Pastor Scott Lively and matters Ugandan

For the last 20 years the Rev. Lively has been waging a tireless international campaign against homosexuality. This has become the focus of his life.

Now I’m suspicious of single-issue advocates – even if I happen to agree with the single issue. Effective action needs to be launched from a sound intellectual platform, which is impossible to construct without putting narrow issues into a wide context.

Yet the American pastor is a man driven by passion, not ratiocination. This took him to Uganda where over the years he made a number of well-attended appearances preaching against his bogeyman vice.

Eventually a private member’s bill was introduced in Kampala’s parliament, calling for punishing homosexuality by prison terms or, in extreme cases, by death.

To his credit, the Rev. Lively refused to support the bill because of the death-penalty clause: “I was very disappointed when the law came out as it is written now with such incredibly harsh punishments.” His aim, he said, was not to punish homosexuals but to rehabilitate them, while preaching scriptural commandments on the family.

Nevertheless, given the ethos of the time, the Rev. Lively predictably got in trouble. He was sued by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a US homosexual pressure group acting on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a Uganda-based coalition of LGBTI advocates. Ten days ago a US federal judge ruled that the case could proceed.

SMUG claims that the anti-homosexual law, for which they hold the Rev. Lively partly responsible, has led to deadly street attacks. I have no independent evidence to prove or disprove this assertion but, given the political and civic culture of the place, SMUG may well be right.

But even if no such attacks had taken place, these chaps would still be out to get the pastor. Our post-Christian modernity is more than ready to punish word as severely as deed, and any homosexual lobby would regard the Rev. Lively’s words as incendiary.

For, while opposed to the brutal harshness of the Ugandan law, he hasn’t changed his view that “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

His detractors tend to equate the absence of anti-homosexual laws with liberty, which is hard to justify either morally or historically. After all, the first major country without such laws was Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1934, a place and time not otherwise known for a laissez-faire attitude to life.

Where I disagree with the Rev. Lively is his belief that the “gay movement” is mainly to blame for the problems of “the marriage-based society”. No doubt it contributes to such problems, but only because it’s being used for that purpose by a much larger entity: the modern political state.

When Christendom was more than just a figure of speech, or else a matter of antiquarian interest, the family was seen as a key building block of society. Social fabric in those days was woven out of families and family-like groups: parish, guild, clan, monastery, village commune, township.

When familial localism shifted to bureaucratic centralism (otherwise known as liberal democracy), the post-Christian state began to see the family not as its ally but as its competitor.

Sensing this, John Locke, who laid out the groundwork for the liberal democratic state, countenanced not only divorce but even polygamy: “He that is already married may marry another woman with his left hand…”

It’s reassuring to see how solicitously our Lockean modernity is trying to make sure his anti-marriage desiderata can come true. If in Locke’s time hostility to marriage was still embryonic, by now it has grown to full maturity.

Today’s political state in the West, while still not strong enough to abolish marriage and family, is strong enough to erode them. Promotion of homosexuality, including such abominations as same-sex marriage, is one tactic employed to that end, but it’s far from being the only one.

Even more pernicious is the welfare state that robs the family of its economic function by squeezing the state’s bulk into the slot formerly occupied by the father. Thereby the state assumes the provider role traditionally played by the father, which makes him redundant. The father takes the hint and vanishes.

Hence, according to the Office for National Statistics, last year 47.5 percent of children were born to unmarried mothers. The figure has risen from 25 per cent in 1988 and just 11 per cent in 1979. If the trend continues at the current rate, by 2016 the majority of children will be born to unmarried parents.

Another anti-marriage arrow in the state’s quiver is its tax laws that encourage cohabitation without the benefit of marriage. In fact, marriage confers no fiscal benefit whatsoever: it pays for people to stay single. The arrow hits its target with unerring accuracy.

The Rev. Lively is right to point out the anti-Christian, indeed antisocial, nature of wanton sexual promiscuity in general and homosexuality in particular. One wonders, however, if a bit less fervour and a bit more reason would serve his cause better.

On second thoughts, where would we be without impassioned men of action? The world would be run by philosophers, just as Plato wanted. It would then be even more miserable than it is now.

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