Missionaries of Hate

Anyone who thinks they can sit on the sidelines and not get involved in "social issues" or the "culture war" needs to watch this video and decide if they are okay with Americans spreading their hateful, homophobic, bible-based religious beliefs in other countries.

Fundamentalists have their missionaries; who will stand up to counter them?

For Orthodox Jews in particular, I ask: How can you as an Orthodox Jew oppose Uganda punishing homosexuality with the dealth penalty (supposing you do oppose this) when the fourth of the Noahide laws prohibits homosexuality and the seventh Noahide law requires the establishment of a system of courts to enforce this law, for which the punishment is death? (Sanhedrin 57a)

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If you look at the Wikipedia

If you look at the Wikipedia map of the legality of homosexuality, homosexuality is more or less tolerated everywhere - including the US - except for Africa and the Middle East. As of now, official hostility to homosexuality, with serious penalties, is long-standing in Africa, including Uganda, rather than being a recent or current American import. It is not something newly introduced by evangelicals. Ugandans, already very hostile to homosexuality, make for a welcoming audience to any Americans who want to go and preach against homosexuality. This seems more a case of pre-existing Ugandan views in effect selecting which Americans will go and preach and what they will say, than a case of Americans pushing an alien idea on the local population.

If you google sodomy uganda you find something interesting. You find, among the top hits, Evangelicals being accused of sodomy. Notice that this is without including the word "evangelical" or "preacher" in the google search. Just "uganda" and "sodomy", and the results are topped by scandals in which evangelical preachers are accused of sodomy and pedophilia (yeah, google sodomy and pedophilia pops out, go figure). Shades of the Catholic priest scandals. If you want to bash Christian preachers in a way that mobilizes Ugandans against them, you might call them "missionaries of sodomy" and point out that they are sodomizing children. Indeed, that has already been done:

Those who support the bill say that homosexuality is un-African and imported by Western countries. Dr. Martin Ssempa, of the Family Policy and Human Rights Center of Uganda, in an open letter to U.S. President Barack Obama and popular U.S. Christian minister Rick Warren, asks them to apologize “for insulting the people of Africa by your very inappropriate use of your church and White House pulpits to coerce us into the evil of Sodomy and Gaymorrah.”

Protecting the children by heightening the penalty for gay sex with a minor, by the way, is apparently part of what the proposed law is about. According to this article:

On Sept. 25, 2009, Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 for review and vote by parliament. The most controversial part of the bill calls for the death penalty for people convicted of "aggravated homosexuality."

Aggravated homosexuality is a new term that includes: gay sex with someone younger than 18 or someone who has sex and is HIV positive, as well as gay sex in which the offender seduces a person using alcohol or drugs, the offender is a parent/guardian of the person against whom the offense is committed, or victim of the offense is a person with a disability.

So the heightened seriousness of the law (which is already extremely harsh) concerns gay sex with a minor, transmission of HIV, date rape drugs, sex with a charge, and sex with a (mentally?) disabled person. I think that many, possibly most American progressives would agree that sex with a minor should be illegal, that transmission of HIV is at least morally questionable, that you should not drug a person in order to seduce them, and that sex with a mentally disabled person can be morally similar to sex with a child due to their impaired capacity to choose.

Don't blame the Noahic Covenant

There is NO reference to homosexuality in the Noahic Covenant. Further, the rabbis have always interpreted the punishments listed in the Mosaic Covenant as maximums and have generally converted physical punishments to monetary punishments.

Ugandans, already very

Ugandans, already very hostile to homosexuality, make for a welcoming audience to any Americans who want to go and preach against homosexuality. This seems more a case of pre-existing Ugandan views in effect selecting which Americans will go and preach and what they will say, than a case of Americans pushing an alien idea on the local population.

Sure, I agree with that. Americans are adding fuel to the fire, and taking advantage of a mostly poor, mostly uneducated audience to further push their horrific religious beliefs. The video makes very clear that Ugandans are complicit in this, and are themselves responsible for the choices they make, but that doesn't mitigate the harmful influence Americans have on their choice. Without the financial support that gets bundled along with efforts to proselytize, let alone laptops displaying hardcore fetish pornography that certainly doesn't arise within Uganda itself, there is a clear international effort to interfere with Uganda's culture and make it even more homophobic than it already is.

I think Star Trek's notion of a Prime Directive to not interfere with the internal development of developing civilizations is instructive here. It is one thing to take a laissez-faire approach about the unfortunate directions developing countries may take, especially in a globalized world where access to information and technology freely crosses borders. It is quite another to take a laissez-faire approach when members of one own's culture are directly interfering with another in a harmful way.

So I ask again: Fundamentalists have their missionaries; who will stand up to counter them?

I think that many, possibly most American progressives would agree that sex with a minor should be illegal,

Questionable. "Younger than 18" is a piss poor standard, and leads to outrageous cases of injustice. See: Genarlow Wilson.

that transmission of HIV is at least morally questionable,

Fraudulent transmission of HIV is morally questionable, but not in most cases an enforceable prohibition, and certainly not worthy of execution. But the standard as written doesn't only restrict itself to fraudulent transmission; it appears to include any and all transmission.

that you should not drug a person in order to seduce them,

You do realize how arbitrary and vague such a rule can be, and what sorts of problems it can cause? Are there not already laws against rape that would include drunken date rape? Why is there a need for another law, unless the legislation is intended to be used in an overly broad way, with any evidence of alcohol or drug use in the presence of gay sex as reason alone to convict and punish?

sex with a mentally disabled person can be morally similar to sex with a child due to their impaired capacity to choose.

Eugene Volokh raises this question from time to time. To morally equate a mentally disabled person to a child is to deny mentally disabled people the right to pursue active sex lives with whomever they choose. Is it really just to make this life-altering determination for adults, no matter how impaired they may be? It is one thing to tell a teen to wait until they are 18 out of respect for a blunt and poorly designed law. It is quite another to tell the mentally disabled that they must remain celibate for the rest of their lives.

Prime directive is stupid and evangelicals aren't of my culture

"I think Star Trek's notion of a Prime Directive to not interfere with the internal development of developing civilizations is instructive here."

I don't think it's instructive since that would require that we respect Ugandan hatred of homosexuals.

"It is quite another to take a laissez-faire approach when members of one own's culture are directly interfering with another in a harmful way."

Evangelicals are members of my culture? That's news to me. I'm an atheist. I don't take a laissez-faire approach to evangelicals. I call them the idiots that they are. Do I have time to take up every worthy cause on the planet, no.

Do I have time to take up

Do I have time to take up every worthy cause on the planet, no.

You must travel to Uganda and set them right.

Plenty to do in my own backyard

According to Micha I must get involved but I dispute this. I would also dispute that I have no right to get involved because they are so backward they need to develop on their own. Micha seems to contradict himself here. Why doesn't the prime directive apply to the backward fundamentalists here? What right does Micha under the prime directive have to interfere in the internal development of evangelical culture?

Also, why do you think I have to travel to Uganda to confront them? The American evangelicals are right here, and with the power of the internet I can set them right from my own living room.

I'm limited by power here not moral boundaries. If I had the power I'd walk on the water over to Uganda and set free any homosexual they had on death row. The restriction to my actions is a matter of might over right when wrong has the upper hand.

But for today I setting right the weeds in my yard.

The death penalties in the Mosaic Covenant were NEVER enforced

Who knows how history would have changed if Kings David and Solomon had killed their evil children?

The death penalties were interpreted as maximum penalties, not required penalties. Tradition transmuted physical punishments into monetary punishments.

My understanding of biblical

My understanding of biblical legal history is somewhat different than yours, but mine comes almost entirely from a single biased viewpoint, so I really have no idea what academic research may have determined.

I was taught that actually going through with a death penalties was rare; there are an enormous number of legal conditions that must be met in order for the death penalty to be given, so basically you can get off with a technicality for almost any biblical crime. These crimes needed two trustworthy (adult, male, non-gambling, unrelated, etc.) witnesses as well as specific prior verbal warning before the crime was committed, among other conditions, in order for the crime to be a punishable offense.

Nevertheless, there were other ways of indirect execution and imprisonment, and certainly excommunication and social exclusion.

Really?

The death penalties in the Mosaic Covenant were NEVER enforced

Not sure what the Mosaic Covenant consists of, but Exodus 32:15-29 culminates in Moses executing 3000 Jews for worshiping a gold calf or something. This happens immediately after Moses descends from the mountain with tablets reading, "Thou shalt not kill." Go figure.

I wonder what would they make

I wonder what would they make of heterosexual poopoo eating.

Let's get Mosaic

OK, since we brought up Sanhedrin and Orthodox Jews, I'm going to do a little historical exercise (see, however, the Talmud Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 6, for an actual case of two guys who got caught hooking up):

Imagine it's ancient Israel, 10 CE. Holy Temple is up and in full effect, the Perushim/Chaza"l/"Pharisees" are your rabbis. You go to the beit knesset every week, try to be a good Jew, don't lie on Shabbat (Masechet Demai), try to say "hello" to everyone in the marketplace (as is the new teaching you just heard that just came out), just an average person.

In the marketplace, you see two guys making out. They go into a building. Thinking, "oh, this kind of thing shouldn't be done in Israel", you wait for them to get horizontal, because you know that witnesses don't actually have to see penetration in order for there to be an offense. Then you grab your boy (because you know you need 2 witnesses) and a copy of a Torah (because you have to quote the verse perfectly, and so does he, in under 3 seconds apart) and run up to the window.

What do you say? "You are about to break [insert text of Leviticus 18:22 here]!", naturally. But remember, the accused have to say, "I know, and I don't care" (hifkir et atzmo l'mita). So let's say, here, for some reason, they did.

In the Sanhedrin, it is written, anyone can act as a defense attorney: if you have an argument to make that could save the accused's life, you can and should give it during the court proceedings.

You are truly asserting that there is absolutely NOTHING that the to'en rabbani (rabbinical court lawyer) could say in such a situation? The Sanhedrin was just this hell-bent on killing/excommunicating (b/c no one wants to be part of the 'murderous court') gay people?

Actions speak louder than Biblical verses

As an Orthodox Jew, I will respond.

The mainstream Orthodox community (i.e. 99% of religious Jews) has no desire whatsoever to take punitive actions (let alone capital punishment) against homosexuals.

The Biblical injunction is taken with the same kind of grain of salt as the one which says to kill a person who curses his mother and father. We're not going to "edit it out" of the Torah, but we're also not focusing our attention on it or using it to justify any sort of violence.

Orthodoxy might rightly be accused of intolerance of homosexuality, but taking a stand on societal norms is one thing -- killing people is another!

So please, don't tell Orthodox Jews they lack the moral basis to oppose killing homosexuals, just like any other decent, civilized, thinking people.

David, or for anyone else

David, or for anyone else still reading this thread who is familiar with halacha: I agree with you that actions speak louder than biblical verses and that the mainstream Orthodox community has no desire to take punitive actions against homosexuals. But these facts are precisely why I am asking this question! On what halachic basis can Orthodox Jews ignore the straightforward text of Sanhedrin 57a-b? Orthodox Jews cannot just ignore halacha because following it would be politically incorrect (well, except in the case of Jewish doctors violating the laws of Shabbos in order to save a non-Jewish life, but I digress...) The tension and incongruence between what I understand halacha to say and what most Orthodox Jews actually believe is precisely what puzzles me.