The Sundance Film Festival is currently taking place in Park City, Utah from January 17-27. I'd like to highlight one of the documentaries being screened at this year's Sundance, God Loves Uganda. Directed by Roger Ross Williams and produced by Julie Goldman, God Loves Uganda highlights the missionary efforts of American evangelical leaders in Uganda.
In an interview with Indiewire, Roger Ross Williams voiced concern over the homophobia and right-wing worldview that American fundamentalists are exporting to Uganda. "Africa should not be a dumping ground for American conservative ideology," he insisted. "And when you unleash a message of hate and intolerance, no one is safe." Williams painted an ominous picture of the American fundamentalists proselytizing in Uganda.
"The film is really about one of the fastest growing religious movements in the world, evangelicals, who believe in Old Testament biblical law. Born in America, but with a global reach, this evangelical movement has been barely noticed by the mainstream media; yet it has over 400 million followers worldwide and huge followings in sub-Saharan Africa, Korea, and South America.In a press statement, Williams acknowledged that some of the American missionaries in Uganda were kindly and committed. Still, he emphasized that American evangelical forces also helped produce the "noxious flower" of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Well organized and well funded, they are committed to the global domination by Christian fundamentalists of all aspects of society - government, media, religion, and culture – in short, nothing less than a Christian theocracy. Theologically, they believe that they must convert and purify the earth. They are particularly concerned with 'sexual immorality' – that is, pornography, any kind of sex outside of marriage, and homosexuality. They believe that their opponents are often possessed by demons. And they believe that one of the first places God wants them to purify is Uganda."
"I began meeting in Uganda – and in America – some of the missionaries who have helped create Ugandaʼs evangelical movement. They were often large hearted. They were passionate and committed. Many of them were kids from Americaʼs heartland. And they were, I began to discover, part of a larger Christian evangelical movement that believed that Biblical law should reign supreme – not just in peopleʼs hearts – but in the halls of government. This movement, fueled by American money and idealism, had produced a noxious flower – Ugandaʼs Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which made death as one of the penalties for homosexuality."The documentary sheds light on how American preachers such as Lou Engle have prayed against "sexual sin" in Uganda, and how some Ugandan ministers have promoted homophobia in their own congregations. We learn of the anti-gay activism of American preacher Scott Lively, The Pink Swastika author who appeared at an anti-gay conference in Kampala in 2009, shortly before a draconian anti-gay law was proposed in Uganda. The documentary gives special attention to the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a New Apostolic Reformation organization based in Kansas City, Missouri and closely affiliated with Lou Engle. God Loves Uganda explores IHOP's missionary efforts in Uganda, featuring IHOP missionaries such as Rev. Joanna Watson, Jesse Digges, and Rachelle Digges.
Viewers are also introduced to Ugandan religious leaders who have cooperated with American evangelicals. God Loves Uganda shows us Robert Kayanja, the founder of Miracle Centre Cathedral in Kampala who has hosted prominent U.S. religious figures. We also meet pastor Martin Ssempa, the fiercely anti-gay pastor of Makerere Community Church whose controversial tactics have stirred controversy.
God Loves Uganda also shares heartbreaking stories of intolerance toward LGBTQ activists and their allies. The documentary features an interview with Ugandan LGBTQ activist David Kato, shortly before he was murdered in January 2011. We learn the story of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, an Ugandan religious leader who was excommunicated and shunned for his support of the LGBTQ community.
I'm overjoyed that this documentary is being released. The world must be made aware of how the American Religious Right is exporting its agenda overseas. Homophobia is a very real problem in Uganda, especially now that a draconian anti-gay bill is under consideration there, and the Religious Right's homophobic activism is having dire consequences for Uganda's LGBTQ community. God Loves Uganda can help keep American evangelicals' work overseas in the public consciousness so that concerned citizens can hold the Religious Right accountable.
For more information about God Loves Uganda, visit the official website.
For additional background on the activities of American evangelical leaders in Uganda, check out the following resources.
Current TV's Vanguard: Missionaries of Hate
Political Research Associates: Colonizing African Values: How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa
Political Research Associates: Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia
Box Turtle Bulletin: Slouching Toward Kampala
The Advocate: Dangerous Liaisons