Michael Hamar has quite rightly complained over the years that black clergy sometimes seem to toady-up to the predominantly white leadership of the evangelical denominations, failing to recognize that the fight for gay rights is simply another expression of their own fight for civil rights.
One thing that has continued to strike me since coming out is how blacks – a demographic that has faced horrific discrimination simply because of who they were – are all too likely to be homophobic. Worse yet, at least here in Virginia, they allow them selves to be duped and used as water carriers for whites who would prefer to see a return to the Jim Crow era and the disenfranchisement of blacks.
OK, before I go any further, I’m obliged to admit that 10-years ago, say, that wasn’t obvious to me, either. It was only by reading Michael’s blog, and Andrew Sullivan’s (now defunct), that I ‘got’ it and understood that gays really are second-class citizens who suffer unjustly and at terrible cost.
So it’s news that a historically black Baptist school has created an uproar by inviting a lesbian bishop in a same-sex marriage as a speaker — and refuses to back down before fierce criticism. The words of Dwight McKissic, an influential black pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention:
An incredible, unprecedented, and thus far un-repented of, event took placed on Tuesday evening, March 17, 2015, at the Baptist World Center on the campus of American Baptist College (Dr. Forrest Harris, President). It was reminiscent of an event strongly rebuked by Jesus, that’s recorded in the book of Revelation (Revelation 2:18-25). The purpose of this article is to summarize and capsulate that awful evening for posterity sake, and to communicate to the larger National Baptist family the sad state of affairs, theologically and spiritually, at American Baptist College, Nashville, Tennessee.
[ … ]
In response to the lesbian bishop speaking controversy at ABC recently, Dr. Harris stated to the “Tennessean,” a local newspaper:
“It’s sad that people use religion and idolatry of the Bible to demoralize same-gender-loving people.”
When asked to define “idolatry of the Bible,” Harris said:
“When people say (the Bible) is synonymous with God and the truth,” he said. “We can’t be guided and dictated by a first-century world view.”
That statement, and that statement alone, ought to be enough reason for the ABC Trustee Board to immediately relieve Dr. Harris of his duties.
This is fun, don’t you think?
I share McKissic’s view that the Biblical teachings about homosexuality are too unambiguous to be susceptible of misunderstanding, no matter what Matthew Vines says; after all, there really is no wiggle-room when the punishment for “lying with a man as a woman” is death. I reject without caveat, exception, or the barest quibble, however, McKissic’s belief that the Bible is a trustworthy source of moral instruction. Frankly, I think you’ve got to be debased to the level of a dumb obedient farm animal to accept that claim and surrender your own capacity for moral reasoning to that of Bronze Age goatherders.
“Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is not merely a natural right to think and judge, there is a moral duty to think and judge — and those who refuse to step-up and answer that moral duty make of themselves the instrument of undeserved harm to others. They become the Dark Side, because that’s easier than living as a responsible thinking adult.
To do as you’re told is, of course, exactly what clergy demand. After all — who knows? If you pause to question why gays ought to be stoned, you might pause a bit longer and wonder what that jivey business with the talking snake and the bad piece of fruit was really all about.
I think Vines’ argument is specious, theologically, but his case for acceptance of gay relationships by Christian churches is going to prevail in the majority of both black and white churches. The straightforward fact is that churches that won’t adapt are going to find themselves with small, aging congregations, and in a sea of hostile young people. Pastors as a class may be dim, but they’re not suicidal; they will hold their nose and make peace with gays, agree that it has all been a terrible, Terrible!, misunderstanding, and find some other group to demonize.