About me.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding Managing Editor of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs newsmagazine. One of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, TED Speaker and Foreign aid Critic

Monday, September 15, 2014

AHA: A reply to “Christian” critics

Six reasons why Pastor Martin Sempa and his army of religious homophobes go against the teachings of Jesus

Since the Constitutional Court declared the Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA) unconstitutional in a case where I was a petitioner, there has been a lot of hate mail against me on Facebook. Some people claiming to be Christians have even usurped God’s power and sentenced me to hell. Critics recite the Bible chapter and verse to justify the necessity for the AHA. I am keenly aware of how people instrumentalise the Bible, the Koran and other religious teachings to justify their personal prejudices and hatreds.   For example, a gentleman came to my office after the court ruling looking distraught. He told me in a sincere manner that: “Andrew, my Christian teachings do not allow me to accept homosexuality… That is why this law is absolutely necessary.” Now I know this gentleman to cheat on his wife almost daily (adultery) and lie about it without any feeling of remorse. He reminded me of a Muslim girlfriend when I was young on Kampala’s dating circuit. She would come stay a weekend with me making love (fornication). But she would refuse to eat pork saying her Islamic teachings forbade her to do so. But then she would drink alcohol. Many critics of homosexuality commit myriad sins daily – fornication, lies, envy, greed, drunkenness, etc. But they sound holier than thou when condemning homosexuals.

However, the particular hostility to homosexuality by many Ugandans who use Christianity to justify their stance cannot be found in the teachings of Jesus Christ. First, Jesus teaches us to hate sin, but to love sinners. The Christian response to homosexuals would be to help them find spiritual salvation, not to send them to jail for life. It is an abdication of their responsibility as Christian shepherds when pastors like Martin Sempa fail (or refuse) to help homosexuals find salvation through the church and try to use the state to punish them.

Secondly, faith is a relationship between an individual and God, not between an individual and the state. I can sympathise with Christians who say the church should preach against homosexuality. But I don’t think the church should recruit the state of Uganda to enforce God’s will. Besides, Uganda is not a Christian theocracy where the Bible is the source of law. Indeed our constitution specifically prohibits use of religion to make law. If homosexuality is a sin, God should be the judge, not the state of Uganda.

Third, not everyone in Uganda is Christian. It would be unfair to impose Christian morality on non-Christians. Even among Christians, there is no common agreement on how to deal with homosexuals. Some churches in North America and Europe accept openly gay priests. And there are some Christian bishops and priests in Uganda who defend the rights of homosexuals. The point is simple but fundamental: there are many interpretations of Bible and Christianity. Therefore, we cannot rely on one interpretation and impose it on all society using the coercive instruments of the state.

Fourth, Jesus said he came to earth to save sinners, not to dine with the holly. Indeed, Christianity looks at all human beings as sinners. The church is the place where sinners go to seek salvation regardless of their sins. Someone can fornicate tonight and attend church the next day seeking repentance. Repentance is not compulsory in Christianity. It is voluntary. Therefore, homosexuals – like other sinners belong to the church too. The church by its very existence is a house of sinners seeking salvation, not a place of the holly to congratulate themselves on their holiness.

Fifth, if homosexuality is a sin, it is like all other sins in the Bible – fornication, theft, adultery, avarice, lying, envy, drunkenness, etc. There is no place in hell better than another on the basis of the sin committed. Punishment for homosexuals, if it comes, will possibly be the same as that meted out against fornicators, adulterers and liars. Christians who condemn homosexuals as sinners are sinners as well because they could have fornicated, lied, stolen or envied someone. This is why when Jesus found a mob about to stone to death a woman for adultery, he told them: let he who has never sinned cast the first stone. They all walked away. The particular hatred of homosexuals in Uganda cannot therefore be justified using the teachings of Jesus.

Sixth, Mathew Chapter 7, Verse 1 says: do not condemn others so that you also will not be condemned. The Christians who condemn homosexuals are hypocrites and delusional. They are hypocrites because they try to remove a speck (homosexuality) from the eyes of homosexuals when they have a log (lies, envy, fornication, drunkenness, greed) in their own. They are delusional because they think that their sins are lighter than homosexuality. Wrong! Sin is sin, period. These homophobes have deeply entrenched prejudices against homosexuals and try to use the Bible to promote them. This manipulation and abuse of the Bible to promote hate is hypocrisy, which is a sin.

This is what a young gay guy wrote to me about ten years ago about being a homosexual and a Christian in Uganda and his search for acceptance. “I had to find an anchor on which to pin my hope. Such an anchor I thought I had found in Church. I can see the look on your face; “What; a Christian homosexual?”  Well it’s been said before that the Christian army is the only army where comrades shoot their wounded. I would rather fall in the hands of “unsaved” men than of the so-called “savedees”!

“I have suffered more pain in a place where other people go to find healing. Each time a preacher walks up the pulpit my heart jumps into my mouth waiting for him to drop the bombshell: “homosexuality is the unforgivable sin”, or “all homos will burn in hell.” I would walk away feeling like my fate had been sealed. If it had not been for my tough faith, I would have quit church long ago but I stayed. I stayed not because I had no choice – no! I stayed because I knew then as I know now that God’s grace was sufficient for me too.”

Pastor Sempa and his group have left such faithful Christians unattended to in the Church. Instead of mobilising the church spiritually to help homosexuals find salvation, if they want it, they have gone to mobilise the state politically to send them to jail. Homophones should find other reasons to support the AHA, not the Bible.


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