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An open letter to Christians: You're hurting gay people and that ain't right

In memory of Milt Ford (1941-2014), pioneer for LGBTQ justice.

From Arizona and Kansas to Uganda and Nigeria, U.S. evangelicals are exporting a gospel of hate that incites discrimination, suffering, incarceration and violence against gays.

On February 13, a mob in Abuja, Nigeria attacked fourteen young gay men with broken furniture, machete handles, sticks, and a garden rake, claiming that they were "cleansing the community" of gays; one of the victims was beaten nearly to death. When four of the victims sought refuge in a police station, they were beaten by the police. On March 6, four gay men were publicly whipped as punishment for homosexuality. This mob and state "justice" was incited by Nigeria's new anti-gay law that was signed into effect on January 7.

Nigeria's deeply religious citizens have been inspired to new anti-gay sentiment by this new law which bans same-sex marriages, gay groups and shows of same-sex public affection (and punishes gay sex by up to 14 years in prison). About the new law, Rev. Musa Asake, general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said, "This is the right thing." As soon as the law took effect, scores of gays were rounded up and put into prison.

The influence of Western evangelicals on these new laws and the religiously-motivated hatred that inspires and follows upon them is appalling.

On February 25, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a tough anti-gay bill; some homosexual acts are now punishable by life in prison. Uganda is over 90 percent Christian and U.S. Christian leaders have encouraged Uganda's anti-gay sentiments. For example, in 2009 Scott Lively of "Defend the Family" addressed and advised Uganda's congress about anti-gay legislation. In 2008, Rick Warren, he of Purpose Driven Life fame, traveled to Uganda and proclaimed that homosexuality is not a human right (he has since denounced Uganda's new law). Warren's mentor, C. Peter Wagner, founder of the New Apostolic Reformation and self-proclaimed Apostolic Ambassador, played a major role in encouraging, developing and implementing Uganda's anti-gay bill. In 2010, missionary Lou Engle of TheCall, whipped his Ugandan audience of 1,300 into a frenzy and then called on the Ugandan church to "courageously" support the new legislation.

With their claws cut in the U.S., members of the evangelical right seem determined to take their cause to Africa. The Arizona legislature recently passed a law which would have permitted Christians to discriminate against gays. Kansas legislators seem determined to outdo Arizona's bigotry. As reprehensible as these laws are, even in Kansas and Arizona, gays cannot be beaten with impunity, whipped, or incarcerated. So Kansas and Arizona missionaries have exported their theocratic ambitions to Uganda and Nigeria, with much greater effect.

WWJD in Uganda and Nigeria?

Rather than encouraging stone-throwing or whipping or imprisonment, Jesus would walk up to the victim, put his arms around him, look around at the mob and say, "Let he that is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7).

He may have also said to the victim, "Go and sin no more." It's not my point to change anyone's views on homosexuality. It is my point, however, to change views on how, as a Christian, one should treat gay people.

Rather than encouraging a state-sponsored religion, Jesus would say, "My kingdom is not an earthly kingdom" (John 18:36). Jesus, you might recall, refused the offer to become an earthly king. Power corrupts, we all know; and power corrupts even the best of Christian intentions. Whenever the Church has been too closely allied with power (the State), it hurts people (Muslims and Jews, for example, in the Crusades, and Protestants or Catholics in the Reformation, and American slaves, to name a few).

Instead of trying to create a Christian State, follow Jesus' lead and focus on the state of your own soul: "The Kingdom of God is within."

Rather than focusing on the speck in your gay brother's eye, first take the plank out of your own eye (Luke 6:42; and don't used said plank to beat your brother). It is spiritually unhealthy, pride by another name, to focus on the sins of another. That can only mean that you are either (a) perfect or (b) ignoring your own sins. I suspect (b).

How did we get to the point where Christian leaders think that homosexuality is, as Lou Engle alleges, THE issue of the day? Since Jesus never mentions homosexuality, it's hard to imagine him thinking it job one for contemporary Christians.

Here are some questions we might ask about job one for Christians:

  • Where is the Church's condemnation of pride, greed, judgmentalism, and gossip?
  • Why not fight for laws that require everyone to care for the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed?
  • Instead of legislation against the so-called homosexual agenda, why not seek legislation against corporate exploitation in Africa?
  • Why not require US corporations to pay a fair wage, create humane working conditions, and care for the environment?

WWJD in Africa?

Jesus would resist the temptation to ally with earthly power, he would seek to create the Kingdom of God within, and he would freely open his loving arms to each and every person without exception.


(Editor's note: This post was originally published on SDGLN media partner HuffPost Gay Voices.)