Content note for explicit imagery of torture and rape.[tweetable]American Evangelical groups have been tied to the evangelization of religious homophobia.[/tweetable] There are clear links of the importation of conservative theology regarding same-sex relationships that have led to the criminalization of LGBT individuals around the world. Perhaps most notably was in 2009 during the height Uganda’s “Kill The Gays Bill” media attention in which Christian groups were accused of supporting the bill. The bill, which has since passed, criminalizes homosexuality with penalties up to 14 years in prison.
Christian leaders like Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), decried the law. He claimed he didn’t know a single evangelical who supported laws like the one in Uganda. And while that may be true, [tweetable]Christians don’t have to explicitly advocate for the killing of LGBT individuals if their theology does it for them.[/tweetable]
Documentary God Loves Uganda details Evangelical Christian’s influence behind Uganda’s anti-LGBT law, specifically the efforts of the International House of Prayer (IHOP). Yet, the influence is certainly not limited to IHOP as other Christian speakers and groups have been linked to the law as well. But while other Christian groups may not have paper trails directly connecting them with the law, the theological message being shared that encourages these draconian laws are the same across non-affirming Christianity.
Indeed, the theology that dehumanizes LGBT people is the same. Verbiage that is exclusively used by non-affirming Christians (i.e. “homosexual lifestyle” “Same-sex attracted” “homosexual behavior”) is passed on and the same marginalization of LGBT people continues. Except this time policy makers are taking that non affirming theology to the letter of the law and justifying the imprisonment, torture, and killing of LGBT individuals.
Just last month Gambia quietly passed a law with severe penalties for what they call “aggravated homosexuality.” According to the Human Rights Watch: three women, four men, and a 17 year old boy were arrested so far and have been subjected to torture to illicit a confession of their presumed sexualities and to name other possible offenders. “The detainees said that they were told that if they did not “confess,” including by providing the names of others, a device would be forced into their anus or vagina to “test” their sexual orientation.” It’s shocking to read these inhumane injustices. It’s even more shocking that Christianity has not only remained complacent in these injustices but have also directly influenced them.
Media Matters published a report on Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their influence in anti-LGBT laws domestically and internationally. ADF has worked to enforce and create “anti-sodomy” laws which criminalizes consensual intimacy between same-sex partners. It’s not just sexual intimacy that's being outlawed. The law is used to imprison people who are perceived to be LGBT. As the Human Rights Watch reported regarding the new law in Gambia, the definition of homosexuality is purposefully vague and is used completely arbitrarily.
"In 2003, ADF president Alan Sears co-wrote a book titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which warned that eliminating anti-sodomy laws would lead to the overturning of 'laws against pedophilia, sex between close relatives, polygamy, bestiality and all other distortions and violations of God's plan,'" reports Media Matters.
These same individuals who actively enforce criminalization of LGBT individuals were invited to speak at the recent ERLC conference on Homosexuality. How does the Southern Baptist Church reconcile their promotion of an organization that works to enact laws that have ended in the deaths of thousands? The evidence of this theology being used to criminalize homosexuality is available yet Christian’s choose to ignore it or simply wash their hands of responsibility like Pilate.[tweetable]If a theological message is being used to criminalize a person’s existence, what does that say about the theology?[/tweetable] And why aren’t Christian’s actively and vocally denouncing it? It’s hard to believe that denominations like the SBC affirm LGBT people’s humanity while promoting the illegalization of our existence in the next breath.
My own denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, had a large anti-gay conference this past spring. It was held in South Africa where “corrective rape” (a disgusting act in which individuals rape lesbian women or trans men to “correct” their sexuality or gender identity), is serious problem. There are dozens of large Christian groups whose evangelizing directly contributes to the homophobic climate that leads to the implementation of these laws. What will it take for Christian’s to affirm LGBT people’s humanity and denounce the illegalization of our existence?
Our theology is killing people. Right now, people are dying because of it. Christians everywhere, regardless of theological stances on same-sex relationships, need to vocally and actively denounce the criminalization of LGBT people. If we stand idly by without condemning these laws that outlaw LGBT people, we might as well have written them ourselves.