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: