna writes:

Moreover, it’s unfair to single out American evangelical leaders and organizations for not condemning the bill when many world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and human rights groups have also been silent on it.

In fact:

Barna is correct when he writes that “numerous Christian leaders and groups have weighed in.” (For example: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)

Focus on the Family is a welcome and unexpected late-comer to the family of opponents, not yet joined by the Southern Baptist Convevtion Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

This without defending Barna’s failed attempt to exonerate the Christian Right for its well-documented role in fostering the law and to cast belated opposition as pioneering.

December 29, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Focus on the Family comes out against Uganda anti-gay law

Anglican Archbishop of York & Catholic Archbishop of Kampala condemn Ugandan anti-gay bill

Archbishop of York John Sentamu, a senior Anglican cleric who was born in Uganda, approached the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace by taking a stand against Uganda’s gay genocide bill.

He told BBC:

I’m opposed to the death sentence. I’m also not happy when you describe people in the kind of language you find in this private member’s bill. … [It is] a diminishment of the individuals concerned.

About a third of the Ugandan population considers itself to be affiliated with the Church of Uganda (Anglican).

Sentamu’s measured, authoritative voice is an important counter on this issue to the counterfactual, poorly written letter directed by the hastily organized Ugandan National Task Force Against Homosexuality at Saddleback Community Church pastor Rick Warren. The Task Force demanded an apology from Warren, who urged his “fellow pastors in Uganda” to oppose the measure.

About 40% of Uganda’s population is Roman Catholic.

Joining Sentamu, Mark Silk writes, was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Uganda, Cyprian. K. Lwanga, who in his Christmas message said:

The recent tabled Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not pass a test of a Christian caring approach to this issue.

A video report of Archbishop Lwanga’s message:

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , | Comments Off on Anglican Archbishop of York & Catholic Archbishop of Kampala condemn Ugandan anti-gay bill

Ugandan pastors shoot back (inaccurately) at Rick Warren

Monday the very new Ugandan National Task Force Against Homosexuality shot back at Rick Warren, demanding an apology for his letter to fellow pastors in Uganda condemning the proposed Uganda law that would imprison and in in some cases execute homosexuals.

A letter signed by the 20 members and published on Martin Ssempa’s Web site said:

Your letter has caused great distress and the pastors are demanding that you issue a formal apology for insulting the people of Africa by your very inapropriate (sic) bully use of your church and purpose driven pulpits to coerse us into the ‘evil’ of Sodomy and Gaymorrah (sic).

It is a rewrite of a letter sent to Christianity Today last week by the group’s chairman, Ssempa (a “former Bush Administration favorite“). Parts of Ssempa’s letter are included verbatim in the Task Force letter.

For example, both letters say:

As you yourself say about evil, – “the Bible says evil has to be opposed. Evil has to be stopped. The Bible does not say negotiate with evil. It says stop it. Stop evil.”

The task force letter shares errors and misleading language with Ssempa’s original, whose claims are compared to the text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by Warren Throckmorton.

Both letters say that the purpose of the bill is to protect “the boy child” in the same that the law protects “the girl child.” As Throckmorton points out, that overlooks the opening section of the bill, “which states the purpose.” The law is intended to eliminate homosexuality from Uganda by eliminating practice or speech intended to support homosexuals.

Ssempa’s letter is properly castigated by GayUgand for “Lying,” and the Task Force letter is vulnerable to essentially the same criticisms.

If factual accuracy were the principal issue, the debate would be over and the Ugandan pastors would have helped consign the anti-gay legislation to a permanent spot on the trash heap of history.


Tony Cartledge gently comments on the letter:

The intemperate use of bad puns like “Sodomy and Gaymorrah” and the suggestion that Warren is trying to coerce anyone into a homosexual lifestyle says a lot about the level of discourse, which has apparently been encouraged in part by visiting U.S. evangelists other than Warren (according to this article at, folks who echo the same tired mantra that tolerance of homosexuality will be the death of civilization.

December 23, 2009 Posted by | Law, Politics, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment