Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Martyrs of Uganda

Today is the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda, which takes me right back to my pilgrimage to Namugongo a year ago. Here's a picture of the celebration that day at the shrine of the Martyrs of Uganda:

Here's what I wrote about it last year when I was there. In part, I said,

Here's the deal, very briefly: in the late 1800's, various pages and members of the Bugandan court became Christian converts, both RC and Anglican. In 1886, the Bugandan king, or kabaka, Mwanga II, told them to give it up. When they refused, these converts were tortured and killed in various nasty ways, leading up to a group of some 30 Christians being wrapped in straw mats and then burned at Namugongo, about 10 miles from the city center.

What I left out was that the Kabaka was having sex with these various pages and people in the court, all male. These new converts were encouraged to resist these advances, and it was this, as much as their refusal to give up Christianity, that led to the martyrdom of these men and boys.

As you can imagine (and I think I have written about this elsewhere), this would add to the very negative feelings that many African Christians have about homosexuality, as well as the confusion of "Why are you changing your minds? Why are you losing your faith?"

Of course (or maybe not of course, but at least in my mind), there's a huge difference between the power dynamic of a king demanding to have sex with those under his control and what we are generally talking about when we talk about homosexual relationships. But can understand (or at least I can understand) why Christians in Africa would think we had lost our minds or at least our faith.

It's too bad we get all hooked on the sexual politics part of the story, because it seems to me that the message could be more generally applied: those in power are often out to screw you and will want you to forego your beliefs and values in order to do so. Resisting those powers and principalities may be a very difficult road indeed. That's the message I'm hearing today, which has very little to do with gay or straight and a lot more to do with the kingdoms of earth and heaven. "Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even to death."


it's margaret said...

Oh wow --what a post. blessings!

Anonymous said...

I do and I don't understand the cultural disapproval of homosexuality. Some men beat their wives, but does this lead us to say that heterosexual marriage is wrong? Why is it that heterosexuality so often appears as a positive value in spite of hurtful practices like adultery, incest, and pornography, while homosexuality so often appears as a negative value in spite of helpful practices like love, commitment, and fidelity?