This is all Dan‘s fault. He sicced me on the crazy fundie guy who made the video linked in this post (the entire blog, by the way, is totally awesome, RSS +1). Before I proceed to the funny business of making the frothing-at-the-mouth batshit insane bigot look even moar ridiculous, I’ll have to take the unfunny business out of the way first.
The crazy person in the video, as well as some comments in the post linked above mention a surprisingly wide-spread right wing screed about the Evil Homosexual King Mwanga.
The Wiki tells us that:
Mwanga saw the greatest threat to his rule coming from the Christian missionaries who had gradually penetrated Buganda. His father had played-off the three religions; Catholics, Protestants and Muslims against each other and thus balanced the influence of the colonial powers that were backing each group. Mwanga II took a much more aggressive approach, expelling missionaries and insisting that Christian converts abandon their faith or face death.
On October 29, 1885, he had the incoming archbishop James Hannington murdered on the eastern border of his kingdom. Then between 1885 and 1887, over forty-five of the king’s pages were put to death on the orders of Mwanga. The crime was failure to renounce their newly-found Christian beliefs.
What right wingers and Catholics (this is because some of the Christians – specifically, Catholics – worship the pages killed by Mwanga who were canonized in 1964) like to argue is that the persecution of Christians during Mwanga’s reign was caused by his being unhappy with his newly-converted male pages refusing to have gay sex with him.
It is rather difficult to tell who came up first with the idea, because, typically, crazy right-wing people hardly ever think it necessary to make footnotes. Like here:
Mwangas homosexuality is an issue we tip-toed about for fear of offending the Buganda monarchy which abhors homosexuality. But all historical accounts of the martyrs agree that Mwanga was a deviant homosexual who used his demigod status to appease his voracious appetite for sodomy by engaging in these unmentionable acts with his pages at court. (source)
For Mwanga, the ultimate humiliation was the insolence he received from the pages when they ( the least subservient of servants) resisted his homosexual advances. (source)
However, attempts to rebuff them and their young charges were led by the pagan King Mwanga, who hated Christianity with a passion. For Christianity opposed homosexuality as amoral disorder and the catechized young men at the court began to understand that the king did not own their bodies, and could not force them to act in a way that was against their conscience and their new-found Catholic faith. Mwanga was having difficulty forcing himself on the boys and young men of his royal court, because they avoided him and his unnatural desires. (source)
The last article is especially dishonest, because while depicting the killed Christians as “boys and young men” and emphasising their young age (“all under the age of 25″) it conveniently fails to mention that in 1887 Mwanga himself was 17 years old. This is clearly because portraying a supposedly gay person as a rapist and murderer is not enough. He has to be a paedophile, too.
1. Let me preface this with a warning: history of Africa is not my area of expertise. But: I have access to JSTOR.
2. Killing of Christian missionaries/Christian is something that didn’t happen only in Buganda. The reason is that as soon as soon-to-be-colonised country’s ruling class realises that the missionaries are often followed by European colonialists with their armies, their diseases, and exploitation of local people, they usually decide to get rid of the missionaries before anybody follows them. This, for instance, what happened to the 26 Martyrs of Japan.
3. The missionary colonialist narrative was subjective and written from an outsider, imperialist perspective. It should not be considered a source of “objective” historical data, which can be directly, without proper interpretation re-written into history books. This is what it looks like (warning for mindfuckery):
This king, son of Mutesa, whom Speke and Stanley made famous in their books, was a youth of vicious propensities who had been alarmed by the influence which missionaries were acquiring over his subjects. At the ill-fated moment when he was planning the massacre of all missionaries, he heard of the approach of Bishop Hannington, and by his command the Bishop w-as killed on the eastern frontier of Uganda.
(Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol. 41, No. 1 (1909), p. 58, from the review of Bishop Hannington and the Story of the Uganda Mission by W. Grington Berry))
The missionaries were confident of success, and the day when Mutesa should for ever throw off the pagan yoke and embrace the new faith was awaited with sanguine eagerness. To have converted the king would have carried with it the immediate establishment of Christianity in Uganda; the old heathen customs would have been broken down, and the entire country would have been revolutionized.
For a while Uganda wavered between the Cross and the Crescent; the arguments of the advocates of each faith seemed almost equal, thotlgh Mackay found it easy when confronted with his adversaries to defeat them on all points. He was a man of many parts, and his early training as an engineer soon brought him immense poplllarity as a ” handy man “; his workshop was beset by the natives at all times, and their faith in the white man’s knowledge knew no bounds. Islam was defeated, and, for a second time, the missionaries imagined that the evangelization of the country was on the eve of becoming an accomplished fact; but a second time they were doomed to disappointment. This was in December I879, when a wave of paganism passed over the land, obliterating, for the time, all traces of the good work done by the missionaries. “It is heartrending,” wrote Mackay, in one of his letters home, ” to think of this result of more than two and a half years’ teaching of Christianity at this Court.”
(Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 2, No. 7 (Apr., 1903), pp. 276-291,” Christianity in Uganda” by A. F. Mockler-Ferryman)
3. While allusions to Mwanga’s immoral behaviour abound in the Christian and colonialist literature, the first person, as far as I can tell, to make a direct link between Mwanga’s supposed gayness and his persecution of Christians was J. A. Rowe in “The Purge of Christians at Mwanga’s Court: A Reassessment of This Episode in Buganda History” published in 1964 in the Journal of African History.
Unfortunetaly, I was unable to find out more about Rowe. The “reassessment” in the title refers to his (her?) proposal that the persecution be linked to Mwanga’s “addiction to sodomy” (this is an actual quote). His (her?) argument is more or less the following:
- because not all Christians were killed during the anti-Christian persecution this must mean that Mwanga was not in fact trying to kill all Christians (I’m not presenting this argument as circular to make fun of it. It actually *is* circular)
- because Mwanga’s father and predecessor, Mutesa, killed many more Muslims when he was persecuting them during his reign, and Mwanga was much younger and a weaker politician, he didn’t want to persecute all Christians, but only those who didn’t want to have sex with him
- because some Christians who were supposed to be killed weren’t killed because of their personal merits , or because they were too valuable (like, a skilled blacksmith), or because they had powerful friends and protectors, or simply because they were too far away, Mwanga didn’t want to kill all Christians, but only those who didn’t want to have to sex with him
-because some Christians managed to escape his wrath, Mwanga was only targeting those who refused to have sex with him
- the Katikkiro during the time the Christians were persecuted was opposing Christianity, and had a great influence over Mwanga, which would not be sufficient to turn Mwanga against Christians, because what counted was that he only wanted to kill the ones that didn’t want to have sex with him
- in 1885, when Mwanga had bishop Hannington killed, he found out that the Christians among his personal pages were spying on him and secretly informing the missionaries about his plans and state secrets. The distrust this act of disloyalty would have caused him to feel is insufficient as a motivation for persecuting Christians, because he only wanted to kill those Christians who refused to have sex with him
- Mwanga’s personal pages were an easy target, because they were close to him and couldn’t just leave or escape. However, the fact that they were an easy target is again not a sufficient explanation for his desire to kill them
- and I’m not even going to comment on stuff like this: “Compared with the youthful Mutesa, Mwanga was less decisive, less bold, less cruel.” Is this supposed to be scholarship or a cheap, pop-psychology-filled historical novel?
-also, is this a joke?
“‘Fickle, sensual, nervous and unstable” are words which have customarily been used to describe Mwanga, who is also invariably compared unfavourably with his father Mutesa.”
is closely followed by:
“Mutesa, at the same age as Mwanga and faced with similar problems of stabilizing himself on the throne at the expense of over-powerful chiefs, entered on a series of purges and wholesale executions which earned him the praise-name Mukabya, ‘the bringer of tears’.32 When faced with a religious threat from the Muslim converts in his later years, Mutesa launched a persecution that leaves Mwanga’s 1886 outburst a pale reflexion. It was estimated that as many as seventy chiefs and pages were burned at Namugongo, while up to a thousand persons were slain throughout the country.33 This may be an overestimate, but there is no doubt that Mutesa’s persecution of the Muslims was far more severe than Mwanga’s action against the Christians, which Faupel estimates cost the lives of perhaps a hundred, including non-Christians, throughout the country.”
So, when you kill Muslims, you’re a “youthful”, energetic politician. When you kill Christians, you’re ”addicted to sodomy”.
I think this is the first time I’ve seen so many non sequiturs and circular arguments in one paper. It’s a fairly straightforward case of shoddy scholarship, to me. Also, it’s quite clear from Rowe’s wording that he’s siding with missionaries, and believes the martyrs to be heroes.
If the sequence of events looked indeed as recounted by Rowe, I’d say that the pages were targeted because of their previous betrayal, and because they presented an easy target. Christian, and not only Christian missionaries brought foreign armies after them, and were often treated with distrust. Frankly, I’d consider it more surprising if no one had been killed at all.
In short: it’s safe to say that Ugandan Martyrs were not killed for refusing to have gay sex with Mwanga.
Also, the cherry on top: Mwanga had 16 wives and 11 children.
This whole argument is, however, completely irrelevant. I only wrote about it, because it annoys me when people spread lies, and when they rely on a disgusting colonial narratives to make prompt moral judgments about people whose perspective is completely missing from the discourse.
The thing is, even if Mwanga could be considered a homosexual rapist, so what? Why should be one evil person representative of the entire group? Last time I checked, Genghis Khan, Savonarola, Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler were all heterosexual, and yet, nobody is trying to ban heterosexuality on the grounds that it causes men to become involved in genocide.
By which I mean to say, some people need to shut up.
ETA: editing typos as they are spotted ^^J Also, interesting post I just found that is relevant to my interests.