Monday, December 14, 2009

Uganda On My Mind

This past week there has been extensive coverage in some media outlets and familiar blogs of the proposed law in Uganda outlawing homosexuality.

Outside of what has been reported, I don't know much about this. My interest in the country of Uganda and the continent of Africa has admittedly been anecdotal, and largely detached from the realities of life there.

I know, or know of, people who have lived in Africa that have recently returned, including Doug and Suzan Scott, Assemblies of God missionaries to South Africa, and former KREX reporter Kate Renner, who has returned from 3 months in Uganda under the auspices of Light Gives Heat, which is based in Western Colorado. One of my former neighbors in the Pittsburgh area is an Episcopal priest, currently serving as Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University.

It's heartening to see the level of commitment and faith necessary to engage in something like this. The recent controversy concerning this proposed law led me to think a little bit about the nature of the gay rights movement outside of the US, and the inherent conflict that results from the challenges to established institutions by those who seek to legitimize their sexual orientation. No religious institution has been impacted greater in this area than the Anglican church.

Outside of this particular denomination, the furor that resulted over the Uganda legislation has also touched several evangelical and otherwise conservative Christian leaders here in the US. Most notable among these is Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California, known in part for his best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life". Pastor Warren issued a statement last week condemning the Ugandan legislation, and attempting to distance himself from the efforts of those that have been associated with him in the past. From the looks of it, Pastor Warren's contrition is not enough for many gay rights organizations that are still seething over his support of California's Proposition 8 last year.

By far the most comprehensive coverage from the mainstream media came from Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. Ms. Maddow, one of the few openly gay members of the MSM, and her staff not only delved into the involvement of American evangelicals in mentoring those in Uganda who have put their weight behind the proposed legislation, but also a group of Americans who believe that homosexuals can be converted to a heterosexual lifestyle, or stop identifying themselves as a member of the gay community. Ms. Maddow interviewed one such individual on her show; I don't think he was too pleased with the outcome.

As a human being, and therefore a sinner, I am not comfortable passing any kind of judgment on an individual based solely on their sexual orientation. I can also see the disdain in our society toward granting civil-rights status to a particular group of people based solely on what they choose to do behind closed doors with a consenting adult. This, to me, is just another consequence of fear without understanding.

Instead, I believe that we need to focus on the actions
(or the lack thereof) of individuals in deciding for ourselves what we may think about them. Any number of us can find significant cause to doubt those who we may interact with daily. For me, that starts with the person I look at in the mirror every morning.

If we purport to live a life guided by faith, the tenets of many religions require that we look at our fellow man as God's children, equally deserving of love and compassion as much as anyone else. For Christians, there is plenty of scripture to support this.

The circumstances that we find ourselves or others in, and our level of responsiveness to others in time of need, helps to define who we are as individuals and as a community.

For those in Uganda that I will never know or understand properly, this attempt to label and vilify those first by the nature of who they are is unfortunate and wrong. Yesterday I read that the Ugandan parliament passed legislation outlawing the ritual practice of forced female circumcision. I'm hoping that this law, long overdue, is not just window dressing to try to appease certain people into believing that progress in one area equates to understanding in another.

This travesty is made even more of one when it has been spurned forward by the words and actions, both direct and indirect, of those in our own supposedly civilized country whose personal agendas here have been thwarted by common sense, the earthly rights conveyed to us and protected by our forefathers, and the influence of God's love in its purest form.


As it happens I have a lot of other things on my mind, not the least of which is Leslie's daughter Michaela, who as I write this is headed back to Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh with a lot of abdominal pain and vomiting. Your thoughts and prayers for comfort and healing, as well as strength for Leslie and her family as Michaela continues the fight against cancer that has taken up half of her young life, are greatly appreciated.

Along with other struggles that seem trivial in comparison to life in an impoverished African nation, or in a fight against a deadly disease, I am nonetheless feeling a sense of hope and understanding that appears to be gaining a foothold in the battle against fear that I struggle with far too often. I hope I can be an instrument of God's peace in the face of these differences and obstacles.

May the Lord's peace be with you as we celebrate His presence in many different ways this month. Have a good week ahead.

No comments: