"God loves Uganda" was formed on a predetermined premise without any concern for objectivity, accuracy, or truthfulness. In other words it is propaganda.
(For a backdrop on the film please visit <a href=”http://jonoandsharihall.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/god-loves-uganda-review”>Jono and Sheri Hall’s site</a> and <a href=”http://www.godlovesuganda.com” class=”pagelinks”>GodLovesUganda.com</a>)
Nevertheless, after seeing the film, I developed more of a concern for the LGBT community. People who openly practice homosexuality are harshly treated in many nations around the world and sometimes in Uganda as well. Those who are followers of Jesus should make a practice of offering hope and salvation rather than condemnation. It is wrong for any Christian to fear, reject, or promote intolerance or violence toward anyone who chooses a homosexual lifestyle. Jesus said something very important about the purpose of his first coming, "If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world." (John 12:47). It is the responsibility of believers to offer reconciliation, forgiveness, and salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ. This passage is not stripping Christ of all judgement but shows the nature and purpose of his first advent. When he comes a second time he will judge; "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." (John 12:48).
Having said that, I think that Roger Ross Williams has not helped the LGBT community in Uganda with this film. He is biting the proverbial hand that could assist him to curb cultural revulsion and discrimination against homosexuals, namely evangelical influence from the Western world. Every African leader I have ever heard talk about homosexuality blames the West for introducing it as a valid lifestyle in Africa. They see the homosexual agenda as another form of colonialism. Evangelical leaders have encouraged Ugandan religious and political leaders not to support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which included the death penalty, and to be more tolerant on this issue. The filmmakers ignore this and instead chose to demonize the very people who could help.
There are multiple areas where the film lacks any true substance. Let’s look at a few:
There is no input or interview with any traditionalists of the 65 different tribal groups in Uganda or from any Muslims. Doesn’t Williams realize that Uganda has cultural influences that go back thousands of years? Christianity is not the only cultural influence that affects the general society’s view of homosexuality. The film lacks cultural sensitivity.
In the storyline of its main homosexual martyr, David Kato (the only example of anyone who was actually harmed at all, allegedly, for being gay), the film leaves out a critical point. Namely that someone has confessed to the murder, and it was not a Pentecostal, but a man who was demanding payment from David for sexual favors.
<a href=”http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/02/uk-uganda-murder-idUKTRE7116MT20110202″ class=”pagelinks”> http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/02/02/uk-uganda-murder-idUKTRE7116MT20110202</a>
<a href=”http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1100686/-/c5a2fcz/-/” class=”pagelinks” >http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1100686/-/c5a2fcz/-/</a>
Nothing was mentioned about this; not even a proposal that it may have been a conspiracy.
In regards to American evangelical influence on African homophobia, especially related to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, why does the film leave out Scott Lively’s open letter to political leaders in Uganda disagreeing with it? Or for that matter, the public statement from Lou Engle rejecting the Bill and explaining his position.
<a href=”http://www.defendthefamily.com/pfrc/newsarchives.php?id=3261726″ class=”pagelinks” >http://www.defendthefamily.com/pfrc/newsarchives.php?id=3261726</a>
Americans are simply not complicit or responsible for the Bill, which by the way, has never been passed and has recently had the death penalty removed.
Martin Ssempa and Julius Oyet (African Pentecostal leaders who supported the Bill) although clearly against homosexuality, and bombastically so, are never shown calling for violence in the streets. The only person seen in the movie directly calling for violence is a unidentified Muslim preacher. This is a strange scene which Williams should give more clarity about. What meeting was this? Who was speaking? Where are the alleged Christians who were part of this gathering? The Islamic speaker calls for a small crowd of men with Islamic caps to fight and kill homosexuals. Is this scene supposed to prove that Evangelicals are turning Muslims against homosexuals? The film is obviously deceptive. Case in point, the random B-roll of a street-fight in Kampala. I guess this is to show the horrible, violent nature of Africans? How racist. This does not accurately represent the nature of the Ugandan people, none of my African friends have ever advocated for violence. In fact the entire movie seems to be predicated on a stereotype of Ugandans as ignorant, gullible, and violent.
What about our team’s appearance in the film (not to mention the International House of Prayer)? It is completely disconnected from the premise. Williams never captured any of our members talking about homosexuality, because it never really comes up in our ministry (aside from when he asked our opinion about it on camera). We were isolated from the controversy coming out of Kampala and so remained unfamiliar with much of the hubbub. Preaching against homosexuality in most parts of Africa would be like preaching against string bikinis in Saudi Arabia; completely unnecessary. All Williams can say that he really got from us was hospitality and openness. Nevertheless, he lumps us into the narrative by showing that we preach against sin and sexual immorality, and by inference are brainwashing ignorant children, old women, and poor people (to hate homosexuals?). The end of the film shows two of the African missionaries sharing Christ in a village in Karamoja. The narrater darkly claims we are sending Africans where we are unwilling to go, and they are not preaching the gospel but an extremist message of intolerance. Since that is the accusation against our ministry directly I will now give my definition of what the gospel is and then you can judge if we are preaching it or not. I warn you though, the gospel has never claimed to be tolerant of sin, so if you were expecting that you may be sorely disappointed.
As believers in Jesus Christ, his miracles, death on cross for sins, resurrection, and ascension into heaven where he waits for the gospel to be preached in all nations before he returns bodily to resurrect the saints and to judge the world, I refuse to discriminate against the homosexual community by excluding them from the clear message of scripture. "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures," (1Cor. 15:3). This text says something terrifying and wonderful.
What is terrifying is that people are sinners in need of salvation. Since the fall of Adam mankind has not naturally glorified God their creator and obeyed his will, but instead has naturally lived in the shame and degradation of sin. Consider the words of Jesus about the problem of sin in the human heart, “And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery,coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”” (Mark 7:20–23). Things like pride, murder, theft, lust, fornication, idolatry, etc. have become the norm of human experience. In fact the scripture say that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Rom. 3:23). By "all" it means everyone including those who practice homosexuality.
What is wonderful is that “God so loved the world” that he made a way for us to be reconciled with himself through the crucifixion of Jesus (Jn. 3:16). "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1Jn. 4:10) The gospel says that God’s love is demonstrated through a sin bearing sacrifice that takes the judgment in place of the repentant sinner. In one sense, the gospel is offensive because it is an indictment against humanity. In another sense it is utter relief and joy for God gives himself to save us. I will not remove the hope of salvation from homosexuals by telling them that they are okay with God the way that they are. God himself does not do that. In order to be saved one must acknowledge his or her own rebellion against God, repent, and be born again through faith in the blameless sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Here is one more passage that brings the gospel clear:
"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Rom. 5:6-11)
Unfortunately the LGBT community often interprets this message as hateful and unloving. Williams has decided that it is a sin to say homosexuality is a sin. In this way the movie has a deeper purpose than exposing the dangers of the minuscule homosexual community in Uganda. Rather it is to denigrate the gospel itself and silence those who proclaim it. He is seeking to make believers in America feel insecure and unloving in their agreement with the biblical view of sin. Williams is delving into the doctrine of the church and trying to be a reformer of Christianity itself. He is taking the movie to churches and Bible schools to have dialogue. But how can you have dialogue based on false presuppositions? Fortunately we are not peddlers of the Word of God but speak the whole gospel to everyone without fear or preference to their sexual orientation. We will not stop preaching Christ and him crucified for sinners because we love people too much for that, including Roger Ross Williams. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:4–6). To some this message is intolerable, but to those who believe, it is the power of God for salvation; it is the gospel for homosexuals and everyone.
To my African friends who read this, let a message of love and salvation toward those who identify themselves as homosexuals, replace the rejection and contempt that is often portrayed by those in the public eye. To the all who identify themselves as LGB or T, I plead with you to be reconciled to God through the cross of Jesus Christ. Those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Being born that way is no excuse, all of us are born with a propensity to sin as consequence of the fall of Adam. You can be born again by the work of Christ and by the Spirit of God. God loves you and desires you to know him and be saved. To missionaries and all believers in Christ, speak the gospel boldly and do not compromise it on the altar of so-called tolerance. Love demands we speak the truth.