The documentary God Loves Uganda begins innocently enough, outlining evangelical outreach efforts by the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer (yes, they refer to it as IHOP) to Uganda.
By the end, however, the mega-church’s effort is exposed for its true ulterior motive: to stamp out homosexuality in this African country.
The filmmakers were afforded inside access to and interviews with the missionaries of the Christian Right, who probably didn’t know at the time what the angle of the documentary would be. And in a surprisingly even-handed way for a film directed by a gay black man (Roger Ross Williams), whose agenda was clearly to expose such bigotry, the views of the religious group are given plenty of airtime.
Fundamentalist church leaders are pictured describing their honest, passionate belief in biblical law, and they initially portray their missionary trips as being in the typical spirit of saving additional souls. But before long, it becomes clear that the IHOP devotees view Uganda as ground zero in the battle against “sexual immorality,” and they are shown preaching fire and brimstone about the evils of homosexuality — even at one point showing a graphic film clip of an oral sex act to a group of Africans simply for its shock value.
The award-winning film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013, also features testimony from defenders of homosexual rights, including an Anglican priest who fled the country when his safety was threatened while investigating inhumane treatment of LGBT people, as well as a bishop who had his titles revoked by the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda because of his LGBT rights activism.
While one side preaches abstinence, the other distributes condoms, and the political winds blowing in the U.S. even play a role in the dynamics: Former President George W. Bush’s administration refused to fund AIDS prevention campaigns unless they focused solely on abstinence.
The religious right’s fervent anti-gay activism culminates in the introduction of a bill making homosexuality punishable by death. As the discussion about the morals of homosexuality grows into a national furor, a Ugandan gay activist is murdered, becoming a martyr.
It’s powerful film that sheds bright light on the lengths to which some American fundamentalists
will go to export their brand of morality to Third World countries.