30 November 2006

Civil Rights Are Not Hors d'Oeuvres! (Part One)

I'm typing these words a couple of weeks after Democrats won control of the US Congress again. They'd been a minority party for twelve years, but the electorate finally decided to give them another chance. George W. Bush will be in office until the end of 2008, but a majority of American voters are hoping that the Dems will be able to curtail his war-mongering, treasury-looting, civil liberties-destroying, religious Right Wing-pandering agenda long before then.

Understandably, most LGBT Americans have been jubilant at the outcome of midterm elections. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll confess that a friend and I celebrated the Republicans' ouster at a popular Japanese steakhouse. I'm an Independent voter, but you certainly don't have to be a partisan to oppose government by rubber stamp! My friend and I had a good meal, and our post-election conversation (which admittedly had a strong anti-Bush slant) was immensely enjoyable.

However, we both had serious questions about how and where Gay people will fit into the Democrats' agenda. Now that we have a party in power that's more sympathetic to our concerns, what do we expect? What's realistic to expect? What demands are we in a position to make?

Columnist Wayne Besen has been asking these questions, too. He's given a lot of thought to the answers, and put those thoughts into a recent essay titled "Time For A Smart Gay Agenda." Here are some excerpts from that piece, which he blogged on 23 November:

The new Democratic Congress is about to triumphantly take the reins, offering a unique opportunity to pass legislation, but we must tread carefully to avoid repeating past mistakes . . . one lesson from the past is that if Gay issues are haphazardly introduced, they can be radioactive and sidetrack the Democratic Party's broader agenda. If the Democrats are seen as kowtowing to a controversial special interest group the moment they are in the majority, it may jeopardize their ability to reach mainstream Americans.

The Gay leaders should offer to step back and make no demands for six months to let the Democrats establish a tangible record on bread-and-butter economic issues. The party must establish itself as one that represents all people and cares most about the concerns of average families. Once party leaders have built a reserve of political capital and are able to boast of bipartisan accomplishments, they will have earned credentials with suburban families and can address Gay Rights without looking like they are pandering . . .

Democratic leaders should agree that for the GLBT community's six months of silence, a major piece of legislation would be introduced in June. The most logical legislation would be the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation . . . after this bill is passed, we should take our lobbyists off of Capital Hill for another six months and do nothing else until 2008.

In this presidential election year, we should introduce hate crimes legislation, which has the least potential to create a backlash, since even our opponents profess that Gay bashing is wrong . . . unfortunately, I left off my short list overturning the ban on Gays in the military. I think we should steer clear of this issue until after the presidential elections. This topic is too prone to demagoguery, with Conservatives once again descending into submarine barracks. If a Democrat wins the presidency and the party holds both branches of Congress, this would be a good issue for 2009 . . .

. . . if our groups strategically and systematically work with (House Speaker Nancy)Pelosi and (Senate leader Harry) Reid, we can eat our victory cake and they can still win re-election in a cakewalk.

My Stuffed Animal whiskers bristle at the concept of LGBT Americans as a "special interest group"(there's nothing special about being interested in basic Civil Rights!), and I take strong exception to the idea that our families are less important than "average" ones! I also can't remember a time when politicians of any party ever pandered to Gay people! What's more, it's naïve to think Right Wing forces couldn't make ENDA or any other Gay Rights initiative just as radioactive as they've made marriage equality and military service; all they need to do is frighten the electorate with lies about our intentions, and they're proven experts at doing that.
Nevertheless, I commend Wayne Besen for putting his ideas on the table. I daresay most political analysts would find his reasoning absolutely sound. Even I have to admit that his plan of action seems like an excellent long-term strategy . . . for the Democratic Party!

Where Wayne and I differ is his opinion that what's good for the Democrats is necessarily good for Lesbian, Gay, Pansexual and Transsexual Americans. I don't agree! It's a mistake to think all Democrats are politically progressive. Many of the candidates that got elected to office on November 7 kick like Democratic donkeys but trumpet like Republican pachyderms; they may not be card-carrying members of Pat Robertson's "700 Club", but quite a few could probably get honorary memberships on request! That's why Gay people can never expect the Democratic Party to deliver civil rights to us on a silver platter. Not in this election cycle, or any other!

Wayne's carefully thought-out one-party strategy won't even put us within reach of our various goals. As to which of those goals should be pursued first, how could a group of people as dissimilar as American Lesbians and Gay men ever agree on that? It's impossible! We're not like other minority groups; we don't have a common culture. No, we don't! Our life circumstances vary to a tremendous degree. Our broad divisions of class, ethnicity, gender, political philosophy and education level make us the very antithesis of a monolithic interest group.

There can be no hierarchy of LGBT issues, no "ENDA first, and then we'll look at the other stuff later"! For years, I've heard intellectuals argue otherwise, but they always forget to factor in the huge amount of diversity in the so-called Gay community. To a White, upper-class Gay man, prioritizing ENDA makes the most sense. A basic need like spousal benefits resonates more strongly with a working class Black Lesbian mother. A Gay Latino serviceman is primarily worried about the threat "don't ask/don't tell" poses to his future. Individual LGBT folk are motivated to act on whatever concerns affect them most on a personal level. Take their concerns off the table, and you've taken away their motivation, too!

At this point in time, we should be more concerned about what we as a minority group are willing to coalesce around, rather than what politicians are likely (???) to give us. Instead of a piecemeal approach to legislation, I feel we need to agree among ourselves on a package of Civil Rights reforms. We need an initiative that all of our myriad parts can commit to and take part ownership of.

However, we won't get far with either a piecemeal or a package approach if we do nothing but depend on the political process! Civil Rights activists certainly didn't do that in the 1960s. Seldom if ever did they wet their fingers to test the political winds before deciding to take action. They had fire in their bellies! They were hungry for equality and willing to put their asses on the line for it in the form of boycotts, protests, sit-ins, and other forms of civil disobedience. They repeatedly made it clear that the status quo was not acceptable to them.

Seems to me Gay people are generally satisfied with the status quo! Sure, I see a few scattered protests around the country, but nothing on the scale of what happened in the '60s. The kind of talk I hear definitely doesn't evoke '60s activism! Marriage rights? I don't want to get married, so why should I care about that? Military service? I'm opposed to militarism, so "don't ask/don't tell" doesn't matter to me. The right to work for religious charities that accept tax money? Churches can hire and fire according to their moral convictions. Gay people shouldn't have anything to do with organized religion, anyway.

It gets worse! I've heard a million reasons why we should opt out of full equality. Many of us act like Civil Rights are morsels on an hors d'oeuvres tray that we can pick and choose according to personal taste: Oooh! I'll have some of these, and some of those, but none of those others with anchovies in them! It's so pathetic, it's almost quaint! If we're as ambivalent about equality as all that, why do we bother complaining at all?

Civil rights are not hors d'oeuvres, and a civil rights crusade isn't a spectator sport. It requires direct action! It requires upsetting the normal order of things and applying social pressure to institutions of power. The African-American Civil Rights movement had both Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X to agitate on its behalf, leaders who basically played "good cop/bad cop" to the racist establishment. The Gay Rights movement has neither a good cop nor a bad cop! We have neither a carrot nor a big stick to wave at powerbrokers. Without a militant rank-and-file that can be mobilized quickly, we're at their absolute mercy! Politicians can feel free to make promises to our self-appointed leaders that they have no intention of keeping.

Suppose Gay Rights lobbyists do as Wayne Besen suggests . . . suppose they tell Democrats they can ignore our issues for a few years? What's likely to be the result of that? The Democrats will put discrimination against LGBT Americans on the back burner indefinitely! If we ourselves are willing to put it there, how important can it really be to us?

I know Wayne will disagree with me, but I don't think it matters so much which party is in power. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will take our issues seriously until we take them seriously, and no group that's serious about its issues tells legislators "we'll let you put us on hold for a few years". That's not the way to exercise political clout, and political clout is what you need to make things happen on Capitol Hill!

"Civil Rights Are Not Hors d'Oeuvres" concludes with Part Two.

29 November 2006

Civil Rights Are Not Hors d'Oeuvres! (Part Two)

How does one acquire political clout? I'm not an expert on the subject, but I know you don't get it by chasing photo opportunities with politicians (which is what advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign seem to think)! They don't impart it to you. They expect you to have it already! You've got to bring it, and you've got be able to either impress or frighten them with it!

What impresses them most is money, but if you can't match the multi-million dollar campaign donations they get from big corporations like Merrill Lynch or Goldman Sachs (and who can?), then you'd better represent a mobilized constituency. Politicians respect any constituency with the proven ability to deliver (or withhold) votes come election time!

This need for mobilization presents a stiff challenge to LesBiGay political organizers. For the reasons I cited in Part One, Gay people are a b*tch to organize! Relatively little is known about us as a voting bloc. It's not even clear that we are a voting bloc. I know there's been polling in so-called Gay Ghettos, but those communities aren't a good representation of the LGBT demographic. Ghetto dwellers are overwhelmingly White, male, upper/middle class, and out of the closet. It's a safe bet that most Lesbian and Gay Americans don't fit that description! I daresay the only thing all Gay Americans have in common is their sexual orientation and the persecution that accrues to it.

Of course, you don't have to leave the closet in order to vote in your best interests; it's a secret ballot, after all! However, for Gay people who do remain closeted, shame exerts a powerful influence over what they're willing to do for the cause.

Closet cases aren't the only ones who struggle with shame, either; it's just that their struggle tends to be more intense. Sexual shame is our common denominator, even those of us who appear to have overcome it. It's a persistent demon that we can never completely conquer. (I see you out there shaking your head. He's not talking about me, you boast. I'm queer and proud! You're a liar on both counts!)

In a world that considers any deviation from heterosexuality aberrant and slams home the point relentlessly, there's no way to avoid internalizing some degree of shame. Though it's religion-based, and many of us aren't religious, Bible bigot terrorists seem to use Scripture effectively as a weapon against devout and atheist alike.

I think I know why it's so effective. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you already know of my contention that LGBT folk have a direct spiritual connection to God. I think that's why we gravitate toward religious institutions and the creative and helping professions, which logically accrue to God and spirituality. We're particularly vulnerable to suggestions that we're spiritually corrupt, that we're immoral, and/or that God despises us. On a deep subconscious level, nothing is more important to us than our relationship with the Holy Mother/Father!

Granted, I may be wrong about that. However, I'm not wrong when I say imposed shame is one of the main stumbling blocks that keep us from demanding our Civil Rights! I'm convinced that the shame within us must be deactivated before we can ever mobilize into a powerful voting bloc. It's a tall order, to be sure, and political strategists aren't equipped to address this problem.

It's going to take activist educators and theologians fanning out over the Web and all over the country, spreading a gospel of entitlement in Gay and Straight communities alike. It's going to take repeated, methodical attacks on the Right Wing misinformation machine. It's going to take an ACT-UP-style movement against Bible bigotry. Our slogan for the 21st century ought to be Shame = Injustice!

That's a long-term strategy, but what can we do right now? With no political clout of our own to wield, appealing to powerbrokers' sense of fairness is our best alternative. Every now and then, this tactic works. Sodomy laws were abolished in the United States because determined Lesbian and Gay lawyers (and Gay judicial pages agitating behind the scenes) successfully appealed to an ethical majority of Supreme Court justices. Most of those jurists (Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, David Souter, John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with Sandra Day O'Connor concurring on issues of equal protection) had a gut-level commitment to the concept of equality for all Americans. They were courageous and professional enough not to let personal prejudice and discomfort about homosexuality influence their legal judgment.

We can't count on that happening again, though! Justice O'Connor, the highly influential swing vote, has retired, and it's not inconceivable that George W. Bush will get the chance to put yet another ideological clone of Antonin Scalia on the Court before he leaves office. There's no doubt in my mind that "Blue Dog" Democratic senators would join their Republican colleagues to support Bush's next nominee!

You can't appeal to someone's sense of fair play if they don't have one, and in light of recent court decisions, that's a fact worth remembering! A trend has emerged where State and Federal judges refuse to rule on our legal challenges to discrimination. Instead, they refer our cases to State legislative bodies, and what a depressing development that is! We'd be crazy to expect the same level of ethics, courage and professionalism from politicians. They couldn't care less if we're treated fairly or not! Most of them see Gay Rights as a polarizing "wedge" issue to be either exploited or avoided; we'd best be prepared to fight tooth and claw for every piece of legislation we want!

If we're not prepared to do at least that much, we'll see no more victories, and we may even lose ground. I fear lost ground may be inevitable; as my friend Dr. Jerry Maneker recently pointed out, people plagued by shame are far more likely to settle for what they get (or don't get) than fight for what they deserve!

I doubt this current generation of Gay people is really in the mood to fight for equality. I think we'd rather go along like we have in the past, b*tching from the sidelines while powerless HRC lobbyists pursue empty promises from Democratic leaders. We'd rather fool ourselves into thinking we can garner respect from mainstream America by clinging to demeaning media stereotypes. We'd rather alienate potential allies by presenting ourselves as cultural anarchists!

The latest example of the latter preference are horrible new names being applied to the children of same-gender couples, labels like "Gaybies" and "Queer Spawn!" Who's applying them? Naturally, it's immature Left Wing activists looking for new ways to offend Conservative sensibilities! Much more of that kind of thing, and state child welfare agencies en masse will begin questioning our suitability as parents!

Frankly, I'm not confident that I'll see a true passion for Civil Rights among Gay people in my lifetime. However, I do believe Jesus Christ's Unshakeable Generation will someday spawn a Great Generation like the one the late Peter Jennings wrote about, that hardy group of folks who grew up in the Depression, fought World War II, and fueled the Civil Rights movement with their anger. I think the world will eventually see an LGBT generation with an unquenchable thirst for justice, an unwavering sense of entitlement, a lower level of sexual shame than any of their predecessors, and a steely resolve before which bigotry and ignorance will not stand!

With this blog, Christ, The Gay Martyr, I want to help lay a foundation for them to march on. With the important work he does exposing "ex-Gay" con artists in addition to his insightful political commentary, Wayne Besen is helping to lay it, too.

This essay is dedicated to the memory of Coretta Scott King.

15 November 2006

Authors Of Confusion (Part Three)

I wondered how long it would take before one or more of the exgaywatch.com bloggers responded to my previous "Authors Of Confusion" essays. Knowing from personal experience how arrogant they are, I wasn't convinced that they would. However, this morning I found that Timothy Kinkaid had tried to post a comment. Here (uncensored, but edited for grammar, spelling and length) is what he had to say to me:

I'm sorry that you felt that your opinions were not adequately respected, and I do think that banning was a bit hasty, though I recall that the ban was very quickly lifted.

Didn't I tell you they were arrogant? Dude actually fancies himself a benevolent dictator!

I think you misunderstand the nature of "Ex-Gay" Watch. We are not culture warriors out to destroy anyone who doesn't agree with us (though it may have felt that way).

Who said the bloggers at exgaywatch.com were "culture warriors"? Certainly not me. I said they were authors of confusion, and that's what I still say. They provide a forum for the spreading of misinformation about Gay people!

We welcome "ex-Gays" as well as Gays to visit our site. We don't see any value in demonizing those who (in my mind, futilely) seek to change their orientation. They aren't evil!

I didn't say they were evil, either. I said they had fallen victim to an evil influence, a fact that must be kept in mind when dealing with them. I said regardless of whether the source is a hard-bitten Bible bigot like James Dobson or a well-meaning "ex-Gay" convert, they should never allow their web pages to become vehicles for heterosexism. I also noted that this naïve mentality (which I now believe is feigned) is one of the biggest problems with Kincaid's blog: The idea that "ex-Gays and Gays (sic)" can be just one big, happy family. The word "dysfunctional" doesn't even begin to describe such a family unit, if it could actually exist. It can't!

Nor do I think it without value to observe their struggle, in their own words. They are the targets and the victims of groups like Exodus, and many are very nice, very sincere people.

There's no value whatsoever in "observing the struggle" of people who identify as "ex-Gay" if you don't want to prevent them from having to struggle in the first place! When you read some of the "Ex-Gay" Watch topics, you wonder if the bloggers actually enjoy watching victims of Bible bigotry suffer! Illustrating my point, this is what Kincaid had to say next:

One of my favorite websites is willfulgrace.blogspot.com, which was the blog of a woman with an "ex-Gay" husband. Unfortunately, he recently became "ex-ex-Gay", but that does not make her any less delightful, caring or insightful of a person.

Shades of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party! Here they come again with this "favorite ex-Gay" website crap! And I'm supposed to believe it's unfortunate that someone manages to shake off religious Right Wing brainwashing??? I wonder if Kincaid read my earlier essays at all? This outrageous statement certainly suggests that he didn't. It also seems to validate everything I feared was true about the motives of the "Ex-Gay" Watch bloggers.

There are others who seek to remain celibate, or who disagree with us on the degree to which orientation is mutable, and I value their perspective.

This is the same thing he said before, in so many tortured words. It's nothing but sly promotion of "ex-Gay" philosophy wrapped up in a pretty package labeled Nobody's Right and Nobody's Wrong. If he thinks he's going to peddle that bullsh*t on Christ, The Gay Martyr, he'd better think twice. It ain't gonna happen!

I know it irritates you to have anyone allow for the possibility of re-orientation, but we are a site dedicated to fact, not propaganda, I doubt that re-orientation occurs, or at least not to the extent it is claimed, but I can't prove it, so I don't claim it.

It's not my irritation Timothy Kincaid and his buddies need fear when they bear false witness against Lesbian and Gay identity, it's God's!  Fortunately for them, God forgives sin, even violations of the Ten Commandments; however, repentance does need to enter the picture at some point!

As for Kincaid's other comments, if everything posted on exgaywatch.com is factual, and if most of what he's written here isn't propaganda, grits ain't groceries, eggs ain't poultry, and Ann Coulter is an icon of the Democrat Party! Certain "Ex-Gay" Watch bloggers appear to have adopted the popular political strategy of telling brazen lies over and over until people start believing them. That tactic won't work with me! I believe in frequent reality checks.

Again, I apologize that you caught us on a day in which we were not overly receptive to your message.

Should I have requested a royal audience first?

Unlike most sites, we don't allow postings that are hostile to an open dialogue (or at least, we try).

They ought to rename their blog Chutzpah, Incorporated! After all they did to suppress what Jerry Maneker and I had to say, they still have the nerve to claim a commitment to free speech! For sure, these jokers would make excellent politicians!

Incidentally, we are not Liberal fascists! Several of us who participate are quite Conservative.

Oh, indeed. Some of them are Conservative fascists! I'd already figured that out.

Really, if you think about it, you might come to agree that insisting that "ex-Gay" people don't exist is a bit more fascist than the doubtful allowance for their existence, and refusing to listen to the possibility surely is more close-minded than listening.

Just like insisting that the world is round, pigs don't fly, and my forks, knives and spoons don't get up and dance after I leave the kitchen. Oh, my, yes! How very fascist of me, how unforgivably close-minded! And that's about as much as I'm willing to entertain Mr. Kincaid's convoluted Mad Hatter talking points! They'd be laughable if I didn't know the high degree of harm his stealth rhetoric has the potential to do.

If you choose to visit us again, I would suggest considering that possibly others are at the site who don't already agree with you. A "both shotgun barrels" approach may make you feel better, but it won't advance your position much.

Nothing about the "Ex-Gay" Watch people and their thinly-veiled heterosexist agenda gives me a good feeling. What they give me is a bad taste in my mouth! I'm alarmed, angered and disgusted by what they attempt to do over there. Frankly, when it comes to those bloggers, I couldn't care less about advancing my position. I'm only interested in discrediting their position!

However, with messages like the one I just shared with you, Timothy Kincaid may be accomplishing that goal without my help. He also tried to post a follow-up message that rescinded his invitation for me to return to the scene of his crimes. Maybe dude finally realized that I have no respect for authors of confusion, eh? Better late than never!

04 November 2006

Satan In The Pulpit (Part One)

JOHN 1: 6-11
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (He) came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (This) was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. (The Savior) was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not.

"I'd try out a new church and sit there and wait for the Gay-bashing to begin . . . in every other church I've been in, it starts out great. Then eventually, they get around to it. They start clapping and hollering and condemning my lifestyle. Sometimes it'd be like, 'We're going to pray it out of you!' I'd feel personally attacked, and then I'd leave."

A Lesbian Christian woman interviewed for "A House Divided," an April 14, 2005 article from The Denver Westword

"All of the historically Black denominations . . . promote a theological view that homosexuality is sinful and that the only legitimate sexual expression is toward the opposite sex in marriage . . . African Americans (have been) identified as the group least accepting (of) Gay marriage and homosexuality as a moral expression . . . African Americans, even those who may not be regular churchgoers, typically base their refusal to accept homosexuality in Biblical authority . . . for many African Americans, there is nothing worse than a homosexual, especially a homosexual man."

Professor Horace L. Griffin, speaking in passages taken from his book Their Own Receive Them Not, published by Pilgrim Press in October 2006

Did you ever have the experience of going to church and, halfway through the service, watching in horror as the minister transforms himself into a loathsome and foul dragon from Hell, cursing God's Creation and breathing fire from his nostrils? Believe it or not, Black Lesbians and Gay men see such shocking transformations occur on a regular basis when they attend churches in their communities. It's an appalling reality that dates all the way back to the days of slavery in the United States, and it has largely existed under the radar of the general public. That is, until now!

Professor Horace L. Griffin, an Episcopal seminarian and priest as well as an openly Gay Black man, yanks the covers off of this shameful state of affairs in a hard-hitting new book called Their Own Receive Them Not: African-American Lesbians and Gays (sic) in Black Churches. It was written for both theologians and lay people, and I must say, with prominent Black clergy currently joining forces with White evangelical bigots to oppose Gay Rights, its publication could not be more timely!

This book is nothing less than an indictment of the Black church! Professor Griffin takes no prisoners exposing its rank hypocrisy, its arrogant judgmentalism, and its utter failure to follow the loving example of Jesus Christ. He correctly characterizes the Black church as "oppressive and duplicitous" in its relationship to Gay Christians.

There's no doubt in my mind that the Professor will be excoriated in Black religious circles for speaking so bluntly about this issue. However, I agree with him 100% when he writes: "If African-Americans wish not to be challenged, reprimanded or opposed publicly, then they must refrain from participating in the mistreatment of African-American Gays (sic) and others." I hasten to add that if heterosexual Black Christians have no reason to be ashamed of what they're doing, then they shouldn't object to having the extent of their activities known! Unfortunately for them, Professor Griffin's book reveals just how much reason they do have to feel shame.

In his first chapter, "Religious and Cultural Reflections on Race and Homosexuality", the Professor lays out the main premise of his book: That there are striking similarities between the Bible-based bigotry historically aimed at Black people and that aimed at Gay people. He points out that “virtually every derisive comment and discrimination against Gays (sic) today was at one time experienced by all African Americans, Gay and heterosexual, because of their race.” He spends much of the book bolstering this claim, but he uses most of this chapter to present an overview of anti-Gay bigotry in society dating back to the early Christian church.

In his second chapter, "The Black Church, The Bible, and the Battle Over Homosexuality", he argues that the conservatism of Christian denominations principally responsible for converting African slaves to the faith explains Black people’s widespread acceptance of Fundamantalist interpretations of the Bible. At the same time, he astutely notes that Biblical support of slavery (arguably the main reason slave owners sought to convert slaves) was overwhelmingly rejected and/or ignored by Black Christian converts:

As Black Christians embraced Biblical stories of Jesus’s love and God’s liberating power, it became more and more difficult to reconcile a God who delivered Israelites from oppressive Pharaohs with a God who was apparently keeping them enslaved. In this approach to Scripture, Blacks, like other groups, demonstrate a practice of selectively choosing (Bible) scripture.

Most of the points the Professor makes on behalf of LesBiGay Christians pivot on this observation.

In his third chapter, "Natural Law, Choice, Procreation, and Other Black Church Arguments against Homosexuality", he examines (and debunks) both religious and secular arguments that Black Fundamentalists use to condemn homosexual practice. These arguments (and I stretch credibility to call them such) include the notion that homosexuality is a “choice” made by depraved heterosexual persons; the notion that homosexuality is contrary to nature; the notion that any form of sexuality which doesn’t lead to procreation is illegitimate; and the surprisingly widespread notion that homosexuality didn’t exist among indigenous Africans but was “imposed” by colonists, slave owners and other “liberal” White folk. (I particularly like the Professor’s response to this outrageous assertion. He demands to know: “Are Blacks [sic] granting that Whites even have power over their sexual desires?”)

In his fourth chapter, "Black, Gay and Christian in the Black Church", Professor Griffin articulates the unwritten rules by which Lesbians and Gay men are allowed to maintain membership in African-American church congregations. All of them involve living deceptive lives and being complicit in their own oppression! He uses individual case studies to illustrate how these rules are imposed, and in the process, he shines a spotlight on well-known Black historical figures whose homosexual status isn’t generally known. These figures include the late Reverend James Cleveland, the late Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and the famous early 20th century botanist, Dr. George Washington Carver.

In his fifth chapter, "Passing, Silence, Denial and Gay Deceptions in Black Churches", the Professor likens the experience of being a Black Gay mainstream Christian to the phenomenon of “passing,” the now rare practice of masquerading as White if you are a Black person with light skin and European physical features. "Passing for White" was a means by which African-Americans tried to escape the humiliations of legal segregation, and is probably the closest parallel that exists between Black and Gay experience. This is a must-read chapter for anyone who wants to understand what pressures force Gay people in general to be closeted! It also makes clear why life in the closet is such an abnormal and demeaning way to exist.

Chapter Six, "The Black Church and AIDS", is by far Professor Griffin’s most damning indictment of Black Christian heterosexism! Here he exposes the shameful truth about how the vast majority of African-American preachers use the AIDS epidemic in conjunction with selected Bible passages to justify their pathological hatred of Gay people (Gay men in particular). This is not a chapter for the faint-hearted! Quotes from Black ministers that the Professor cites here reflect more unadulterated cruelty than most people will have ever encountered before. Here’s one of the worst:

At an AIDs conference, one of the panelists reported that at a funeral the pastor told the family: "Take a good look at your son, because you will not see him again . . . He is going to Hell, and you are going to Heaven.”

This disturbing chapter ends with the tragic tale of a doomed, closeted Gay man whose AIDS-related suffering was exacerbated by the Black church’s inhumane response to his all-too-human needs. Be forewarned: Some self-described Christians who read his story will have reason to feel both very ashamed and very fearful of Divine retribution!

Professor Griffin was wise to follow such a bleak narrative with an uplifting seventh chapter, "The Emergence of African-American Lesbian/Gay Christian Congregations in the United States". It focuses on the recent phenomenon of LesBiGay-affirming African-American churches. This handful of maverick congregations and inspired leaders symbolizes an oasis in the sea of ignorant doctrine spouted by such high-profile Black clergymen as Joseph Walker, Wellington Boone, Ken Hutcherson, Eddie Long and TD Jakes.

Many people know about Reverend Troy Perry, founder of the Gay-affirming (and overwhelmingly White) Metropolitan Community Church, but have you ever heard of Dr. James Tinney and Bishop Carl Bean, founders of the first Gay-affirming Black churches? You’ll read about them here, as well as Lesbian pastors Alma Crawford and Karen Hutt, founders of the dynamic inner-city Christian ministry known as the Church of The Open Door. The spirit and true message of Jesus Christ resonate strongly in their stories.

In his eighth and final chapter, "Toward a True Liberation Theology for Pastoral Caregivers", the Professor accuses heterosexual Black Christians of having become oppressors, of doing to Gay people the same thing White people did to them at the height of slavery and segregation. He admonishes them for their irrational anger at and fear of homosexuality, demands their repentance, and points them toward an inclusive use of Bible scripture that incorporates the liberation theology of Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King, Jr. He names a few heterosexual Black theologians who already embrace this approach, such as Professor Dwight Hopkins, Dr. Mozella Mitchell, Dr. Jeremiah Wright and Dr. Arnold Thomas.

It’s good to know these names, but there are far too few of them! Most Black churches today see nothing wrong with allowing Satan to speak his gospel of evil from the pulpit every Sunday morning, so long as his words consistently target and condemn God’s LGBT children. Professor Griffin has taken a small first step toward addressing this outrage, but from what I can see, hardly anybody is willing to join him on the narrow path to repentance. Many seem to find Satan’s four-lane highway to Hell more to their liking!

"Satan In The Pulpit" continues with Part Two.

03 November 2006

Satan In The Pulpit (Part Two)

Professor Griffin's approach to his all-important topic is scholarly and sincere. If only it were also error-free! While discussing Bible scripture, he becomes the latest theologian to mistranslate the ancient Greek words arsenokoitai and malakoi. At times, he seems to suggest that Lesbians and Gay men choose their sexual orientation ("while many Gays and others consider one's sexual attraction to be an innate quality, some Gays recognize that sexuality is much more complex"), and at other times he insists that they don't ("No reputable scientific study concludes that homosexuality is a choice and can be overcome"), as if he were trying to have his rhetorical cake and eat it, too!

In my opinion, he doesn't do nearly enough to discourage the belief that the Bible is the direct word of God. His decision to address the embarrassingly ignorant idea that Gay people can't have sex because "the parts don't fit" lowers the level of his scholarship. Worse, he errs monumentally in stating that some participants in what's come to be known as "down low" homosexual behavior are heterosexual men! For a lot of people, such an absurd assertion may undermine the wisdom he imparts elsewhere in his book.

I hope that won't happen. That wisdom, in addition to the accuracy of his analysis and the purity of his Christian message, make Professor Griffin's book an invaluable tool for evangelism. Their Own Receive Them Not amounts to essential doctrine, not only for Black Christians, not only for Black Gay Christians, but for all people who dare to call themselves Christian. I would strongly advise readers to not dwell on the Professor's handful of misguided statements, but to focus instead on the many pearls of wisdom he has to share. Here are some of them:

. . . African-American Lesbian and Gay Christians and others challenge Black churches and the larger Christian church with this question: If the majority Christian culture today recognizes that earlier Christians should not have adhered to certain Biblical passages on slavery, and should not have supported the subsequent racial oppression, how does the same Christian culture justify the present adherence to a few Biblical passages that allegedly depict Gays as immoral and . . . deserving of denigration and unequal treatment?

How, indeed?

. . . throughout history, people and groups have invoked the Apostle Paul, often inappropriately, to justify the worst kinds of oppression, including oppression against all African Americans, women, Gays (sic) and Jews . . . (The Apostle Paul) wrote with a limited understanding of human sexuality. Our early 21st century understanding of science, social science and human sexuality offers insight regarding gender, sexual expression and activity in ways unavailable to first century writers like Paul . . . the use of Paul in the continued denigration of Gays (sic) as immoral people raises the question . . . as to whether Black church Christians are followers of Christ or of Paul?

This is a question that needs to be asked of every "Bible-believing" Christian!

If homosexual expression were the disgusting experience many claim, (bigots) would not have to spend so much time convincing others of its "filthiness" and enacting laws to keep people away from homosexuality. No one would want to remain in such an unpleasant encounter!

Seldom will you ever encounter such razor-sharp analysis!

. . . if a society can justify discrimination toward a group of Lesbians and Gays (sic), (society can) justify discrimination against skin color, gender, religion, or any other categorization of human beings.

Truer words were never spoken!

When there are so many problems in Black families and communities . . . it is difficult to understand why Black pastors spend so much time opposing Gays (sic) for honoring their committed relationships by choosing marriage. This focus may be the result of frustration from unsuccessfully trying to resolve these ills in Black churches, families and communities. This conversation is a diversion from such failures; it conveniently scapegoats African American Gays (sic) as causing the problems in Black families and communities rather than addressing those obviously caused by heterosexuals (sic).

Hello, somebody! Can I get a witness?

. . . institutions that restrict Gays (sic)' sexual fulfillment through encouraging celibacy or mixed sexual orientation marriage inflict harm on God's people . . . the image of God is reflected in all Creation . . . our sexual expression is God's gift to us. We must recognize that each time an individual is coerced into denying that gift, the human spirit and soul are lost. Such denial whittles away at human creativity, imagination and the erotic power that every human being needs in order to flourish and form relationships.

Amen! As far as I'm concerned, the Black church has been begging for this upbraiding for a long time. If you court Satan openly, sooner or later people are going to talk about your questionable taste in boyfriends!

African-American ministers have recently begun emulating their Conservative White counterparts' practice of using heterosexual supremacist philosophy for fundraising purposes, as well as a means of pursuing political power. They've grown entirely too willing to ignore the Savior's mandate of compassionate outreach!

A few months back, George W. Bush booster TD Jakes had the audacity to explain away his church's lack of an AIDS ministry by saying (on television): "The Apostle Paul didn't talk about AIDS." I found that statement ten times more offensive than recent reports that Black preachers have taken to peppering their sermons with ugly epithets like "f*ggot" and "bulld*ke." How can Bishop Jakes even stand to look at himself in the mirror after saying something so heartless?

Just as Professor Griffin notes in his book, the Black church has traditionally "provided social status, hope and stability for the millions of Africans who have lived in America." It continues to function as a cultural lodestone for Black people. However, the poisonous rhetoric Lesbians and Gay men of African descent are exposed to in church with increasing frequency negates the social and cultural advantages of membership. Segregating oneself is never a desirable thing to do. Yet, when one's physical and/or mental health is threatened by the folk one associates with, what other choice is there?

By the way, the folk in question can also include White Gay Christians who show a racist face to their dark-skinned brethren; it's sad, but true. Black Lesbians and Gay men need more churches of their own. They need more sanctuaries where they can worship God freely without having to worry anymore about encountering Satan in the pulpit!

Anybody who attends a church presided over by a rabidly heterosexist pastor should ask herself these questions: Why would a preacher of New Covenant Gospel preach Old Covenant doctrine? (If you don't know about the Old and New Covenants with God, read my posts titled "The Book Of Punishment" and "Preachers In Your Pants".) Why would a truly loving shepherd only love certain sheep in his flock and despise the rest? Why would churches that profess a ministry of love sell people hatred (or self-hatred)?

Even if you manage to these answer questions in ways that rationalize your continued attendance, you can't deny this truth: Hatred is the kind of sale item nobody should ever want to buy! Our boycott of hate vendors must begin immediately, and it must continue until all the ministers of heterosexism have been driven out of the Christian faith. Satan doesn't belong in the pulpit, and it's high time we told him so!

In his book preface, Professor Griffin writes:

. . . my greatest hope for this book is that it will reach the countless African-American Lesbians and Gays who live every day with sexual shame and self-hatred, believing that their (same-gender) sexual attractions and love relationships are flawed, sinful and immoral because of what they have learned from sermons and teachings of the church.

I highly recommend Their Own Receive Them Not, and I hope Oprah Winfrey will consider choosing it as an Oprah's Book Club selection. With the right kind of publicity, it could cause a sensation greater than JL King's controversial book about closeted Black men, On The Down Low. Nothing better could happen, in my opinion!

If I ever meet Professor Griffin, I will thank him for feeling the pain of countless LesBiGay Christians of color, and for channeling that pain in such a positive direction. I want to see a lot more of this kind of testimony. Will it be enough to change the church's attitude? Frankly, I'm not optimistic. On the other hand, the church's attitude will surely never change without it!

Buy the book at amazon.com: