Rick Warren, the anti-gay (and self-professed not-anti-gay) pastor who turned Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration into a gay sideshow, is not a stupid man. A jovial bigot, sure. But not stupid. He understands that subscription to Judeo-Christian faith in the West is on the decline, and that’s a huge impediment to winning his (homophobic) culture war. At least here in America. But the rest of the world? It’s fertile ground to the Saddleback Church leader and other religious conservatives. And they’re making the African continent their own Ground Zero to persecute, and sometimes eliminate, queers.
“Last Sunday there were more Christians who went to church in China than all of Europe combined,” Warren, 55, told an audience this month at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
(He added: “If I thought politicians could change people’s hearts, I would go into government. If I thought laws could change people’s hearts, I would go into government. But I don’t, so I’m not.”)
And Warren is right: The future of Catholicism lives not in North America or Western Europe, but in Asia and Africa. Which is why you should be even more concerned about American religious leaders working with their counterparts across the world to foster homophobic beliefs. It’s not just Uganda (though Uganda is a hot bed). As the progressive think tank Political Research Associates just declared this week in the report “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia” (PDF):
U.S. conservatives have successfully recruited a significant number of prominent African religious leaders to a campaign seeking to restrict the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The flagship issue … is the ordination of LGBT clergy by mainline Protestant denominations– particularly the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches– in the United States….
As a direct result of this campaign, homophobia is on the rise in Africa– from increased incidents of violence to antigay legislation that carries the death penalty….
[O]ne of the main organizations promoting homophobia in both Africa and the United States over the last decade is the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a well-funded neoconservative think tank that opposed the African liberation struggles. In Africa, IRD and other U.S. conservatives present mainline denominations’ commitments to human rights as imperialistic attempts to manipulate Africans into accepting homosexuality– which they characterize as a purely western phenomenon. For IRD, this campaign is part of a long-term, deliberate, and successful strategy to weaken and split U.S. mainline denominations, block their powerful progressive social witness promoting social and economic justice, and promote political and social conservatism in the United States. Using African leaders as a wedge in the U.S. conflicts is only its latest and perhaps most effective tactic. [via]
As [Project Director Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia now leading churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts] argues, the U.S. Right – once isolated in Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, White supremacist regimes – has successfully reinvented itself as the mainstream of U.S. evangelicalism. Through their extensive communications networks in Africa, social welfare projects, Bible schools, and educational materials, U.S. religious conservatives warn of the dangers of homosexuals and present themselves as the true representatives of U.S. evangelicalism, so helping to marginalize Africans’ relationships with mainline Protestant churches.
[...] While the American side of the story is known to LGBT activists and their allies witnessing struggles over LGBT clergy within Protestant denominations in the United States, what’s been missing is the effect of the Right’s proxy wars on Africa itself. Kaoma’s report finally brings this larger, truly global picture into focus.
“Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,” writes PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos in the report’s foreword. “Africa’s antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A.”
The future of conservative-backed bigotry is not in the James Dobsons, Rick Warrens, or even Lou Dobbs, but in cross-continental crusades to encourage the persecution of LGBTs. Even Adolf Hitler knew that the best way to generate a following was to unite to fight a common enemy. And even Adolf Hitler knew the gays made an easy target. As America’s gays achieve baby steps toward equality, Africa’s gays remain struggling to hold on to society’s lowest ladder rung. All with Jesus’s supposed support.