There have been many reports recently about the strong anti-gay sentiment and legislative measures emerging in Uganda, such as this report today from Box Turtle Bulletin: Ugandan Parliament Takes Up Anti-Gay Bill, or Homosexuals Face Death Penalty in New Vision (Uganda), forwarded by email from Other Sheep. What I have not seen in any reports, is any reference to the story of the Ugandan Martyrs (commemorated in the Church calendar on June 3rd each year, as the feast of Charles Lwangwa and companions), which makes an ironic contrast to the current persecution.
Some years ago, I did a great deal of reading on African history, including one book on the colonial exploration and development of East Africa. From this book (the title of which I no longer recall) I remember very clearly, the story of these martyrs – although you will not find the full account in the mainly sanitised abbreviated stories at the top of a Google search.
This is the story as I read and remember it.
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In California, where the battles for Marriage Equality continues through the courts, the opponents are seeking to have thrown out of court a lawsuit challenging Proposition 8. The backers of ban claim that the vote was constitutionally valid because the proposition approved by voters ‘furthers the state’s goal of fostering “naturally procreative relationships” ‘ - i.e. undermines conventional marriage, a claim at the heart of the opposition, and which we have heard ad infinitum.
The learned judge wanted to know more. He asked the legal team defending the proposition, and so the ban, to clarify just how gay marriage interfered with this goal of fostering procreative relationships. The answer? We don’t know.
The judge not only refused but signaled that when the case goes to trial in January, he expects Cooper and his legal team to present evidence showing that male-female marriages would be undermined if same-sex marriages were legal.
My reading of the ensuing exchanges had Cooper just digging himself deeper and deeper into the shit.
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This, from Other Sheep, has landed in my email in-box:
“While returning home by bus from the National Equality March and reflecting on Galatians chapter 1, I queered the passage. When I was in my freshman year of Bible college(1971-1972), I had memorized most of Galatians to “battle” my same-sex attractions. Here, Galatians chapter 1 has become gay-friendly for me. What a difference that makes.” – Steve Parelli, Other Sheep Executive director.
To live as he lived
1 We who strive for the equal rights of LGBT people are sent ones – not because some pro-LGBT organization has enlisted us – but because Jesus Christ – his earthly ministry to the oppressed and marginalized – has called us to do, at this time, what he did then in his day. We are sent by him and the life-giving Creator with the good news of liberty for all. 2We are not alone in this mission, for there are many with whom we work and who work with us. Now, it is to the churches at large in the United States that we write this letter. 3 We begin with this greeting: Grace and peace to everyone from God the Creator and from Jesus our Lord 4who lived for the oppressed in society to such an extent that he died at the hands of those who hated his mission; he gave his life in the pursuit of delivering us from a world where men do evil to other men; he died for a just world for all – a world as God originally intended it to be. 5 For this sacrifice we give him the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
That the church has mistaken the “good news” as something else
6 Dear churches in the United States: We are extremely surprised that you have removed yourself from this despised and rejected Jesus (this Jesus who has called you, as he has called us, into this freedom for all) unto another message of “good news” so-called 7 – which, to tell the truth, is not another message of the same kind, but another message of a different kind altogether. And by doing this – teaching this message of “a different kind” – you destroy the “good news” of liberty and justice for all the oppressed.
Like it? Read the full paraphrase, parallel with the KJ version (no, it’s not my favourite either), at Other Sheep National Equality March
An ambidextrous post by Jayden Cameron at the Gay Mystic yesterday gave me cause for thought. On the one hand he commended this and some other blogs for what we are trying to do; on the other hand, he warned at the same time of the dangers of wallowing in the negativity:
Some very fierce battles are being waged at the moment at the great blogs, Bilgrimage, Enlightened Catholicism,Queering the Church, Wild Reed, over the major justice issues of the day in the Church, in particular, abortion and the rights of homosexuals in the church and in civil society. I really feel these bloggers are fighting our battles for us, and doing so quite brilliantly with a relentless pursuit of justice, focusing a laser like beam on all aspects of the frightening pathologies that are afflicting the church and society at the moment. However, this requires these writers to immerse themselves on a daily basis in all of the sordid details of corruption and deceit that characterize so much of the pathological sickness at the heart of the Christian community today. As one who feels enormously grateful for this courageous work that is being done, I also feel some concern about the debilitating effect on the human spirit when one is constantly immersed in these stories of injustice and corruption every day.
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Michael Worsnip at Hell’sTeeth appears to have a background resembling my own: a once married, gay Catholic (Anglican) man from Johannesburg, later settled in whaat he calls Cairp Tahn, and I call Cape Town. (UPDATE: My apologies to Michael for labelling him incorrectly as Catholic. He has politely but firmly told me he is an Anglican, of the “spikey variety”. I thought I had seen a clear reference to “Catholic” on his blog, but didn’t do the fact checking when writing.Iguess that’s why I’m a blogger, and not a proper journalist. )
He writes “from the sanguine side of life”, which is a frame of mind often induced by those lucky enough to be in Cape Town – at least, those with homes and incomes. He says of himself:
I’m not cool. Nor do I have have aspirations to being cool. Most of the time, I don’t even understand cool. I happen to live in Cape Town, (“Cairp Tahn” if you are cool) which is supposedly cool. I am Gay. I am 52 (which is Gay terms is way past cool). I have two adopted boys aged 6 and 7 and partner who doesn’t want to get married. I have a job in a rather curious field. I like music and reading and writing and cooking. Oh, and eating.
But don’t be fooled: while writing about and exalting the ordinary, daily things in life he is not blind to the difficulties and social problems around him – he just doesn’t dwell on them.
I particularly liked his reminiscences of the “Butterfly Bar” at the skyline Hotel in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, brought back to him by a visit to a present day gay bar in Cape Town. The Butterfly Bar was the first gay bar he ever visited, as it was for me a few years later, as it was for probably most Johannesburg gay men at around that time.
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Already there has been a lot of anger and disappointment expressed in many quarters at the US Bishops’ “pastoral” letter on the sanctimony of marriage. (As the NCR notes in editorial, there is nothing remotely pastoral in its tone or approach.) But anger and disappointment will not change anything.
As I have noted before, it is central to theology that all of us in the church have not just the right, but an obligation to make our views known to our pastors and bishops, especially where we disagree with them. On sexual matters, where we self-evidently have far greater experience than they, this obligation is particularly strong. The NCR report notes that the draft they have seen reads as if the writers had no experience of marriage preparation or pastoral counselling, let alone of actual real world sexual relationships.
So here is a plan for a constructive response, forwarded to me as email from Fortunate Families: write to the bishops.
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