Okay, President Obama weighed in his support for Gay marriage in the wake of North Carolina’s “Amendment One”-a bill banning Gay marriages in the state. In the wake of the President’s announcement, there’s a split in the Black Church where you have those for-and against-gay marriage. Those on the “against” side felt that President Obama “betrayed” the Black Church, as cited by Pastor Jamal Bryant:
Our faith reserves marriage for a man and a woman. President Obama, as a product of the black church, is fully aware of that. Knowing this, the president made this endorsement without calling or preparing any of us. For many of us, it felt like a betrayal.
Many on the “for” side, applauded the President’s stance, including: Rev. Al Sharpton, Julian Bond, Melanie Campbell, Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, and Prof. Eric Dyson. There’s also a group known as “Protect All NC Families” that was against Amendment One.
As one who stands with the President in supporting Gay marriage, and who is a product of the Black Church, I find that that the Black Church has a lot of sexual issues. And it’s these issues that produce the sentiments like those expressed by Pastor Bryant.
- Black religion and spirituality predate Judaism, Christianity and Islam by centuries-if not longer. Look at the ancient Egyptians and Animist faiths that stretch way back before the Common Era. The Black Church is a “Johnny-come-lately” American product in the history of Black religion and spirituality.
- Sexuality in early Africa was viewed with a healthy attitude. Contrary to what many religious homophobes want you to believe, Gay and Lesbian sexuality was normal in Sub-Saharan Africa (despite present-day Xtianity’s attempt to stamp it out). Ancient Egypt was a very sexual culture as well. We could easily learn a lot from the Old Ones.
- The double-whammy of European “Christian” slave traders, and puritanical missionaries, put African sexuality into a negative light. Africans were seen as promiscuous people that needed to be “civilized” by European “Christianity”. Europeans used the Bible as an oppressive tool to demonize African (Black) sexuality. This is despite the fact that many White males involved in the slave trade would rape African women-thus reinforcing sex-negative attitudes.
- Being force-fed “Christianity”, Blacks quickly assimilated the mores and religious attitudes of their masters. Even though it was during the dark days of slavery that Black religious thought was born, it still had a lot of “massa’s” influences.
- After slavery, as Blacks began to climb up the social ladder in America, I believe that many upper-class and intellectual Blacks wanted to assimilate into the larger culture. To that end, said Blacks jettisoned any form of “unacceptable” sexuality (homosexuality, bisexuality, premarital sexuality, etc) and embraced the heterosexual monogamous sexuality. This was reinforced in the Black Church.
- Thanks to the sexual screw-ups plaguing the Black populace, we have many in the Black church today with sexual issues. This is common especially with homosexuality.
- Now that we have a Black President who’s a product of the Black Church, we feel that he ought to represent Black Church views-almost to the exclusion of the rest of America-hence, the feeling of “betrayal” expressed by many Black clergy. This is ironic since when George W. Bush was in the Oval Office and was listening to the (White) Religious Right, Black churches were having kittens and crying “Foul” about that.
For an oppressed and marginalized group, the Black Church needs to take a good long look at itself and how it views Gay marriage. Many forget that Black marriages were never acknowledged during slavery and in the subsequent dark ages of Jim Crow. We need to understand that “what the Bible sez” cannot always apply to our time and culture. In fact, it was the European colonials and slave traders that used “what the Bible sez” that got a whole lot of Africans in trouble to begin with. Plus, the Old Testament prohibitions about homosexuality were written for a group of people many years ago that no longer exist.
As a Black man, I also find that a lot of my Brothers have deep seated issues about homosexuality. We have that homophobia as if the Gay Brothers are trying to “get us” (as if they’re really that interested in us). Don’t believe me? Try to get a bunch of Black men to go on a retreat in the woods for a weekend-without women. I know some cats would rather go on a bomb disposal detail quicker. I can recall on a recent retreat being in the bathroom naked (after shower) for a moment when another Brother stepped in. Poor man quickly made an exclamation and covered his eyes as if he were afraid to gaze upon a naked man! I bet you Facebook’s net worth if I were Hallie Berry or Delotta Brown, my man would still be salivating at the sight of me!
I applaud President Obama’s stance. However the passage of Amendment One; and those in the Black Church crying “betrayal” saddens me. But I am not without hope! I believe that we-as a people and a nation-will embrace Gay marriage, and afford our GLBTQ friends the same rights afforded to heterosexuals.
Those are my thoughts. Take them or leave them.