23 February 2013

The Ugandan bill

Legislation in Uganda is set to increase the penalties for homosexuality, possibly even to introduce the death sentence. How should believers and followers of Jesus respond? What does the Bible say about sin? What does it tell us about love? And how might we respond to the Ugandan bill?

The Ugandan flag
David Bahati, a Ugandan Member of Parliament (MP), submitted a private member's bill in October 2009.

Nothing unusual in that, you might think, just an everyday part of political life in Uganda. Except that in this case the bill, if passed, will change Ugandan law concerning homosexuality and has resulted in a great deal of strong, international criticism.

Current legislation in many African nations, including Uganda, makes same sex relationships illegal with severe penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment. The new bill proposes to significantly increase these to include the death penalty in some instances.

The situation is extremely complex involving widespread anti-gay public feeling within Uganda, criminal damage and even murder, international civil liberties and gay rights protests, and interference by certain religious people. As a result there has been a delay while a Ugandan parliamentary commission investigates the circumstances and implications of the bill.

But now the political process is moving again and the bill is being debated once more.

With that backdrop, how should we respond as followers of Jesus? I think there are two things we need to be very clear about. Two things that should underpin our responses. What does the Bible say about sin? And what does the Bible say about attitudes to others?

All have sinned - So what does the Bible say about sin? First of all we should recognise that all of us have sinned, there are no exceptions (Romans 3:23). But let's read the next verse too (Romans 3:24). All have sinned, but all have been justified by grace through Christ. Does this justification require anything from us? Yes. The sacrifice of Jesus requires my faith in order to apply to me (Romans 3:25).

There are many different ways to sin, but they are all equally effective in cutting me off from spiritual life with Papa. I have a very simple choice. I can continue in my sin, or I can turn away from it and receive spiritual life through faith in Christ.

Sin comes in many varieties. Murder, lying, theft, anything dishonourable or false. There are no severe sins, no minor and insignificant sins. Anything that breaches the standards set by the Almighty is sinful. We all fall equally short, murder is not worse than a tiny white lie because both are offensive to him. One kind of sin mentioned with others in the New Testament is sex between two men (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) This is not my opinion, it is right there in the Bible. If you disagree with this statement it's no good discussing it with me, you need to discuss it with Jesus.

I need to add one more point. It is not my place to judge others. It is not my task to punish people for sin. Whatever you may have done, I am just as guilty as you are and deserve exactly the same punishment. Only grace can save us, and as we have seen, grace comes through faith in Jesus.

How to treat others - What does the Bible say about attitudes to others? The ground rule that trumps everything else is love. (Luke 10:27, Matthew 5:43-45) We are called to love, not just some people but everybody. We are to love those who love us and those who do not. We are to love those who agree with us and those who oppose us.

What follows from this is very simple. Killing people (for whatever reason) is wrong because it is unloving. Therefore the death penalty is wrong, regardless of the crime.

Applying this to the Ugandan bill - The Ugandan government is democratically elected and is free to do whatever it wishes within its international obligations, and whatever it considers to be the will of the Ugandan people.

People who follow Jesus are free to love others, irrespective of their thoughts, words and actions. Love is not easy, sometimes it is very hard indeed. But there is no room for believers to hate others. Anyone who feels or expresses hatred towards other people has no part in Christ.

That leaves us to wonder about any religious people who would encourage legislation like this Ugandan bill. Are they really motivated by love? I don't think so. Are they even on the same side as Jesus? Are they following  him? Clearly not regarding this particular issue. What will they say to him when they have to account for their actions?

Protesters are free to openly discuss any issue that troubles them and to attempt to persuade others to join them in discussing and protesting. Christians who protest should do so in law abiding and loving ways. Non-believers who protest are not so restricted but will do well to understand that the most effective way to win hearts and minds is by being polite, kind and gentle. Anger, hatred and violence however expressed tend to make co-operation less likely and conflict more probable.

Please consider adding your name to a petition against the Ugandan bill. There are many other ways to  register your views, but you need to act quickly. Time is very short and every additional name counts.

Questions:

  • Do you know any people that you are unable to love? Does Jesus love them?
  • How do you think believers should approach politics?
  • What sins do you regard as most serious, and which as least serious?
  • Do we have the right to try to influence foreign governments?

See also:

27 comments:

  1. Many years ago, Jerry Falwell raised eyebrows when he stood with American Indians in support of their peyote ritual. Many Christians were appalled. Legislation has a way of greasing the slippery slope, and Christians need to be very careful, lest we be the ones for whom the law comes one day.

    Homosexuality is such a minefield issue anymore, there are a million ways Christians can blow themselves up trying to cross it. We know homosexuality stands in opposition to the character of God. We know that this has become an Us vs. Them issue. Yet Jesus still demands we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Are we doing that? If so, how?

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Dan. I think if we live without love in our hearts we are in a truly bad place. Paul had it right in 1 Cor 13.

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  3. Personally I disagree with the view that homosexual activity is necessarily sinful: not everything in the Bible is necessarily as straightforward as it might seem at first sight — consider Peter's rooftop experience, after which everything he'd previously believed about Gentiles being unacceptable to God was blown away; but don't worry, I'm not going to launch into a diatribe on the subject, though if anyone wants to discuss things... Shadow Dancing: A conversation about faith, hope and gay love in the church (be warned: it's long).



    The vital thing is, as you have said, Chris, that we conduct ourselves in love: it is not ours to judge or condemn; but it is ours to hear these words of Jesus: "Let the one without sin cast the first stone."


    And that, of course, is why the Ugandan Bill is so wrong. I signed the petition that was presented in the Market Square in St Neots; I trust that it was the same petition or that signatures collected there will be collated with those on this one.

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  4. Thanks for the link, Phil. I'll certainly take a look at it.


    I don't know if or how the various online petition sites collate their results with paper ones. It would be interesting to know. I think Avaaz print out their list and present it on paper.

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  5. I've now read through the conversation you linked to above, Phil. I agree with one of the comments at the end, it's a conversation chock-full of grace as the discussion moves back and forth. A beautiful thing to see.

    And our grace towards one another in this temporary life is a reflection of Papa's grace towards us in Christ. We are made in his image!

    It doesn't change my opinion of sin, either my own or that of others, we all fall and that repeatedly. We live under grace and we must continue to be gracious to one another in practical ways. That we will be forgiven as we forgive those who have wronged us is a very profound saying. Jesus is a very profound guy!

    Bless you, Phil. And thanks again.

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  6. Jesus condones homosexuality... Mark 7:8 "There is NOTHING from without a man, that entering into him can defile him"

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  7. This paragraph is interesting: "That leaves us to wonder about any religious people who would encourage legislation like this Ugandan bill. Are they really motivated by love? I don't think so. Are they even on the same side as Jesus? Are they following him? Clearly not regarding this particular issue. What will they say to him when they have to account for their actions?". I often wonder if Scott Lively or any of the myriad of Evangelicals who have followed behind him preaching and otherwise supporting the ongoing persecution of the LGBTI community in Uganda completely forget that God Is Love. Where are the Evangelicals rushing to Uganda with a viewpoint motivated by love?

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  8. That's an interesting observation from Mark 7:18, Daniel. But read on a little further, read verses 20-23 and tell me what you make of them.

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  9. Oh, and I'm always amused by statements like this: "Current legislation in many African nations, including Uganda, makes same sex relationships illegal with severe penalties of up to 14 years imprisonment." on UK blogs. That 'current legislation' is British colonial penal code!

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  10. Some fair points, Cathy. Thanks for making them. I don't have answers for you, though I would make the general point that some proportion of the people who've signed the petitions will be believers and some of them evangelicals. I have no idea how many, though.

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  11. I based that sentence on information from the Wikipedia article.


    The law has been changed in the UK since colonial times and those African countries have had a lot of time since independence to make changes too. History should not be forgotten, but the responsibility for current laws rests with current governments.

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  12. It is insulting and rather hypocritical to assume that christians are loving and peaceful and others are not (ESPECIALLY GIVEN THE SITUATION IN UGANDA). I live my life based on altruistic principles, open-mindedness and respect for the environment, animals and all people. I live a more christlike life than most christians. I abhor violence of any kind, but with regards to religion i will refer you to the following quote...

    "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion," Stephen Weinberg.

    I have read a lot of the bible and the more i read, the more i was appalled by the "god" character in the Old Testament. If i am more moral than god, how can he be benevolent and omnipotent.

    If man has free will and man wrote the bible, how can it be the word of god?

    The bible is full of contradictions and vile passages that no loving god would write.

    Do you not kill people only because the bible tells us too? Should women be forced to marry their rapist? Why would god want a woman to eat her newborn baby and the placenta? Do you only wear clothes made of one material?

    There are around 2,000 practicing religions, why is your's the right one? You say non-believers like you are not one too. You don't believe in Allah, Zeus or Thor.

    An all powerful creator was a valid conclusion based on the limited scientific evidence that humanity had when the bible was written, but now we understand how everything we see came from absolutely nothing. Yet people still claim there is a (now unnecessary) creator, but no one has ever given a sound argument for where god came from or why. Please enlighten me if i am wrong. If the bible had said god made giant lizards and then wiped them out with a mountain from the sky, it would have some credibility, but the bible isn't even historically accurate let alone the fact that the universe in almost 14 billion years old. Many of the miracles Jesus performed were stories that predated him (Lazarus, virgin birth, resurrection, etc.) so the bible cannot be accurate.

    I have studied theology, history, philosophy, evolution and behavior, geology, advanced physics and mathematics, cosmology, astrophysics, relativity and quantum physics in search of the answers to fundamental questions of life, be it science, religion or philosophy. I approach everything with an open mind and make as few assumptions as possible.

    I don't believe in a god and i don't not believe in a god. I am always open to any possibility or point of view. However, when it comes to what i think is right and wrong or "good and evil" I look at the evidence and my own morals and philosophy to guide me, I do NOT turn to an ancient book of rules written by sexist, racist and homophobic men.

    If your only aversion to homosexuality is the bible, does that not make you prejudice?

    You suggest when jesus refers to sexual immorality that he means homosexuality. I would suggest he means rape or pedophilia, not a loving act between consenting adults.

    Am I doomed to suffering for eternity in hell, despite trying to live a good, selfless life (as jesus taught), because i don't have unshakable faith in his divinity? Are those the rules of a good and just god? Infinite suffering for finite sin.

    How can anyone live their lives condemning people, just because they are different or a book tells them they are bad. It's just wrong.

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  13. Daniel, I'm sorry to see you are so angry.


    I haven't counted them, but there are a lot of questions in your post and most of them are based on assumptions of one kind or another. I'm not going to attempt to answer them here.

    This post (and the discussion) are about the Ugandan bill and specifically how followers of Jesus should respond to it. I will happily turn on moderation and block off-topic posts if it becomes necessary.



    You are welcome to continue in the discussion if you are willing to be constructive, reasonable and kind.

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  14. Daniel, you asked a lot of questions, many of them based on assumptions. This discussion is about the Ugandan bill, so please try to stay on that topic. We could discuss some of the other points elsewhere if you like.


    I will block off topic comments if necessary.

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  15. I'm not angry, i'm explaining my point of view. Why are you making assumptions about me?

    To stay on topic as you have asked, could you point me to any specific passage where jesus talks about homosexuality specifically?

    John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Child, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life"



    Does that not mean that any old testament rules no longer apply?


    Ugandan homosexuals are mostly christian, is it not your duty to educate Africa on a peaceful interpretation of the bible, not one spread with a vile agenda to eliminate homosexuality from the planet. See Scott Lively for more.

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  16. Apologies for the two replies. Disqus seems to be updating rather slowly at the moment and I thought the first one had failed. I'm just about to go to a meeting so I'll get back to you later on this.


    Chris

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  17. First, I am making no assumptions about you, Daniel. I've had plenty of recent experience of your approach to discussion on several other websites.

    Your second question is about a specific passage. No, I'm not aware of any such passage. There are passages in the Old and New Testaments that are specific but not the direct words of Jesus. Although the Greek word translated 'sexual immorality' in Mark 7:21 most likely includes all kinds of homosexual behaviour.

    Jesus said that he didn't come to destroy the law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). One way of understanding that is that the law still applies but that he took the penalty for those who have faith in him. I explained this in the article under the heading 'All have sinned'. It does seem to depend on faith, though. It might not apply to everyone. What do you think it means?

    And no, I don't think it's my duty to educate Africa. Wouldn't they see that as rather condescending of me? And rightly so. The Bible says what it says and is what it is. We must all make up our own minds about it. Scott Lively and I might not agree on every aspect.

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  18. You assumed i was angry... It's more disappointment at your stupidity, bigotry and lack of independent thought.

    My approach was very reasonable, given the insults hurled at me and all the ridiculous statements about "anal licking" i had to endure. Martin Ssempa repeatedly got my twitter account unfairly suspended and then you and that "internet troll" Phil Groom started perverting the facts to hide Paul Shinners involvement in the "Kill the Gays" bill. Do you think Phil's approach was reasonable? I don't!

    So you don't think Africa needs education, but you support Paul Shinners spreading the bible and his vile lies around Africa. Do you not see your hypocrisy?

    The bible is proven to be false. I don't understand your logic. Why is the bible the word of god and not the koran? If you were born in a muslim country, you would be a muslim. Your faith is no more devout or false than anyone else's. Jesus promised to return in the lifetimes of the people he spoke to and didn't! Therefore the bible is false or he lied and you are waiting for nothing. What if i was a messenger of god sent to show you the error of your ways? You are homophobic and you twist the bible to suit your bigoted agenda. The bible should be illegal if it's being used to commit murder. So you agree with Scott Lively on most points? What are they? Have you read "the pink swastika"?

    Religious extremism has lead to the vile evangelism of Paul Shinners and others like him, who are manipulating a superstitious, economically unstable country to suit their homophobic, unchristian, genocidal agenda.

    How dare you say that homosexuality is immoral! Who are you to judge them. If you were a christian you would understand the meaning of "let he is without sin cast the first stone".

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  19. Maybe to the Christians Dan Edelen - and somehow I am not sure all will agree. That said, if you read Torah in Hebrew and in context Homosexuality is absolutely not in opposite to the character of God. We are all made in God's image. Leviticus is in the context on war, rape and idolatory. Sodom and Gomorah is grossly misinterpreted. If you believe homosexuals are not made in the image of God you are denying creation's intent. Especially if you agree that homosexuals are born as such and that its not a choice.

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  20. Sad you think of homosexuals as your enemy or at least you allude to such. They are equally God's children and born that way.

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  21. It is every Christians duty to go into Africa in some way shape or form to undo the disgusting mess and hate procured by Scott Lively, Paul Shinners and their ilk. If you are doubtful watch the video in this post and come back and tell me there is no duty to undo this harm http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/02/23/hateful-anti-gay-video-features-ugandan-host-of-u-k-preacher-paul-shinners/

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  22. SHAME on anyone calling themselves a Christian who is not immediately doing something proactive right now, yes right now to try and dissuade the Ugandans from the Kill the Gays Bill, especially because its genesis lies with Evangelical Christians - such as Scott Lively, Lu Engle and others who followed. Check out the video here and see how literally the Ugandans have taken Christian preaching and if you believe this is ok then continue to keep your silence. It is every Christians duty to go into Africa in some way shape or form
    to undo the disgusting mess and hate procured by Scott Lively, and their ilk. If you are doubtful watch the video in this post
    and come back and tell me there is no duty to undo this harm
    http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/02/23/hateful-anti-gay-video-features-ugandan-host-of-u-k-preacher-paul-shinners/

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  23. Phil, if you disagree with homophobia, why do you support Paul Shinners and his evangelical work? I don't understand your position.

    All the evidence is in my blog but you deliberately ignore all the facts. You didn't contact me or (as you claim) Shinners. That's not very well researched is it?

    Please read for more info...

    http://time4change2013.blogspot.co.uk/

    to read from the beginning...

    http://time4change2013.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/three-days-to-make-difference.html

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  24. Melanie, I posted this article hoping for some discussion on how followers of Jesus might respond to the bill. Here's the article summary again.

    Legislation in Uganda is set to increase the penalties for homosexuality, possibly even to introduce the death sentence. How should believers and followers of Jesus respond? What does the Bible say about sin? What does it tell us about love? And how might we respond to the Ugandan bill?

    Unfortunately that conversation is less likely to take place now that the comment stream is filling up with heavily loaded remarks. Words and phrases like 'SHAME', 'calling themselves', 'Kill the Gays', 'disgusting' and 'ilk' really don't help when they are injected into a conversation.

    Let's hope this bill will not be passed. Every signature counts. But I wonder if some potential signatures will have been lost directly as a result of the tone of some of the comments.

    Conversation can be so limp as to produce nothing of value. Don't you see that it can also be so abusive that people walk away? Somewhere between these extremes may lie a useful result.

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  25. Apologies to my readers for the tone of parts of this discussion. I am now moderating further comment.

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  26. Daniel, you hurl abuse and insults at me and call me a liar, not only on your own blog but on mine and on Melanie Nathan's — and now you seek to engage me in conversation here?

    No matter: I'll run through it one more time for you: Paul Shinners' evangelistic work in Uganda has nothing to do with homophobia. What you, Melanie and those others who have asserted that notion have done is take hold of a quote cited out of context and assume guilt by association.

    You yourself have posted Paul's correspondence with Melanie on your blog; you have also posted his correspondence with you. In that correspondence and in his public statement, Paul has made it abundantly clear that:

    1. He does not support the Ugandan ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill;
    2. He did not speak in support of the Bill;
    3. His words have been quoted out of context;
    4. He unreservedly repudiates homophobia.



    That, Daniel, is the evidence on your blog which you either choose to disregard or are too blinded by prejudice to see. If you wish to continue the conversation, please:


    1. Open your eyes and
    2. Stop being abusive to your conversation partners.


    Thank you.

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  27. Daniel, if all you ever do is hurl abuse and insults at your conversation partners — as you have done so yet again here — all that will happen is you'll drive them further away: you certainly won't win them to your cause or persuade them to engage with you. Is that what you want?

    You say,

    "I live my life based on altruistic principles, open-mindedness and respect for the environment, animals and all people. I live a more christlike life than most christians."

    Where is the open-mindedness or respect for other people in what you have posted here or in any of the other conversations you've taken part in? In what sense are the things you say "christlike"? And to cap it all, you cast all your aspersions whilst quoting the very words that should give you pause: let the one without sin cast the first stone.



    The ones who first heard those words walked away, as do I now. I wish you well, Daniel, but I can see no way forward in attempting to reason with you: goodbye.

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