The acclaimed documentary God Loves Uganda, which depicts the role of American conservative evangelicals in generating vicious antigay campaigns in Uganda will be screened at Netroots Nation. (Among other venues in the next few months.)
My colleague at Political Research Associates (PRA), Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, an Episcopal priest from Zambia now living in the U.S. is featured throughout the film discussing the role of U.S. Christian Right leaders in whipping up antigay fervor and pushing for passage of the "kill the gays" bill in the Ugandan parliament. He will also appear on a panel at Netroots Nation Intolerance Abroad: Overcoming Violence and Repression and Moving Toward Global LGBT Solidarity along with other experts including Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin and Pam Spees of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The film draws on Kaoma's original research and reporting including his PRA reports, the 2012 Colonizing African Values and 2009 Globalizing the Culture Wars. PRA exposed U.S. Christian Right figures Scott Lively and Rick Warren’s role in the creation of the infamous Uganda bill--garnering major media.
This is the film the Christian Right does not want you to see. There are many reasons, but among them is the idea that Christian Rightists like Lou Engle and Rick Warren do not speak for all Christians. There are, and always have been significant elements of Christianity that embrace a different set of values and a different religious vision. And Kapya Kaoma epitomizes the kind of Christian whose profound embrace of human rights is exactly what the Christian Right pretends is not really Christianity and would rather we not know about.
A reviewer for Christianity Today, the leading magazine of evangelical Christianity, recently sneered at the film, the film maker, and Kaoma. The reviewer, one professor John G. Stackhouse, disapproves that Kaoma is a liberal Episcopalian. I am not going to dwell on the smear review by this serial violator of the rules of logic. I expect that this is but the beginning of a sustained attack on the film and anyone involved in it. But the Christian Right is worried. The film has been so well-received that it could be nominated for an Academy Award. (Director Roger Ross Williams has won before.) There is plenty of time to sort all that out.
For today, my PRA colleagues and I agreed to respond by doing our best to highlight the film which deserves a wide audience.
On this, the International Day Against Homophobia, we encourage readers to seek out God Loves Uganda as an a critical educational tool. Churches and faith groups in particular are encouraged to host screenings. However, it is important to understand that the human rights crisis facing sexual minorities in Uganda is one part of a much broader phenomenon that is sweeping across Africa and some other parts of the globe. At the time of this writing, Kaoma's own home country, Zambia, is engaged in arresting and persecuting LGBTQ activists.
Stackhouse admits that moderate evangelicals "must speak up in public and both denounce and distance ourselves from such extremists," as Scott Lively and Lou Engle, conservative evangelicals featured in the film. But he claims that "we here in North America can't do much about Uganda except feel outraged." This call to complacency is wrongheaded and dangerous. By speaking out against those American actors who share responsibility for the human rights crisis abroad we can take meaningful action at home to improve the situation in Uganda and elsewhere.