home
RSS
My Take: Overcoming the black church’s tradition of homophobia
June 15th, 2011
05:02 PM ET

My Take: Overcoming the black church’s tradition of homophobia

Editor's Note: Carlton Pearson is spiritual leader and author of the The Gospel of inclusion.

By Bishop Carlton Pearson, Special to CNN

Homophobia is hardly unique to the African-American community. It’s a social malady that's due largely to the influence of fear based-theologies, particularly fundamentalist Christianity, Islam and Judaism, all of which grow out of the Abrahamic tradition.

When something or someone is perceived as being despised by someone’s God, the worshippers of that God tend to despise and hate that person or thing as well. When given the opportunity, adherents act out against them with the same violence they presume God would use. That can happen through literal violence or in other ways - including the use of comedy.

I'm referring to Tracy Morgan’s reported an anti-gay rant at a recent show, during which he said“he'd stab his son to death if he said he was gay." Morgan has apologized for the rant and this week phoned a major gay rights group, vowing to return to Tennessee to apologize to those who heard it.

Preachers, too, often issue vicious denunciations of homosexuality.

African-Americans have always viewed male homosexuality as more of a sign of weakness than evil. This stems back to slave times, when male and female slaves were randomly abused sexually, usually by men.

I heard statements from my grandfather as far back as I could remember that homosexual practices were something the "white man" taught us and that it was a sign of weakness and weirdness in their culture. He spoke of how the white man sought to humiliate strong black slaves through sexual submission and subversion. It was the white man’s perverted way of exerting power over us, my grandfather said.

The same slave owners evangelized the slaves into Christian moral codes and dogmas that insisted slaves renounce their native spiritual traditions.

In some West African traditions, particularly in the Dagara tribes of Burkina Faso, certain Shamanistic spiritual leaders - sometimes called witch doctors by Westerners - were known to be of homosexual or bisexual orientation.

They were considered to have a higher vibrational level that enabled them to be guardians of the gateways to the spirit world. They were marginalized but not demonized. Similar traditions are known to other faith traditions, even if they’re not widely discussed.

African-Americans in particular should be sensitive to the violent injustices humans can perpetrate on other humans because of fear, ignorance and hatred. The African-American church has traditionally used a kind of "don't ask don't tell" approach toward homosexuality. But once someone’s homosexuality becomes public, the denunciations begin.

Such denunciations, exemplified in Morgan's comments, can send young people into depression and even drive them to suicide.

In more than 30 years of pastoring and dealing with pastors, I have observed that often when a public figure, secular or religious, shouts out in anger about or against a particular subject, it’s usually a sign of the inner turmoil of the person crying out around that very issue. I’ve discovered that many who angrily denounce homosexuality have latent homosexual tendencies or fantasies themselves and fear them - or are actually quite conflicted about the issue.

The most troubling aspect of Tracy Morgan's remarks is the bodily harm he said he’d inflict on his own child if he were to be seen acting in an effeminate manner.

Acts of violence against perceived unacceptable behavior, particularly if the behavior isn't harmful to self and others, is a sign of the deterioration of conscience.

What we fear, including homosexuality, we tend to amplify and exaggerate. There was a time when the "white man" feared black people and were threatened by our presence. We suffered horribly because of it. How quickly we forget. What we make the issue we make the idol.

Homosexuals and homosexuality are not going away. The sooner we recognize and accept that, the sooner the society will move forward.  I encourage the African-American community and church to reconsider ways to address the presence of gay people.

We don't have to go along to get along. We can mind many of the same things without necessarily having the same mind about everything.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bishop Carlton Pearson.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality • Opinion

soundoff (609 Responses)
  1. Bob

    Roland Martin should read this. It's far more important than any LeBron James/John Kasich crap that he wrote about earlier.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • GailS

      Word.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • ash

      Roland Martin defended Rick Warren giving the inaugural address. I don't think he'll be reading this one.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm |
    • keefah

      Come on, Roland Martin wishes he wrote it.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
  2. FairGarden

    Ho-mo-pho-bia will not go away, either. Don't push your filth upon normal people. Keep your opinion to yourself, Mr. Pearson.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      Addy honey, can you name one thing you don't like that god does like ?

      June 16, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  3. Beefburger

    The struggle of racial equality in NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM has anything to do with the issue. Hom-ose-xual Rights have hijacked the rainbow, which was a symbol of RACIAL harmony. Congratulations on singlehandedly doing away with such things as The Rainbow Coalition. If the Klan and Neo-Nazis had a brain cell between them, they would appreciate the irony.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • auguron

      They do appreciate the irony, but not what you're thinking of.

      They appreciate the very real irony of you becoming the very thing you fought against.

      I, on the other hand, am absolutely disgusted at the blatant hypocrisy, and am ashamed to be identified as one of you simply because of my skin tone.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  4. Josh

    @ John Richardson – Also you said "He didn't" So you do agree that God is a He. But wait, it's just a story.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Josh OK, the LONG version: There is NO god and CERTAINLY no god that belongs to one biological gender. Adam and Eve did not exist and no humans were created by any god or any other supernatural being.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
  5. frank

    Is there a way to find out what the bisexual gene is and then turn it on in all hot females via weaponized genetic therapy spores from a cropduster? That's what I would do.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  6. FairGarden

    Every noral person has a right to have ho-mo-pho-bia. Christians chose to grant them safety. The perv West must not impose its Sodomy upon the world.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • FairGarden

      I mean every "normal person." May God deal with the perv USA.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
  7. Lisa

    Thank you Bishop. Hate is never good no matter who it is directed to. Just let people live.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
  8. FairGarden

    Every normal person has a right to have a ho-mo-pho-bia.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  9. Rich

    Religion is delusion.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • BetrayalofFreedom

      Like you

      June 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Exactly, oh, but don't forget, you are part of a religion. Atheism and Agnosticism is a religion.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
    • Frogist

      @HeIsGod: No, they are not. That particular piece of propaganda is hilarious in how badly it has failed.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  10. keefah

    Oh no! You can't talk about this because you'll offend a minority! But, you're defending an even more minor minority! Oh, but does that make it ok? OMG!! ~biting fingernails to the bone~ The moral dilemma is too great!! What'll we doooo??? Oh please God of Political Correctness, help us to solve this massive conflict of phobias!! Now that Carlton Pearson has overcome his ho_mo_phobia, he's started in on the xenophobia again! Heeelllllpppp!!!! Lions and tigers and phobias, oh my!!

    June 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Political correctness? The author comes down unambiguously on one side here and is plainly NOT afraid of offending the other side.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • keefah

      He may not be "afraid" of it, but he's definitely thinking about it. Oh, but wait, there must be SOME form of phobia motivating him to write this!! <– (the point of my post, btw)

      June 15, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • John Richardson

      If there's a "phobia" in play here at all, it is a "phobia" towards tolerating social injustice amongst ANY group, including those who have themselves been victims of social injustice. But since phobia is generally understood to be an IRRATIONAL fear or loathing, I'd have to say you are simply wrong. There is a lot to fear about tolerating prejudice and social injustice, and it is rational to hold such fears and to work to ward off the real dangers by combatting those prejudices and social injustices.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  11. Fed Up

    sounds like your grandfather was a racist.....

    June 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  12. Ann

    Why did God make Adam and Eve in the first place?

    June 15, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • John Richardson

      He didn't. It's a story. Just a story.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Josh

      @ John Richardson – You'll probably want scientific proof that Adam and Eve existed right? History is preserved in stories. If your mom told you a story about your great great grandpa, are you going to ask for scientific proof that he existed?

      June 15, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Josh That is just too lame for words. But here goes: If my mother told me a story about my great grandfather talking to a snake, I wouldn't ask for scientific proof that it happened. I would roll my eyes and probably ignore whatever point my mom might be trying to make by telling an obviously fanciful story. I don't suffer fools gladly.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Jim

      Good to know that the Big Bad Wolf and Three Little Pigs really existed! Oh, not to mention all the stories chronicled in Greek mythology. Wish I could have met Zeus.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Ann and Josh, stories are stories and reality is what it is. If some far fetched stories were passed on about your great, great, grandpa, you certainly have a right to believe it. That doesn't make it true, though.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Laststr8

      Story? What is a story is the big bang, string theory, and the rest of the junk taught in school a's fact even though your own science clearly indicates that these theories are faulty. Btw, a theory by definition cannot be proven. Marinate on that

      June 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @Laststr8 Are you in all serious suggesting that the big bang theory is more fanciful than a story about a talking snake? And nothing in empirical science is "proven" the way things are proven in math and logic. But some theories have withstood decades of severe testing of the sort no bible story could possibly withstand and while they may require revision or augmentation, their basic correctness promises to stand.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  13. AnaHadWolves

    I remember many white people standing up for black people's civil rights...even though whites already had them. I remember that several white people even died at the hands of bigots and the Klan while opposing segregation and Jim Crow laws throughout the South in the 60's. Whites stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the black community to end oppression, hate, bigotry and discrimination. Dr. King even included gays and lesbians in his speeches as people to be helped through non-violence and marches. So now, gays get rancor, abuse, abasement and dismissal from the black community just when they need support and solidarity? Fine. Next time you need help ending bigotry, discrimination, hate and evil...you're on your own.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • GailS

      We (black people) need help ending discrimination against gay people. We need YOUR help now. Don't give up or you're just as bad as those that you criticize.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Thank you Gail!

      June 15, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  14. GailS

    "Gay rights are civil rights." This is a direct quote from Julian Bond, former chairman of the NAACP, speaking at a Human Rights Commission dinner in Los Angeles in 2009. Coretta King also supported gay rights. There are *many* black people who support gay rights. You just don't hear about us.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Bravo and thanks for bringing this up.

      June 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  15. B. Paul

    Without God there would be no war, hate or judgement.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Wrong, if people would humble themselves to God and turned from their wicked ways, there would be no war, hunger, hate, and judgment. God has made a way for us to escape this, but humanity prefers to live in darkness rather in the Light of God's Son, Jesus Christ.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • LivingLegend

      I invite you to move to communist China or North Korea. "No God" is the 'official' stance in those countries. Have fun.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
    • Gary B.

      To say belief in God is responsible for hate and war is beyond absurd...the wars that have killed the most human beings in history, World War I and II, had absolutely nothing to do with belief in God; they were wars of extreme secular nationalism and greed. We hear more and more of this utterly ignorant spin form secular liberals, and it's starting to sound like brainwashing. Learn true history, not left-wing secular dogma.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • Reality Check

      "there would be no war, hunger, hate, and judgment." If there are seven billion people, but only enough food for 4 billion, you think every single one of them turning to god would change the situation? Do you believe in the tooth fairy too?

      June 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  16. Thomas

    These so-called "native spiritual traditions" are way off from the Plan of Salvation that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ crafted for all mankind. My experience with "Black churches" is that most of them have an open door policy per se, but are like the Jews who Jesus called hypocrites in Matt. 23: 26 -28. "Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is in the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you , scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." It's a fashion show and whether it be on a Saturday night or a Sunday night, who hooked up with who at church will be doing the exact opposite of what the preacher was talking about. Color has nothing to do with being gay. Being gay is a choice and the inability of the person to come unto Christ and give up the sin into the Lord's hands. Repentance is the key. A gay person has to FORSAKE the sin, otherwise mercy does not apply to that person and justice will claim her own. Mercy cannot rob justice and no uncleann thing can dwell in the presence of Heavenly Father.

    June 15, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Your take on black churches sound like a bunch of babble. How do those verses apply to black churches but not to white churches or any other "color" of church? (And I'll ignore your "ho-mos-exuality is a choice" nonsense for now.)

      June 15, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Key words right there, Thomas:

      "Being gay is a choice and the inability of the person to come unto Christ and give up the sin into the Lord's hands."

      Amen, best comment I have seen, God bless you, my brother!!

      June 15, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ John – "Color has nothing to do with being gay." This is what Thomas has said and yes, indeed it is a choice. We all struggle with some kind of sin and it is up to us to let it go or allow it to get a hold of us and separate us from the Plan that our Father God has give us through Christ.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
    • AnaHadWolves

      So...being gay is "a choice"? Really? Then, that means that YOU made the choice to be, I assume, straight. Following that line of "reasoning", you at least considered becoming gay BECAUSE BEING GAY IS A CHOICE, right? Oh, being straight is natural but being gay is a choice? Got any empirical data to back up your specious claims? Of course you don't! Just more bigoted twaddle! Dolt.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • adam

      Before you call ho-mose-xua-lity a choice, remember that you are commanded NOT to bear false witness.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • GailS

      So what if being gay is a choice—big deal. I'm a grown woman and I get to choose whom I sleep with. Gay people aren't forcing themselves on you. They aren't demanding to get married in your church, they want to right to get married at city hall.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      Sigh, AnaHadWolves, GOD created us straight, you know, both male and female.

      YES, it is a choice:

      Psalms 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • John Richardson

      You know, I never made a choice not to be gay. I have the sensual and se-xual urges I have, some quite "conventional" and others less so, and can trace most of them back to feelings that were simply there, sometimes even before puberty, but all by the time puberty was in full blossom. You can say that it is one's choice whether or not to act on one's feelings. But asking people not to act on their primary attractions but instead be celibate or pretend to have feelings towards the opposite s-ex that they don't have is asking an enormous amount and it's not your place or anyone else's place to make that request, let alone demand it.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:23 pm |
    • ash

      Thomas – I assure you...being gay is NOT a choice just as being born black or any other color is not a choice. Why would anyone choose to be discriminated against, beaten, fired from their jobs, and denied basic human rights by people like you simply because of how they're born. The only choice gay people have is whether to bravely live their truth and who they love openly or stay in the closet. The year is 2011, Grandpa. Get with the program and stop giving Christians a bad name.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • auguron

      @adam Didn't you get the memo? Commandments don't matter when there is hatred to spread.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  17. Straightlk2777

    There is a way that seems right to a man and appears straight before him, but at the end of it is the way of death! Proverbs 16:25.

    May be we should also embrace liars, thieves, etc without any hesitation too! It may be in their genes too!!!

    June 15, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
    • auguron

      You already do. You follow them and hang on their every word every Sunday.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      VERY WELL SAID!

      June 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
    • HeIsGod

      @ auguron – And people like you follow them as well outside of the church, you know, POLITICS!

      June 15, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  18. edvhou812

    Three gay guys walk into a bar in the Castro. One is dressed as a biker, one is dressed like a "regular", and the other is wearing a Catholic Priest outfit...

    June 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  19. David

    A brave and loving essay. Joni Mitchell's song "Shine" recognizes the inherent good in Bishop Pearson. May the light continue to shine upon him.

    June 15, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  20. Godless

    Amen! Bigotry and Religion always seem to go hand in hand.

    June 15, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • BetrayalofFreedom

      Since you are targeting religion, that makes you a bigot as well.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • auguron

      @Godless and when they lose, they try to rewrite history and say "Oh, we were part of the good guys helping you fight against bigotry!!" Not only are they bigots, but horrible liars as well.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • BetrayalofFreedom

      @auguron
      You're full of it.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:24 pm |
    • auguron

      @Betrayal

      History says otherwise, no matter how many attempts you make at revising it.

      June 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.