Monday, June 14, 2010

Diana Butler Bass on Continued Attempt of U.S. Religious Right to Use African Christians in American Culture Wars

Huffington Post recently carried a fine article by Diana Butler Bass, author of A People's History of Christianity (NY: Harper, 2009).  It's about a topic re: which I've blogged repeatedly in the past: the misreading of African versions of Christianity by Western Christians intent on using Africans and the churches of Africa as pawns in lethal culture-war games in the West.

As Bass notes, a Pew Survey report released in April shows much greater diversity and complexity in the views of both Christians and Muslims in Africa than the American religious right--which wants to use African religion to undercut women's liberation and gay liberation movements in Western churches--grants.  Bass states,

Africa is becoming Stage Two of the American political and religious culture wars, a theater for religious imperialists to accomplish overseas what cannot be accomplished at home -- like denying women ordination to ministry and putting LGBT people back in closets. For the last two decades, right-wing Christians have been tromping all over Africa trying to appropriate native African experiential faith for their western theological agenda --making Africa a wedge issue -- and African Christians spiritual pawns -- in their seemingly endless quest to grasp theological power.

Africans leaders, however, keep rising above the imperialist crusade. One such leader is Desmond Tutu, whose powerful vision of a loving God commands authority across the globe. This week, another such church leader spoke voice in Washington, DC. Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, retired Anglican Bishop of West Buganda in Uganda, offered his thoughts on the anti-homosexuality bill now making its way through the Ugandan parliament.

I recommend Bass's article to readers.  The battle continues: on the same day that Huffington Post published this piece, the influential right-wing group Institute on Religion and Democracy, founded with the intent of blocking the social teachings of mainline Protestant churches, posted to its website a "Current Hot Issues" article stating that "liberal Episcopalians want the U.S. to punish Africa for not accepting homosexuality.

The IRD article accuses "liberal Episcopalians" of being cultural imperialists.  But the article completely ignores the testimony of Desmond Tutu, and it characterizes Bishop Senyonjo (insultingly) of being a pawn of the openly gay American Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson!

It's as if Tutu, Senyonjo, Kapya Kaoma (and here), and countless other Africans who don't fit into the neat little box designed for them by the American religious right just don't exist.  If that's not imperialism--and of the grossest sort--then I don't know what imperialism is.