American pastor David Dykes was just in Uganda to urge passage of a new law in that country designed to suppress homosexuality. Homosexual acts are already punishable in Uganda by jail terms of up to 14 years, but this new measure would allow the imposition of life sentences. (An earlier draft would have subjected gays to the death penalty.) The measure would also vastly enlarge the range of prohibited acts, making it a crime to “promote” gay rights, to “fund or sponsor homosexuality” or to “abet” homosexuality. Moreover, if this bill becomes law, any Ugandan who becomes aware of a homosexual act being committed, or aware that a particular person is homosexual, is obliged to so inform the police within 24 hours or be liable to a fine or imprisonment.
This measure has been denounced as barbarous throughout the civilized world by governments, the media, human rights organizations and churches. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have expressed American opposition to it. So why is an American pastor in Uganda urging the locals to “stand strong” against this international outcry?
David Dykes is not some backwoods tent revivalist. He is pastor of the 14,000-member Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, which the Southern Baptist Conference has called “one of the leading churches in America.” In 2008, Pastor Dykes delivered the opening prayer before the U.S. Congress.
That such a prominent U.S. clergyman should support such an oppressive law is deeply troubling. Even more troubling is the argument he made in Uganda to justify his position. Speaking on Ugandan television, Dykes said, in essence, that it’s them or us: If homosexuality is not suppressed by Christians, Christianity will be suppressed by homosexuals.
To make his point, Dykes claimed that Christians in the developed world are even now being harassed for condemning homosexuality. “Already in Canada,” said Dykes, “there have been pastors who have been arrested for simply saying from their pulpit that a union between two men or two women is an abomination in the sight of God. A Canadian pastor was arrested for that. But there’s also maybe a law soon that says we could be arrested if we say anything bad about gay marriage or about homosexual behavior. It would fall under the category in America of ‘Hate Crimes.’”
Dykes’ claim that Americans might soon be arrested for speaking out against homosexuality is absurd on its face. Has the good pastor never heard of the First Amendment? But what about that alleged arrest in Canada? The story seemed so far-fetched that I did an Internet search to see if I could find anything about it. In short order, I managed to track down the episode to which Pastor Dykes apparently alluded, and what actually happened was, to put it mildly, wholly inconsistent with his account of it.
No Canadian pastor was arrested for saying anything about homosexuality “from their pulpit” or, in fact, from anywhere else. What happened was this: A Toronto preacher named David Lynn set up a microphone along the route of the city’s gay pride celebrations and began preaching a sermon on Christianity—a sermon that made no mention of a union between two men or two women being an abomination in the sight of God. Nevertheless (as Lynn must certainly have anticipated since he took care to have his evangelism videotaped), his mere presence was seen by local gays and lesbians as deliberately provocative, and they responded with abuse. As the confrontation became heated, the police arrived. First, they ordered Lynn to turn off his microphone, for which he had no permit, and next they escorted him from the scene for blocking the sidewalk. I was able to find no evidence that Lynn was arrested.
Predictably, Lynn is now claiming that he was “persecuted” by the authorities for attempting to preach Christianity—a motif that his American counterpart, Dykes, repeated when he gave his own distorted version of the event on Ugandan television. Does anyone see a pattern here?
Christian rightists are trying to claim that they are the new victims—that they are being “persecuted” for affirming the traditional Biblical view of homosexuality. How they can see themselves as victims when they are trying to deprive homosexuals in Uganda of basic civil rights and put them in jail for life must seem understandably baffling to anyone who doesn’t share their perverse moral squint.
Indeed, the Ugandan law was largely instigated by missionaries sent by fundamentalist churches like Green Acres Baptist. And these “Jesus loves you” folks seem to have had not the slightest qualm about the death penalty demanded by the original draft.
The question must be asked: Who will convert these Christians?
Hal Gordon, who wrote speeches for the Reagan White House and Gen. Colin Powell, is currently a freelance speechwriter in Houston. Web site: www.ringingwords.com.