I look forward to serving as the lone respondent to the local showing of a documentary that has already received notice in the American press (as a simple Internet search will show): “God Loves Uganda.” Produced and directed by Academy Award-winner Roger Ross Williams, here’s what the website of the DOXA Film Festival says about it:
Roger Ross Williams, USA, 2013, 83 mins
God loves Uganda so much that he sent a religious army to defend it, but ironically, the major foreign threat to Ugandan solidarity are the spiritual soldiers themselves. With unprecedented access, the film follows a group of young missionaries-in-the-making to dusty pulpits in Africa, where they sing, pray and shout about Christian Fundamentalism to anyone who will listen. Evangelist Lou Engle is one of the ringleaders of this crusade and creator of The Call, which brings tens of thousands of believers together to pray against sexual sin. At first, Engle and his bible-thumping minions come across as well-intentioned but misdirected do-gooders. However, tolerance dissipates when they start preaching about the evils of sexual immorality in a country plagued with AIDS. As an American-influenced bill to make homosexuality punishable by death wins widespread support in Uganda, tensions mount and an atmosphere of murderous hatred takes hold.
God Loves Uganda records the culture clash between enthusiastic Midwestern missionaries and world weary Ugandans. It features a heartbreaking interview with gay activist David Kato shortly before he was murdered and tells the moving story of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a minister who was excommunicated for being tolerant and promoting peace. Shocking, horrifying, touching and enlightening, this film makes you question what you thought you knew about religion. -TW
A scalding appraisal of the Christian missionary movement in Africa, God Loves Uganda has a ferocious mission of its own: to portray American evangelicals as arrogant and deluded, yet dangerously effective in their suppression of sexual freedoms. It’s strong, headshaking stuff… — Variety
Well, that sounds like a good way to shake up a Saturday, doesn’t it? And, as readers of this weblog might anticipate, I expect to add a bit of both salt and pepper to the event myself as I wonder aloud about how representative these evangelicals are of “American evangelicals” or “American conservatives” en masse, as they are routinely identified throughout the movie; about whether the insinuation of massive cultural conspiracy is the best way to understand evangelical involvement in African missions; about whether this kind of charismatic (not “Fundamentalist”) Christianity is so very foreign to native culture on that continent (when it is, in fact, sweeping across sub-Saharan Africa); and about just what North American audiences are to make of all this—and do about it.
If you’re inclined, send up a prayer that the event will be helpful to everyone who attends and that I will play a useful part in it. If you’re available, come on along—and celebrate all the love and affirmation and acceptance and inclusion I expect to receive as I start talking….
UPDATE: Here is a review based on the remarks I gave at the showing.
UPDATE 2: Here is a response by one of the IHOP leaders to the film.
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