American Pastor and Evangelist, Scott Lively, is in the news for being charged with Crimes Against Humanity for his actions in Uganda. He calls himself the father of the anti-gay movement in Uganda. He creates hysteria within religious and political circles. Lively presents himself as an expert on LGBTQ issues around the world, encouraging persecution.
In 2009, a bill was proposed that would have imposed the death sentence on homosexual “serial offenders”. The bill was dropped after international pressure but it was reintroduced in February 2012. The revised bill takes the death sentence off the table, but life in prison remains. The bill is still pending consideration in the Ugandan legislature.
In the US, Lively is mostly ignored but he gained a foothold in Uganda through his church’s missionary work. His goal was the persecution and eradication of homosexuals from Uganda. A 2012 lawsuit was filed against Lively in the US because he is an American who is alleged as committing an international crime. His request to have it dismissed was denied this month.
So how does one man, or one church, create such a frenzy in an entire country? The study of group dynamics helps us understand social prejudice and discrimination.
Social psychologist Kurt Lewin coined the term “group dynamics” to describe the positive and negative forces within groups of people. Individual behavior is influenced by the presence of others. Groups can change individual members by prompting them to change their attitudes and values to the consensus of the group. When individuals are members of a large group they sometimes engage in behaviors that they would never engage in if they were acting individually. This type of influence can be useful in the context of work and sports but the influence of groups can also create extremely negative behaviors such as what occurred in the Holocaust and Rwanda.
Individuals tend to show favoritism toward their own group, and negative reactions toward other groups. This can result in prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. Lively exploits group dynamics by identifying homosexuals as a group (“gay movement” and “an evil institution”) whose goal is to defeat the (good) marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity. He heightened prejudice by comparing this group to other evil groups. For example, Lively made the claim that some of Hitler’s closest advisers were gay and they helped mastermind the Holocaust. These are some of the ways that he creates anti-gay hysteria.
Many people would find Lively’s brand of religion offensive. He and his church have been called “hate-mongers.” Charles Kimball, author of “When Religion Becomes Evil” examines corrupt forms of religious expression. “Whatever religious people may say about their love of God or the mandates of their religion, when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure that religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed”.