Towards the end of “God Loves Uganda,” Roger Russ Williams' disturbing but important new documentary feature, Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato speaks of how American Christian missionaries came to his country to stir up anti-gay feelings without stopping to think about the consequences of these actions.
The missionaries were provoking these sentiments among people who often took the law into their own hands. Kato was murdered in 2011, soon after the interview was filmed.
Throughout the film, we see footage of American Christian ministers in Uganda, doing what they call "the Lord's work". They're saving souls. They're all united in two basic beliefs: that unless Ugandans become evangelical Christians, their souls will be damned. They also believe that homosexuality is wrong, that it goes against God's plan.
Rev. Joanna Watson is one of these missionaries. She recalls her younger years, when she was an actress who worked in the theater, a world populated by gays. Watson admits to having had affairs with women during that period. But now she's a Christian who's put all that behind her. She's spreading the gospel, a single woman who's never married. Though it's not said directly, the film leaves the impression that Watson is living a lie. She's lying to herself about who she really is.
Joanna Watson is small potatoes when she's compared to a mega-church like the Kansas City based International House of Prayer. Church leader Lou Engle, who's known for his charismatic, twelve hour prayer rallies, speaks of how God cured his addiction to pornography. Engle has flown plane loads of missionaries to Uganda, where they travel the country, looking for converts to their cause.
At a Ugandan Church, we meet a few of the saved. They wonder around a giant prayer room, some pacing back and forth, some moving in circles. Their eyes bulge while they pray aloud as though they were taking to themselves. Some speak in tongues. Some shake their bodies maniacally. None seem fully aware of their surroundings.
Rev. Scott Lively, a now notorious American pastor, tells Ugandans that "homosexuals" want to recruit their children, whipping anti-gay sentiments into an absolute frenzy.
The end result is Uganda's infamous, universally condemned "Kill the Gays" bill, a federal law that would impose life in prison, or the death penalty, to those who practice homosexuality.
By letting his camera run, by allowing his subjects to speak without offering commentary of his own, filmmaker Williams conveys the dangerous and terrifying turn Uganda has taken.
Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, one of the few Ugandan ministers who supports the country's LGBT population, explains it all quite succinctly. These conservative evangelicals have brought their message to Uganda because they know it's no longer welcome in the U.S.
What they have achieved in the African nation is terrifying.
God Loves Uganda is now on DVD.