Uganda, AIDS, God and gays: Rick Warren and a punch in the nose

AP Filipinos release into the air paper lanterns to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, 2012 at the Heroes … Continued


Filipinos release into the air paper lanterns to mark World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, 2012 at the Heroes Shrine at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines.

California megachurch pastor Rick Warren is back on the circuit to sell his updated version of “The Purpose Driven Life,” his New York Times best-selling book. Warren is also back on the hot seat by telling Piers Morgan of CNN that being gay is a temptation like wanting to “punch a guy in the nose.” Is it any wonder that young people have lost faith in our churches and call them “hypocritical and judgmental?”

Warren’s remarks could be dismissed if the impact wasn’t so dire. His long-time HIV/AIDS work in Uganda is again at issue as the country’s Anti-Homosexual Bill is back in Parliament. The revived bill would imprison lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and anyone who supports dignity and rights for LGBT people. Ugandan politicians say the death penalty might be removed to make the bill seem more acceptable. So, while Uganda is on the brink of genocide against LGBT people, Warren—one of America’s most influential pastors—is hawking his book instead of being a leader.

To be fair, Warren stepped up in December 2009, during the last threat of state-sponsored violence against LGBT people. He issued a heartfelt plea to Ugandan Christian leaders “to love our neighbors as ourselves.” He called the law “unjust, extreme and unchristian toward homosexuals.” He received strong pushback from Ugandan faith leaders and has not spoken about it publicly since.


Filipinos light candles which are shaped into an AIDS symbol to mark World AIDS Dayon Dec. 1, 2012 at the Heroes Shrine at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines.

Although the law was not voted on at that time, it did not go away, and Uganda is again the flashpoint for anti-LGBT politics. This time, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, the new head of Uganda’s Parliament, resurrected the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to make her mark. Kadaga could take the country down a path of persecution or she could be the next Desmond Tutu or Nelson Mandela by leading all of Africa toward a path of respect and civility rather than persecution and imprisonment for LGBT people and our supporters.

We have seen the change here in the United States. People of faith in all traditions supported marriage equality in unprecedented numbers in the recent election. Top African American faith leaders supported marriage equality and recently signed a statement called Hope In Uganda to challenge persecution in the name of religion.

Uganda is not the only place in Africa that is persecuting LGBT people but its relative freedom of speech has allowed organizations on the ground to support the dignity and rights of LGBT people up to now. U.S. citizens and advocates around the world follow the lead of the Civil Society Coalition in Uganda which recently urged groups to reach out to faith partners and civic leaders in Uganda to invite them to affirm all the families of Uganda—including those that include LGBT people.

The stakes are high. Ruth Messinger, president of the American Jewish World Service, spoke out against the recent efforts to revive the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, said it well:

Dec. 1 was World AIDS Day. During recent years, as the bill in Uganda dangled over the heads of everyone, Uganda’s HIV/AIDS rate started growing again. The combination of a shift to “abstinence and fidelity” strategies and the fear mongering around sexual minorities, turned Uganda from a model of prevention to one of only two African countries that has a growing rate of HIV/AIDS infection. In the New York Times, Canon Gideon Byamugisha, Anglican leader and AIDS activist in Uganda, said, “If you have an environment that stigmatizes them, then don’t expect people to use condoms.”

As the moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches with ministries in 40 countries, I have seen the ravages of HIV/AIDS and the life and death consequences of prejudice against LGBT people in the name of religion.

Rick Warren and other high-profile evangelical Christians such as Joel Osteen, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Joyce Meyer need to take responsibility for their interpretation of the Bible and the power they wield in the religious world. It is time to speak out against this violence perpetrated in the name of Jesus.

Prejudice kills. Silence kills. Persecution kills.

The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches.

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  • WigglyWeasel

    There is nothing more arrogant than blind belief. People like Warren are a blight upon the world.

  • murphyphdsbcglobalnet

    Rick Warren is Satan’s answer to the world.

  • JulesK

    O.K. Pastor Warren, here are two 25 year old men. Note that they are taller than you and in very good physical shape. You have been given the power to determine what these men will do next. Please take your pick:
    1. They fall in love with each other and go off and do whatever it is adults do when they’re in love and you never see them again.
    2. They both punch you in the nose, repeatedly.


    Rick Warren is a self-appointed idiot at large.

    He needs to be punched in his big soft fat belly

  • dcrswm

    Nothing wrong with option 1 but here is to hoping he goes with option 2


    No reason they can’t do both.

  • slowe111

    I wonder why any gay person would remain a member of any Christian ( or Muslim or LDS) church. Afterall, these churches and their unmodifiable sacred scriptures are the MAIN source of hatred and discrimination and persecution of all gay people ( and women!) . Even the so called liberal churches have to perform such machinations and excuses to “interpret” the scriptures otherwise.

  • John Boy Mn

    Dr.Wilson you said people of all faiths embraced marriage equality? Please don’t try to speak for the millions of Bible believing evangelical Christ followers who can read a Bible,which clearly says in scripture that homosexuality/lesbianism is sin.God hasn’t changed policies on sin.The wages of sin is still death

  • dcrswm

    Well thankfully we all don’t need to live by your silly superstitious beliefs.

  • rocknrod

    your name precedes you… A weasel!

  • rocknrod

    One day “dcrswm”, you will find out that John was right. I’d hate to see you practicing sin and go to hell for eternity… Repent now before its too late.

  • rocknrod

    And you call yourself perfect! If God hadn’t appointed him as a pastor of a mega church, do you think he would still be in that position. I think he’s doing pretty well for himself….

  • JesusFreak

    And you call yourself logical? if God hadn’t appointed Hitler leader of a mega country do you think he would have stayed in that position long to kill millions of Jews, Christians, Gypsy and homosexuals.? Or do you think he was in power long enough to get that done because God wanted that to happen? I personally do not feel it is my place to figure out what God has planned for other people or groups. I try to meditate on what I think God wants me to do. I think he wants me to love my neighbor as myself and not judge them and hope for them the same joys and freedoms that I have.

  • DigitalQuaker

    John Boy Mn, we all die, and we all sin.
    There are many, many Christians who read and believe in the Bible, but do not draw the same conclusions you have.
    Christ’s message is about love, not sin. Imprisonment is no solution for finding God, a biblical truth that also goes back to the Old Testament. Love more, and when things get really tough, love even more.

  • DigitalQuaker

    It sounds like you’ve been hurt by some of these practicioners, and for that I am truly sorry. But there are those who practice these beliefs that have a deeper understanding of the love these religions profess.

  • DigitalQuaker

    Your inability to articulate how his belive is “blind” hints a to a far more disturbing handicap of your own. You should ask yourself how you have turned your “well founded” belief into tangible practice…


    It’s a nonsensical debate, as there is no god.

    If you can prove that there is one, do so. Otherwise, any such concept is simply your own prejudices dressed up as a deity.

  • amelia45

    This is well done. Those who have demonized gay people have set this up. What did they think would happen to gay people when they have demonized them? They are responsible for every beating, every death that comes out of the hatred they have created.

    They need to speak up again and stop what they started. It will only lead to suffering of gay people without doing a thing to make straight marriage better, reduce divorce, reduce infidelity within straight marriages. It will not turn a gay person straight.

  • Klalan

    Am Ugandan and Christian. 1st, homosexuality is already a felony in Uganda. The new law is just sharpening the already existing on, so if anybody wants to sanction Uganda for being anti-homosexual, now is as good a time as any. But importantly, what do Ugandans think about homosexuality? I remember a survey done by a pro-homosexual group found that 96% of Ugandans are vehemently opposed to it. Yet we don’t believe that it’s such a criminal offense to warrant death, unless one is believed to be propagating it to the youth.

  • hrobert02

    Hey, John Boy, are you busy chasing down adulterers so we can kill them as prescribed in the Bible?

    Some guy name Newt would be first on the list possibly.

  • Secular1

    JesusFreak, your logic is convoluted. The moment you raise the nonsense of omni-whatever teh logic goes out the window. So your mediating for DOG, is utter bull crap. You are just rationalizing your choices. You just own up to everything you do, than saying i am doing this because the sky daddy wanted me to.

  • GrangerWebb1

    With respect, slowe111, that simply isn’t true. All scripture is an interpretation and continues to be modified with every translation. The word “homosexual” wasn’t even coined until the 19th century and was not inserted into any bible translation until the 1940s. There are many churches who approach scripture from a contemplative, critical reading perspective rather than a literal dogmatic one. And The universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, which Dr. Wilson currently heads, is an inclusive global denomination originally founded by LGBT people of faith. They aren’t alone—the United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalists, and several other denominations uphold Divine Love, dignity and equality for ALL people—no exceptions.

  • slowe111

    to DigitalQuaker: All gay people are hurt by religion because religious belief and scripture is THE MAIN source of homophobia.

  • slowe111

    Gay Christian is an oxymoron. Until Christians adopt a new revised, redacted version of the Bible , which is very clear about homosexuallity, how can you be taken seriously? If thecurrent version of the Bible contains things, words, principles, rules, that you no longer follow, then REMOVE them and create a new verion that acurately reflect what you believe, do , follow. Until then – it is willfull blindness and hypocracy.