God Loves Uganda
McDonald's and Coca-Cola aren't the only harmful products exported to African nations. America also sends virulent, homophobic evangelical Christians, as filmmaker Roger Ross Williams explores in the crucial 85-minute documentary "God Loves Uganda." (Williams is the first African-American to win an Oscar for directing and producing.)
The film focuses on Kansas City, Missouri's International House of Prayer (yes, shorthanded as IHOP) and its senior leader Lou Engle who feels "The Call" by God, because the Almighty "wants the righteous to rule in politics, business, entertainment and education," to evangelize abroad and preach against LGBT people, their "moral chaos" and "sexuality insanity." IHOP and other well-funded mega churches are going into neglected African communities to export and enforce their intolerance, and are fueling Uganda's return to biblical law.
In the vacuum left after the fall of Idi Amin's genocidal dictatorship, missionaries swept into proselytize a population where 50% are under the age of 15, and HIV and AIDS were rampant. US dollars had been funding successful condom campaigns ("The Bible will save your soul, but a condom will save your life"), but George W. Bush's religious constituents pushed for abstinence-only education and expected all governments to obey God.
In between speaking in tongues and meetings that plan how to target orphans, the young, white IHOP evangelicals prepare as an "army to harvest souls" in Uganda, the "pearl of Africa" with an 85% Christian population. After they arrive in Kampala, the group meets others from their church already living there. Some "ex-gays" share their messages of "saying no to our flesh" and "healing from sexual brokenness."
This mission followed a visit by American anti-LGBT activist Scott Lively, who gave presentations around the nation, including to the parliament, and said that gays were behind Nazi Germany, the United Nations and increasingly America, and that they recruit children to end humanity.
Meanwhile, Reverend Kapya Kaoma was researching the Christian right in Africa, and, after filming their violent homophobic agenda and publicly supporting LGBT rights, had to flee to Boston, where he now lives. He was the first to identify, and sound the alarm, that US fundamentalist money is driving gay bashing and anti-gay legislation in the country as basically "Americans in African skin," noting that "Africa is a dumping place for extreme ideas."
For these young missionaries it's a brief adventure, but the intolerance they leave behind causes street violence - notably the bludgeoning murder of LGBT rights activist David Kato in 2011, after a magazine published his name and face and called for him to be executed - and draconian legislation. MP David Bahati introduced an anti-homosexuality bill in 2009 which would outlaw being gay, with a sentence of life imprisonment for those who "remain gay" and the death sentence for "serial offenders."
There are no state agencies to provide checks and balances on this influx of religious-based funding, and two of the Ugandan anti-gay pastors are listed as some of the wealthiest people in the country, and have second homes in Las Vegas and Dallas. Some Ugandans are even speaking out against President Obama for his condemnation of the proposed law. This spread of evangelical Christianity coincides with a resurgence in HIV/AIDS cases.
But excommunicated Bishop Christopher Senyonjo won the Bill Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2012 for his continuing crusade against hate in his home country. The "Kill the Gays" bill is still making its way through parliament.
For information and national show times, visit www.godlovesuganda.com