“Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”
There are two billion Christians in the world – significantly more than any other religion.
It’s no coincidence: Christianity has been a missionary religion from day one.
Jesus’s disciples were missionaries. The life’s work of St. Paul was to make Christianity palatable to Romans so he could begin converting them.
After the Roman Empire became Christian, monks from newly founded holy orders traveled to ends of the known world to turn more souls. Augustine of Canterbury helped Christianize England, St Patrick evangelized Ireland, and brave Cistercian monks converted most of the Germanic peoples of northern Europe.
Christopher Columbus wasn’t looking to poison or slaughter the Native Americans. A primary goal of his exploration was to spread the word of Jesus. Thanks to Columbus (and the Franciscan, Dominican, and Jesuit monks that followed him), Latin America is the most uniformly Christian region on earth.
Intrepid missionaries have preached and proselytized in every corner of the world. Thanks to their work, far flung countries like Philippines and South Korea have large Christian populations.
When I think of missionaries, I picture brave holy people who selflessly work to make the world a smaller, better, more peaceful place. “God Loves Uganda” has a different take.
The documentary begins in Kansas City, Missouri at the IHOP. The International House of Prayer. It sounds like a joke, but it is a large missionary organization.
Since dictator Idi Amin’s death in 1979, Conservative Evangelicals have had their sights set on Uganda. According to IHOP leadership, they are focused on Uganda because it is the Pearl of Africa. According to documentarian Roger Ross Williams, the Christian Conservatives have a diabolical plan to run a weak African country in the way they wish they could run the United States.
Once the country became mostly Christian in the early 2000s, the Evangelicals put their grand scheme into action. First, they withheld aid money until HIV prevention education stopped mentioning condoms and only espoused abstinence.
Then, the missionaries focused their energy on enacting anti-gay legislation that would never fly back home.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the draconian 2009 Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act that punishes gay sex with life in prison and punishes “repeat offenders” with the death penalty. It seems logical at first to chalk this up to old-fashioned African machismo gone wild.
Not so fast, says Williams. He shows a clip of Abiding Truth Ministries missionary Scott Lively addressing Uganda’s Parliament on the extreme dangers of the gay agenda. Soon afterwards, the bill was introduced.
Back home, Lively is rightly dismissed as an extremist kook. In Uganda, the film argues, he is mistaken for a sociology expert and a religious authority. It sounds like a pretty insulting and vaguely racist conclusion to draw. Williams makes it sound like I could fly into Kampala tomorrow and immediately influence the country’s legislative agenda simply because I’m white.
Liberal viewers will probably find “God Loves Uganda” convincing and damning. Christian viewers will view the film with more skepticism. All I know is: next time I see a friendly young missionary heading overseas, I’ll wonder what the leaders of his church are really up to.