Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ssempa Fideles

As if Rick Warren weren't objectionable enough for his famous slippery bigotry, Max Blumenthal writing for Smirking Chimp has much, much worse news:

While Pastor Warren has been active in AIDS programs in Africa, his main focus has been on preventing not AIDS but condom distribution, and persecuting homosexuals through the paranoiac homophobic Ugandan reverend, Martin Ssempa:

"Warren's man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country's first lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa's stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them."

Ssempa has said he is afraid of homosexuals, although he hasn't had to flee his house and go into hiding, unlike his victims. He bravely marched into Kampala University, confronted a giant condom-wearing effigy used to promote AIDS prevention, and defeated it, stripping it of its protective sheath (there's the illustration I should have done. Maybe tomorrow).

He also thinks there is a secret witches' coven that convenes under Lake Victoria.

Anyone who was ever impressed by Tom Lantos, the member of Congress who survived the Holocaust, will stay impressed with him as he fought these vicious fearful lunatics even as he was dying of cancer:

"Troubled by what he was witnessing in Africa, the late Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., led the new Democratic-controlled Congress to reform PEPFAR during a reauthorization process in February 2008. Lantos insisted that Congress lift the abstinence-only earmark imposed by Republicans in 2002 and begin to fund family-planning elements like free condom distribution. His maneuver infuriated Warren, who immediately boarded a plane for Washington to join Christian Right leaders, including born-again former Watergate felon Chuck Colson, for an emergency press conference on the Capitol lawn. In his speech, Warren claimed that Lantos' bill would spawn an increase in the sex trafficking of young women. The bill died and PEPFAR was reauthorized in its flawed form. (Days later, Lantos died of cancer after serving for 27 years in Congress.)"

Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is "resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred."

As weird and disheartening as this news ought to be, I find a slender ray of hope in it: perhaps in drawing Warren into the Obama administration's influence, Obama might persuade Warren to part with or lean on Ssempa, to moderate the attacks on Ugandan homosexuals and bring back accurate health information to Uganda.

The struggle for equal rights, the persuit of happiness, of homosexuals in America is possibly the last great American civil-rights frontier. But here is a behind-the-scenes struggle that might be affected positively by the choice of this puffed-up celebrity preacher to drip a few oily words on an audience that I hope will be flying thousands of rainbow flags.


  1. I'm hatin' on all thos repressed people who hate homosexuals. We'd all be much happier if they left their religion in the stone age and if they all came out of their closets.

  2. That's ridiculous, and very scary. On a continent where HIV/AIDS is decimating the population, the last thing the people can afford is misinformation at the hands of religious wing-nuts (and who knew there were religious wing-nuts in Africa!!. . .*sigh* Just when I thought I needed a reason to think poorly about religion). The fact that Warren actually tried to promote himself as someone who fights against AIDS just makes me that much more disgusted.

  3. You are an extremely talented artist, Mrs. P!

    Wow, this is a disheartening revelation. Like George Bush, Warren gets a lot of credit for fighting AIDS, and yet it appears he and Bush share an inclination to fight it with one hand tied behind their backs due to ignorance and superstition.

    WTF is up with evangelical African witch hunters and American political figures anyway? First we had Palin's loony Wasilla witch-buster, and now this dude. Can't the ally themselves with someone less...crazy?

  4. Just as Christianity absorbed local gods and feast days as it crept through Europe, giving us Halloween for example, so I'd imagine have churches exploited local beliefs about witches and evil spirits. And when two religions meet, they can either duke it out, or one can eat the other, but what does NOT happen is one looking at the other and saying,"--well, that seems a little extreme..."

    Not the one that wins, anyway. You don't get to be holier-than-thou by NOT driving that purported witch out of town.

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