Fact: The Ugandan so-called "anti-Homosexuality Bill" by legislator David Bahati forces horrid punishments on gays -- jail terms and/or death.
Fact: Uganda is a predominantly evangelical and Bible-based society. (Pastor Rick Warren "recognized" this when he said "Uganda is a purpose driven country" in his book Purpose Driven Life. Warren described Uganda as a "Purpose Driven" nation in view of his close ties to it and the number of "Bible-believing" evangelicals running its government.)
Fact: American evangelicals have been in Uganda teaching that to be gay is evil and a "choice" from which a gay person can be "healed" and/or "cured."
Why do I find the evangelical/anti-gay agenda so horrible (not to mention stupid)?
Yes, there's the threat to human rights, the suffering of gays and the evil of bigotry. But for me there is something more: I'm a church-going, practicing Christian and when I look at how some people calling themselves Christians treat and speak about and lie about gays it makes me sick because it means that something I find true and beautiful - love of God - just got dragged through the mud.
With friends like the evangelicals, God needs no enemies. This is why I've written my latest book to put forward another and humane vision of what faith can and should be as an alternative to right wing hate-filled "faith": PATIENCE WITH GOD: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism).
I was raised in the heart of the evangelical subculture, son of one of the most famous Religious Right founders - Francis Schaeffer. I left that world in the mid 80s, became a successful writer and novelist but kept my Christian faith. However these days my faith is progressive, open and friendly to the "other."
So it is with an insider's understanding that I look with growing horror at what is now nothing less than a war on gay men and women carried out in the name of God by so-called Christians.
People outside the right wing Christian community - it includes evangelicals, the more right wing Roman Catholics, Orthodox and many Mormons - don't understand several things about the religious war on gays. For a start they don't understand that the very existence of gays is a threat to the faith of some people in the same way that if the body of Jesus was discovered it might take a little wind out of the sails of the doctrine of the resurrection.
The problem is simple: the Bible's passages "against" gays.
The hypocrisy is that even fundamentalists pick and chose what they'll follow in the Bible because the Bible is "against" lots of things they do. For instance they don't work to have our laws changed so that divorce becomes illegal, or to have women that lose their virginity anywhere but on their marriage bed stoned to death!
The evangelicals refuse to admit what they secretly know: the Bible is full of mistakes and impossibilities that they themselves just ignore. But when it comes to gays, all of a sudden evangelicals get very literal.
There is another form of understanding when it comes to religion: admitting the paradoxes.
Embracing paradox -- say, having both faith and doubt, belief and rejecting parts of one's own tradition -- might solve the problem of how to understand the mistakes in the Bible but for one factor: people like to control other people's lives and the Bible gives a certain type of bully a platform.
But there is an even more fundamental threat to straight right wing Christians re gays: the very existence of gays.
In other words right wing Christians have a choice. From their point of view either
1) God makes mistakes
2) Gays choose to be (or at least to stay) gay.
So contrary to all evidence and contrary to all that gays will tell anyone who listens, the right wing Christians have come up with another myth -- on top of all the other myths they believe -- gay people can choose to be "healed" of gayness!
There is another way to look at being gay from a Christian point of view though:
God doesn't expect us to stop thinking when we read the Bible. We get to pick and choose openly! In other words we don't have to make excuses for dumb parts of the Bible, like a literal interpretation of the creation myth, or a literal acceptance of backward ideas about sexual orientation and or stoning adulterers to death.
So instead of picking what we decide to live by on the basis that fundamentalists use - for instance when they quietly stop calling for the death of adulteress' and witches - we can openly say this: the Bible is wrong in places but God is who we worship not a book about God.
And since we only experience God through love and beauty anything that contradicts the law of love is not from God but merely one more mistake by people.
And yes, to call someone a liar is to hate them.
So when evangelicals say that they love gay people but that gay people choose to be or stay gay they're calling gay men and women liars and thus -- hating them.
We see this hate for what it is in the way that the Ugandans and others have parlayed the American pseudo-spiritual and phony evangelical mythology on gays into policy, including the actual threat of death for the "crime" of "choosing to stay gay".
Evangelicals who don't like to be called haters might decide to change their willfully ignorant tune.
Instead of implicitly condoning murder, hate and discrimination perhaps the evangelicals should start picking and choosing Bible passages that empower all people. There are plenty of verses along the theme of "judge not least ye be judged." Stick with those.
Let's admit the truth: we are all born the way we are sexually oriented and that is part of our humanity. You don't "cure" people of their humanity, unless it's the human race you hate and you despise the God who made it.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of PATIENCE WITH GOD: Faith for People Who Don't Like Religion (or Atheism)
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