Blog Theme: Civil Rights and Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill – Interview with Jeff Sharlet

Interview with author Jeff Sharlet

In this interview, we discuss our shared recollections of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009, the Netflix documentary The Family, liberty of conscience, and evangelicals in relationship to Donald Trump.

This is second in a series of interviews marking 15 years of blogging. I started blogging in July 2005. The first interview with Michael Coulter is here.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009

On March 2, 2009 I posted a article about an ex-gay conference in Kampala, Uganda. Three Americans, Scott Lively, Don Schmierer, and Caleb Brundidge, had been invited by Stephen Langa of the Family Life Network to speak on the topic of homosexuality. Scott Lively told the crowd that gays were behind the Nazi takeover of Germany and subsequent Holocaust. Don Schmierer told them that homosexuals were disturbed by poor parenting and that they needed therapy, and Caleb Brundidge, a client of reparative therapist Richard Cohen was there to show that the ex-gay therapy worked.

That was the first of hundreds of articles about Uganda and the effort of that nation’s Parliament to make homosexuality a capital offense (The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009). I don’t think it is too far fetched to say that Box Turtle Bulletin and this blog became key thorns in the side of Ugandan and American proponents of the bill. Jim Burroway and I (incidentally both originally from Portsmouth, OH) wrote nearly every day about some aspect of the bill and kept the story alive.

Because of my strong opposition to the bill and the kindness of Bob Hunter (as well as other Fellowship members), I attended the National Prayer Breakfast in 2010. There, I interviewed Fellowship Foundation leader Doug Coe. That was one of a handful of interviews he granted over the course of his life. A summary of it was published in Christianity Today later that year. Coe put the Fellowship on record as opposing the bill in Uganda.

When the Ugandan members of the Prayer Breakfast movement learned of American opposition, they felt betrayed by Coe and the Americans. They persisted with their efforts to pass the bill. As Jeff and I discuss in the interview above, the Ugandan members seemed to believe American evangelicals were afraid to really speak their minds. The Ugandan proponents of the bill seemed convinced that American Christians really supported their efforts, and it was their Christian duty to set a tone the world could follow.

Through years of parliamentary maneuvering, the bill moved and then stalled. Sessions ended without action, but finally it passed at the end of 2013 session. The President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni proclaimed that he would not sign the bill if scientists could convince him that being gay was innate. He claimed to want to know if being gay was a choice.

At that point, at the request of others lobbying against the bill, Jack Drescher and I wrote a letter summarizing the research on sexual orientation in layman’s terms. The letter was signed by over 200 scholars and researchers from all over the world. Museveni acknowledge the effort but also convened his own panel of “experts.” They returned a letter which allowed him to sign the bill.

In August 2014, the bill was struck down as unconstitutional by Uganda’s Constitutional court due to the fact that the Parliament did not have a quorum in place when the bill was passed. A five year story of ups and downs came to an end with that decision.

Jeff Sharlet

Jeff and I became friends as we compared notes over what American interests and influences might be at work in this Ugandan mess. As I noted in the interview, he went to Uganda on one occasion (I think he asked me to go along but I can’t be sure of my recollection on that). His report of that trip was a lengthy write up in Harper’s.

In the interview, we discussed the background of the Netflix documentary, The Family. I had the good fortune to be included in three of the five episodes of that series.

Jeff has an inspiring sense of fairness and is a captivating writer. I don’t know of anyone outside of Uganda who worked harder to expose the truth relating to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill than Jeff. I am grateful and humbled by the kind and overly generous remarks from him in this interview. Thanks to Jeff for doing it. I hope you benefit from our discussion as much as I did.

Additional Reading

Scientific Consensus Statement

History of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill – NPR

My Salon series about a Nevada church who dropped support of a Uganda missionary over the bill

Straight Man’s Burden – Harpers

The Bill Inspired by American Evangelicals – The Atlantic

All of my posts about Uganda

All of my post about the Fellowship Foundation (aka The Family) and the National Prayer Breakfast

All 15 Years of Blogging Interviews

 

Image: Jeff Sharlet’s Twitter Page

Local Man Survives Shopping Trip While Wearing Mask

Local Man Survives Shopping Trip While Wearing Mask

GROVE CITY, PA – A local man went shopping for groceries late Wednesday night while wearing a cloth face covering in response to COVID-19 regulations. With his mask on, Warren Throckmorton, a professor at Grove City College, was able to secure numerous items during the 35 minute excursion without injuring his health.

“I know it might surprise some people, but I didn’t lose consciousness even once. My heart rate went up a little in the hot sauce section, but I think that was because of the great selection,” Throckmorton said.

Many shoppers in the local County Market were not wearing masks observed Throckmorton.

“From what Facebook says, I bet they were afraid they would pass out.”

Throckmorton said he was even able to engage in one of his favorite shopping activities with his mask on: Grooving to the background music.

“The store plays some really good tunes. I like to groove while I shop.”

When asked if he planned to try wearing the mask again for other activities, Throckmorton said, “Now that I know I won’t die from wearing a mask, the sky’s the limit.”

VIDEO EXTRA

Throckmorton demonstrates for the skeptical reader just how he was able to shop while wearing his mask without having a major health catastrophe.

The entire trip was uneventful except for the many people who were not wearing masks. We wear masks to protect others in the event we have COVID-19 and don’t know it. If everybody wears a mask, the spread can be slowed.

V.P. Pence’s Visit to First Baptist Church in Dallas: How Not to Do Church During a Pandemic

Buzzfeed News is reporting this morning what I wanted to report last week but couldn’t verify: Prior to V.P. Mike Pence’s visit to First Baptist Church in Dallas on Sunday, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 among the church’s orchestra and choir. I had heard this from two twitter accounts but could not get primary source verification, so I didn’t run with it.

Buzzfeed reporters were able to get that confirmation and went with the story today. The video of the event shows that the choir was singing and the orchestra was playing without masks. The congregation was close together and the only real precautions were taken by Pence. You don’t need to watch the whole video to see what I mean:

 

Texas is experiencing a scary surge in cases and V. P. Pence should have shown leadership by canceling his appearance and urging Robert Jeffress to hold an online event. Just last week, in neighboring Arkansas, fellow evangelical Governor Asa Hutchinson told the public that the churches who are not experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks are the ones using masks and social distancing. He identified by name nine churches on a naughty list of churches which had not been following guidelines and thus experiencing more cases of COVID-19.

Jeffress’ church was a clinic in how not to do things. Singing and playing wind instruments are effective ways of spreading a virus. The congregation was not spaced properly and it appears not all were wearing masks. Given that some of the orchestra members have been infected (although none of those members were there), it is possible that some of the orchestra members playing that Sunday had been exposed in prior rehearsals.

While it appears that most church leaders are trying to take COVID-19 seriously, I don’t see how it helps to have so-called leaders disregard best practices. I have been tracking church outbreaks for just over a month and it is starting to get a little hard to keep up with. I count 48 churches as of this writing. As the pandemic enlarges in the U.S., it may be difficult to keep a complate count.

In any case, having church as normal can be a super spreading event and leaders need to heed best practices while still caring for their flocks.

Blog Theme: Getting History Right – Interview with Michael Coulter

Fact checking David Barton was not my first history rodeo. With the help of then Grove City College history professor J.D. Wyneken, I fact checked anti-gay crusader Scott Lively’s book The Pink Swastika in June of 2009. Lively made an outrageous case that Hitler’s Nazi project was animated by homosexuals and that the Holocaust was carried out by gay thugs. His opposition to gay rights, he preached, was to keep gays from doing the same things to other nations.

I learned a lot by deeply researching Lively’s claims. I saw how primary sources could be used selectively to distort a narrative and how speculation could be mixed with fact to create a plausible sounding but false picture. This awareness came in handy when, in 2011, I started to look into Barton’s claims about the American founding.

When David Barton’s book The Jefferson Lies was pulled from publication, he solicited moral support from Scott Lively in a Wallbuilders Live broadcast. Lively’s message essentially was: I know how you feel, he did the same thing to me.

It seems right that I fact checked both Lively and Barton. Lively had gone to Uganda with his historical fiction to agitate the Uganda Parliament into crafting law which made homosexuality a capital offense. An interpretation of the Bible was used as a justification. A religious view was used as a basis for civil law. On that issue, one church teaching was about to become the state policy.

Confronted with the reality that evangelical Christians were behind the bill in Uganda, I searched for the influences on them. There were many and we will hear from Jeff Sharlet next week who will help us remember the influence of the Fellowship Foundation. Extending beyond the Fellowship was the notion that civil policy should reflect Christianity because that is the proper basis for law in a Christian nation. Ugandan legislators saw themselves as lawmakers in a Christian nation.

But who in the U.S. was behind the idea that church and state is not separate? All roads led me back to David Barton.  At that point, I started to check out the fact claims that Barton said led him to question church-state separation. The rest, as they say, is history.

Part of that history involved writing the book Getting Jefferson Right: Fact Check Claim about Our Third President My co-author on that project is Michael Coulter. Michael is a professor of political science and humanities at Grove City College and a good friend. As we discuss in the interview below, I requested a pre-publication copy of The Jefferson Lies in February 2012. Somewhere in our McDonalds discussions, I asked Michael to join me as co-author and we had the ebook ready to go by May 1. A paperback followed in July and by August, The Jefferson Lies had been pulled from publication by Thomas Nelson.

In this interview, we discuss more about Getting Jefferson Right, but also get into why people would rather believe fiction over truth, the requirement of honesty from scholars, and how Christian nationalism influences attitudes towards political matters today. I hope you profit from it.

View all 15 Years of Blogging Interviews

Happy Blog Anniversary to Me #15

Fifteen years ago tomorrow, I started this blog with these words:

This is a test, nothing but a test. A test of your routine blogcasting network.

I didn’t know what I was doing, but with the encouragement of a former pastor Byron Harvey, I launched into the wild world of blogging. I started out on the old Blogspot platform and then moved to WordPress in 2006. I moved from there to Patheos in 2013, just in time to cover the demise of Mars Hill Church and Gospel for Asia. When Patheos decided I was too hot to handle, I moved really quickly back to this independent format on WordPress. Since 2005, I have written 5,010 posts according to WordPress backroom counter.

To celebrate, tomorrow I start a series of blogcast video interviews with people who are associated with topics I have covered over 15 years. I started out writing about sexual orientation therapy and research. Then the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill became a cause and international story in 2009. I started writing about and debunking David Barton’s and other historical claims in 2011. In late 2013, I took up the demise of Mars Hill Church and followed that until it closed in 2014. In 2015, I started writing about Gospel for Asia. Now I write about evangelical misadventures, debunk fake quotes,  and examine a little bit of anything touching on the topics I have covered from the beginning.

I think some readers will be surprised at some of the people I interview, but they all will be worth tuning in to hear. These will be taped, last about an hour and posted about once a week over the next couple of months. Tomorrow I start with an interview of Michael Coulter, my co-author of Getting Jefferson Right.

I am pretty sure there are some readers who have been here since the beginning. In any case, let me know when you started reading and what topic(s) brought/keep you here.

Trump’s Visit to Arizona: COVID Ionization and Irresponsibility

Here we are in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic and Donald Trump is going to have another indoor rally, this time in a church. If you get sick, you can’t blame anybody but yourself. In fact, as with the rally in Tulsa, you have to sign a waiver to get in.

The rally is being held in The Dream Center (a mega church), and is put on by Turning Point USA’s Students for Trump. I wonder if parents have to sign for the minors who attend.

In any case, no one is responsible. Another way of saying it is that many people are irresponsible.

Dream City Church must not be too confident that their new ionization technology to kill all the COVID-19 in the place. Hat tip to the Friendly Atheist for this item. Although the church has since taken down the video, this Twitter user has it:

Earlier today, I wrote the company, CleanAirEXP, and asked for the research backing. I haven’t heard anything yet. The company has tried the technology on a surrogate virus, not COVID-19. Other companies have studied this approach and some use it on airplanes. Limited work has been done on COVID-19 in small spaces. According to a presentation posted just today on YouTube, small spaces can be neutralized, but they did not say if a large church space has been tested with people singing and yelling. The salesman for the technology suggested sneezing or coughing next to a person would allow COVID-19 to spread to people in close proximity.

Whatever the capability in this church, none of the people hosting or running the event want to be responsible for any sickness and death that come from it. I hope it obvious that no one should attend this event, even if you support Trump.

Celebrate Juneteenth 2020

This is a reprint of a post I began in 2018 with an amendment or two.

Happy day to celebrate the end of slavery in the U.S.  Juneteenth is a holiday in 47 states.

Here is a tweet from Jamar Tisby which makes a case for Juneteenth as a national holiday. Whether Juneteenth should be the day or another day should be designated, there should be such a holiday to commemorate the end of slavery.

Photo: Public domain: Source: The Portal to Texas History Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Date: June 19, 1900. Author: Mrs. Charles Stephenson

2020

 

White Privilege is Not a Blessing (Updated with Apology)

In a June 14th videotaped conversation involving music artist Lecrae, pastor Louis Giglio, and Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, Louis Giglio said the following

We understand the curse that was slavery, white people do, and we say that was bad, but we miss the blessing of slavery that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in and lived in. And so a lot of people call this white privilege and when you say those two words, it just is like a fuse goes off for a lot of white people because they don’t want somebody telling them to check their privilege. And so I know that you and I both have struggled in these days with, hey, if the phrase is the trip up, let’s get over the phrase and let’s get down to the heart and let’s get down to what then do you want to call it and I think that a great thing for me is to call it white blessing, that I’m living in the blessing of the curse generationally that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta…

Watch the clip:

For context, here is the entire conversation. It is important to understand that, in the rest of the talk that I listened to, Giglio seems to understand that he is not superior to black people, nor is he condoning slavery. I believe he is very well intentioned. However, he set off a Twitter storm, rightly so in my view, with his privileged spin on white privilege.

I will lead with my reply last night on Twitter:

It isn’t up to Giglio to decide how his privilege is experienced by black people. He doesn’t get to soften it, haggle over it, or make it palatable for himself. I hope someone close to him can help him see how self-centered his framework is. Because he and some white people are triggered by the term “white privilege,” we have to find a softer, more religious sounding term? Sucks to be you black folk, I’m blessed.

Is there a better way to take away the beauty of the word blessing for everybody? Sure, let’s associate blessing with white people dominating black people first through slavery, then through Jim Crow, and then through social structures and white privilege. Being white blessed sounds like God actively gave white people their status. I don’t believe that is what Giglio believes but that is certainly what it sounds like.

No, never. Not at all. White privilege is not a blessing. Not for blacks and not for whites. I have stuggled to see it. Frankly, the more I am aware of it, the more I want to use my strength to end it.

Dear God in heaven, please save us from these conversations. He later in this conversation said that he was open to suggestion. He is now getting a lot of suggestions via social media. I advise Rev. Giglio to talk less and listen more.

UPDATE: Probably everybody saw this coming. Giglio apologized for his words. Watch:

I expected something like this. My advice is still for this gentleman to listen more and talk less.

More on white privilege:

Jordan Peterson and White Privilege

David Barton and White Privilege

More Apparent Plagiarism in Christian Books

Even though publishers infrequently acknowledge plagiarism in their books, some readers want to know which authors borrow from others and which authors do their own work. Hence, I continue to bring plagiarism news to light.

This is an easy post for me to write because I am citing other people. Notice how easy that is. I find material that is informative and I bring to my readers with a citation so everybody knows who did the work. I don’t need to claim it as my own. I point you to the source. That’s how you avoid plagiarism. See, easy.

Only One Life

First, let’s take this Twitter thread from Jill Hicks-Keeton. She demonstrates that the work of Museum of the Bible co-founder Jackie Green and Lauren Green McAfee in their book Only One Life about Rosa Parks is remarkably similar to Joyce Hanson’s biography of Rosa Parks. Hanson’s book came first.

Here are the tweets:

More Tim Clinton

Now comes Dr. Aaron New with yet more material from Tim Clinton. Aaron has a lengthy thread with all of the apparent plagiarism involving Clinton and various co-authors. I will let Aaron explain the recent finds.

If you click through the images, you will see a pull quote from Chris Thurman in The Quick Reference Guide to Biblical Counseling. However, there is nothing in the book that identifies Thurman as the source of the rest of the material highlighted by Aaron. Clinton and Hawkins cite Thurman’s Soul Care Bible article in the recommended resources list but don’t use any quotes to designate the verbatim use of his material.

In the remainder of the thread (go here to read it all, it is very long), you will find numerous instances where material has been taken from Soul Care Bible authors and use without citation in The Quick Reference Guide. Let me show just two more that Aaron provides in his thread:

No quotes are used for Norman Wright’s and Miriam Stark Parent’s words which come verbatim from the Soul Care Bible. In the Loss and Grief chapter of The Quick Reference Guide (the second book), Clinton and Hawkins included a Norman Wright book in their resources but there is no way for the reader to know that much of the chapter was quoted directly from Wright in the Soul Care Bible.

In the case of the material lifted from Miriam Stark Parent’s Soul Care Bible entry on Loneliness and Personal Growth, Clinton and Hawkins give her an unsourced pull quote but that is all. In the recommended resources, Stark Parent doesn’t get a mention. Clinton recommends three of his books, but readers have no way to know that much of the chapter they just read was originally written by Mirian Stark Parent.

To see more posts on citation problems in Tim Clinton’s work, click here. To see more posts about plagiarism and citation errors in general, click this link.

To follow me on Twitter, click here.

Liberty University Basketball Player Asia Todd Decides to Leave the School Over “Racial Insensitivities”

I just saw this a short while ago.

Asia Todd was a high school standout at Clayton (NC) High School and played quality minutes as a Freshman for the Lady Flames this past season. However, she has now decided to transfer and her announcement says it all.

Falwell’s and Board chairman Prevo’s statements are shallow and will probably not suffice to stop the exodus of African American students and staff.