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Lou Engle does not believe America should be a theocracy. But the senior leader of the International House of Prayer—the IHOP that serves not pancakes but the Lord—has an opinion about homosexuality, of which he speaks at fiery length in Oscar-winning director Roger Ross Williams’ feature documentary debut, God Loves Uganda. Here, Williams includes footage of a 2008 rally Engle led in San Diego during the battle over Prop 8. Engle’s prediction: “What happens in California will release a spirit that is more demonic than Islam…and a sexual insanity will be unleashed unto the Earth!”
Regardless of which way you lean—right extremists, of course, excepted—your initial reaction to Engle’s ludicrous words may be laughter. But you quickly realize this guy is serious, and your amusement morphs into queasiness and, if you have even a finger’s worth of tolerance, disgust. (And that hate-fueled Islam comparison? Not the only dig: Williams captures a van full of young IHOP missionaries stopping to buy street food in Uganda, and engaging not in small but Bible talk. “Oh, you’re a Muslim?” one of them asks a native girl. “Hmm.”)
God Loves Uganda focuses on the efforts of American evangelicals (whom the film sometimes misleadingly refers to as mere conservatives) to spread their anti-LGBT message to the African country. Williams isn’t subtle; he profiles the most extreme of the extremists and pits them against thoughtful clergy who love both God and equality, such as the Rev. Kapya Kaoma, who resides in Boston after being forced to flee Uganda because of his support of homosexual rights. Without a single moderate voice on the subject, this is depicted as a battle between polar opposites—though when one side believes in hate-fueled discrimination, it’s not difficult to find people who vehemently oppose it.
Even at 83 minutes, the doc feels a bit padded, with too many scenes of anti-gay Americans in huge churches waving their arms, singing, crying, speaking in tongues. Williams also employs the insulting technique of subtitling English speakers with even the faintest accents. But the film, though sure to be polarizing, is an eye-opener on a movement that most U.S. viewers are probably not even aware of, especially considering that the same clash is currently taking place on our soil. It’s both absurd and sad to hear some of the ideas held by those pushing a God-fearing, heterosexual society. One activist allegedly tells his audiences that “the gays were responsible for what happened in Nazi Germany,” Rev. Kaoma says. “Come on.”