In God Loves Uganda, Academy Award winning filmmaker Roger Williams takes a circuitous route that begins with well meaning, if not naïve, young missionaries at the International House of Prayer, a megachurch located in Kansas City, MO, and concludes in Uganda in a bastion of hatred, legalized discrimination and death.
The film follows evangelical leaders in America and Uganda along with politicians and missionaries as they attempt to eliminate what they deem "sexual sin" and convert Ugandans to fundamentalist Christianity. For 90 minutes, one becomes privy to how the gospel of Jesus is transmuted in a manner that justifies the systematic dehumanization of gays and lesbians.
Uganda possesses significant natural resources, fertile land, regular rainfall, and mineral deposits. In his book "Aid and Other Dirty Business, author Giles Bolton contends Uganda could feed all of Africa.
But according to a report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, Uganda remains in a suffocating poverty that has it ranked among the poorest nations worldwide.
Such dichotomies are ripe with the seduction of fear. It is how dehumanization can be legitimized into mainstream orthodoxy.
Whether intended or not, the anti-gay message offered by the theology of Pentecostal megachuches aligns perfectly with a Ugandan government seeking boogey persons as a convenient misdirection away from abject poverty that plagues the nation.
It's unnerving to watch Martin Ssempa, who was educated in the U.S., give anti-gay messages with graphic images that include coprophilia, which he advocates, along with child molestation and recruitment are central to the so-called "gay agenda." Ssempa hosts a television show where his religious based homophobia is broadcast unabated into Ugandan homes.
It is medieval thinking, cloaked in 21st century garments that become the theological justification for Uganda's Anti-Homosexual Act that was signed into law earlier this year.
The law would broaden the criminalization of same-sex relations in Uganda. It carries provisions for extradition for Ugandans engaging in same-sex relations outside of Uganda; and it penalizes individuals and businesses that know of gay people or support LGBT equality.
Like its distant cousins in the antebellum South, in Germany during Hitler, and in South Africa during Apartheid, the church played a role in the malevolence. But unlike its nefarious relatives, God Loves Uganda persuasively shows the church this time is imported, it origins are made in America.
This is the climate that prompted a Ugandan tabloid newspaper to publish the names and photographs of 100 individuals calling for their execution as homosexuals in 2010. Roughly two months later, David Kato, a LGBT activist, was murdered.
While it may have been Pentecostal fervor and naivety that led younger missionaries to Uganda, several older members admitted on camera their anti-gay stand is motivated, at least in part, by their personal experiences with certain sexual dalliances.
This is another tragic, but typical phenomenon. Individuals use a narrow understanding of religion to work out their particular brand of discomfort. But it doesn't stop with their uneasiness, others must also reach the same conclusion, in order for them to realize a sense of peace.
God Loves Uganda will leave one to ponder: How can a portion of the church, with centuries of documented evidence of being on the wrong side of human suffering, conclude it has found the illusive asterisk to justify this latest abomination?
How can any church that allegedly has love at its foundation sit in deafening silence as people are driven underground by the philosophy they promote?
No matter how sincere the religious claims may be, if the fruit it produces is the bitter nectar of hatred, I don't know what you would call it, but I don't see how it is consistent with the teachings of Jesus.
God Loves Uganda premieres on Independent Lens, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, May 19, 2014, on PBS, check your local listings.
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