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Understanding Uganda: Money, Neocolonialism, and Homosexuality

Drawn from his 2009 report, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches and Homophobia,” Kapya Kaoma, a priest from Zambia, weaves together recent history to show how the U.S. Right uses cash, homophobia & “anticolonialism” to break down denominational church structures in Africa.

I read this before I knew of the Adventist connection to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Though the article addresses the mainline, pairing it with Uganda Union Mission Executive Director John Kakembo’s statements mixing church and state regarding LGBT individuals reads like a case study from this well-researched article.

This is in no way to ascribe all these motives to John Kakembo, or even the author of the bill. Rather, I think that this article outlines a larger systemic problem, one that works to exploit administrators’ fears about masculinity and power. In addition to interesting para-denominational mission funding (think ASI, AFM), which is often more unrestricted, Kaoma points out that conflations of homosexuality, rape and molestation with neocolonialism works to keep most folks afraid, poor and dis-empowered, including church members.

Despite historical evidence of homosexuality in Africa long before the Europeans arrived, most conservative African religious and political leaders now view homosexuality as a Western export, and a form of imperialism and neocolonialism. And of course, U.S. conservatives exploit and encourage this belief.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, whose wife is a close ally of Rick Warren, warned, “It is a danger not only to the believers but to the whole of Africa. It is bad if our children become complacent and think that people who are not in order are alright… These foreigners should go and practice their nonsense elsewhere.”[24]

Because Africans are sensitive to neocolonialism, the conservative claim that homosexuality is part of a “Western agenda” gives African church leaders ammunition to demand greater influence and power in the affairs of the church.[25] Denouncing homosexuality is Africa’s way of claiming power over the western world. In this regard, when Africans claim that homosexuality is un-African, they are pointing to a politics of postcolonial identity.[26]

This history gives the struggle greater depth and tenacity, and for that reason, African involvement in U.S. church issues will continue. Moreover, rejecting what is claimed to be an imposition from the West gives them power both within the African context and with American conservatives of all persuasions.

Read the whole article here.

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