Poor Mzungu. I think I’ve touched down on a good amount of the spots for debate within the Anglican Church in Uganda. The theological discussion has been across the board, a few nights ago acknowledged the issue of alcohol in the church and today we somehow managed to hit up the universally controversial topic of homosexuality.
I literally cannot trace in my mind how conversation drifted into this discussion, but we definitely went there.
For all you Americans reading this blog, hear me out. Mzungu’s opinion does not represent Uganda as a whole, but his attitude is fairly applicable to many a Ugandan Christian. And just as I approached this conversation with a desire to learn and a lack of need to change his mind, so you might also want to put your learning caps on as we dive into this utter controversy.
In the same way, this blog entry is not for juicy reading. I am not here to shame my good friend Mzungu, nor glorify myself. This blog entry is for my own benefit for communicating and for your benefit for seeing what I am getting to see. This is not a time to judge; it is a time to reflect.
And so I digress.
Once again, I am unable to remember how this topic arose, but once it did, it was clear that both Mzungu and myself reverted to our stubborn sides and just went for it. Mzungu said that he could tolerate every sin except for homosexuality, that he would never be in a church where homosexuals were allowed to step foot and that he would diverge from their paths as much as possible. This hating view, sadly, is widely shared throughout Uganda, even in the Anglican Church. Obviously everyone varies in their levels of extremity and passion.
Our conversation went from there and hit almost every corner that one could hit on this topic. At times it was more debating and others my mind trying to understand his thought process and vice versa. I asked him many a provoking question and he to me. I wondered aloud how homosexuals would be able to repent if they were rejected and treated like scum, simultaneously asking him if he thought them to be human and their sin to be equal with all other sins. It seems the discussion came down to him trying to convince me that homosexuality was wrong. And more than once, I had to interject and remind him that we stand on the same plane…agreeing that the act of homosexuality is indeed wrong. The matter in question, rather, is how we should treat them.
Do you know how badly I wanted to compare his thoughts and attitude to how Europeans treated Africans when they kidnapped them and forced them into slavery? Africans were sold against their will into slavery and it is only when things got better that they were considered only 2/3 human in comparison to the white man. Scum. They treated African slaves like animals, certainly not humans. And while I decided it would be better not to open that can of worms, I realized that how the straight Ugandan feels about and is willing to treat the homosexual Ugandan is practically the same as the way Americans treated their slaves back in the day.
I finally told Mzungu the story of Sy Rogers, the man whose life is a pure testimony to the fact that God can change anyone’s life and make it completely different. Sy’s story is also proof of how loving Christians not turning their backs on and being disgusted by homosexuals is an amazing way to show that God’s grace can actually do something…especially when the person in question is feeling totally out of hope and permanently stuck in their current state of being.
Sy turned from a life of homosexuality- living and dressing like a woman, enlisting for sex change surgery, moving from man to man- to a life of living for God, marrying his wife, having a family, and speaking openly about his past in order to show the world what God’s grace can do.
This story turned Mzungu’s mind inside out, I could tell. I have never seen his brow more furrowed. He then said fine, the story is true and all, but it can’t be the case “here in Uganda”. So I asked, “Is God a different God between nations and continents? Are His capabilities limited based on where you are?”
I could write a 10 page paper about our conversation, folks. Like I said, we hit every point possible. I couldn’t possibly cover every bit of it, but let me tell you, it blew my mind.
The great thing is, I came to Uganda not to convert people’s souls, minds, thought-processes or the like, but to understand the way they live, the way they think. I told this to Mzungu…that I wasn’t out to change his mind, but to understand it. I don’t know how much he really believed me when I said that, but I know in my heart that it’s true. While it hurts my heart that individuals could “hate” on a people group and not treat them like Christ would have, I should be equally hurt by watching myself and how I choose to treat certain “people groups” subconsciously. Thus, I have no room to talk.
Mzungu later ended up explaining how a certain way that he thinks is a product of how he grew up in his home, was raised and trained to think about the world. And that that certain way of thinking is something he could never change. We were beyond the topic of homosexuality by then, but I had to point out to him that he had preached my point. He was extremely uncomfortable being paralleled to a homosexual, but I chose to step out onto this limb anyway. I told him how most homosexuals are the way they are as a result of their childhood and how they were raised and while it is indeed a choice… it’s almost more of a struggle. They are a result of their past and their rearing. Now, while Mzungu’s thought process was not something he needed to repent of, he had admitted that it was something he simply could not change. I told him that if need be, that could be changed by Lord’s grace and power in his life. In the same way, that is how homosexuals come to change their ways and know the Lord…by God’s grace. There is simply no doing it on our own. And even more similarly, Mzungu’s ability to embrace a homosexual with God’s love would be only by way of the Lord through him. He would never be able to turn to this human that he finds gross and detestable and love them through his own will. It’s just not possible for us to do on our own.
I’m sure the repetition of “God’s grace” sounded very redundant to Mzungu and likely a bit annoying, but that’s alright. It’s only the plain truth and I’m not sure how else to put it.
I cannot begin to explain how much the Lord is expanding my perspective and ability to understand others’ perspectives. I can only thank the Lord and ask for continued wisdom with my tongue when such conversations as these do arise.