Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Proposition 8 and Ugandan Anglicans

August 10, 2010

I cannot help but contrast the elegant ruling in the case to overturn California’s Proposition 8 which outlawed gay marriage and the Anglican Church of Uganda’s continued support for criminalization of gay and lesbian people. The California ruling systematically examines the arguments presented at the original trial including the ideas that:
· Denial of marriage to same-sex couples preserves marriage.
· Denial of marriage to same-sex couples allows gays and lesbians to live privately without requiring others, including (perhaps especially) children, to recognize or acknowledge the existence of same sex couples.
· Denial of marriage to same-sex couples protects children.
· The ideal child-rearing environment requires one male parent and one female parent.
· Marriage is different in nature depending on the sex of the spouses, and an opposite-sex couple’s marriage is superior to a same-sex couple’s marriage.
· Same-sex couples’ marriages redefine opposite-sex couples’ marriages.

Episcopal Café reports that Jesse Masai has written in an article called “The Word from Kampala’s Anglicans” as follows:

“The church’s position on human sexuality is consistent with its basis of faith and doctrine and has been stated very clearly over the years as reflected in various documents,” she said. “From a careful and critical reading of Scripture, homosexual practice has no place in God’s design of creation, the continuation of the human race through procreation, or his plan of redemption.
“The Church of Uganda believes that homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture. At the same time, we are committed at all levels to counseling, healing, and prayer for people with homosexual orientation. The church is a safe place for individuals who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing.”
On the bill itself, she continued, the COU prefers that current law (Penal Code Cap. 120) be amended, clarifying gaps, protecting all parties from uneven enforcement and from the anti-homosexuality bill’s encroachment into family life and church counsel. Currently, the bill outlaws failure to inform authorities of homosexual activity, much as standard criminal law forbids failure to testify concerning wrongful acts observed. Ugandan law protects underage girls from sexual predators, Onapito explained, but not underage boys.
The COU wants the law to protect, not criminalize, confidential relationships of medical, pastoral, and counseling professionals and their clients, she said. An amended Penal Code must, in fairness and for the protection of youth, specify lesbianism, bestiality, and “other sexual perversions” as targeted behaviors. The free marketplace of ideas must have legal boundaries prohibiting material that “promotes homosexuality as normal or as [merely] an alternative lifestyle.”
Onapito added that while the church’s position may be contrary to Western notions of fair treatment for gays, it hardly poses the desperate risk to life and freedom that gay rights advocates fear. There should be no doubt, however, that the COU wants to ensure that “sexual orientation is excluded as a protected human right.”

Would that a reasonable judge would do the kind of rigorous research and work needed to examine statements such as “The church’s position on human sexuality is consistent with its basis of faith and doctrine and has been stated very clearly over the years as reflected in various documents.” Whether this prejudice is ‘consistent’ with ‘the Church’s basis of faith and doctrine’ is precisely what is in dispute and saying it is so –even while exhibiting the most passionate commitment to the idea-- does not necessarily make it so.

Why have many Ugandan Anglicans and their allies decided to make homosexuality their cause célèbre and align it with anti -Western sentiment? I don’t know the answer, but part of it must be demonstrating that Christians are just as legalistic and vicious as those of their Muslim neighbors who favor the imposition of Sharia. I continue to believe that rather than trying to out-moralize Muslim neighbors, Christians would do better to preach grace and to inspire others by their loving generosity. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword, will they not?


Penelopepiscopal said...

Thanks, Geoffrey, for your clear-eyed assessment of rhetoric coming out of Uganda. I absolutely agree that instead of trying to out-moralize others we ought to preach and live out the gospel of loving generously, which is of course not easy and has a real cost. But otherwise, yes, it's simply living and dying by the sword.


Elizabeth Chesnut said...

I find myself wondering, in frustration, at what point gay and lesbian lives cease to be viewed in the abstract, so as to be reasoned away and "disproved" by doctrine, and begin to be experienced as legitimate expressions of creation? I have no authentic expression of myself as a human being to offer other than that of a lesbian. If integrity demands speaking and living truth, how can I tell the Church, or government, a lie and maintain my integrity? And, what does the Church or gov't gain from that dishonesty? Rhetorical questions, of course.