Defenders of the un-Christlike Reverend Rick Warren are quick to point out the good work their rotund messiah does in combating AIDS in Africa. Warren himself can hardly take a breath these days without congratulating himself for his efforts in fighting the deadly disease. But facts are emerging that paint a different picture of the man who is preparing to
wallow in the publicity impress the free world with his upcoming invocation at President-elect Obama's inaugural.
During the last few weeks, members of the progressive blogosphere (ourselves included) have been so focused on Warren's loathsome remarks about same-sex couples (he compares them to pedophiles) that little has been written about that African AIDS work Warren keeps boasting about. Max Blumenthal on the Daily Beast noticed that Warren hasn't been forthcoming when asked to provide details about his many good deeds. (Christian humility? Hardly. Warren doesn't know the meaning of the words.) Blumenthal writes that "an investigation into Warren’s involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education." (Well, they are fundies. That's only to expected, right? Can it really cause that much damage?) From the Beast: Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is "resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred." Warren’s man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country’s First Lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.
Pastor Rick's point man on the continent is not only causing increased numbers of (primarily heterosexual) AIDS patients to suffer and die, he's waging a pogrom against gays and lesbians in Uganda. Okay, you say. But maybe SSempa and Warren aren't that close. Oh, but they are: When Warren unveiled his global AIDS initiative at a 2005 conference at his Saddleback Church, he cast Ssempa as his indispensable sidekick, assigning him to lead a breakout session on abstinence-only education as well as a seminar on AIDS prevention. Later, Ssempa delivered a keynote address, a speech so stirring it "had the audience on the edge of its seats," according to Warren's public relations agency. A year later, Ssempa returned to Saddleback Church to lead another seminar on AIDS. By this time, his bond with the Warrens had grown almost familial. "You are my brother, Martin, and I love you," Rick Warren's wife, Kay, said to Ssempa from the stage. Her voice trembled with emotion as she spoke, and tears ran down her cheeks....
Okay then, maybe they're friends. But how bad can this guy be? Blumenthal writes: In August 2007, Ssempa led hundreds of his followers through the streets of Kampala to demand that the government mete out harsh punishments against gays. "ARREST ALL HOMOS," read placards... Ssempa continued his crusade online, publishing the names of Ugandan gay rights activists on a website he created, along with photos and home addresses. "Homosexual promoters," he called them, suggesting they intended to seduce Uganda’s children into their lifestyle. Soon afterwards, two of President Yoweri Museveni’s top officials demanded the arrest of the gays named by Ssempa. (There's more...)
Since Ssempa is Pastor Rick's buddy and Pastor Rick is Obama's buddy, maybe Obama should invite Ssempa to his inauguration, too. After all, it was our president-elect who said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable."
Here are two typical articles from Ugandan newspapers that incite violence against gays: