To accurately problematise Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill and its religion-based justifications, one first has to grasp the plot twist that makes the New Testament such a scandalous sequel to the Old:
After moaning that human beings are hard-hearted and stiff-necked, God enters into a covenant with a group of them. This covenant comes with a set of rules sealed off with a curse on whoever signs the dotted line but fails to observe all 613 commandments. This sets the stage for a proof of humanity’s sanctimonious ugliness passed off as service to God.
The proof is concluded centuries later when the holiest humans use those rules to justify crucifying an innocent man, saying, “It is more expedient that one man dies than for the nation to perish.” This man then makes the ultimate comeback: he rises from the dead and he reveals his true identity as God’s Son.
What this proves is that the real reason the nation was doomed to perish was its leaders used moralistic and religious pretexts to scapegoat innocent people so the public wouldn’t notice those leaders’ corruption. The leadership was a mafia passed off as a government; it was counter-liberation forces passed off as anti-imperial occupation movements. The occupying Romans kept Israel’s high priest atonement ritual garments in a fortress whose balcony overlooked the temple precinct, which is where the ritual was completed. Jesus’ crucifixion happened more or less around the time of the atonement ritual, a coincidence the New Testament authors used to demonstrate how God’s name had been used to rubber-stamp a hypocritical ruse passed off as the marriage of church and state. Jesus was killed for poking his nose in the monetary interface of this scam when he cleared the temple porch, driving away currency-changers and sellers of sacrificial animals. 2,000 years later, they’re still in business, facilitating the ‘capture’ of local politicians by foreign money: human blood is still shed as sin offering to cover the scandal.
Filmmaker Roger Ross Williams traced out the intimate connection between theological institutions and Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill in a 2013 documentary titled God Loves Uganda. The financial payoffs for exchanging the developmental measurables expected by liberal and mainstream American donor churches, for the prejudices expected by conservative churches, would tempt any political and religious leader to play on people’s fears instead of challenging their tribalism and prejudice. This was my understanding of Williams’ exploration of the role played by American religious extremists and money as they endangered the LGBTI community to maintain the status quo.
Many have recognised this religious infiltration as the 21st century colonisation it is. Its perpetrators’ genius is they’ve learned to argue that by strengthening colonial-era legislation, they’re safeguarding African identity, which, in another ahistorical twist, had never known gender or sexual diversity but was introduced to by the godless, decadent white bourgeoise to be accepted by anti-liberation black sell-outs, or “unAfrican” Africans who are the doorways of Satan.
In You Have To Be Gay To Know God, I argued that this religious infiltration caricaturises Africans through its heteronormativity, hyper-masculinising African maleness and hyper-feminising African femaleness into the stereotypes white supremacists tell their fellow white people about us so as to justify shooting “dangerous” (read: unarmed) black men, or pigeon-holing black women as welfare queens. The Trans-Atlantic Slave-Trade — replete with religious self-justification — has reinvented itself.
The Ugandan government has reiterated its commitment to reintroducing the anti-gay bill that fell off the legislators’ table in 2014. It will impose the death sentence for being gay, and it will criminalise being gay-friendly. I refuse to say it will criminalise gay sex because the choice to have or avoid sex is a choice all humans who have the right to consent deliberate on regularly as a function of existing. So, the news headlines announcing the return of this bill should have read, “Ugandan government again turns to murder to hide its failings.” The letters for the word murder should have been in red. It’s the unjustified shedding of innocent blood. If President Yoweri Museveni signs this bill, American right-wing white supremacy would have fully entrenched a satellite base in East Africa so sooner or later, somehow or another, we’re all next.
Please contact your member of Parliament as well as the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation urgently, asking what role South Africa is playing to stop this. Our country doesn’t have a legal basis for observing “quiet diplomacy” in the face of human rights’ atrocities, nor for letting international war criminals pass through unapprehended as we did with presidents Robert Mugabe and Omar al-Bashir respectively. Our foreign policy is guided by our Constitution and the Bill of Human Rights.
Yes, we respect the sovereignty of other countries, and have plenty of issues within ours. But there’s a difference between failing to rise to the standard of justice on the one hand and dragging legislation down to match prevailing injustice on the other.
We in South Africa have the highest imaginable ethical duty to use the freedoms we have to work for other people’s freedom. We have to recognise and unpack the religious, social and political issues at work. Homophobic people can live without this bill; homosexual people can’t live with it.