God Loves Uganda
Director: Roger Ross Williams
2013 • USA
I want to hit something. Seriously, this film made me so mad that this was my first thought as I was exiting the theater. I couldn’t get the film out of my head during the next screening, and it’s all I can think about while staring at a blank screen trying to figure out what to say without dissolving into a stream of profanity.
I suppose I can begin with a summary. God Loves Uganda is a documentary that follows evangelical Christians on a mission to Uganda to preach their version of the gospel. The International House of Prayer (really) in Kansas City, MO is a Pentacostal super church, complete with members who speak in tongues who have made it their mission to “spread the word” to countries all over the world, especially in Africa and Uganda in particular. After the ouster of Idi Amin, Uganda’s citizens had freedoms that many had never experienced before, and as they struggled to define themselves, this became a prime opportunity to bring Christianity to them. At this point, Uganda is 81% Christian, and 12% Muslim.
“They are actively recruiting your children. Don’t let that happen here.”
50% of the population of Uganda are under the age of 15, poor and impressionable. When a group of energetic young, white missionaries come to talk to them about how a strong belief in God will save them, it’s not a tough sell. The power of the Christian majority in Uganda is enormous, as evidenced by the excommunication of two clergymen interviewed for the film. One is an Episcopalian priest from Uganda now living in Boston who was driven out for daring to question the teaching of the church and is not able to safely return because of death threats. Another still lives in Uganda and continues his mission to promote tolerance despite ostracism and physical threat. (He won a 2012 Clinton Global Citizen award for his work promoting human rights)
Thanks in large part to the Christian agenda, Uganda is a country where homosexuals are beaten, or worse. Town hall meetings are led by church pastors, (who live like kings, by the way) whipping hundreds of followers into a frenzy about the evils of homosexuality. They include slide shows containing photos of extreme fetishism, purporting this to be the homosexual lifestyle. Not only is this behavior encouraged by the American Christians, but once an anti-homosexual agenda was adopted, church donations from America tripled.
Director Roger Ross Williams, who makes his directorial debut with God Loves Uganda, had amazing access inside the evangelical movement in both the United States and Uganda, and allows the footage and interviewees to speak for themselves. And what becomes painfully obvious (and to me, frustrating) is that in the name of God, these missionaries are advocating violence, hatred and intolerance. Not to mention the fact that they are killing people by working with the Bush administration beginning in 2003 to pull funding unless the safe sex campaign to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS was abolished and the ridiculous “abstinence only” movement was adopted. I don’t think I have to mention how that’s been going, but here’s a hint: HIV/AIDS cases are increasing since 2003.
God Loves Uganda is an excellent documentary, but boy did it get my Irish up. The irresponsibility and arrogance of these so-called missionaries makes me sick, but actually this is a good thing because the next thing I want to do is see what I can do to help. It’s not an easy film to sit through, but I think it’s really important for people to see the shameful things “Prayer Warriors in God’s Army” do in the name of God.