Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Bad Fruit

A Republican senator from Texas comes out against Uganda’s aggravated sodomy law.

(Andrew Cline/Shutterstock)

There was a time in living memory when Sen. Ted Cruz was widely perceived as the rightward edge of American politics. He was as hawkish as Genghis Khan, as laissez faire as Ayn Rand, and as down-home Bible-thumping as Billy Graham.

For a certain kind of Republican, Cruz was the beau ideal. He offered hope that one could reject Trump’s reshaping of the GOP into a populist party without veering hard to the left in compensation—especially as that reformation entailed its own concessions to radical social causes.


On Memorial Day, Cruz dashed the last hopes of that kind of Republican. Fired up over a piece of legislation from halfway across the world that the American Empire’s rainbow lobby pegged as a threat to its advancement, the senator from Texas tweeted, “This Uganda law is horrific & wrong. Any law criminalizing homosexuality or imposing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ is grotesque & an abomination. ALL civilized nations should join together in condemning this human rights abuse.”

Below this message, Cruz added the hashtag #LGBTQ.

Activism in defense of legalized sodomy is not new territory for Cruz, who last year urged the state of Texas to repeal its law on the subject (which was made unenforceable in 2003 by the Supreme Court’s misjudgment in Lawrence v. Texas). Yet the outrage over strict punishment of “aggravated homosexuality” is a dramatic escalation—not to mention baffling and concerning from a man long considered a champion of middle America’s socially conservative Christians.

In addition to serial offenses, “aggravated homosexuality” refers primarily to rape and other forms of sodomy perpetrated on a person unable to consent, including children, the elderly, and the mentally disabled. What exactly is grotesque or abominable about meting out justice for such predation? Would not any reasonable person—right-wing or otherwise, Christian or not—think men who rape young boys deserve to go to the gallows?

A great many people, it seems, do not. As conservatives and Christians piled onto Cruz, others spoke up to second the senator’s strong condemnation of Uganda’s law. Cruz’s firmest support came from an unlikely ally, with liberal evangelical Russell Moore penning a long defense in Christianity Today.


I tend to steer clear of Protestant disputes for the same reasons I prefer Protestants stay away from Catholic ones. But Moore’s objection to morality laws is so ill-reasoned, so corrosive, so easily disproven by recourse to mere Christianity as to warrant a fraternal rebuke.

Moore admits what God’s law commands: “If any one lie with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination, let them be put to death: their blood be upon them.”

In spite of this, he insists that Uganda’s law—which, reserving the penalty of death only to the most extreme offenders, is rather more temperate than that proclaimed to Moses by his maker—is not just imprudent but essentially un-Christian.

Moore notes that Christians, subject to the new covenant, are not bound to the letter of the old covenant’s civil laws. This is a fact established by the Church at the Council of Jerusalem. Moore could easily make a case on this basis that the Uganda law is imprudent—that, since the death penalty is not required, other means might be explored to combat predatory sodomy more effectively.

This is not the argument Moore makes. Instead, Moore strangely seems to insist that, since the death penalty is not required for such offenses, it is somehow necessarily forbidden.

Moore reads a great deal of meaning into St. Paul’s instruction to the church at Corinth that a resolute sinner should be cast out from among them. He makes the remarkable leap in logic that Paul, by naming this specific measure, must be precluding all others. Specifically, Moore assumes that Paul must be denying the civil authority’s right to enforce the moral law because he does not mention it here. But why would he? He is speaking to the church, about what the church ought to do. That the concerns of the state are separate does not mean that they vanish into air.

Importantly, these kinds of arguments apply not just to the narrow subject of male-on-male rape but to virtually all questions of substantive morality. If the new covenant precludes enforcement of the old law’s moral precepts, it does not do so for sodomy alone; we must affirm that the death of God’s Son on a cross wiped out any right to use power for the good. Let sin run rampant so that God’s grace can provide.

Does Russell Moore really believe this? Does Ted Cruz, for that matter? Or have they both been so washed over with the propaganda of gay liberation that they cannot recognize the implications of their position? If (as in a just society) all unrepentant rapists were hanged, would Ted Cruz raise his voice in objection then? Or would he only speak out on behalf of those whose victims had been boys?

In the high holy season of American liberalism we face a number of unpleasant realities, and we do not have much freedom to look away. Foremost among these is the fact that one particular species of grave immorality—one that is especially fast-spreading and especially destructive to public order and civilizational health—goes effectively unchallenged by any meaningful political or religious force operating in the United States. The very thought of objection is forbidden. At best, we can count on a political right that will not actively celebrate its most obscene excesses.

Uganda offers a present-day reminder that pride and other sins need not be glorified—need not even be permitted. Scripture offers a clear command that they should not. But the American tradition itself—in which Ted Cruz before yesterday would have seemed so far left as to be chased out of any respectable town—presents another way.

Prior to 1962, sodomy was a felony in every state. Twenty-three still outlawed it by the time the Supreme Court thumbed the scale forty-one years later. The transformation of homosexual habits into a mainstream lifestyle was virtually unthinkable in this country before the 1960s; its exaltation alongside the natural family would have seemed absurd for another generation still.

Were your grandfathers uncivilized? Were their morals “horrific & wrong”? Was the society they upheld grotesque, an abomination?

These are not hard questions, but honest answers defy every entrenched power and every sacred value of the new regime.