Marvin Olasky, Editor in Chief of World Magazine, posted an analysis here of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill on January 24. Although Dr. Olasky claims a conservative Christian background and worldview, his reactions to Uganda’s efforts to suppress homosexuality seem ignorant of both historic Christian treatment in this area as well as the power of law to influence behavior. Below we extensively excerpt Olasky’s analysis and rebut with our commentary.
Problem or Solution? by Marvin Olasky
Going ballistic: When the Ugandan parliament shortly before Christmas passed a bill legislating long prison sentences for homosexuals, The Huffington Post quoted one activist calling Dec. 20 ‘the worst day’ in history, and the U.S. State Department (which looks the other way as Muslims murder Christians) was quick to ‘condemn’ the bill. On Jan. 17 Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni chose not to sign the bill, citing a technicality, and columnists blamed American Christians for manipulating the purportedly ignorant and easily led Africans.
A deeper analysis came from Chris Howles, a missionary in Uganda who in his blog, Namugongo Life, called the national opposition to homosexuality historical rather than religious. Howles wrote online (“Homophobia in Uganda: Is Christianity the problem or the solution?”), ‘The vast majority of Christians in this country have never met or spoken with a Western missionary. Nor have their leaders. Many of these attitudes about homosexuality come direct from traditional Ugandan culture.’
FRI’s Comment — Homophobia? This propaganda word does not belong in Christian discourse. Dislike of homosexuality, general avoidance of those who practice it, and trying to keep our kids safe from gay predators are hardly ‘problems’ for Christians — it is ‘who we are supposed to be.’ To be sure, we will find ourselves out of tune with Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s “If I go up to heaven and find a homophobic God, I will tell him I prefer the other place.” Similarly, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of President Obama, Hollywood, David Cameron, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the EU, the media, etc. If God calls something wrong but our elite say it’s precious, our marching orders are clear — as the brave Ugandan Christian boys and young men of 1886 (and mentioned by Olasky below) demonstrated.
Some things do not change. In surveys conducted by homosexual researchers of U.S. male homosexuals, over a fifth admitted to having sex with boys, and media reports suggest they commit up to half of all child molestation in the U.S.
Who ya gonna believe? I side with Howles, in part because in November I visited his central Ugandan township of Namugongo and saw a memorial to 26 pages, young royal servants who professed Christ and were martyred in 1886. … King Mwanga II had the 26 pages burned to death, and a national holiday now honors them.
Why the king killed them is important in understanding the recent Ugandan legislation. Students learn that Mwanga II expected the royal pages to submit to his homosexual advances. After all, the traditional saying Namunswa alya kunswaze (the queen ant feeds on her subjects) indicated that the monarch is licensed to kill those who reject him.
The pages, though, fed on Christ and chose to die rather than to sin so blatantly. Given that fact, many Ugandans see tolerance of homosexuality in Uganda, let alone praise for it, as historical treason. Does that mean I applauded the parliamentary legislation …? … No: It was harsh and unlikely to be effective.
FRI’s Comment — Laws against murder are harsh and unlikely to be effective (in completely stopping murder). But such laws educate as to what is ‘correct’ and serve as a disincentive to commit murder. Just because we cannot specify how many lives were saved by a particular law hardly means the law was ineffective. Surely the fact that people still commit murder, rape, or theft would not cause Dr. Olasky to label them as “ineffective” and not worth having.
I write that because ancient Israel’s experience shows how sinners like all of us tend to act when faced with a long list of laws: We break them. The ancient Israelites had the best laws, since God gave them. They had every reason to be confident in their lawgiver, since God had delivered their ancestors from slavery. They had every reason to fear breaking them, since the penalty often was death. But, under these best of possible conditions for obedience, they disobeyed.
FRI’s Comment — The Jews only had 613 hard and fast laws, in addition to a number of bureaucratic interpretations made by their priestly class. Whatever that number, it pales beside the hundreds of thousands of laws under which we live. Does the multiplicity of laws make us want to break them? Doubtful. Laws both educate and regulate. If sinners are to live with sinners, laws are absolutely necessary and Christians are to obey them except when, as with the brave 26 boys and young men, they contradict a basic tenant of faith.
Howles has a better idea: Promote Christianity, not tradition. He argues that if Ugandans temper their desire to put homosexuals in prison, ‘it will most likely be because of Christianity, as churches preach a message of godly love and kindness towards active homosexuals.’
FRI’s Comment — Really? How do we show “godly love and kindness toward active child molesters?” Or active thieves, active adulterers, active slanderers, etc.? Until the last few decades, every time the Christian Church had the opportunity, it made homosexual activity illegal — often carrying the ultimate penalty. So it was in Rome, England, and early in these United States. Everyone else – especially children — should not be endangered so those expressing homosexual interests can be comfortable.
Christianity is an historic religion. Only if you believe it is ‘whatever we say it is today’ can you contend that ‘the Gospel’ requires acceptance and/or embrace of those who practice homosexuality! If pusillanimous preachers want to ‘ignore’ Christian history in favor of a new Gospel, they earn their heretic label.
Homosexuality is wrong and laws can be useful educators, but our hope is in ‘the gospel that shows us that all people are created in God’s image … the gospel that welcomes all people to confess that Jesus is Lord and unite together in a broken but re-built community of Christ,’ as Ephesians 2:17–22 explains.
FRI’s Comment — Some acquire a preference for child-sex, others would like to have affairs with their neighbors’ spouses. If such individuals protest, whine, and threaten about how they are being oppressed and denied their desires, will Christians also be expected to include them as we “welcome all people” in a “broken but re-built community of Christ?” Peter said in Acts to “repent and be baptized,” not ‘unite together in a broken but re-built community and be baptized.’
Christians with a traditionally-minded, Bible-believing tilt should reject any attempt to bring “active homosexuals” into our “re-built community;” they, not we, must first repent. If Christianity is to abandon standards and repentance for failing these standards, and instead become re-warmed psychobabble, forget the Church, see your local shrink or a bookstore’s self-help section.
Fear-based laws may work for a while, and laws to protect life are certainly important, but rules imposing morality usually sweep problems under the rug instead of solving them.
FRI’s Comment — When abortion was illegal in the U.S., the abortion rate was no more than half, if not a third, of what it is today. Did such laws ‘solve’ abortion? No, no more than laws against murder ‘solve’ murder. Abortions occurred, murders occurred — laws did not ‘solve’ either. Humans are, by nature, sinful. Law, sometimes harsh law, is necessary when strong motives are involved. Law does not and cannot ‘solve’ sin, it only contains it. When homosexual activity was illegal, it still occurred, but it did not grace every newscast, get taught in our schools, get extolled in our drama, or cause Christian editors to go wobbly in fear of them, etc.
Thousands of years of Church decisions ought not to be abandoned all because liberals criticize us or homosexuals feel uncomfortable. Neither the Sadducees (the liberals of his time) nor the Pharisees (the conservatives) hailed Christ. Those who follow Christ are ‘stuck with’ His decrees. If you want to claim Christ and ignore His commands, since Tutu is an Archbishop, perhaps you can. But the Apostle Paul seems to warn otherwise: “The wicked will have no share in God’s kingdom. Don’t be mistaken about this: no one who lives in sexual sin… adulterers, or males who have sex with other males, … or slanderers… will have a share in God’s Kingdom" (1 Cor. 6).
If law doesn’t work for long, what does? Only the gospel. Christ loved us enough to die for us. Once we stop thinking of ourselves as the center of the world and recognize that God owns it and us, we realize that our greatest pleasure comes not from indulgence but from feeling God’s pleasure.
FRI’s Comment — To which many who sin sexually might retort “agreed, my greatest pleasure is ‘feeling God’s pleasure.’ Yet I get lesser, but substantial pleasure, from feelings gotten from a good roll in the hay, visit to a bathhouse, or tryst in a public restroom, etc." Jesus never said ‘if you love me, live so as to feel God’s pleasure;’ but rather “ if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Feelings are not only ‘cheap,’ but totally unreliable (‘everything a man does is right in his own eyes’). This is akin to Buddhism (or Universalism) and rather removed from historic Christianity.
Regular church-goers usually do somewhat better on almost every index of social usefulness and personal health. They score this way by trying to follow God’s commandments, thereby separating themselves from the practices of ‘the world;’ certainly from the sexual preachments of our current elite.
Homosexual practitioners may get pleasure from indulging their sexual desires, but that is far outweighed by diseases leading to a shortened lifespan combined with interpersonal violence, instability, and a life of destructive meaninglessness. Additionally, they are a burden to us all in that they 1) consume more than they contribute, 2) disproportionately disturb social order, and 3) produce few children themselves while molesting the kids of others.
Homosexuality violates God’s first commandment to ‘be fruitful,’ and is at the very heart of Biblical denunciation of rebellion against God (see Deut 32 and Romans 1). Homosexual lust led to the painful incineration of 26 brave Ugandan Christian boys and young men. It cannot be ignored without substantial intellectual and moral peril. Arguably Christianity’s greatest preacher, John Chrysostom, called it the worst sin, worse even than murder. While every sin in Scripture is not to be carried into public law, if this sin is not, what would Olasky nominate and how would he justify it?