God loves uganda.

mjkimpan  —  September 13, 2013 — 2 Comments


recently, The Marin Foundation announced that for our upcoming Living In The Tension gathering, we’d be hosting a screening of the as-yet-unreleased documentary film, God Loves Uganda.

within hours of that announcement, my inbox was blinking with emails from concerned folks who had read this article from a popular online christian magazine, which expressed some reservations about the film’s portrayal of evangelical christians.

some were worried that in showing the film, The Marin Foundation would unintentionally ‘polarize non-christians against believers,’ urging us to do ‘further investigation before [we] endorse this film.’

here is what i wrote in response ::

hello,                          .

my name is michael kimpan, and i serve as the Associate Director of The Marin Foundation. in short, i’m responsible for running the day-to-day operations and am the ‘face’ of the organization in north america for the purpose of freeing andrew up to pursue his PhD at st. andrews in scotland for the next three years.

your email was forwarded to me.

we appreciate so much you sharing your concerns about the showing of the film God Loves Uganda. as an organization we seek to build bridges between opposing worldviews – specifically between the LGBT community and the church – and need consistent reminders to continually and proactively think about how we present the tensions found within the intersection of faith and sexuality.

i’ve actually seen the film in its entirety, earlier this week at a private screening – so its contents and message are fresh in my mind.

while the author of the article you cited rightly states that we must speak up in public and ‘denounce and distance‘ ourselves from extremists on both sides of the conversation, the film does indeed provide an accurate portrayal of the connection between the ‘kill the gays’ bill introduced in uganda, and the heavy influence that some prominent US evangelicals have had in the creation (and support) of that document.

this is not the first time The Marin Foundation has spoken out against the atrocities promoted by the pending legislation in uganda. i have blogged about it here and have a forthcoming post concerning uganda and russia on my personal blog this week, andrew signed this letter along with other a cacophony of other evangelical leaders, and he additionally wrote about developments with the bill in these blog posts.

on this, the position of The Marin Foundation is clear :: the criminalization of LGBT people and groups and the mis-treatement, oppression, violence and even death which results as the logical conclusion thereof (as evidenced in uganda, russia and elsewhere across the globe) is both unacceptable and unchristian.

as the article you shared from christianity today states, ‘A documentary is supposed to do two things: to show us something and, usually, to prompt a response.’

this is precisely why we’re wanting to show the film and provide a space for discussion afterwards – to ask, in what ways can evangelicals who do not support the criminalization of homosexuality abroad – regardless of their theological perspectives on issues surrounding faith and sexuality – encourage their leaders and faith communities to not create and foster environments ripe for the exportation of this type of ideology?

therefore, our purpose in showing the film is twofold :: first, to educate individuals unaware of the broad picture of the situation in uganda (and by extension, russia, zambia and elsewhere); and second, to prompt a thoughtful and christlike response which does indeed distance conservative evangelicals from the extreme position taken by those presented in the film.

obviously, not everything in the film is something The Marin Foundation would ‘endorse.’ i’ve yet to find a single pastor/preacher/teacher/author/filmmaker with whom i wholeheartedly agree – with no exceptions. yet our purpose in providing a screening of the film is not to state that we unequivocally support and endorse the filmmaker or their worldview; rather to provide an opportunity to engage in thoughtful, peaceful and productive dialogue as a result of the information presented therein.

our Living In The Tension gatherings provide opportunities for individuals on both sides of the discussion to present their stories and experiences, and offer safe and sacred spaces in which we can engage with those stories. these spaces are created intentionally so that participants realize the purpose and goal of these gatherings is not for people to convince others that they are right and ‘the Other’ is wrong, but rather to build a community where individuals can feel safe not only to share their experiences and beliefs with ‘the Other’ but also to learn to excel in constructive tension with those with whom they disagree. the point is not a debate that ends up turning into a competition; rather, it’s an active engagement in learning what relationship with ‘the Other’ actually and tangibly looks like.

i hope that helps release your worries about the screening of the film at our LITT event. if you have further questions or concerns, i would be happy to engage them.

thank you so much!

what do you think?

  • Kembabazi

    I am an Evangelical Christian and I live in Uganda. The Anti Homosexuality bill is problematic for many reasons. Yet, my concern with the film is threefold.
    1. It is a film about Uganda and we in Uganda have never been able to view or comment on it from our local perspective. Many people are opining about our situation without allowing us to comment about our own life. Once the film about Kony 2012 was finally shown in Uganda a different story was told.
    2. When I inquired about showing the film in Uganda I wad told that it could only be shown when the proper interpreters of the film were part of the showing. Well, I can assure you that Kapya Kaoma is about the calibre of a tabloid reporter. Hardly a serious reporter researcher. He lied to gain access to our office. Misrepresented himself when speaking with our employees. He took quotes entirely out of context. He is a totally discredited reporter and interviewer and yet we gather from what we’ve read about the film that he is a key source. Shame on the film makers for using such dubious methods to bolster their agenda.
    3. Finally, from all that we have been able to gather about the film since it’s producers would rather show it everywhere except to the church in Uganda, it is another example of Western imperialism that believes that it knows better what has best for Uganda than Ugandans.

    • thank you so much for your comment, kembabazi. though i have not been part of the film’s development process, i can certainly understand your concerns with the film based on your threefold critique.

      if i may, in response to your points ::

      1. in regard to the situation in uganda, from the perspective of a native ugandan – what views or opinions would you want to express? though my blog platform does not have nearly the sized platform as the film, i would be happy to grant you access to my readers to talk about what concerns you have.

      2. though the film relies on kaoma for certain aspects of its narrative, i can assure you that the information provided is not dependent upon his journalistic credibility. the majority of the information in the film regarding the ways in which evangelicals (and specifically, IHOP) engages with the country of uganda and its attempts to pass legislation regarding the criminalization of homosexuality are based upon actual footage and interviews of individuals tied to american evangelicalism.

      3. that is concerning. i wonder what reasons exist for the reluctance on the part of the filmmakers to show the film to churches in uganda; perhaps some of those concerns are answered in the posture of the christian church as a whole toward LGBT people (one of the main concerns addressed in the film). what do you think is the best thing for ugandans in this situation?

      finally – thank you for engaging in this conversation, kembabazi. i look forward to your response.