Wednesday, May 31, 2023
It's Wednesday, May 31st, 2023.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Uganda’s Clear Signal to the West — We Reject Your LGBTQ Revolution: Uganda Passes Law Criminalizing Specific Expressions of Homosexuality
Big headline news is coming from Uganda, that nation in East Africa where the government passed legislation criminalizing anew, we should say, in this case, same-sex sexual behaviors. You would think that Uganda had done something unprecedented in world history, but as we're going to see, that is hardly the case. But so many governments and so many others in the West are responding with absolute outrage that a government in Africa or elsewhere could dare to pass such legislation. Now we're going to look more closely at the legislation. We're also going to be looking at the Western response, or the response in the West, and we're going to be considering the huge worldview issues that are clearly here at stake. First of all, what happened in Uganda, and why does it matter?
Let's just remind ourselves, Uganda is a country of about 45 million people there in East Africa. It is one of the countries in Africa that has laws criminalizing same-sex sexual behaviors or homosexual sexual behaviors. That's not unusual in Africa, where more than 30 of the continent's 54 countries have similar legislation, and by the way, they may be rooted in three different traditions there in Africa.
One of them is just the traditional notion of the African family and proper human sexuality. The second is Islamic. In much of North Africa and in some other places as well, the influence of Islam on this issue is very, very clear, but when we're talking about Uganda, we're talking in the main about Christian influence, and we're also talking about the direct involvement of Christian churches there in Uganda. Most importantly, the Church of Uganda, which is itself part of the Anglican Communion, one of the conservative churches in that global body of Anglican churches related to the Church of England.
By the way, that invokes a lot of history. It invokes a lot of history in terms of English involvement in Uganda, the establishment of the Church of Uganda as basically a subunit at first of the Church of England, eventually an autonomous church on its own, but very much a part of the Anglican Communion. But we're also looking at the fact that several of these influences can come together. The point is that the Western media are acting, and by the way, the Biden administration, thus the American government, is acting as if Uganda has done something unprecedented and historically aberrant in adopting this legislation.
Actually, Uganda here is doing what has been done in many places throughout Africa. There are deep historical roots for the legislation there in Uganda itself. There are sections of the legislation that are debatable, and that's the case in almost every major act or law that is produced by the legislative process. But the point is that the outrage in the West is that there would be any country like Uganda that would dare to pass this kind of legislation saying that one particular pattern of human sexuality is right, that would be heterosexual, as is celebrated in heterosexual marriage, and one is wrong. We're going to look at several of the reports.
First of all, Abdi Latif Dahir, reporting for the New York Times, tells us, "The president of Uganda signed a punitive anti-gay bill on Monday. That includes the death penalty enshrining into law, intensifying crackdown against LGBTQ people in the conservative East African country, and dismissing widespread calls not to impose one of the world's most restrictive anti-gay measures."
Is that an accurate description of the law? People in Uganda say that it is not, and one of the things you need to note is that that lead paragraph began with the fact that the new legislation "includes the death penalty." But at least in honesty, we need to note that that is not for what you might describe as simple homosexual behavior among consenting adults, but when it comes with force, when it comes with assault, or what's described as "aggravated homosexuality," it is a different thing.
One case that was listed as an example under what could be covered by the death penalty there in Uganda is a homosexual assault upon children. So let's look at the fact that the basic issue here is transparent. It is the criminalization of a certain sexual behavior, in this case, a certain sexual behavior that has been sanctioned and decriminalized throughout most of human history, particularly, you could say, in history of the European nations and also in the United States, as we're going to remind ourselves.
But it's also been sanctioned, if not criminalized, throughout most of the world, where in almost no cases has it been normalized until very, very recently. Now, it's also important to note that there were previous versions, there were proposals for legislation there in Uganda. The actual legislation that passed and was signed into law by the nation's president does not criminalize homosexual relationships, only homosexual behaviors, an orientation using the language that became very common in the United States a generation ago.
The orientation is not criminalized, but the behaviors are, no doubt about it in its reporting. The New York Times also acknowledges a "growing number of African countries that are considering this kind of legislation or even stricter legislation," as the reporter says. And that would include the countries of Kenya and Ghana.
But at least we need to remind ourselves again that the majority of nations in Africa have at least similar legislation. They do not celebrate homosexual behavior. They do not normalize it. Now, as I said there are three different roots for that. One of them simply has to do with historic African tradition, which is not compatible with homosexuality as a lifestyle, not to mention on Western terms. You also have the historic influence of both Islam and Christianity, that, on this issue, are simultaneously clear about a normative expression of sexuality, which is to result in heterosexual marriage.
Everything else, indeed, everything else is considered in one way or another to be sin. I spoke of the Church of Uganda. It has 11 million members. Remember, the population of the country is 45 million, so about one out of four is a member of the Church of Uganda. That church is a part of the larger Anglican Communion, and its head, the current archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Reverend Stephen Samuel Kaziimba, said that gay groups were "recruiting our children into homosexuality."
Now, there wasn't a whole lot more given behind the archbishop's statement, but this is entirely in line with the historic position held by many of the Anglican churches in Africa and the Anglican archbishops. It was they who had the greatest courage in pressing back against what had taken place years ago in the United States in the Episcopal Church, also a part of the Anglican Communion, with the consecration of an openly gay bishop.
Similar developments in the Church of England had led to the fact that many of the primates or the heads of the various churches in Africa connected to the Anglican Communion said that they could no longer recognize the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as the legitimate leader of the communion. Again, over the issues of LGBTQ rights and, in particular, the ordination of LGBTQ persons living quite openly and actively in those relationships to the priesthood, so we are looking at a major worldview divide.
We sometimes see, in the United States, think red and blue states on so many different issues. Think about the issue of abortion, LGBTQ issues here. If anything, they are equally pronounced, if not even to a greater degree defined. When you look at the Anglican Communion and compare something like the Episcopal Church in the United States to the Church of Uganda, it's hard to imagine how they are actually in communion with each other.
Ugandan President Yoweri Musevini signed the legislation into law, but it's not exactly sure how it's going to operate, like is the case with almost any major legislation in this form. Time is going to tell how police, the courts, law enforcement, legislators respond to the legislation over time.
But it is undeniable that this has sent a very clear signal, a very clear signal inside the nation of Uganda and a very clear signal to the Western nations as well. It is a rejection of the morality found in so much of the West. It is a rejection of the moral progressivism that marks so much of Europe and North America. It is a rejection of the attempt to export that by force from Europe and North America upon African nations. This was an act of defiance.
President Biden Declares Uganda’s Law ‘A Tragic Violation of Universal Human Rights’ — But What Universal Human Rights, Specifically?
That was noted in the report of the New York Times. No surprise there.
The report stated, "The legislation is a major blow to efforts by the United Nations, Western governments, civil society, and rights groups that had implored the President Yoweri Musevini not to sign it. The United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union all condemned the enactment of the law, saying it undermined equality and the right of all Ugandans to live free from discrimination and persecution." The next paragraph is absolutely crucial. President Biden called the law, in his words, "a tragic violation of universal human rights," and said his administration would "evaluate the implications of this law on all aspects of US engagement with Uganda."
Now, I wanted us to look particularly at this line because it reminds us of a couple of things. Number one, elections have consequences not only in Uganda but in the United States of America. The election of Joe Biden as President of the United States has meant that American foreign policy has been used as a form of coercion against other nations towards moral progressivism, and that has been not incidentally connected to the LGBTQ revolution and to the overwhelming influence of the LGBTQ activist community on the Democratic Party and on this White House.
But I also want us to note something else, and that is the precise language used by the President of the United States because it demands a far closer look. The president called the law, "a tragic violation of universal human rights." That's quite a statement. It's actually a very technical statement. The president, at least his advisors in the White House, have to understand the meaning of the language that the president invoked there.
From a Christian perspective, there's just a lot for us to unpack, but we have to look at the very term the President used. He said that the Ugandan law is, quote, unquote, "a tragic violation of universal human rights." The keywords there are universal human rights. What exactly are those? Who determines what those are? And how did the White House, how did the President of the United States put what can be described only as sexual behavior that's been sanctioned throughout most of human history in the category of a universal human right?
Let's just back up and notice, the president didn't say exactly what that universal human right is. In a very irresponsible way, he invoked the language of universal human rights, but he didn't say exactly what that right might be in this case without going into any kind of graphic detail. Does he mean a right to homosexual sex acts? The context disallows any other interpretation. That's what the president was saying, but how would he come to establish those actions as protected by universal human right? What, again, would that universal human right be? Would it be a right of personal autonomy?
The United States Supreme Court tried to root it in something as fragile and, for that matter, constitutionally dubious if not non-existent as a so-called right to privacy. You could just look at all this and recognize that when you look at the United Nations basic declarations on human rights, particularly going back to the origins of the United Nations, let's just state the obvious. No one would have meant what President Biden clearly meant at that time by using this language. This is the hijacking of human rights language in order to serve a very radical moral and political agenda. According to the Times, the President went on to say, "We are considering additional steps, including the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption."
Again, Mr. President, what exactly did you mean by that? Does that mean the current president of Uganda is unlikely he would apply it in that way? Does he mean current legislators? Does he mean the archbishop, who's the head of the church of Uganda? It's unclear what the president meant, and it is likely the president meant to be unclear. This is the language of a threat, not of a specific policy.
There's another point in the background here that demands a bit of attention, and that is that if you're looking at laws that criminalize same-sex relationships or behaviors in Uganda, that goes back a very long way.
It even goes back to colonial-era legislation that was brought to Africa by European nations, specifically, in this case, Great Britain. Furthermore, even when Uganda gained independence from Britain, and that was in the year 1962, these laws have been on the books, but at least according to the Wall Street Journal, no one has been prosecuted according to those laws since that time.
Why is the issue now front and center? I think it comes down to this more than anything else. It is the concerted effort by so many nations in the West by LGBTQ activist communities and others to try to bring pressure on every nation to get in line with the revolution in sexual morality. This is a very clear way of an African nation, and as we've seen, other African nations have already been there, and others are considering getting there as well of saying to that influence a decided legislative No.
But we also have to return to the question as to why in Africa the law would take this shape with such political force, not only against the West but also in making a very clear moral statement, where does this come from? There is no doubt that religious and church groups in Uganda were pressing for this legislation, including, as we said, the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda.
But this is something that's an outrage also to people in the West, who are very proud of what they see as the victory of secularization over any kind of religious conviction that could in this case be translated into national legislation. But it's also true, as you look at the continent of Africa, that those three different sources have been greatly influential as sources of sexual conservatism, you might say. That goes back to traditional African practices, and that has also come up in the legislative debate there in Uganda.
It's not just the influence of Christianity. It's also the influence of the traditional African family, which, as the legislators made very, very clear, requires a man and a woman in marriage as at least the beginning of what would become an extended family. After the Lawrence v. Texas decision handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 2003, this kind of legislation is impossible in the United States under our constitutional government, at least it is for now.
But the point is that the United States held similar laws, at least in terms of sanctioning and criminalizing homosexual behavior, as recently as 2003. That would come as a great shock, it might seem, to many Americans, for whom the idea is frankly absolutely ridiculous in 2023. President Joe Biden, of all people, certainly knows that's true because he was in the United States Senate already and had been for a very long time by the time you get to 2003.
Yet the President says that this legislation in Uganda is a violation of universal human rights, and that's my implication. The nation of Uganda is a violator of universal human rights and an oppressive nation. But so would the United States have been by his own moral rendering in the year 2003, when he had already been in the Senate for a very long time. That's how fast the moral revisionist, and that's how fast the moral revolutionaries work. They pushed so hard and they pushed so fast that in a nation like the United States, they would have you believe that there had never been a contrary position, nor, of course, that they had ever held it.
But this news story tells us that when this same kind of issue lands in another part of the world like Africa, Africa has its own way when it comes to this kind of Western pressure of saying a decided No.
Who to Watch in the 2024 Election: Will the Socially Conservative, Fiscally Liberal Voter Make Up the Significant ‘Swing Vote’ in the Next Presidential Election?
But now let's come back to the United States, where just about everyone is anticipating a major gearing up in the political machines looking to 2024 and the next presidential election. Just about everything that takes place politically in the country right now is read through the lens of the 2024 presidential election. Ask yourself why that is the case. The answer is this, the presidency is now that important. It is arguable that the nation's constitutional framers established the office of the chief executive, or the president, with the intention of asserting what the founders called energy in the executive. But what we have now is an imbalance between the three branches of government, and in a way that I think would frighten our constitutional framers and founders, the executive branch is now incredibly more powerful vis-a-vis the other two branches of government than it ever was in the past.
Or you might say the executive branch has more authority during relative peacetime than has ever been the case in American history. You'd make exceptions for the presidencies of, for example, Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. You can make historical exceptions for the mobilization of the nation during a time of near total war, but that's not what we're talking about right now. Instead, we're talking about total political obsession, and it's not because the presidency has been overrated. It's because both sides in the nation's political partisan and ideological divide understand that electing a president has to be priority number one. But with the 2024 presidential election looming before us, there's some huge questions, some of them have to do not so much with the candidates but with the electorate.
What exactly is the electorate thinking? How does the electorate vote? What are the condors of America's electoral map? And furthermore, what are voters thinking about? Do we know what they're thinking about? Are there any patterns to what they're thinking about? At the very least, we can understand that there is a pattern in terms of recent election cycles, and you can figure out what some of those patterns are. You have conservative voters, you have liberal voters, you have moderate voters, decreasing numbers of those, it appears, and you have the elusive swing voter. This is the voter that might vote Republican in a certain presidential election and Democratic in the next. The so-called swing voter has been the obsession in most recent presidential elections. The assumption is that if you have one of the two major party candidates who wins the swing vote, they win the White House. Now, that political logic has been upturned a bit in recent cycles.
Where to look at, for example, the election of Donald Trump in 2016. It was not primarily the result of swing voters swinging in his direction. It was arguably the result of an incredible turnout from a more predictable base. It wasn't that there were no swing voters. It is to say that the logic that the Trump campaign ran in 2016 was the logic very different than, for example, the campaign of George W. Bush in 2000 and in 2004, a very different kind of pattern. David Leonhardt, writing The Morning column for the New York Times, gets to something really, really important when he points out that there are two axes for us to consider here.
One is that between the more socially conservative as opposed to the more socially liberal voters, and on the other hand, it's the economic factor, the more fiscally or economically liberal and the more fiscally or economically conservative. Now, when you look at someone like Ronald Reagan, you had fiscal conservative and social conservative at the same time, and that has been something of the gold standard for the Republican Party.
On the other hand, when you look at someone like Bill Clinton, and I know this is a stretch of the imagination, but just remind yourselves that he ran as something of a moral conservative and a fiscal liberal in the sense that he wanted to liberalize what he saw as the Reagan, the Republican economic plan, but he was running against so many of the moral excesses of the 1960s, and the voters went with him until they figured out he was actually representative of those moral excesses of the 1960s wrapped into one man. If we think about the two parties, the Republican Party being the more conservative party and the Democratic Party being the more liberal party, and arguably both of them are becoming more of who they are, the Democrats moving even further left, at least on many issues, and the Republicans moving even further right on certain issues.
But these issues are not always easily labeled as either liberal or conservative, mapped on a liberal-conservative continuum, or on what you might see as some kind of a spatter graph. But what's really, really interesting is that David Leonhardt is arguing that if you look at the swing voters, that at least are on the minds of many who are pretty active in politics or as they're observing the political scene, they think of the swing voter as someone who is more morally liberal but fiscally conservative.
That's been the pattern that people have been looking for. Candidates who've been running for the center have understood they needed to be more socially liberal and more fiscally conservative, and yet David Leonhardt says that's really a declining part of the electorate. The growing part of the electorate is actually more fiscally liberal and socially or morally conservative. Now, here's where we need to recognize that when we use the terms liberal and conservative in this kind of context. We're talking about a trajectory, we're talking about a comparison.
If you look at many of the people who would claim in this sense to hold the positions that are socially conservative, they're not nearly as conservative as social conservative would've meant just a matter of 10 or 20 years ago, not even close. But when you look at the left right now, anyone who stands over against that leftward progressivist agenda and ideology is labeled as some kind of conservative, at least trying to conserve something.
On the other hand, Leonhardt is citing research, and I think this also turns out to be pretty important that many people who are, say, traditional Republicans or are swing voters who might have been tempted to vote Republican, they actually hold to far more fiscally liberal policies than they would have just a matter of a few years ago. This may mean an inclination towards greater protectionism, higher tariffs. Again, many of these things were actually championed, if somewhat erratically, by President Trump during his four years in office.
There are even conservatives who are right now arguing for some kind of industrial policy in the United States, and in any event, it's really interesting that this particular voting pattern comes to the attention of the New York Times, and it even has a name for this particular swing vote, and that is the Scaffle Vote. Scaffle is just an acronym for socially conservative and fiscally liberal voters, Scaffle, socially conservative, fiscally liberal. Leonhardt, looking at the map again, you put more socially conservative at the top, more socially liberal at the bottom, more fiscally liberal to the left, more fiscally conservative to the right.
It's the quadrant that would be labeled socially liberal and fiscally conservative that actually includes the fewest number of people. The energy has shifted towards those socially conservative and fiscally more liberal voters. Leonhardt argues, "These socially conservative and fiscally liberal voters have voted for progressive economic policies when they appear as ballot initiatives. Even in red states, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, for instance, have passed minimum wage increases. Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah have expanded Medicaid through Obamacare. Republicans without a college degree are often the ones who break with their party on these ballot initiatives."
But at the same time, and here's where at least the category of more socially conservative or morally conservative comes into play, "At the same time, Scaffles are the reason that a Times poll last year showed that most voters, including many Latinos, prefer the Republican Party stance on illegal immigration to the Democratic parties, or consider a recent KFF/Washington Post poll on transgender issues in which most Americans said they opposed puberty blocking treatments for children."
Now, it's way too early to know what the moral layout of the 2024 presidential campaign will reveal. That election is still more than a year away, but the issues at stake are very close at hand, and that's true whether you are in Uganda or in the United States of America. Elections matter.
If nothing else, this particular analysis with the socially liberal, socially conservative, fiscally liberal, fiscally conservative, it reminds us of the fact that ideas matter. They matter tremendously. They matter whether you can map them on a scatter chart or not. Christians understand that truth is necessarily so, and elections are not just about electing individuals. They're about electing ideas. It's good that we get a jump on considering those ideas well before the election.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information, go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can find me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.