There’s a very peculiar man on the UChicago campus nowadays, holding up signs of controversial Christian messages. I approached him today with camera and notebook ready, and asked him a few questions.
First, it was apparent that his English was suffering quite a bit, as he was quite eager to ask me to proofread his signs to make sure they were grammatically correct. In fact, they all looked okay, and I soon found out that he was from Germany. My desperate attempt to speak German failed spectacularly, but he switched over to some phrases in Mandarin Chinese after finding out I was indeed Chinese and not Korean. With his barely comprehensible Chinese, he spoke in such an accented way that I had to pause to figure out what he was saying. At one point, he asked me “do you know Jesus?” in Mandarin Chinese, after which I responded “I’ve heard of such a person…” in Chinese, but I don’t think he quite understood. He promised me that a couple years from now, he would be traveling to China and Hong Kong spreading the good news.
In any case, his central message, of course, is that he himself is “completely sure” that “Jesus is alive”. He is quite disappointed that approximately 90% of people who worship on Sunday stop worshiping on other days, and this rejection of Jesus in their everyday lives leads to disastrous consequences.
When I asked him about the deeper philosophical meaning of his signs, he simply noted that homosexuality is not natural and, in the Old Testament, God killed homosexuals. I asked him whether he thought homosexuality could be “cured,” but he didn’t understand what the word “cured” meant. I emphasized that one goes to the doctor to cure an illness, and he nodded, exclaiming, “Yes, Jesus is a doctor… Jesus is a doctor…”
We welcome this German guest to our beautiful campus. Though his message was hateful and ignorant, it never hurts to reach out a hand.
There are people who merely have bigoted views, and there are people who go out of their way to spread their bigoted views “What Would You Do” style.
Of the latter group, I can’t guarantee that they’ll be religious, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t inspired by Cosmos or The God Delusion. Consider two recent cases.
Taylor Campione and Kelsi Culpepper were watching a Twins game in Minneapolis’ Target Stadium. Then the following happened.
Culpepper stopped to go to the restroom and gave Campione a little kiss. Then, Culpepper said a security guard came up to her.
“I saw you kissing that girl, you can’t do that,” the guard said.
Campione told the guard, she could kiss whoever she wanted to, the guard allegedly replied, “Well, we don’t play grab a** here.”
Campione told Culpepper, who then confronted the guard and said, “I don’t understand what’s wrong with kissing my girlfriend.”
They said the guard replied, “Well here in the stadium, we adhere to the 10 Commandments.“
Another similar incident happened at a public pool in Kentucky, when two gay men just wanted to swim.
… they were at first ridiculed then told to leave by the staff at the Pavilion, a public swimming pool funded by tax dollars.
When pressed for a reason for barring them from using the pool, the two men were told that the Bible justified banning gays from sharing public pools.
“My staff asked the Pavilion staff why the men were being asked to leave, and they were informed that ‘gay people’ weren’t allowed to swim here,” Perkins said.
When the pool employee was informed that what he was doing was discrimination and was illegal, he responded that ordering the two men to leave was in the Bible, and so he could do it.
I guess it isn’t too surprising that What Would You Do is so politically correct that they won’t have their actors actually act like typical gay-bashers and refer to the Bible. We as a society only address the symptoms and not the root of the problem.
We are all shocked and saddened by the death of David Kato, a marked gay rights activist in Uganda who bravely fought for change in a country where homosexuality is officially illegal. Lately, there have been many questions about the influence of U.S. evangelicals like Rick Warren and Scott Lively in Uganda, all of whom have had deep and long friendships with prominent local religious leaders and government officials.
What we absolutely don’t need now is more religious rationalization and apology for the explosion of ignorance and hate in arguably the most Christian country in Africa. As I’ve written about before, religious moral arguments aren’t arguments because they have often have nothing to do with the reality of the objective world. Turning to the Bible or any other religious text for guidance on moral issues at a time like this is as useless as Sarah Palin’s foreign policy advice.
In fact, I don’t actually think that someone like Scott Lively, who actually organized a conference in Uganda to oppose homosexuality, added that much fuel to an already burning fire. What I want to point out, however, is irony of his position: Lively might have thought he was washing the people of Uganda with the blood of Jesus, but who thought that he might soon do it with the blood of actual people?
You see, the only source of inspiration I can find in this mess is never covered in the media and always ignored by the religious. I’m talking about the secular community of Uganda, which is a very real thing, and a thing that shouldn’t be ignored. After all we’ve seen on the news, shouldn’t we at least listen to what they have to say?
As a tribute to the community and as something to remember Kato by, I’ll post some of the official core beliefs and goals found on the website of the Uganda Humanist Association.
We believe in human rights for all people including the despised minorities.
We believe in the right of human beings to make individual choices as they determine the course of their lives.
To oppose religious, racial and ethnic fanaticism and fundamentalism.
To educate people about humanism as a free, rational, humane, skeptical/scientific, liberal and democratic life stance and approach to human life challenges.
To carry out projects that promote social welfare and environmental concern.
To building a non- superstitious, rational and scientifically minded society in Uganda.
To promoting unity and tolerance among people.
To instil a culture of human rights concern and activism.
To build confidence in our fellow Ugandans to live the one life they have, purposely and with dignity.
If every Ugandan could hear these simple words, I’m sure they’ll be more beautiful than anything they’ve heard from their pastors lately. That’ll be the inspirational material for the day.
Let us remember that we can always rebuild and change societies. One person. One idea. One day at a time.