When I read that President Museveni had signed the hateful anti-LGBTQ law in Uganda, the first words that came to mind were from the opening song in “Les Misérables.” It’s called “Work Song.” Prisoners in a work camp are expressing their hope and their despair. One sings, “I’ve done no wrong, sweet Jesus hear my prayer.” Another prisoner responds, “Look down, look down, sweet Jesus doesn’t care.”
LGBTQ people in Uganda could not be blamed for thinking that Jesus doesn’t care.
For in the name of religion, and more specifically in the name of Christianity, LGBTQ people and women are being targeted for violence and discrimination. The West has cultivated, funded, and even exported a distorted view of Christianity that denies the central tenet of our faith. And it must stop. We must stop it.
Our faith rests on the belief that God loves humanity so very much that God became human. And the incarnation did not end with Jesus’ death on the cross. We proclaim a resurrected Jesus, a living faith. And if we Christians believe that, if we believe that Jesus is alive among and in us who are the body of Christ, then we must live as the body of Christ. That is the reality of the incarnation.
God took on a human body, a body that included sexuality, for sexuality is at the very core of what it means to be human.
From the moment we are born until the moment we die, we are sexual beings. When we try to separate sexuality and our Christian faith, we deny that Jesus was just as human as we are, and we deny the reality of the incarnation.
Hear Jesus’ words: “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” And, “Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me” (Matthew 25:40, 45).
We must speak out when twisted versions of our faith are used to justify laws that promote violence, discrimination, and misogyny based on our misunderstanding and fear of human sexuality. Whatever we do to each other, we do to Jesus, so we must not be afraid to say boldly, “This is not what it means to be a Christian.”
Being a Christian does not mean funding homophobic leaders and laws that lead to the death of our siblings around the world.
You may NOT claim that your Christian faith calls you to imprison people because they are lesbian or gay. You may NOT claim that your Christian faith calls you to support the criminalization of speaking positively about homosexuality. You may NOT claim that. It is a lie.
Being a Christian does not mean claiming that “religious freedom“ is violated when businesses and employees are required to comply with anti-discrimination laws. You may NOT claim that your Christian faith calls you to refuse service to a lesbian or a gay man, any more than you may claim that your Christian faith calls you to refuse service to an African American woman or a Jewish man.
You may NOT claim that your Christian faith calls you to discriminate. It is a lie.
Being a Christian does not mean claiming that your religious freedom is violated because you must provide insurance that includes basic health care for women. You may NOT claim that your Christian faith calls you to deny access to birth control for others. You may NOT claim that your Christian faith gives you the right to tell your employees what choices they may make about their healthcare. You may NOT claim that your Christian faith calls you to label women who want to enjoy their sexuality as sluts or worse. You may NOT claim that. It is a lie.
Those of us who know a different way of being Christian are culpable in the promulgation of hate in the name of Jesus. We, and I will confess here, I, have allowed our voices to be co-opted by voices of hate. I have overlooked and ignored my fellow children of God who are far from me in distance or class. I have worried that my words will be hard to hear. I have worried that I will offend. I have worried that my words will be ignored because I identify as queer. I have enjoyed the privilege of living in a place and with the means to be largely insulated from the effects of discrimination. I have, in many cases, been silent. I have been politic.
And while I have been silent, my siblings in Uganda, Nigeria, and Russia are being imprisoned and killed.
While I have been silent, the names of 200 ‘homosexuals’ have been published in Ugandan tabloids. While I have been politic, queer teenagers around the country are hearing that they are not worthy to be served by local businesses. They are hearing sermons that call them abominations. And they are killing themselves. While I have been silent, women’s sexuality is being debated, discussed, and exploited by others. Women are hearing that their sexuality is not their own, but that it belongs in the realm of advertising or politics.
I cannot be silent any longer. I am speaking out. My Christian faith demands it.