Christianity and Anti-sodomy laws

Why Russell Moore is Wrong About Uganda

Western authorities were in an uproar last month over Uganda’s new bill criminalizing homosexuality. A supplement to Section 145 of Uganda’s criminal law (Penal Code Act, Cap. 120), The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023 stipulates more clearly what is meant by homosexual criminality and the punishments incurred. What has most people upset is a later amendment to the bill that makes “aggravated homosexuality” punishable up to death. Western LGBTQ Regimes struck back against the bill with condemnatory statements from The White House, The Department of State, Amnesty International, UNAIDS, and every major news outlet. Even supposedly staunchly conservative politicians piled on. They have decried the law as a gross violation of “human rights” that is violent and discriminatory, and that constitutes an imminent threat to the lives and well-being of Ugandan homosexuals.

Notwithstanding the godless political forces arrayed against us, Christians should accept the Ugandan bill as a legitimate civil policy for Christians and non-Christians alike. Yet our mighty, godly, and fearless Christian leaders shake their heads and wag their fingers at us: we should not, in fact, support Uganda because it is unchristian and goes against the gospel. At least, that is what Russell Moore argues in a recent article. In his theological mini-lecture, Moore informs us that the death penalty for sodomy was a culturally-bound penalty meant only for Israel and that the context of redemptive history and the New Covenant do away with the Old Testament “theocratic civil code.” While the moral content of the Old Law remains valid (homosexuality is wrong, according to Moore), the Church no longer enforces Mosaic criminal codes for violations of the moral law. Instead, because Jesus treated sinners with mercy and called them to repentance, this should characterize the stance of American and Ugandan Christians as well.

Moore is wrong. Nowhere does the Ugandan Act argue against homosexuality from Scripture, let alone for theonomic or theocratic reasons. Moore has imposed this framework upon the issue because he determined beforehand it was wrong and had to find a pious and “biblical” reason for his Philippic. Instead, the Anti-Homosexuality Act argues from reason, nature, and tradition: it seeks to protect the Ugandan family from “internal and external threats”; it wants to preserve the “cherished culture” and the “legal, religious, and traditional family values” of the Ugandan people; and it wants to combat the “values of sexual promiscuity” being imposed upon them in order to protect “children and youth” who are “vulnerable to sexual abuse through homosexuality and related acts.” This is an imminently reasonable position compatible with Christian doctrine and ethics, but knowable apart from divine revelation. Any adult human who has not yet been indoctrinated into the Gay Cult should be able to understand these things.

Thus, Christians should oppose Moore and support Uganda for three reasons.

First, homosexuality is immoral and harmful to society. Homosexual relationships are against nature and God’s design for human love, marriage, procreation, and flourishing. Advocates for gay relations seek to normalize such degeneracy by claiming that “Love is Love.” Slogans like these reveal the stupidity and irrationality at the heart of homosexuality. Statements of identity tell us nothing about what a thing is, what it is meant for, whether it is good or bad, and whether civil governments should encourage or discourage them. It’s like arguing that because “sex is sex,” therefore, rape is good. How stupid.

Behind the rise of homosexual acceptance (and all things related to LGBTQ, especially the current transgender movement) is a false anthropology. Instead of understanding mankind as being created by God as rational animals (a rational soul and physical body in a single, unified substance) whose reason is designed to constrain, guide, and channel the sensitive elements of our corporeal passions toward objectively good ends (understood from the natural and divine laws, as well as reason, experience, and custom), modern anthropology inverts the human person. Following the ideas of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume, the human is essentially conceived of as an appetitive creature, driven by passions and desires. Reason functions in a purely post hoc way, as a “scout and spy” (Hobbes) or a “slave” (Hume) of the passions, scheming ways to fulfill the desires or in later rationalization or justification for disordered longings and behaviors. In this view, whatever one feels is indicative of their true and authentic Self. The physical world around us tells us nothing about the nature or order of things but is putty to be molded to actualize (re: deify) the Self, or, if that cannot be done, an obstacle to be conquered and swept away. This assumed, love is not an act of the will ordered toward human and divine goods, but becomes a kind of emotive urge that baptizes every lust as a loving virtue. How perverse.

Homosexuality is not love but a living death. No homosexual relationship is capable of reproducing humans or propagating the species. For this reason alone, evolutionary natural selection (if true) would eliminate homosexual relations as anathema to the species’ drive for survival. Yet homosexuality not only cannot create new life, but it also kills existing life. Homosexual behavior consistently leads to higher rates of cancer, sexual and intestinal diseases, and premature death. In many cases, serial homosexuals can see decades shaved off their life expectancy. These facts are sufficient to demonstrate that homosexual acts and lifestyles are disordered and dangerous to individuals and society alike.

Second, Christians should support the Ugandan act because such laws have long been part of our nation’s moral and legal history. Sodomy was a criminal offense at common law, and colonial law ubiquitously punished homosexuality, with death being the most severe penalty. In 1776, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, all thirteen colonies prescribed the death penalty for male homosexuals, although many also had prison sentences. After the Revolution, penalties for sex crimes were reduced and relaxed, and the death penalty for sodomy faded away. Yet the prohibition and criminalization of homosexuality continued: in 1868 after the Fourteenth Amendment, 32 of 37 states had criminal sodomy laws, and by 1961 all 50 states had outlawed sodomy. It did not matter that these homosexual acts happened between consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms.

In the 1986 Supreme Court case Bowers v. Hardwick 478 U.S. 186, the Court declared that there was no “fundamental right” in the U.S. Constitution for homosexuals to engage in sodomy. Writing for the majority, Justice White reasoned that homosexual sodomy was neither a fundamental liberty “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” nor “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition” (cf. Palko v. Connecticut 302 U.S. 319 [1937]). In addition, it was not public majority opinion that constituted the rational basis for the law, but objective “notions of morality” apart from the changing tides of popular opinion.

However, seventeen years later, Bowers was overturned by Lawrence v. Texas (539 U.S. 558 [2003]). In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment implies a more extensive concept of liberty than Bowers appreciated. Relying upon his previous assertions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (505 U.S. 833 [1992]), Justice Kennedy argued that due to the “dignity” of homosexuals as free persons and the crippling stigma that would result from criminal prosecution and conviction, acts of homosexual sodomy are protected under the liberty granted by the Due Process Clause that forbids government intervention in the private, consensual, and intimate behavior of its citizens. Since no minors, predation, or coercion were involved in these relationships, singling out homosexuals for criminal prosecution would amount to class-based discriminatory legislation. For Justice Kennedy, “liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct” that ensures “constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education.” Justice Kennedy averred that homosexuals should be afforded these protections, even though “same-sex marriage” is a metaphysical impossibility, contraception makes no sense for homosexual sex acts, and homosexuals cannot procreate, grow a natural family, or rear and education their own children.

Channeling a Hobbesian and Humean anthropology of the absolute rights of the private and autonomous Self, Justice Kennedy was nothing but a jurisprudential agent of the modern Libertarian and Gay Regime—a black-robed High Priest of godless “liberty” and perverse sexuality that not only has succeeded in terraforming American society, public morality, and citizenship, but has been the vanguard for the GAE—the post-communist Global American Empire—that, in an act of arrogant and oppressive neo-colonialism, imposes LGBTQ ideology and custom on other nations, bullying and intimidating them into acquiescence. Uganda is resisting this gay colonialism, and American Christians ought to stand with them in opposing their own government’s evil, global oppression.

Moore might concede the moral and historical arguments against homosexuality. But, he assures us, civil power hath no jurisdiction here! Why so? Because, according to him, “not everything that’s a sin is a crime.” While the Church has authority from God to declare certain desires, thoughts, and behaviors sinful and to call men to repentance through the proclamation of the gospel, the Church cannot judge outsiders or impose a biblical ethic through the power of government. For Moore, we must maintain a strict separation of church and state. Additionally, for Moore,

Unleashing the violence of state-ordained execution, imprisonment, and surveillance on gay and lesbian Ugandans is a condemnable act of authoritarianism and a violation of the self-evident and unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To do such a thing is a matter of power, not of conviction. It demonstrates not a commitment to the Bible’s authority but a rejection of it.

These sentiments are currently in vogue, but they demonstrate that Moore has no idea what he’s talking about. God has ordained two institutions for the governance of mankind: the Church over believers and Civil Magistracy over society (which is primarily composed of and includes families and household economies). These institutions have different functions, which means they are distinct; yet they are not separate since they complement and support each other, which means they are two strands of a single, coherent polity. In no case is there ever a separation of politics and religion, for all political regimes and systems of law require a sacred foundation and moral philosophy to properly guide man toward both his temporal and heavenly ends. Religious societies (e.g., the local church), in turn, cannot exist as God intended without civil preconditions, such as legal, property, and incorporation rights, civil and criminal codes, delivery of utilities, and the assurance of peace and redress for wrongs. How to exactly balance these two institutions may be debated, but to dismiss a valid function of one of them by claiming that the other institution doesn’t have that function or authority is to be badly confused.

It is true that Paul instructs believers in Romans 12 that they are not, as the Church of Christ, to pursue vengeance for wrongdoing. Yet precisely because this is not the jurisdiction of the Church, Paul turns to civil government for this duty in Romans 13. There, Paul tells us that God has instituted government for our good (to reward the righteous) and to be a terror to evildoers. The means of terror is the sword, which the authorities do not use to paddle bad boys across the bottom, but to put criminals to death. Civil government, therefore, is “the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Is homosexuality wrong-doing according to God’s Word and right reason? Yes. Is it therefore liable to criminal prosecution according to a biblical theology of civil government? Yes.

Moore (and many other Christians) will surely, at this point, continue to argue that all sins should not be made criminal—otherwise, limited government will be swallowed up by a moralistic Leviathan. Is not lying to one’s parents wrongdoing? Do we want civil government to punish children or teenagers for lying? These arguments usually presuppose some kind of strict private-public division, equating sins with “private acts” to be tolerated by the state and crimes with “public acts” to be prosecuted and punished. The private-public assumption is usually undergirded by a libertarian political philosophy, in which wrongdoing only amounts to a public crime when it physically harms another or violates their civil rights. Petty sins (lying), self-harms (suicide), or consensual harms (i.e., what one does in their bedroom) are off-limits to the state. Concomitant to this is a “right to privacy” (per Griswold v. Connecticut [381 U.S. 479 (1965)])—defined as the right of bodily autonomy (or in the case of pregnant women, the right to their body and the body of their fetus) that is beyond government action—is also presupposed. There is a high bar for wrongdoing to reach the level of criminality and prosecution, and for Moore (and most secular, western leaders), homosexuality does not make the cut.

Let us answer these positions by giving our third point for why Christians should support the Ugandan law: to protect society from a wickedness that will infect and destroy it. Libertarianism is a deficient moral and political philosophy. The American founders were not libertarian, and they were not modern liberals. They understood (as Uganda understands now) that the traditional, heterosexual family was the cornerstone of society, and that it, therefore, must be protected from the ravages of men’s sexual passions, promiscuity, and licentiousness. No, not all sins should be criminalized or prosecuted; yet homosexuality is not just “any sin,” but an egregious public sin that infects society by destroying families, polluting morals, corrupting virtue, and unleashing other kinds of sexual degeneracy. Accordingly, there were laws against homosexuality from the 17th to the 20th centuries as well as laws against adultery, bestiality, prostitution, polygamy, divorce, public indecency, and obscenity. All of these behaviors, even if supposedly “private,” had severe, negative, public consequences that demanded prohibitive laws. Until the middle of the twentieth century, when a liberal, secular, and activist Supreme Court (urged on by a secular academy) began to systematically invert America’s historic moral and sexual custom and jurisprudence (often against the wishes of a majority of the people and state constitutions and legislatures), it was assumed that civil governments (mostly via state police power) had the right to protect the family, uphold healthy sexual mores, and instruct the people in public decency.

Contra Moore, for the founders, the rights to life, liberty, and happiness were natural rights rooted in and derived from natural law—which, of course, as preeminent American jurists knew, was nothing other than the creaturely participation in God’s eternal law. Yes, the natural law protects innocent life, but it also warrants capital punishment for egregious evils that threaten society. Yes, the natural law protects natural liberties, but there is no liberty (i.e., right) to do evil. Yes, the natural law directs us toward genuine human happiness, but this is understood within a theological and moral context of mankind having a finis ultimus and summum bonum that can only be finally fulfilled in knowing God. One cannot merely haphazardly invoke the rights of “life, liberty, and happiness” divorced from their original political, moral, and theological moorings in order to hamstring criminal law and justify the right of citizens to engage in sexual immorality with impunity. This is careless, ignorant, and foolish on Moore’s part.

What about consent? Is it beyond the purview of civil or criminal law to interfere with what two (or more) consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms? Not at all. That two people consent to do something wicked doesn’t make it lawful. In fact, it makes it more wicked than if there was a non-consenting victim. Why? In the latter case, a person is innocent, and their innocence not only testifies to the evil done but often instructs us as to what justice and injustice are. Yet adults consenting to rape (for sodomy, as an unnatural, violent, and intrinsically immoral sex act, is rape) has the effect of obscuring the evil and injustice of it; consent functions as a lie, soothing the conscience of citizens and public officials (including Supreme Court Justices) alike that all is well when all is not. Thus, if anything, civil law ought to oppose consensual acts of wickedness that harm its participants and society as a whole more than non-consensual harms where everyone agrees as to who the victim and perpetrator are and what the crime is.

Since all law serves a moral pedagogical function, it is incumbent upon civil and criminal law to expose evil deeds of darkness in order to instruct the people in true public morality—for education in public morality via law cannot be avoided. Only in this way can a virtuous people—and thus a republican government that depends upon a virtuous citizenry—be preserved in each succeeding generation. When this fails, and especially when law and policy become co-opted in service of vice and moral degeneracy, government by consent fails as the people become shriveled and corrupt in their souls. Oligarchy (or kleptocracy) and democratic slavery—both of which usually devolve into tyranny—are the result. Once a certain point is crossed, the only way to arrest this political fall is through a counteracting force: at best a godly prince or monarchy; at worst a godless, authoritarian Caesar. America may have reached this point, but Uganda has not; and we should do everything possible to aid this small African nation in avoiding our disastrous and cruel, but wholly deserved, fate.

This means opposition to homosexuality and so-called “same-sex marriage,” both of which not only undermine but completely eviscerate heterosexual marriage and the traditional family. There is no “live and let live” philosophy among gay activists; this was a purely rhetorical device meant to woo and placate weak-kneed Christian traditionalists like Moore. The homosexual lobby was explicitly clear from the beginning that they were attempting to destroy America’s Christian and traditional sex and marriage culture, and to replace it with a demonic “polymorphous perversity.” This is indeed what has happened in America, and it is what will happen in Uganda if the Ugandan authorities and people allow the homosexual cancer to take root and grow. As Matt Walsh has recently shown in his eye-opening film What Is a Woman?, the insanity and evil of transgenderism has taken a trenchant and ubiquitous hold in American education, medicine, law, and culture, mutilating and disfiguring innocent and hapless children, deluding adults, destroying parental rights, and causing untold harms. While some gay advocates want to separate the LGB from the T, they all go together, for without the L, G, and B, there would have been no T. Transgenderism—and the godless transhumanism that propels it—is the inevitable outgrowth of homosexuality and its disfigured notion of the human person, rights, privacy, and the absolute supremacy of the Self to gratify Itself. Uganda is absolutely right to oppose homosexuality in such strict terms and with such draconian penalties because it is a death sentence to a healthy, just, and flourishing society.

Yet one question remains: is the death sentence for aggravated and serial homosexual acts really warranted? Is this not a bridge too far? Critics of the Ugandan law have seized upon the death penalty element, yet they exaggerate this component of the law. Capital punishment is only reserved for the most extreme cases of “aggravated homosexuality” (a type of predatory homosexuality), which the Ugandan law classifies as involving one of seven criteria (Section 3). Few cases would rise to this level of specificity and culpability. Otherwise, the highest criminal penalty is imprisonment for ten years. The Ugandan law is very similar to anti-homosexual law in America from the colonial era until the 1950s.

Could the death penalty in principle be warranted for homosexual acts? If decriminalizing, accepting, and celebrating homosexuality leads to transgenderism and transhumanism, which end up rotting and destroying civilization from the inside out, then a very strong—if not the strongest—stance could be taken against homosexuality. To set this perversion loose is akin to societal suicide. While a death sentence is not justified in every (or even most) homosexual violations (as the Ugandan law obviously makes clear), it is in principle appropriate for capital punishment to be reserved for aggravated, serial, and unrepentant homosexual acts that prey upon innocent minors or that seek to flagrantly pervert society and its accustomed ways of life. A society cannot survive long when suicide and rape are tolerated; make no mistake that sodomy of all kinds is rape and homosexuality is civilizational suicide.

Prudence would dictate that Uganda’s law would not currently work in America. In fact, while the death penalty was prescribed for sodomy (along with many other sexual acts) for a long time in America, it was rarely carried out. Some scholars have termed this asymmetry between de jure law and de facto execution in the nineteenth century as the “Victorian compromise”: even though laws against homosexuality were on the books, public officials silently looked the other way and rarely enforced them. While this compromise has been deemed hypocritical, it’s not; instead, it is the realistic understanding that human law cannot correct all wrongs (as the Angelic Doctor readily understood). Still, this does not mean prohibitions should not be on the books, for the law is always a teacher and plays a fundamental role in shaping public mores and culture. The ideal for America currently would be to overturn Lawrence v. Texas and declare there is no right or liberty to homosexual acts under the Constitution, knowing that the criminalization of homosexuality could not be very well enforced. The first step would not be to pry into the sexual lives of gay and lesbian Americans, but to help reeducate the public as to healthy sexuality and the true nature of marriage. Such a reeducation would once again begin to stigmatize that which is unnatural, immoral, and ugly while honoring and elevating what is natural, moral, and beautiful.

Apparently, Russell Moore cannot stomach something like this. For him, the gay ship has sailed and he quickly booked a ticket to ride in its wake. Having ensconced himself deeply within regime-approved evangelical circles, Moore’s reputation and “witness” now hinges upon him weaving winsome words of pious acceptance for the sexually downcast, marginalized, and “other” among us. Biblically faithful and patriotic Christians should not take such a person seriously.

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