Public rebirth: Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity, sexuality & nation building in the Ugandan public sphere
Valois, Caroline Debruhl
Throughout the past five years a flood of international attention has been paid to Uganda. This focus has to do with the proposal, passage, and annulment of the Anti- Homosexuality Bill (AHB). In its original form, the AHB prescribed the death penalty for some acts of homosexuality, mandated prison sentences for the ‘promotion of homosexuality’, and required Ugandans to report ‘offenders’ to the authorities. Overwhelmingly the predominant frames found throughout the international press, attribute the Legislation to two main factors, the influence of the North American evangelical movement, and/or the ruling party—the National Resistance Movement—using local homophobia to obscure broader trends of restricting human rights and democratic freedoms. While both explanations have degrees of validity they underplay the tangible religiousity of the context, demonstrated in the discursive influence of the Ugandan Pentecostal-Charismatic (PC) movement, at the heart of the Legislation. Yet, PC influence is demonstrated far beyond the Legislation alone, and it is changing the nature of Ugandan politics, governance, and the formation of citizenship. This thesis examines the influence of PC discourse on processes of governance and citizenship by using the PC engagement with sexuality in the public sphere to understand its political impact. I argue that PC discourse in the public sphere—which functions by reinscribing the past, present, and future—reveals tensions in the Ugandan public sphere, the negotiation of citizenship, and perpetuates the indistinct boundaries between religion, politics, and governance. Through an extended ethnographic approach conducted at four local PC churches over the course of fourteens months in Kampala—including Miracle Centre, One Love, Watoto, and Covenant Nations—analysis of church-produced discourse collected through participant observations and interviews elucidates the impact of moral narratives on political governance and citizenship. In church-produced discourse homosexuality is positioned as inherently un-African, a practice learned from the West that undermines local tradition and morality, and is a threat to the up-and-coming generation charged with transforming the nation. Consequently, for the PC community the Legislation functions as a display of autonomy from Western influence, and a stride towards nation building by establishing a moral citizenry reflective of PC tenets of sexual purity, by a religious community that has taken on the role of development actor. The implications of the study cannot be understated. PC discourse has profound implications for Ugandans living outside of the bounds of PC identity. The AHB reflects the newfound political influence and impact of PC discourse in the public sphere. Consequently as members of the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community, a community seen as incompatible with this newly aligned moral national identity, is rendered not to belong to Uganda. In turn the boundaries between the political and the religious are made more and more indistinguishable, and the Ugandan LGBTI community without a distinguishable country.