Special Report by Researcher Bruce Wilson
In an October 2010 post on his blogspot.com site, Invisible Children’s Director of Ideology Jedidiah Jenkins grouped “homosexuality” as a sin along with “sexual addiction” and “pornography.” On the other hand, in a February 2012 post, Jenkins praised writing from a Christian theologian who is critical of ex-gay ministries.
Jenkins’ overtly evangelical tone, echoed in a November 7, 2011 Liberty University appearance by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, evokes deep conflicts that run through Invisible Children, which as an organization has branded itself as welcoming to religious, cultural, and sexual diversity.
But IC has also partnered with politicians and governments, in America and Uganda, which seem intent on annihilating diversity – by law or, if necessary, through violence. And, while Invisible Children bills itself as primarily devoted to human needs, the nonprofit’s choice to spend less than a third of its budget last year on African programs is consistent with a less obvious mission, as a multimedia-based, stealth evangelical performance ministry that targets young Americans in the “millennial” generation.
Along with his role as Director of Ideology, Jedidiah Jenkins is a co-author, with Jason Russell, of the KONY 2012 viral video that’s been viewed over 83 million times on Youtube. Prior to its Internet launch, Russell identified KONY 2012 as “literally the best piece of propaganda we’ve ever made.”
Czar of Propaganda
Jedidiah Jenkins, whom Russell calls “Propaganda Czar”, has emerged as one of Jason Russell’s key IC captains marshaling hundreds or even thousands of young Americans who have fund-raised for Invisible Children and helped loft its videos, from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, to superstardom. The 2011 version of Invisible Children’s website described Jenkins’ role in the organization as,
“to digest the vision of Invisible Children handed down from the collective leadership and articulate it, expand it, and build the world we hope to see in 100 years… His job is to be in all parts of the organization, from engaging with the interns to leading trips to Uganda to drafting partnership contracts and investing in donors… Jed is the main voice and vision of Invisible Children’s blog.”
In one YouTube video, Jedidiah Jenkins asks Invisible Children to take a Myers-Briggs personality test – apparently so IC could use the data to put volunteer skills to better use. Invisible Children has cultivated a deeply devoted fan base, and on Invisible Children fanpages across the Internet one can find young IC disciples’ worshipful quoting of “Jedi Sayings” from Jenkins’ prose poem ruminations, such as one on the hunt for Joseph Kony and the LRA, in which Jenkins writes,
“power can be used for evil and sinister spirituality and magic and murder and the LRA and G-d understands this better than i that when our flesh falls He has something to do with it… i believe the physical life matters, but i think the spiritual life matters more… may G-d have mercy.”
In his October 2010 blog post, Jenkins appeared to characterize Islam as a false religion, stating that he had never read the Koran because he had been “born into the truth.” Jenkins then referred to,
“the Christian scriptures that predict a very real deception
and an anti-christ
and a season of unrest
and a worldly kingdom ruled by Jesus”
As a July 2, 2010 Wall Street Journal story by Brad A. Greenberg noted, “Invisible Children’s media kit emphatically states that its founders “believe in Christ, but do NOT want to limit themselves in any way.” Later on, Invisible Children scrubbed the reference to Jesus.
Invisible Children v. Satan
The centrality of Invisible Children’s evangelical mindset emerges in a March 17, 2012 blog post from Jedidiah Jenkins that followed Jason Russell’s naked public meltdown, on a San Diego street corner and a wave of criticism, attacking Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 video, from Ugandan journalists, and academics and NGO members who study and work in Uganda and the DRC Congo.
In his “letter” that Jenkins described as inspired by a conversation with Hollywood director and screenwriter Tom Shadyac, writer of “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” and other blockbuster films (and an early financial contributor to Invisible Children), Jenkins, writing in the style of in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, takes on the voice of Satan castigating the lesser demon Screwtape, for a bungled plot to destroy Jason Russell and Invisible Children’s global youth movement.
In the letter, which seems to identify critics of Invisible Children as minions of the Devil, Jason Russell is portrayed as a Jesus-like figure, crucified for the greater good of mankind:
“You brag and gloat that you got the face of the world’s largest youth movement to go mad. To tear off his clothes and cry out to the Enemy in the streets for all the world to see. You list the lies you whispered in his ear as if it was some brilliant chess move. I understand that you think this is a huge victory, but I’m afraid you are terribly wrong. You fool. You have ruined everything… These millions of disgustingly idealistic and optimistic young people could have believed that this man is the author of love and justice… You could have made them think ‘I’ll never be that smart, that creative, that loving, that handsome, that true, so I might as well do nothing.’
…The youth are now looking beyond the madness, beyond the man. They are looking at the ideas. They are looking at the Enemy… They are loving the man behind the madness and seeing themselves in him. They are cleaving to the Enemy and singing songs of strength, brotherhood, and victory over evil… They now have no idol. They now have no icon… I’m afraid all might be lost.
I am convening an emergency meeting of devils and demons this very evening to do damage control.”
Conservative Evangelicalism is not LGBT friendly
In a March 2011 interview with PMc Magazine, Jason Russell, whose father founded a chain of Christian youth theaters across North America, described himself as a “dream evangelist” and during a November 7, 2012 Liberty University appearance, Russell told students,
“”We feel like God calls us to be joyful in the work that we’re doing, no matter what we’re doing. [...]
A lot of people fear Christians, they fear Liberty University, they fear Invisible Children – because they feel like we have an agenda. They see us and they go, “You want me to sign up for something, you want my money. You want, you want me to believe in your God.” And it freaks them out.”
Russell was responding to a raft of questions posed by Liberty students that included queries such as “How do you motivate hypocritical, apathetic Christians?” and “What is the greatest challenge to the millennial generation in impacting the world for Christ?”
Over the decades, Liberty University has emerged as one of the leading educational institutions for the politicized evangelical right, and has a strong ideological bent. Liberty University’s website describes, the school’s doctrinal statement is,
“An uncompromising doctrinal statement, based upon an inerrant Bible, a Christian worldview beginning with belief in biblical Creationism, an eschatological belief in the pre-millennial, pre-tribulational coming of Christ for all of His Church, dedication to world evangelization, an absolute repudiation of “political correctness,” a strong commitment to political conservatism, total rejection of socialism, and firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise.”
On September 13, 2001, two days after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell appeared on the 700 Club, and told the world,
“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians – who are actively tying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For The American Way, all of them who tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen’”.
Although Liberty University students now receive substantial federal funding to attend the school, the university teaches Young Earth creationism and has welcomed as a speaker, to the same fall convocation speaker series that featured Jason Russell, co-founder of the Watchman On The Walls ministry Kenneth Hutcherson.
Watchman On the Walls has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an antigay hate group. Along with Hutcherson, another co-founder of the group is Scott Lively, a key speaker at a Spring 2009 Kampala, Uganda conference on homosexuality that has been widely accused of helping ramp up the mounting, eliminationist antigay hysteria in Uganda.
Following the Uganda conference Lively, who equated homosexuality with Nazism and fascism, stated that he had delivered a “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda.”
Liberty University, which has hosted conferences featuring ex-gay ministries such as NARTH and Exodus, was one of the sources of student activist energy that has helped launch Invisible Children, and KONY 2012, to international fame.
A 2009 YouTube video shows over a hundred Liberty students, assembled in formation on the steps of a campus building, calling out, “Mike Huckabee, come to our rescue!” and talking about their plans to attend one of Invisible Children’s April 25, 2009 The Rescue events held in cities across America.
Currently the largest evangelical university in the world, Liberty University requires students living on campus to attend chapel and convocations three times weekly. Along with Jason Russell and Kenneth Hutcherson, recent Liberty convocations have featured right-wing speakers including Dinesh D’Souza, Clarence Thomas, Oliver North, creationist Ken Ham, and many evangelical leaders.
Invisible Children has positioned itself as LGBT rights friendly. On its board of directors, the nonprofit includes a gay San Francisco pastor, and Vice President of Business Operations at Invisible Children Chris Sarette has stated,
“I have been a core member of the management staff at Invisible Children for five years. The fact that Invisible Children sees people as PEOPLE – whether they be family, neighbors, or children in Central Africa – is one of the reasons I finally came out as a gay man… Invisible Children is not an anti-gay organization.”
But Invisible Children was also launched with support and funding — including from one of the top financiers of the campaign to pass California’s now-notorious Proposition 8 — by leading funders of the antigay evangelical right such as the National Christian Foundation, and since 2006, or earlier, the nonprofit has worked closely with and enjoyed political support from virulently antigay politicians such as Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni and United States Senator James Inhofe.
The problematic nature of Invisible Children’s partnership with the Museveni regime extends beyond the issue of LGBT rights – while Invisible Children has identified Lord’s Reformation Army commander Joseph Kony as perhaps the worst war criminal of our age, facts sharply contradict that charge. Far more deadly than Joseph Kony’s LRA, by between one and two orders of magnitude, has been the ongoing conflict in the People’s Democratic Republic of The Congo.
As described in the 30-minute video documentary Crisis In The Congo: Uncovering The Truth, Uganda and Rwanda, which both serve as United States military proxy powers in Sub-Saharan Africa, played a major role in the war that wracked the DRC Congo from the late 1990s into 2003 and killed an estimated 5.4 million civilians.
The Museveni Government’s War On Gays
In his 2008 book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, journalist Jeff Sharlet identified U.S. Senator James Inhofe as an important member of The Fellowship — a secretive Washington D.C. based neo-fundamentalist group with international political influence. In his subsequent book C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, Sharlet charged The Fellowship with helping to inspire Uganda’s Anti Homosexuality Bill.
While Inhofe’s senate office has a policy against hiring homosexuals and has boasted that “in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship”, Yoweri Museveni’s anti-LGBT rights campaign traces back at least as far as 1999, when he told Uganda’s government-controlled New Vision news service,
“I have told the Criminal Investigations Department to look for homosexuals, lock them up and charge them.” The Ugandan president added, “God created Adam and Eve…I did not see God creating man and man.”
In a June 3, 2010, New Vision story, the news service reported that Museveni had warned Ugandan church leaders, “The African Church is the only one that is still standing against homosexuality. The Europeans are finished. If we follow them, we shall end up in Sodom and Gomorrah.”
Both President Museveni and First Lady Janet Museveni have also promoted a conspiracy theory, now endemic to Ugandan culture, which portrays homosexuality in Uganda as spread by Westerners who bribe Ugandan youth with cash and electronic goods, such as iPads.
While President Museveni has aired a version of the conspiracy theory as recently as a February 2012 interview with the BBC, Janet Museveni promoted the conspiracy trope in an August 2010 speech to the Uganda Youth Association. According to New Vision, the First Lady declared,
“In God’s word, homosexuality attracts a curse, but now people are engaging in it and saying they are created that way. It is for money The devil is stoking fires to destroy our nation and those taking advantage are doing so because our people are poor.”
Some have credited such rhetoric as helping incite hatreds that led to the brutal murder of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato.
It is also well established that Janet Museveni has appointed to government commissions several Ugandan evangelical leaders who have been in the forefront of Uganda’s mounting antigay eliminationist campaign, including Stephen Langa, who organized the 2009 Kampala conference that featured Scott Lively.
Another of Janet Museveni’s appointments has been Martin Ssempa, who was tapped to co-authored a new HIV/AIDS policy for Uganda and testified before the U.S. Congress about HIV/AIDS reduction strategies. Ssempa subsequently emerged as one of the leading evangelicals inciting anti-LGBT hatred in Uganda and pushing for speedy passage of the Anti Homosexuality Bill, and works closely with MP David Bahati, who helped draft the bill and who took the lead in introducing in Uganda’s parliament.
Ssempa and Langa were specifically recognized in Uganda’s parliament when the bill was introduced, along with powerful Ugandan evangelist Julius Oyet, who also enjoys the favor of the Musevenis. Oyet has held top positions in Uganda’s born-again evangelical church networks that, prior to Uganda’s 2006 presidential election, were the sole major block among Uganda’s faith community to support Yoweri Museveni’s successful bid to amend Uganda’s constitution so that he could run for a third presidential term.
In April 2011, Julius Oyet and Martin Ssempa, co-chairs of a Ugandan entity called the “‘Inter-Religious Taskforce Against Homosexuality”, presented a petition to Uganda’s parliament, reportedly signed by two million Ugandans, calling for speedy passage of the Anti Homosexuality Bill. Oyet and Ssempa have also taken the controversial step of screening, in churches, fringe pornography in churches in an attempt to further demonize Uganda’s LGBT population.
It’s Their Own Fault
Julius Peter Oyet, who has extensive ties to American evangelists in Peter Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation (whose star apostles fighting LGBT rights include Lou Engle, Cindy Jacobs, and Bishop Harry Jackson) was the star of a 2005 American evangelical-produced video, “An Unconventional War”.
An Unconventional War, which features President Yoweri Museveni and was made with help from his Presidential Media Team, has been shown to Christian audiences around the world.
The video portrays Joseph Kony as having demonic powers and blames Uganda’s Northern Acholi people for the savage attacks and child kidnappings they suffered from Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army – because they had disobeyed the will of God by practicing idolatry and witchcraft (for more information on An Unconventional War, (see this detailed treatment of the video, from researcher Rachel Tabachnick).
In 2007, an organization that is now one of Invisible Children’s major campaign partners, the Uganda Conflict Action Network (now Renamed Resolve Uganda) helped create the “Northern Uganda Faith and Action Kit”, designed to enable people concerned about the conflict in Northern Uganda to raise awareness and lobby American politicians to address the issue.
The kit contained sample letters to Senators and Congress members, and a list of actions to take, one of which was screening two movies. One was Invisible Children’s first film. The second was “An Unconventional War”, by George Otis, Jr.
The blaming-the-victim theme in An Unconventional War is mirrored disturbingly in a September 18, 2011 blog post from Invisible Children Director of Ideology Jedidiah Jenkins, who wrote,
” ‘there are no ordinary people, only eternal souls becoming gods and monsters’ or somethinglikethat cs lewis said
I think about that a lot as I ignore a jabbering homeless woman that looks at me with distant eyes dehumanizing me as a pocket-book-preppy-asshole-with-spoiling-parents as i dehumanize her as the result of a long string of short-sighted-self-serving-corroded-willpower-weakness-decisions
and she tells me some weak and tired lie that once probably sounded real about a bus ticket to see her children and i might buy her something at 7/11 although i probably wont because i’m rushing somewhere far less important than the state of her life
and as with everything I am, so enter the mitigating factors of: my belief that a free society must give people the right to suffer from their decisions, and my spread-too-thin lifestyle of care can destroy me and more importantly them as they see in me a promise i cannot fulfill… blah blah “