I’ve posted many times about the particular brand of homophobia found in some black churches. So much, in fact, that probably some readers here have grown weary of hearing about it, and at least one has told me that my anger regarding the subject is a sign of “self-hatred.” I’d probably say that my anger stems from my own experience of the phenomenon.
I’ve written about black ministers like Willie Wilson, Alfred Owens, and Eddie Long spewing anti-gay hatred from the pulpit, black ministers in Indiana praying for more discrimination against gay people, another black minister who announced he’d ride with the Klan as long as they opposed marriage equality, and about how another black minister turned his back when Dwan Prince’s mother asked for help in the wake of a gay bashing that left her son in a coma and in a wheelchair afterwards. And I’ve written about how all of the above effect the HIV/AIDS epidemic in black communities.
So, yes, I’ve beaten that drum a lot. Maybe too much, but as a black gay man it’s something affects me — even as a non-christian — and thus it’s something I can’t not talk about. But maybe it’s to much coming from me, as I admit my own pain and anger related to the subject are still rather raw. So I was interested to see Andrew Sullivan take up the subject with a post to Billy Porter’s column about his own experience with the black church as a gay man.
So here I stand. Speaking up, speaking out, and letting my glorious light shine like it should. I recently sat in the New York City hospital room of my dear friend Kevin Aviance after he was savagely beaten on an East Village street for being gay, and I thought to myself, Where are our leaders? Where are the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? I am disappointed with our government. I am disappointed with our nation. But I am the most disappointed with my African-American ‘Christian’ brothers and sisters who stand proudly on their pulpits and use the Bible to regurgitate the very same hate rhetoric that was inflicted on the black community not so long ago.
I never considered myself an activist in the past. I respect that title too much to take it lightly. But with the recent increase in hate-bias attacks directed toward our community, and the struggle for us to gain the simplest of civil rights, I am filled with a raging sense of activism. Our bodies, our health, and our basic civil liberties are at stake. It is time to let the world know: We will not let you take our God away. We will not be ignored! We will not be denied! And if God is going to send us to a burning hell for being the people that He created us to be—we’ll see each and every one of you there.
“Shine! Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!”
Porter, a Broadway performer, wrote his remarks before performing at a Soulforce protest at James Dobson’s Focus on the Family headquarters. I admire Porter’s stand, though different from my own choices — for he remained within the faith he was raised in, and has apparently chosen to stay and fight, whereas my own choice was to leave it behind. I also join Porter in his questions.
Where are our leaders? Where are the people with influence who will stand up for me and my gay brethren? In terms of high profile leaders within black churches, I can only think of a few. Jesse Jackson, Michael Eric Dyson, Al Sharpton come to mind, and other ministers who attended the black church summit in Atlanta earlier this year. But not many more than that, though there are probably countless others working anonymously against homophobia in their own churches.
The irony is that many black ministers are joining a movement that has it’s roots in decades-old battles against desegregation, without knowing or caring. I’ve just finished Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism and I’m two-thirds through The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right’s Plans for the Rest of Us, and both books detail how African-Americans who normally lean Democratic on policy issues have joined a movement that Michelle Goldberg calls Christian nationalism in her book and that James Rubin calls Christocratic in his, because it appeals to their religiously-based conservatism on social issues. Both books also go into detail about how this movement rose in part from opposition to the advances of the civil rights movement. (All of which leads to the irony of a black minister declaring he’ll “ride with the Klan” so long as they hate gay people as much as he does.)
After quoting Porter, Sullivan sums up merely saying “The battle has only just started.” I fear he’s right, and I think Porter and others like him are the people best equipped to fight it; to become the leaders whose absence he writes about. In her Advocate column about “Taking Back the Black Gay Movement” Jasmyne Cannick wrote about the need for black gays to start speaking up in our own communities. She’s exactly right.
But in assessing Porter’s and Cannick’s statements, I’m left wondering where exactly I could begin to enter the picture in the work that needs to be done in that arena. As I’ve written before, much like the person Cannick mentions in her column, I no longer have any real connection to any black community beyond the other black gays & lesbians I keep in touch with online. As a non-christian who isn’t likely to ever return to the faith, it looks like a good part of the battle is going to take place in a territory where I no longer speak the language, know the landscape or share belief.
Maybe the best I can do, following Porter’s example, is to let “this little light of mine” shine where I am for now. Maybe if some of us are shedding light on the inside while others of are shining our lights on the outside, the darkness in between will be illuminated; maybe even eliminated.