Editor’s Note: In January, Jon Stewart had director Roger Williams on “The Daily Show” to discuss his documentary on the damage being done to Africans by overbearing and, in some cases, vicious American missionaries, who probably believe that they’re helping people and saving souls. This article immediately generated one letter to the editor from an evangelical/homophobic bigot, who attacked me on some issues I never brought up at all. That was then followed by a letter from a proponent of separation of church and state, who defended me.

If at First, You Don’t Succeed


The pendulum has swung, and, on gay rights, the battleground dearest to its heart, the Religious Right is losing the culture war, both legislatively and in Americans’ hearts and minds. By 2030, outside the Deep South (which may, by then, be entering the 20th century), young people will wonder why civil unions and gay marriage had ever been controversial.

Social conservatives were already being traumatized by legalized marijuana, the continued semi-availability of abortion, the fact that even most Catholics have now practiced birth control, the existence of evolutionary biology in science classrooms and a tolerant new Pope. Now they’re also being horrified by homosexuality’s entry into mainstream America.

Gay partnerships are following the same trajectory as miscegenation, which was once considered too scandalous to show in movies or on TV. You know something has become mainstream when it begins appearing in commercials. By their nature, ads are purposefully designed to avoid offending prospective consumers, and gay partners are fast becoming this decade’s mixed-race couples, even during the Super Bowl.

Still, the Religious Right hasn’t abandoned its desire to intrude into other people’s sex lives. George W. Bush once noted that our enemies “hate us for our freedoms”; however, the Swiss, the Swedes and the French have at least as much freedom as we do, but unlike us, they’re not telling people in other countries what to do. American social conservatives operate globally as “busybodies without borders.”

One depiction of our sectarian colonialism is director Roger Ross Williams’ 2013 documentary, “God Loves Uganda,” which shows how American evangelicals are pushing harsh anti-homosexuality legislation in Africa. Missionaries from fundamentalist megachurches, such as the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer (IHOP), are promoting the death penalty for gay Ugandans, because, according to Williams, they believe “Biblical law is above any other law.”


Although the tide may have turned domestically, IHOP hasn’t lost faith that the culture war can still be waged internationally by “eradicating what they believe is sexual sin, and that means homosexuality.” They’re also convinced this cleansing will help usher in the End of Days, although why an all-powerful God needs IHOP’s assistance to bring on an apocalypse He’s been planning for 2,000 years is anybody’s guess.

The Oscar-winning director cites radical Christians, such as “ex-gay” American preacher Scott Lively, whose cachet among Ugandan leaders has been bolstered by crackpot rants about the gay agenda’s conspiracy to destroy the traditional African family. In 2009, he addressed Uganda’s parliament on the need for tougher punishments for homosexuals. (Lively also wrote a discredited history of homosexuality and National Socialism, “The Pink Swastika,” which blamed gays for Nazism and the Holocaust.)

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, another popular target for evangelical missionaries, gay sex has been banned, and violators are subject to long prison terms. Under its draconian laws, homosexuals can be jailed just for holding meetings.

The same evangelicals who protest the mistreatment of Christian minorities in Muslim countries fail to see the irony of persecuting gay minorities in Africa. And Americans who donate money so that missionaries can convert the unsaved in Africa fail to see the irony in saving them from a hell that may or may not be imaginary, while creating an actual hell of prosecution and persecution in places like Uganda and Nigeria.

Many Christians like to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Among mainline Protestants, the response is usually positive. But the fact that Jesus never mentioned gay sex doesn’t prevent the Biblical literalists from obsessing that it’s an abomination prohibited by the Old Testament (Lev. 18:22). And they contend that, as a devout Jew, Jesus would have agreed that homosexuals should be executed (Lev. 20:13).

So, if this is true, then why the selective fundamentalism? Why don’t they try to enforce Old Testament laws against blending two kinds of fabric in the same garment, mixing cheese and beef in the same burger, eating shrimp wrapped in bacon, or lobster? And what about the Biblical laws on how to treat one’s slaves and the command to stone those who work on the Sabbath?

Gay sex doesn’t offend me, but I would enjoy traveling for free as a missionary. I’d like evangelical donors who are still “fighting the good fight” to send me to Paris to keep French sinners from eating escargot (Lev. 11:10) or to the Riviera to stop them from offending God (and fashion sense) by wearing wool and polyester in the same outfit (Lev. 19:19). And I wouldn’t mind a weekend in Cape Cod to preach against tattoos (Lev. 19:28) and clam chowder.

Like most people, I enjoy telling others how to run their lives. I missed my chance to go to the Super Bowl and protest violations of the taboo against touching pigskin (Lev. 11:8) and competing on the Sabbath (Num. 15:32), and Vladimir Putin is already doing God’s work against gay Russians, but, I’d still like to go to this year’s Sochi Olympics to condemn female athletes who wear gold medals or braid their hair (1 Tim. 2:9).

Theoretically, only those without sin should cast the first stone, but when was the last time anyone paid any attention to that?

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