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The Ugandan Parliament's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill has brought to light issues between American and Ugandan Christian leaders—issues that go well beyond homosexuality.

For decades, both missiologists and human-rights advocates have debated the best way for Western democracies (and their churches) to relate to emerging democracies. Missions scholars have recognized that well-established churches now exist where there were once only pioneer missions, and they have sought ways to support those churches without reopening wounds from the colonial period.

Some human-rights theorists challenge the idea that all governments everywhere should protect a specific list of individual rights. It is not just individuals who possess rights, they say, but also cultural groups. Unfortunately, the result has been less pressure to abolish practices that most Westerners consider wrong and repugnant (e.g., female genital cutting).

Now Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill has put Western Christian leaders in a bind:

(1) The leaders' commitment to human rights (based on the Golden Rule and the image of God) leads them to oppose harsh penalties for consensual adult homosexual activity; (2) their belief in the traditional family leads them to support Ugandan Christian resistance to sexual liberation movements imported from the United States and Europe; (3) their belief that churches need to minister to homosexuals leads them to oppose legal penalties for those who don't report homosexual activity; (4) their belief that the fight against HIV/AIDS requires confidential testing leads them to oppose laws that could expose HIV-positive people to harsh penalties; (5) their belief in the ability of African churches to make mature decisions ...

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In the Magazine

February 2010

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