Rod Dreher over at the crunchy-con blog has directed his readers toward an article by Philip Jenkins about African Christian opposition to Homosexuality. The Ugandan Martyrs included both Roman Catholic and Anglican Christians and are commemorated in both communions.
Philip Jenkins has a great piece up on The New Republic site explaining why homosexuality is such a big deal for African Christians, especially Nigeria’s Anglicans. I knew that it was vitally important in Christianity’s rivalry with Islam, as Jenkins explains. But I had no idea about this:
The Muslim context helps explain the sensitivity of gay issues in one other key respect. In the region later known as Uganda, Christianity first arrived in the 1870s, when the area was already under Muslim influence and a hunting ground for Arab slave-raiders. The king of Buganda had adopted Arab customs of pederasty, and he expected the young men of his court to submit to his demands. But a growing number of Christian courtiers and pages refused to participate, despite his threats, and an enraged king launched a persecution that resulted in hundreds of martyrdoms: On a single day, some 30 Bugandans were burned alive. Yet the area’s churches flourished, and, eventually, the British expelled the Arab slavers. That foundation story remains well-known in the region, and it intertwines Christianity with resistance to tyranny and Muslim imperialism–both symbolized by sexual deviance. Reinforcing such memories are more recent experiences with Muslim tyrants, such as Idi Amin, whose victims included the head of his country’s Anglican Church. For many Africans, then, sexual unorthodoxy has implications that are at once un-Christian, anti-national, and oppressive.
Then it occurred to me: he’s talking about St. Charles Lwanga and the Ugandan martyrs, Catholics who died for the faith at the hands of a pederast king. It is encouraging to see that today, in the modern West, we have Christian leaders who, in the tradition of those faithful Catholic martyrs of Uganda, are willing to give their lives to be witness to the Gospel. Oh, wait…
You can read about the Martyrs of Uganda, who we celebrate on June 3rd, here.
Update: Terry Mattingly over at GetReligion.org has posted a bit about Jenkins’ article:
The byline was at the end of the piece and, thus, I was well into reading it before I said to myself, “Wait a minute. This writer has the ability to stay calm about a subject that is driving almost everyone else into journalistic craziness. Who is this guy?” I also wondered what the piece was doing in The New Republic, only that wouldn’t really be a fair statement since the magazines runs a wide variety of excellent work on religious topics.
The goal is to try to understand why African Anglicans say the things they say, while defending centuries of Christian tradition about sexual morality. Here is one of the long, logical passages that caught my attention:
HT to Patrick Allen