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September 26th, 2010
06:55 PM ET

Opinion: Why black church culture rejects homosexuality

By Shayne Lee, Special to CNN

Editor's Note: Shayne Lee, Ph.D, is an associate professor of sociology at Tulane University. He is the author of "T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher," which analyzes major changes in the black church culture and contemporary American religion, and co-author of "Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace," which looks at the appeal of celebrity preachers.

As a sociologist who studies black churches, my research allows for compelling conversations with some of our nation's most powerful religious leaders. But my most memorable interview to date was not with a celebrity preacher, but a lesser known young gay Christian I'll call David.

Like many black Christians, David grew up in a theologically conservative church culture that views the Bible as the authoritative word of God. This supplied David with a healthy dose of guilt and regret for succumbing to same-sex cravings, eventually leading to his despondent spiritual state. In gripping detail, David recalled spending many days and nights fasting and praying for God to "deliver" him from his homosexuality.

Read the full story

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Black issues • Christianity • Church • Homosexuality • Opinion • Race

soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. Truthwillsetyoufree

    After reading the article, I think what we have to remember, is that God is a forgiving and loving God. We should also, being made in his likeliness, remember to also be loving and forgiving. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. All of us have broken the commandments, (at least one of them.and I am being generous here,lol) , and need to keep in mind, if we broke one, we are as guilty as if we broke them all. Thus, don't judge your brother/sister. neighbor..

    I do hope David will be able to forgive himself, and love himself, and to find peace that the Lord gives us.

    October 3, 2010 at 9:33 pm |
  2. Truthwillsetyoufree

    @CatholicMom
    Thank you for sharing that story about your brother. May he rest in peace and find comfort in the loving arms of our Father. I know that was not easy to share, but I am glad you did. It shows that we are all human and all have problems. Doesn't change who we are, what we are made up of. I am sure that the others blessed by his good and charitable acts of kindness, will never forget him. God truly used him to show his love and mercy to others, some less fortunate.

    It is always a pleasure reading your posts. May God richly bless you and all your endeavors to share the good news of Jesus with the rest of the world.

    October 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  3. Lance

    I will make this brief. I blame White People for this one. Why? There in charge. They took charge. Always find the Captain when something goes wrong on a ship.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    Frogist – Sorry for the late response, Fall classes are kicking my rear.

    That you feel that the Atheist who post here come to nicely and calmly discuss issues and those of faith only want to debate has got to be the funniest thing that I have read here. I will say at least that the fringes of both groups have been pretty rabib here but I would not be foolish to try to define and label each groups as a whole by the fringes.

    Secondly, I can go back to many post that I have made where I have had rational discussions with many folks but I will not lie I can bring out the big cannons if need be and voice what I feel is something wrong. It more sounds as if you define folks on a single instance of their lives that "you" choose. Which makes you look silly when you say things like I only post accusations. So with your challenge I laugh severely with much gusto.

    Catholic Mom – What I am saying is that I have seen you on these blogs and if i am correct we have had back and forth responses before. So when Frogist says that all I do is post angry post about CNN then she is making false accusations. I am saying that before she makes such absolute type of statements she should acctually go back and read post they have made in the past.

    September 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Mark from Middle River,
      I am sorry...I questioned out of my misunderstanding....

      September 28, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  5. L A Gaines

    If as stated "They are more likely than the general population to interpret the Bible literally ", then why do they eat pork? there are prohibitions against it in the Bible. They read "literally" what they want to read or what tradition tells them it says. Jesus says nothing.

    September 28, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  6. SHAIARRA

    OLD JIM CROW MUST GO

    September 28, 2010 at 3:17 am |
  7. SHAIARRA

    TO THE JEWS THE SHEKHINAT (SHEKINAH ASHERAH ASHERAT ELOAH) IS THE FEMINIME TERMS FOR YHVH GOD OF ISRAEL WHOM THE XTIANS CALL THE HOLY GHOST OR HOLY SPIRIT:GOOGLE IT OK

    September 28, 2010 at 3:16 am |
  8. phil

    If a person is born a thief, must we embrace thievery?

    September 28, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • CatholicMom

      There are successful treatments for thievery.

      September 28, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • peace2all

      @phil

      Your attempt at creating an analogy that has symmetry with a person being gay is absolutely ridiculous.

      1) We can all agree that no one is 'born' a thief. At least there is nothing I have seen in science literature and studies. Please cite some....

      2)We also can agree that we have literal 'laws' against thievery. There is harm done.-Ergo- We don't 'embrace' thievery.

      3)As for someone being 'gay'... there is no law about being gay, nor is there harm done to others from being gay.

      Your only argument comes from emotional bigotry, prejudice and hate....... Very clearly offered up by your terrible and atrocious attempt at equating the acceptance of gays, analogous to embracing 'thievery'

      It's people such as yourself that keep the ignorance and fear-mongering going.... Stop please..!

      Peace...

      September 28, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  9. t-party

    People are either born straight or gay...Period

    September 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      t-party,
      I believe you are right. There are many out there who are trying to prove differently but I don't think they have been able to prove it.

      September 27, 2010 at 5:21 pm |
    • NL

      CatholicMom-
      If people are born gay then being gay is all part of God's design, right?

      September 27, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      NL,
      Yes; and as the Church tells us...we all have some cross to bear in life; can you name someone who has never or will never have a cross to bear?
      Were you able to watch?:

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc&w=640&h=390]

      September 28, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  10. Selfish Gene

    There is no atheist doctrine against people of color, gays, women or any other group. Can you say the same?

    September 27, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Selfish Gene,

      Yes, I can say my Catholic Church doctrine does not discriminate for any reason. Check out Catholic Charities...Meals on Wheels...and others. Please don't try to use the 'women priests' comment because the Catholic Church is all about the Church that Jesus Christ founded....He decided who could be priests right from the start....[even before he founded his Church] he also decided who would be the ones who would bear children and who would not...., who would be His Mother and who could not......who would be Apostles and who would not....LOVE is not jealous...

      September 27, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • peace2all

      @CatholicMom

      I am truly sorry for your loss concerning your brother. I believe you know me to be sincere in that sentiment...

      Peace and respect to you as always....

      September 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
    • Bob

      @CatholicMom Laugh out loud. My chruch does not discriminate and don't you dare bring up instances when they do because I've been told there are excellent reasons for these.

      Newsflash for you. The catholic church does discriminate. Perhaps you should listen to what your pope recently said about how "atheism is responsible for hitler". Despite the fact that Hitler was a Catholic and that the argument is moronic.

      You say love isn't jealous, which is true. But in God's eyes, it's also not equal. Don't you find it odd that God loves everyone equally, but causes some to starve, be infected and in pain or die horribly while others get to live in the lap of luxury.

      How can God love everyone equally, but treat everyone differently. Would you treat your children differently? Could you and still claim to love them the same? I think not.

      Reality and your faith don't line up. When will you take your blinders off?

      September 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @Bob
      Whether atheist or deist, I think we can all agree that disparities in class/living conditions are largely man made.
      When you are made aware of others suffering, what is your reaction?
      The question is not whether you assign blame to God or man, but rather whether you seek to do anything to alleviate the problem.
      Churches do not discriminate – people do. People of a like mind, with the taste for the same kind of discrimination, will gather under one banner or another to propgate their agendas.
      I don't think it right to blame an organization for the actions of it's members. Culpability lies with the individuals. I don't blame "The 3rd Reich" for the holocaust – I blame the individuals who chose to participate. I don't blame the RCC for pedophile priests – I blame the individuals who did the abusing, and those who endeavored to hide said abuse.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Thank you, Peace2all; Peace always....................

      September 27, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Bob,

      You have a strange notion that you are a robot and that God controls your every move. Wake up…you are alive and can think and do. There is plenty of food for all but greed in man is a huge obstacle. If man cannot distribute the beautiful bounty that is provided by hard working people the world over in cooperation with God, don’t blame God because the ones in charge of distribution fall down on their jobs out of greed.

      Hitler may have ‘called himself Catholic’ but his actions proved differently. The world isn’t that stupid….Hitler did not believe in God and didn’t want anyone else to either. He caused millions of Jews to die along with thousands of Catholic priests. Now there are people who want to dismiss the Holocaust and say it never happened. Will they still be trying to dismiss it after 2000 years go by? [Just because someone is born into a Catholic family or says they are Catholic, does not make them so!

      God does not cause starvation, pain, but allows it. If we knew all the answers we would have the mind of God but we don’t. I believe what Truth has been revealed to the Church about such things and it all makes sense to me. We are at war against evil and if you think starvation, pain, and those things are evil working over-time, you are right.

      September 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  11. Mark from Middle River

    Frogist – None of my post huh. Go back or "move on" back to the Mosque articles. Other articles about LGBT or just a friendly recent sparring session with a cool kid named Mikey. I complain because I like this section of CNN and being a mostly Foxnews guy I have found more respect for CNN for wading into this type of arena or subject. What harm does it do to you if make vocal, a bit about though the negative article after negative article about anything dealing with organized Christian religion? As a Christian I know that at least for my denomination we are like Eddie Long has said, we are not perfect but do much in the community with outreach program after outreach program. I doubt if we are alone in this community support but like other groups you mostly only hear about the negative. As an African American I really understand this feeling. News reports about the gang land shootings but does not talk about GED graduations of African American students that gave up lives of crime and returned to school. Frogist, that type of situation upsets me but all I have is my voice (post).

    Tell me this Frogist, as many Atheist come into a Belief Blog and grumble, cry, rant and moan about Christians.... the same types of post over and over railing against all forms of Faith, where was your "move on"? See this is the being fair Frogist, you look extremely silly to only hold one side to a different standard than another.

    Maybe you should be more informed about who you harp against before your fingers hit the keyboard.

    September 27, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Frogist

      At least most of the atheists on this board are willing to discuss an article and the content of it. Much like the christians and muslims who want to debate. You however don't seem to have any of that same dedication to discourse. All you do is complain about how CNN isn't being nice to you. If that were truly "a bit" as you say, then you might have a point. But you do that for every single comment you make which makes your posts an exercise in deflection rather than reflection. Also I have spoken out against those who repeat their posts ad nauseam, atheist or otherwise. But since you care more about accusation instead of honest discourse I doubt you would have noticed that.
      And you still have not made a contribution to the discussion of the content in this article. My challenge stands.

      September 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Mark of Middle River,
      You said to Frogist, ‘Maybe you should be more informed about who you harp against before your fingers hit the keyboard.’
      Are you saying that ‘who’ she comments about should matter….such that she should not speak [the truth as she sees it] if the ‘who’ happens to someone ‘who’ you think needs ‘special’ ‘treatment’?

      September 27, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  12. Reality

    For new members only:

    The starting point:

    " No simple cause for se-xual orientation has been conclusively demonstrated, and there is no scientific consensus as to whether the contributing factors are primarily biological or environmental. Many think both play complex roles.[1][2] The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psy-chological Association have both stated that s-e-xual orientation probably has multiple causes.[3][4] Research has identified several biological factors which may be related to the development of a heterose-xual, ho-m-os-exual or bis-exual orientation. These include genes, prenatal hormones, and brain structure. Conclusive proof of a biological cause of s-exual orientation would have significant political and cultural implications. [5]"

    Then there is this:

    The general population to include many of the voters in California, rightly or wrongly, find ga-y se-xual activities, married or not, to be "yu-cky" and unusual and typically associate such activity with the spread of A-IDS which is of course wrong. Said A-IDS epidemic in the g-ay male community at the start of the A-IDS crises will always remain unfortunately a stigma on the g-ay community.

    " And after all of this rhetoric, g-ay unions simply simplify and somewhat sanitize what are still "yucky" acts caused by a variant gene(s) and/or hormone imbalance. One wonders if stem cell research will find a cure??

    Impressive list of g-ay people who did not let their y-ucky defect get in the way of being a contribution to society. Unfortunately, they were not able to contribute to the evolutionary process of DNA improvement via pro-creation.
    And one will never know whether they would have achieved even greater achievements without said defect.

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, ga-y s-e-xual activity is still mutual mas-turbation caused by one or more complex se-xual defects. Some defects are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell. Of course not all having these abnormal tendencies.

    September 27, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Reality,
      My brother did say that he would never wish h0mo-s-u-ality on his worst enemy. [Not that he had any….]

      September 27, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • Bob

      Sounds like your brother never accepted who he was. Where would he get such a horrendous idea from?

      Do you think church made his life better? Or do you think it made him loathe himself.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Bob,

      Like I said, he loved everyone and that included himself. Church was his help in not loathing himself and where he got the loathing of himself in the first place was from self-righteous people.

      September 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Frank

      What the hell, Reality? Those last two paragraphs are a bunch of nonsense.

      September 28, 2010 at 2:43 am |
    • Reality

      Frank,

      Please be specific in your comment about said paragraphs being nonsense.

      September 28, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  13. Frogist

    There are a number of studies pointing to the spread of HIV as fastest in African American communities. Could this be linked to a certain reluctance within those communities to discuss se-xuality openly? If as the article says "maturity and honesty about se-xuality is dangerously low in a great many black church communities" maybe there is a link there. And I am NOT saying ga-ys spread AIDS. I am saying hom-os-exuality is a part of a larger discussion about se-x that includes application of safe s-ex practices, the moral implications of s-ex, and topics like monogamy vs multiple partners, peer pressure teen pregnancy etc. In other words, this refusal to be open and honest, could be contributing to the spread of disease because of the fear of discussing topics about se-x is so great.

    September 27, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  14. Luke

    Because they lack a sense of history, self-awareness, and irony.

    September 27, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • Frank

      Yep. I can't stand it when one historically oppressed group wants rights for itself but will deny the struggles of another group with valid grievences.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:01 am |
    • peace2all

      @Frank

      Nice post... I agree with you. However, I am sure that some will try and make distinctions from the oppressions of Black's Vs. LGBT's... Especially gay's that are Black.

      I hope that there will be awareness and evolution in thought, acceptance, respect and understanding.

      Peace....

      September 27, 2010 at 2:08 am |
    • Frank

      True. I'm certainly not saying it's the same, but there's similarities. One form of bigotry is linked to the others. A chain of hate.
      Peace to you, as well.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:38 am |
    • peace2all

      @Frank

      Yes..... absolutely, just to be clear, in my posted response to your's I am in complete agreement. I said that 'some' will basically take issue and try to make it totally different on some level, thereby justifying the bigotry and hate. You are correct...."one form of bigotry is linked to the others. A chain of hate."

      I am certainly *not* one of those('some') who would try to see it otherwise. So, again, very much in agreement with you.

      Peace...

      September 27, 2010 at 2:50 am |
  15. Mark from Middle River

    "These posts are going to be tear stained."

    I don't think so. In some ways it is another anti-organized "Christian" article. Yep, we get it CNN Belief reporters, knock us off the pedestal goal ... gotcha. :)

    This will turn into what happens to most articles. Everyone will turn and twist the article so that in some way it supports or can be used as a weapon for their view on something. One guy wanted to blame all white people. Another it was the Republicans. One of the Bishop threads it was the consumer market forces or something. Of course the Atheist will love this but as I have noticed, it appears that the voices from the Atheist camp is not as loud on this issue as they are on others. Appears that some not open to accepting of views of people of faith but it appears they are not in unison in a open acceptance of LGBT. Ecch ... either way this blog is starting to slow down a bit. Nothing new is said and no one that really takes the time to read blogs really ever considers changing their views and beliefs on either side.

    The rest is just sad screaming matches and rants ... aka Mikey :)

    Just interesting that this article and subject is what CNN writers have given us lately. I can't even complain any more. We did get the positive nuns with cheese somewhere in there, and then I guess negative story after negative.

    September 27, 2010 at 1:02 am |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: Do you have anything to say about the content of the article? Because the constant ranting about how CNN will not blow sunshine up your ar-se is getting really annoying. We've had this discussion before. And it seems all of your comments are never about the article itself. You care only about being a malcontent. Maybe, since you are so dissatisfied, it's time to move on. Or you can give us an opinion about the article.

      September 27, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  16. CatholicMom

    Just a warning...this is about ho-mo-s3xua-li-ty but you can't use the word so... best spell it out like this ho-mo-s3xua-li-ty if you need to use the word or your post will be rejected.

    September 26, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
    • NL

      Why does your post remind me of Dana Carvey as The Church Lady? Rearranging the letters of "Santa" “Now, who could it be? Could it be ... Satan?"

      September 27, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      NL,

      I had to google Dana Carvey as The Church Lady to find out what you were talking about…generally I don’t laugh out loud while cutting up dried fruit for my Fruity Hooty Creek cookies…
      So are you really Jimmy Swaggert? Can’t think of anyone else who cries as much …………..

      September 27, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
    • NL

      How old are you CatholicMom? Does SNL come on after your bedtime? And why did you call me Jimmy Swagger?!? I never called you a dirty name, did I?

      September 27, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      NL,

      I am one who used to stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning, working on projects. As life progressed I found that not enough sleep and still getting up with the chickens made it difficult to make much headway the next day. I am ONLY-soon-to-be 68; how about you?

      Goodness, I am sorry, I should have looked more closely at your name NL, it is not JS. It must have been past my bedtime when I wrote that…..

      September 28, 2010 at 11:45 am |
  17. CatholicMom

    These posts are going to be tear stained. Who hasn’t had their lives touc-hed by ho-mo-s3xua-li-ty…in one way or another? For me, it was through my best friend, my brother.

    Who would ever think a brother and sister could be so close but we were; maybe it was because we were artists and col-labor-ated on works; we knew each other’s thoughts about color, design, and so on. We didn’t just disc-uss art…but everything important to us.

    He ‘told’ me and one other sister first. He was so afraid others would find out, and it took him several years before he told the rest of his [6] sib-lings and parents. We were sad that he had suf-fered silently for so many years but we were now happy to show him it did not change our love for him in anyway except that we loved him in a more tender way.

    For the next 5 years he grew very close to the Catholic Church. He at-tended a re-treat and when he came home he was a dif-ferent man. He loved everything…every bug, every leaf…each stone was a marvel to him. It seemed everything had a halo around it.

    I traveled with him to Key West several times, his favorite place, because it was still in the USA, [and as a military man, he loved this country so much] but he loved the tropics, too. This was about 17 years ago.

    He was so afraid, at first, when he got sick, he thought that people would come and burn his house down with him in it because he had HIV/AIDs; but the town loved him because he was a good neighbor to all. There was a big, tall man [about my brother’s size] who lived in town who was very poor and winter was coming on; my brother got such joy in sneaking over to this man’s house and put some brand-new boots on his porch; he couldn’t stop grinning when he said he saw the man wearing the boots; it was nearing Christ-mas-time; in the summer-time, he left garden goodies all over town for people, too, and always gave the best tomatoes away.

    When my brother died he had a beautiful funeral in his Catholic Church, and all of his dear friends came to say good-bye; and his family, too.

    There are those who spread lies and say that the Catholic Church is against gays.
    This is how the Church feels….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0sILSapUUc

    September 26, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • Frank

      I am sorry to hear that your brother passed. He sounded like a beautiful human being. I hope he is at peace and may God bless your family.

      September 27, 2010 at 2:39 am |
    • Frogist

      @CatholicMom: I'm glad your brother was accepted so willingly. It shows the power of the heart overcoming the power of prejudice.
      I read not too long ago about a poll that says Catholic churches are more open to their gay congregants than evangelical, protestant etc churches. I do wonder if your brother engaged in discussions with priests or other parishioners about his hom-os-ex-uality, and what they had to say. I suspect they would still tell him being g-ay was a sin. And that's not really complete acceptance. Nevertheless, I'm glad they were kind to him.

      September 27, 2010 at 8:44 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Frogist,

      Thank you for your post and thank you to all who have been kind with words about my brother and others who are gay.

      I will not tell much about my brother’s lover other than he lied to my brother saying he did not have HIV/AIDs, and he died several years before my brother did. It did not make my brother bitter towards his memory but I have to say this ‘friend’ was living a lie about that and his life.

      My brother’s priest was a very holy man and I think a great spiritual director for all who listened to him. My brother did say that when Father's homilies touched on the sin of fornication it made him feel very uncomfortable and he felt as if he were talking directly to him and that all eyes were on him. But in a small town, many knew who the fornicators were; most likely the priest knew he was preaching about the sins of the flesh to a great many. Probably each felt those eyes were on them, too.

      These homilies were never reduced or eliminated when the priest and my brother became friends; they shared dinners and a beer and great conversation as true friends can do; they were able to talk about everything. He helped my brother plan his funeral.

      The nurse who came to my sister’s home to care for my brother in his last year was also a very caring person. She became another ‘sister’ to him. It was painful to see him wasting away for her, too. My brother was so handsome even with all his sores; towards the end I could barely comb his hair for him because even where there were no sores there was pain.

      My brother was one who loved flowers of all kinds. He had quite a collection of Amaryllis which were sitting by the windows of my sister’s house and she was praying they would open before our brother died so he could see them. There were many buds but they were not ready to open that night before my sister went to bed. When she got up in the morning, she saw the buds were all fully open and arrayed with every color and their sweet perfume was everywhere in the house… and then she found our brother had passed into his eternal life during the night.

      We believe he saw the flowers…..and they were opened for us…..

      September 27, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • CatholicMom

      Frogist,

      I forgot to mention that most people who knew my brother was h0mo-s..xual seemed very friendly and went ‘out of their way’ to show their acceptance [it was their way of saying ‘we know you are gay and we love you as you are’]; many brought him food when he was starting to get sick and didn’t cook much for himself anymore…just before he moved in with our sister….; and only one or two people were cold; one man was always sarcastic but never confronted him about his h0mo-s..xual-ity. He was just a mean person…even to his wife and kids…so no surprise there. He passed away before my brother did….suddenly, from a heart attack.

      September 27, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Robert DiStefano

      Thanks for sharing! From your writings, it sounds like your brother was a wonderful human being. Fortunatley, your brother found a compassionate church. It sounds like the teaching was balanced. While showing compassion towards sinners, the father also preached on sin. In this case it was the sin of fornication. The good news is that Jesus Christ died for those sins so that all who believe in Him can be forgiven. Too many churches today either preach without compassion, or have compassion and excuse sin. We all need to find that balance.

      September 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
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