For several months Ugandan law makers have been debating the merits of a bill designed ‘to slow the spread of AIDS’ in their country. Key provisions include the institution of the death penalty for some homosexual acts by both gays and lesbians. The full text of the bill is available here. Shockingly, many of the powers in Uganda that are pushing this bill are supported and funded by American Evangelicals.
Admittedly, I usually try to deal with lighter fare here in Le Blog, but some issues lend themselves to comment and other demand our attention. This is the latter. First, if you are unfamiliar with what is happening in Uganda, take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the issue by visiting NPR and listening to this recent story. When you’ve finished and are familiar with the relevant questions, read on.
I don’t know that I can contribute much to your thinking on this issue. My hunch is that you are at this moment either entirely outraged at the behavior of some of these American Evangelicals or you are not. And if you are not, I doubt that I can convince you to be so. We either know the Jesus of the Gospels or we do not, and he is either an exemplar of moral virtue for us or he is not. I am, to put the matter bluntly, morally dumbfounded at this moment. I do not know how to respond in words or with reason to any self-identified Christian and follower of Jesus Christ who believes that the man crucified between two thieves would wish to see gays and lesbians executed.
Several of the New Atheist writers, Christopher Hitchens in particular, have argued that religious moderates and liberals are in some sense responsible for the behavior of their fundamentalist fellow-religionists, if for no other reason than the fact that their very existence provides the fundamentalists with intellectual and social cover. I have, in this very blog, challenged this assertion, as have others. However, today I am less certain of that challenge than ever. Today, Hitchens’ point looks plausible.
If the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good women and men to do and say nothing, then Moderate and Liberal Evangelicals around the globe are suborning evil if we do not speak out against this atrocity in Uganda. Commentators in the American media often ask, whenever there are attacks or atrocities committed by fundamentalist Muslims, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” This question is somewhat unfair. Millions of moderate Muslims routinely condemn terrorism and violence, but they are not given media attention…”if it bleeds it leads” the old saying goes. But there is some truth in the notion that we bear a particular responsibility for speaking out against those who use our religious texts, figures and symbols to pervert their truth.
Evangelicals of all bents, and especially Liberal and Moderate Evangelicals must denounce the evil of this proposed law, and we must out our fellow Evangelicals who would hem and haw and drag their feet and resist outright condemnations.
Conservative Evangelicals often accuse Moderates and Liberals of painting the entire world grey and ignoring the fundamental black and white truths of this world. They are sometimes right. So here is where we Liberals and Moderates stand up.
My Jesus Christ would not support this law. My Jesus Christ would condemn those who support this law. My Jesus Christ would spit out those who are neither hot nor cold i.e. those who offer faint disapproval of the tactic of execution but approve of the aims of the proposed law in Uganda. The tired yard, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” is worn thin. This bill is an abomination. That is black and white!
The point of Moderation is not always to split the political, social or economic difference. Rather, the aim of committed Moderates is to resist simple caricatures and demonizing strategies so that we might have honest conversations and good faith disagreements. But Moderates must not lose sight of the precious resource that we have won. By resisting simple stereotypes and clannish party thinking, we win the opportunity and the credibility to say loudly that something is wrong if it is wrong. If we have walked the moderate walk in addition to spouting the talk, then our condemnations should carry unique weight. Ultimately, this is one of the best arguments for a Moderate Christian witness. However, the question is: When should we use this carefully marshaled resource?
The answer is now.