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Why aren’t Christians decrying the criminalization of homosexuality?

Content note for explicit imagery of torture and rape.

[tweetable]American Evangelical groups have been tied to the evangelization of religious homophobia.[/tweetable] There are clear links of the importation of conservative theology regarding same-sex relationships that have led to the criminalization of LGBT individuals around the world. Perhaps most notably was in 2009 during the height Uganda’s “Kill The Gays Bill” media attention in which Christian groups were accused of supporting the bill. The bill, which has since passed, criminalizes homosexuality with penalties up to 14 years in prison.

Christian leaders like Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), decried the law. He claimed he didn’t know a single evangelical who supported laws like the one in Uganda. And while that may be true, [tweetable]Christians don’t have to explicitly advocate for the killing of LGBT individuals if their theology does it for them.[/tweetable]

Documentary God Loves Uganda details Evangelical Christian’s influence behind Uganda’s anti-LGBT law, specifically the efforts of the International House of Prayer (IHOP). Yet, the influence is certainly not limited to IHOP as other Christian speakers and groups have been linked to the law as well. But while other Christian groups may not have paper trails directly connecting them with the law, the theological message being shared that encourages these draconian laws are the same across non-affirming Christianity.

Indeed, the theology that dehumanizes LGBT people is the same. Verbiage that is exclusively used by non-affirming Christians (i.e. “homosexual lifestyle” “Same-sex attracted” “homosexual behavior”) is passed on and the same marginalization of LGBT people continues. Except this time policy makers are taking that non affirming theology to the letter of the law and justifying the imprisonment, torture, and killing of LGBT individuals.

Just last month Gambia quietly passed a law with severe penalties for what they call “aggravated homosexuality.” According to the Human Rights Watch: three women, four men, and a 17 year old boy were arrested so far and have been subjected to torture to illicit a confession of their presumed sexualities and to name other possible offenders. “The detainees said that they were told that if they did not “confess,” including by providing the names of others, a device would be forced into their anus or vagina to “test” their sexual orientation.” It’s shocking to read these inhumane injustices. It’s even more shocking that Christianity has not only remained complacent in these injustices but have also directly influenced them.

Media Matters published a report on Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their influence in anti-LGBT laws domestically and internationally. ADF has worked to enforce and create “anti-sodomy” laws which criminalizes consensual intimacy between same-sex partners. It’s not just sexual intimacy that’s being outlawed. The law is used to imprison people who are perceived to be LGBT. As the Human Rights Watch reported regarding the new law in Gambia, the definition of homosexuality is purposefully vague and is used completely arbitrarily.

“In 2003, ADF president Alan Sears co-wrote a book titled The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing The Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today, which warned that eliminating anti-sodomy laws would lead to the overturning of ‘laws against pedophilia, sex between close relatives, polygamy, bestiality and all other distortions and violations of God’s plan,'” reports Media Matters.

These same individuals who actively enforce criminalization of LGBT individuals were invited to speak at the recent ERLC conference on Homosexuality. How does the Southern Baptist Church reconcile their promotion of an organization that works to enact laws that have ended in the deaths of thousands?  The evidence of this theology being used to criminalize homosexuality is available yet Christian’s choose to ignore it or simply wash their hands of responsibility like Pilate.

[tweetable]If a theological message is being used to criminalize a person’s existence, what does that say about the theology?[/tweetable] And why aren’t Christian’s actively and vocally denouncing it? It’s hard to believe that denominations like the SBC affirm LGBT people’s humanity while promoting the illegalization of our existence in the next breath.

My own denomination, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, had a large anti-gay conference this past spring. It was held in South Africa where “corrective rape” (a disgusting act in which individuals rape lesbian women or trans men to “correct” their sexuality or gender identity), is serious problem. There are dozens of large Christian groups whose evangelizing directly contributes to the homophobic climate that leads to the implementation of these laws. What will it take for Christian’s to affirm LGBT people’s humanity and denounce the illegalization of our existence?

Our theology is killing people. Right now, people are dying because of it. Christians everywhere, regardless of theological stances on same-sex relationships, need to vocally and actively denounce the criminalization of LGBT people. If we stand idly by without condemning these laws that outlaw LGBT people, we might as well have written them ourselves.

Please be reflective of Christ-like love while engaging in the comments. Follow my Twitter and Facebook for all things LGBT Christian. 

About the author

Eliel Cruz

Cruz is a contributor on religion, (bi)sexuality, media and culture at The Advocate, Mic and Religion News Service.


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  • Why aren’t they decrying their own malicious handiwork? Because denial and disavowal still hasn’t been completely ruled out as an acceptable public response.

    “Our theology is killing people. Right now, people are dying because of it. Christians everywhere, regardless of theological stances on same-sex relationships, need to vocally and actively denounce the criminalization of LGBT people. If we stand idly by without condemning these laws that outlaw LGBT people, we might as well have written them ourselves.”

    And yet you still want to throw your lot in with a sect which are actively pursuing such actions. It is obvious they do not consider people like yourself to be worthy of consideration as a human being.

  • The theological truth that homosexual behavior is sinful won’t change just because you want it to.

    That being said people have the freedom to live sinfully and it’s only God’s job to punish sin.

  • But considering your prior comments concerning gays and their civil liberties, I would chalk that up to “we got caught, we have to deny, deny, deny”.

    At no point are you ever going to own up to the fact that beliefs like yours are fueling such efforts in Africa and Russia to demonize gays under the color of law.

  • As a child in a Christian church I was taught that homosexuality is a sin, but like Paul claimed when I grew up I put childish things away. I am no longer a Christian and no longer a bigot. Homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender persons are entitled to live their lives as sexual beings with full and equal protection under the law. Shame on any Christian who believes otherwise!
    Religious liberty doesn’t mean Christians and Muslims get all the freedom to practice their warped beliefs while the rest of humankind must live in fear of offending their imaginary gods.

  • The truth is the truth. People can accept it, deny it, claim and distort it or misinterpret it.

    I didn’t get caught in anything and have nothing to deny.

  • I know how the bible speaks about homosexuality, it is an abomination, and God does not condone or even recognize a marriage between same sex marriages,God told us to take up our wives and that marriage is a union between a man and a women not a same sex marriage, Homosexuals should not hold any type of office within the church at no time

  • And Larry’s response is one reason why “non-affirming” Christians aren’t all blindly jumping on this “decry the criminalization of homosexuality” of bandwagon.

    I think Russell Moore did the right thing to speak out against Uganda’s law, and so far, nobody here appears able to refute Moore’s claim of “not knowing a single evangelical in Uganda” who supports it.

    But it’s already obvious, just from what Eliel Cruz said, that these law(s) are NOT really the target anyway.

    This is just another attack on the “theology” (in plain English, just another attack on what the Bible clearly says about homosexual behavior being a sin.)

    The real target is the “beliefs” (as Larry says) or the “theology” (as Eliel says). Nobody here is even trying to hide it.

    South Africa, which Eliel mentioned, is a pretty good example. Eliel’s right that the unconscionable horror of “corrective rape” is present there.

    However, that is NOT part of South African law, it’s actually a crime, and just this month, an idiot who murdered a lesbian and performed “corrective rape” received a 30-year prison sentence.

    So the SA (South African) law ain’t the target here at all. Instead, it’s all about those SA (Seventh-day Adventist) biblical beliefs that homosexual behavior is a sin. THAT’s the real target.

    That’s why Christians have to be REAL careful about jumping onto bandwagons like this one.

  • Lynda-God/Jesus are real! Read Romans 1:18-32. Creation is proof there
    is a creator. To look at the whole world then say that this is all just random
    chance is being blind. It takes more faith to believe that this whole universe
    came about by accident than to believe in God. Many people today don’t
    want God to real because they don’t want to be told how to live. God bless.

  • Doc, its very difficult to take people seriously when they are less than honest about their involvement in what amounts to the promotion of human rights abuses. There is no credibility in the responses of the “non-affirming Christians”.

    Russell Moore and many like him had no problem promoting the rhetoric and political actions responsible for the creation of those laws in Africa and Russia. Their protests of those laws only came after the laws have become a public embarrassment. Russell Moore did a CYA statement, nothing more. Given the SBC’s attitudes towards civil liberties of others within the US, there is little reason to believe there was anything genuine behind it.
    For a great example of the lack of credibility of the SBC, see their flip/flop on immigration reform between their 2011 resolutions and now

    When your beliefs state that a group of people deserve to be treated as less than human, it deserves to be criticized. More so, when it underlies actions of governments which are best described as atrocities.

  • Russell Moore only spoke out against Uganda really publicly after evangelicals were criticized (though i believe i read somewhere he had spoke against it once 4-5 years prior).

    I’m confused what you mean that theses laws aren’t the target? I’m criticizing the fact these laws are being influenced by non affirming theology and for people who hold non affirming theology this shouldn’t be ok. Do you not think denominations that evangelize non affirming theology and influence these laws should be held accountable?

    I mentioned South Africa to show that i don’t just critique denominations that aren’t my own and to show that the location for the conference could help contribute to the homophobic climate that allows these atrocities to happen. I outlined very real accounts of laws that are being passed that are leading to the torture of LGBT people and all you can say is your beliefs are being attacked?

    If you can’t separate your theology from the laws that are being passed perhaps that says something about the lack of compassion of your theology. No Christian should be “careful” about jumping to the defense of people who are being killed in God’s name.

  • This is actually a response to Doc.

    Doc, doc, doc– how willingly obtuse can you get? Scott Lively, evangelical Christian extraordinaire, has publicly claimed the “credit” for fathering Uganda’s antigay laws.

    you need only google “Christian statements on Uganda antigay laws” to come up with a wealth of statements form evangelicals supporting them.

    You can google “slouching towards kampala” for in-depth reporting on how evangelicals have been up to their wattled necks in anti-gay activity.

    But let’s not just pick on evangelicals. That wouldn’t be fair. Lets talk about the Catholic bishops in Africa who support imprisoning gay people, despite the statements of Pope francis. Looks talk about Peter akinola, Anglican archbishop in Nigeria. We can just go on and on and on and on with the religious support for criminalizng and the judicial murder of gay people.

  • Not to mention Peter sprig of the so-called Family so-called Research so-called Council.

    From Wikipedia: “In February 2010, Sprigg stated on NBC’s Hardball that gay behavior should be outlawed and that Lawrence v. Texas was wrongly decide by the U.S. Supreme Court and that “criminal sanctions against homosexual behavior” should be enforced.”

    not to mention Pat Robertson, whose unhinged diatribes, while not actually calling for violence against gay people, would certainly encourage them.

    But this is America.

  • I don’t know how I could have forgotten this, but I did. not enough coffee this morning, I guess.

    Just one more thing, Doc.

    “This is just another attack on the “theology” (in plain English, just another attack on what the Bible clearly says about homosexual behavior being a sin.) The real target is the “beliefs” (as Larry says) or the “theology” (as Eliel says). Nobody here is even trying to hide it.”

    Seriously? Objecting to be imprisoned or judicially murdered for a “crime” that hurts no one really is just an attack on the theology the antigays? Demanding religious freedom from dominionist theology is more of the same?

    The theology– well, more accurately the use of theology to lend legitimacy to what is simply an ancient and vicious prejudice– is indeed the source of the problem. When you demand the use of the coercive power of the state to imprison or judicially murder other sinners, do let me know.

    the eaters of shrimp, the adulterers, the divorced, the drunkards, and all of the people who reject the entirety of Christian belief because they don’t accept the idea that Jesus died for our sins, are eagerly awaiting your next merciful pronouncement.

  • The following paragraph from Eliel’s article, clearly demonstrates the problem I referred to earlier.

    “Indeed, the theology that dehumanizes LGBT people is the same. Verbiage that is exclusively used by non-affirming Christians (i.e. “homosexual lifestyle” “Same-sex attracted” “homosexual behavior”) is passed on and the same marginalization of LGBT people continues. Except this time policy makers are taking that non affirming theology to the letter of the law and justifying the imprisonment, torture, and killing of LGBT individuals.”

    Now all of us, on all sides, are going to say that we don’t support torture. Rational people of all labels don’t support murder. Don’t support rape. Don’t support unjust imprisonment. That’s not even a question here.

    Even Scott Lively, noted in connection with the Uganda laws, told the gay Advocate Magazine that “I am not unhappy that the Ugandan law as written has been nullified. I have always said it was too harsh and did not emphasize prevention and therapy for homosexual disorder.” (Aug. 8, 2014).

    (Side note: your article completely ignored Rick Warren’s vocal efforts to oppose the Ugandan laws.)

    So again, it’s the THEOLOGY, not the “laws”, that are your real target. There’s no way that biblical Christians are going to miss this primary aspect of your essay, nor should they.

    Indeed, right in the quoted paragraph, you’re blaming the **theology** (as exemplified by phrases like “homosexual lifestyle” “Same-sex attracted” “homosexual behavior”) for the bad situations you referred to.

    You are claiming that merely saying THESE phrases (which implicitly reject the innate-gay self-identity-sales-pitch, as does the Bible) are leading to the abuses. So your target is totally clear. It’s the theology you’re gunning for.

    So that’s just plain wrong, Eliel. In fact, a rational Christian could ask you the question, “Are you trying to eliminate, or are you trying to EXPLOIT, these horrific abuses?”

  • I reaqlly didn’t expect anything better from you.

    While saying that the bill went to far, he did nothing to prevent it. he has continued his attacks on gay people with the worst vitriol possible.

  • “Turn to Leviticus 20:13 because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS. ‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.’ And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along — and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.” – Arizona-based Pastor Steve Anderson, adding that the world could have an “AIDS-free Christmas” if all homosexuals were executed.

  • Speaking on “Truenews” on Monday, Lively – who claims to be a Christian – told host Rick Wiley:

    “Society has an immune system also and we can allow a certain amount of this infection without collapsing.

    “The infrastructure of Judeo-Christian civilization in America has all but disappeared and we are in the end game, the radical left, the cultural Marxists are mopping up at this point.”

    Not yet sated, Lively added that homosexuality should be considered worse than “murder or mass murder” because it is to blame for Noah’s flood:

    “When you look in the Bible, there are sins that you would think of as worse, you know, murder or mass murder, but what does it come down to? Leviticus 18 tells the Hebrews exactly what it is that God identifies as the most rebellious behavior, the behavior that causes the land to actually vomit out its inhabitants and every item on that list, except for child sacrifice, is sexual perversion, and child sacrifice is often a form of sexual perversion. So that’s where we are.

    “Homosexuality is not just another sin, it is the sin that defines rebellion against God, the outer edge of rebellion against God and it is the harbinger of God’s wrath, that’s why the Scripture gives the warning, ‘as in the days of Noah.’”

  • Oh, goody! He doesn’t want us judicially murdered, as that is “unacceptably harsh.’ But imprisoned, sure.

    In March of this year I had the privilege of addressing members of the Ugandan parliament in their national assembly hall when the anti-homosexuality law was just being considered. I urged them to pattern their bill on some American laws regarding alcoholism and drug abuse. I cited my own pre-Christian experience being arrested for drunk driving. I was given and chose the option of therapy which turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. I also cited the policy in some U.S. jurisdictions regarding marijuana. Criminalization of the drug prevents its users from promoting it, and discourages non-users from starting, even while the law itself is very lightly enforced, if at all. Additionally, I urged them to actively promote the marriage model in their schools as a form of inoculation to the anti-family messages flooding their country through Western media.

    All of my suggestions were ignored (despite which fact I am being blamed for the proposed law as written by certain major media outlets and the “gay” blogosphere.) Nevertheless, I commend the courage of the Ugandan people. During the past decade or so, Uganda has been one of the few countries of the world that has firmly resisted the enormous power and relentless pressure of the international “gay” lobby, while other developing nations such as South Africa and Brazil have been systematically homosexualized. This is one of the reasons that Uganda’s AIDS rate went from the highest to the lowest in Africa during this same time period.

    Let me be absolutely clear. I do not support the proposed anti-homosexuality law as written. It does not emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and the punishment that it calls for is unacceptably harsh. However, if the offending sections were sufficiently modified, the proposed law would represent an encouraging step in the right direction. As one of the first laws of this century to recognize that the destructiveness of the “gay” agenda warrants opposition by government, it would deserve support from Christian believers and other advocates of marriage-based culture around the world.

  • The truth that homosexual behavior is sinful is not responsible for the sinful actions people take based on that belief. The belief is correct and the on,y sculpture all supported one. No getting around that.

  • Ben, there is no “gay agenda”! Are you for real? You know nothing about homosexuality. Look around you, at the other animal species that inhabit this planet. Homosexuality is everywhere. It is NOT a disease, disorder, addiction or abnormality. Children do not require “inoculation” to prevent it.
    Your fanatical religious dogma corrupts children and leads them into lives filled with ignorance and bigotry.

    You’re still driving drunk. You’ve just replaced your addiction to alcohol with another crutch… religion.

  • Lynda– as a gay man, and an activist for over 40 years, I am one of the most progay people you will ever find.

    I was not quoting me, I was quoting SCOTT LIVELY for the enlightenment of our resident antigay bigots– not that they are interested in enlightenment.

    Please read my comments– ALL )OF THEM.

    You’re welcome.

  • Now I have a little bit more time.

    So, doc, are you really saying that laws that seek to harm us, to imprison us, to murder us, and social policies that blame us for every social ill, are necessary in order to uphold anti-gay theology?

    Are you really saying that our objections to laws that seek to harm us, to imprison us, to murder us, are really just attempts to get rid of anti-gay theology?

    are you saying that these laws laws that seek to harm us, to imprison us, to murder us, are really just an expression of that theology, and not of a vicious an ancient prejudice?

    Scott Lively has made a living out of his hatred for gay people. I’ve included just a few of a wealth of quotes from him. That he walked back one of his actions just a little, while fully supporting the rest of the evil he has worked in Uganda, doesn’t make him some good person, free from the taint of hate.

    It just makes him a practical politician.

  • Ben, thanks for correcting me. I am sorry that I have not the time to read every comment in a thread. Your Dec 3rd, 12:59 pm comment did not make it clear that you were quoting someone else. There are no quotation marks to allocate any portion of your comment as someone else’s thoughts or opinion.

  • Scott Lively is one sick SOB!
    What is it with these people claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ, but still trying to set up some sort of Christian kingdom on earth? Didn’t Jesus say his kingdom is NOT of this world? Christians should stay out of politics!

  • Not a problem. That was my error. I am somewhat dyslexic, and proofreading is especially difficult.