To My Beloved Brothers and Sisters in the Black Church:
Once upon a time, perhaps even as recently as last year, I’d say that I do not understand why so many black Americans cling so fervently to Christianity. However, after examining the phenomenon that is the traditional Black Church, I think I do understand. The Black Church is more than just a place of worship. It spans many denominations of Christianity, and has been a stronghold of strength for a community long marginalized by the white supremacy that is so deeply ingrained in America’s caste system that there seems to be no end in sight for it.
The Black Church is a family. I know, because I grew up in it. I remember the joyous celebrations of life when someone had a baby, or a beloved church member died. I remember Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Children’s Church. I remember gatherings just for the sake of gathering, with all the food, love, and laughter anyone could want. So, I get it. When you leave the Black Church, you leave more than just a religion or a place of worship. You leave your very family, often the only family you’ve ever known.
Black Churches were also the home bases for many strategic meetings during the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King Jr. himself, as were most, if not all, of his followers, leaders and members of strong Black Churches. Even to this day, black faith communities have a huge hand in serving communities torn apart by riots that result from police shootings of young black men, most recently in Baltimore. They come together to feed children when schools are closed, offer safe places to protesters, offer healing to hurting communities. So, many good things have come out of the Black Church, things that have immeasurable value. I understand that, and respect it. However, there is a dark side to the phenomenon that is the Black Church.
For one thing, it is a stronghold of homophobia. In fact, the Coalition of African-American Pastors came out against President Obama ahead of the 2012 presidential election because of his endorsement of same-sex marriage, and urged their congregations to stay home rather than vote for him. I know of the Black Church’s homophobia first-hand, as one of its homophobic pastors had me sent to conversion therapy. I was later told, at the tender age of 16, in a very public and humiliating way, that I would never be welcome there until I “repented from my sinful homosexual lifestyle.” The Black Church is largely responsible for the “DL ” (down-low) culture among gay black men, where they marry women, and have anonymous sex with men. It’s the only way to be a “real man” in that culture- you must marry a woman and raise strong sons.
Well, let me tell you one thing, adherents of the Black Church: You are absolute hypocrites. Here you are, a community that has historically faced what is arguably the harshest, longest- enduring sort of discrimination in America’s history, and yet you are, as you demand equality for yourselves, actively supporting discrimination against another marginalized group. Many of us in this group, the LGBT community, are your black brothers and sisters. Yet you would turn your backs on us just for embracing who we are rather than playing up to your outdated ideals about the “right” way to live. That is the height of hypocrisy. How can you preach love and peace and change when you’re so hateful towards LGBT people? It makes absolutely no sense.
The thing is though, some of you are coming around on the LGBT issue. One of the most prominent African-American pastors in the country, the Rev. Al Sharpton, did an ad for the Human Rights Campaign in favor of marriage equality. Here is his video, and perhaps his message and reasoning will have some impact on a few people:
Then again, black people willingly and joyfully being Christians makes little sense anyway, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at the overwhelming homophobia among many black Christians. Christianity is the slave master’s religion. Our ancestors were brought here in chains, packed like sardines in filthy slave ships, and treated worse than livestock. Christianity was forced upon them by slave masters. Their own religious and spiritual traditions were taken from them, and died when the first slaves died, for they were forbidden to practice their original faiths. The white slave masters forced them to convert to Christianity. So, to that end, knowing that history, why the hell are you embracing Christianity so hard, and defending its various bigotries, particularly that against the LGBT community? The willing adherence to this religion is, quite literally, the highest form of coonery.
I can’t answer that. I don’t know your reasons. Despite the loss of the wonderful community I outlined in the beginning of this piece, if I never step foot back into another Black Church, it will be too soon. I am not only an atheist, but I am an atheist who recognizes the Black Church for what it is: A hypocritical hotbed of homophobia and discrimination against all who are different, particularly LGBT people. We’ve come so far as black people, but it’s a damn shame that so many of us cannot look in the mirror and see the hypocrisy of the Black Church on the issue of LGBT rights, or remember the history behind the formation of the Black Church, and stop practicing the religion of slave masters.
No wonder we’re not free. In so many ways, we’re still willfully living on the plantation, and the Black Church is just one of the slave master’s many whips.
Greydon Square summed it up best, with these song lyrics:
Spoon fed this religion from the slave ship, would use faith to justify bringing slaves here. All the conduct and the rules, in the ‘good book-’ you swore by it, but failed to take a good look. You’re completely sold- just two centuries ago slave owners swore you didn’t even have a soul. Now you blindly defend a faith… that was used to plunder, pillage and rape an entire race.
Featured Image: Pinterest