God Loves Uganda

I went to a screening of the documentary ‘God Loves Uganda’ last week. I was invited, with my sister, by her lovely friend Sally, and I didn’t realise when accepting, that it was a special screening. The film-maker, Roger Ross Williams, and one of the priests featured, Rev Kapya Kaoma, were there and there was a panel discussion afterwards (unfortunately shortened, due to running late).

The movie left me emotionally overwhelmed, incredibly sad and, mostly, spitting mad. It is a look into the American evangelical movement in Uganda, a glimpse into the fantacism that is attached to this forcing of Western religion down the throats of Africans, the most horrifying of which is two-fold: the teaching of homophobia (pushing for the death penalty!) and the promotion of abstinence (only) to prevent HIV.

Young, fresh-faced American youths, some looking like they’ve just entered their 20’s, if that, preach Jesus to old women in rural areas, their patronising conversations dripping off the screen like molten lava. It’s not hard to see how they get there, the flashbacks to Kansas, to Evangelical HQ show singing and wailing and gnashing of teeth as people-who-know-how-to-persuade preach ‘The Truth’, ‘The Path to Redemption’, ‘The Saving the World through Jesus’ from their million dollar pulpits and homes . What early-20-year old doesn’t want an adventure into the African wild, with the promise of eternal life attached to their rucksack?

The teaching of homophobia, taken to government level, is horrific. Horrific, backward, vicious, frightening. What happened to that All Loving God the Christian faith likes to talk about? There is nothing more or, at least, nothing more that I can say. I find myself speechless at the monstrosity of one death due to sexual orientation, let alone a law prescribing it for all.

Working in the sphere that I work – HIV – it was the preaching of abstinence as a real prevention technique for HIV that left me spitting with rage. We’re thirty years into the fight against this disease, and have thirty years’ experience of how to stop (or at least limit) its spread. Abstinence has NEVER, in all of man’s history (which is way longer than thirty years, as we all know), been a solution to anything.

Why? Because it’s not realistic. We’re human, we have sex. Often with more than one person in our lifetimes, and often before we’ve decided who we’ll ‘settle down’ with. And that’s in the so-called Western culture. Other cultures differ. One thing remains the same, though, through all cultures, regardless of where you are or who you are – we’re human. We have sex. All of us. Preaching abstinence as a method of HIV prevention is akin to putting on a Grim Reaper suit and scything the heads off the people you’re preaching to. Spitting. Mad.

The young, fresh-faced virginal, Americans truly believe they’re doing something good, by the looks of things, a result of a naïve acceptance of their shouting, fire-and-brimstone leaders. It’s hard to fault them, they’re just young. And stupid. One scene, where they’re stopped in a Kombi and are selling their Jesus to the street sellers who are, in turn, selling their wares to them, is almost farcical. I looked at them all, rosy-cheeked and Christian-smiled and wondered who’d be sleeping with who by the end of their ‘Rural Outreach’. One can only hope one of them had the nonce to bring along condoms. Perhaps I’m too cynical.

The movie is perfectly put together, an inside view of fanatical evangelism, of so much money poured into Africa that is being used, basically, to spread hatred, divide communities, allow the (further) wildfire progression of a disease that is ravaging our continent.

It is a must-see. Really. Do yourselves a favour and watch it.

For more, check out their website.

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