An interesting thing started happening over the last few years that I think is worth noting. Many conservative Evangelical missionaries suddenly became quite interested in resisting colonialism. I know! I was as surprised as you are. After, all, so much of Western Evangelical missions has been a central piece in the historic and ongoing efforts to colonize much of the world, both culturally and politically. Was this an indication of a new movement to decolonize Christian missionary efforts? Unfortunately, while small pockets of such efforts do exist, it turned out that in this case, they had other priorities in mind. In fact, they continued to deny any current or lasting impact of colonialism within modern missions (with some grudging acknowledgment of historic harms). However, there was one area where they were entirely (and quite selectively) opposed to what they called aggressive, Western colonialist agendas: Protecting 2SLGBTQIA+ rights, freedoms, and lives.
That’s right. For example, as human rights advocates in Western contexts began to engage in social and political change in some African countries where laws were becoming increasingly dangerous for queer people, the missionaries- already deeply invested in centuries-long efforts to Christianize (and most often Westernize) these same countries- began to cry “COLONIALISM!”. They are suddenly very invested in resisting “Western interference”.
Now, to be clear, there are legitimate risks that in our well-intentioned and important efforts to fight for 2SLGBTQIA+ rights in other countries and cultural contexts, we will perpetuate the dominating patterns of colonialism. However, such concerns do not at all legitimize the concerns of these Christian missionaries. Their selective application of anti-colonial rhetoric is actually a weaponization of such efforts to protect their pre-existing colonialist “victories”, namely around gender and sexuality.
Let’s look at Africa as an example. First, I don’t want to suggest an homogeneity across the continent. Africa encompasses a vast diversity in laws, cultures, attitudes, and contexts across different African countries. Second, Western colonialism and missions efforts are not exclusively responsible for anti-2SLGBTQIA+ ideas and practices. Those dynamics are present in some…