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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. frank

    I LOVE SODOMY!!!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Mark

      I'm gay but I don't see lots of different people are here.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  2. Patrick

    Thank you to Bishop Pearston for having the presence of mind to reach out to the black community and speak the truth.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  3. Mark

    Hey Lied (lyd) what is a mortal sin? There is a whole list in leviticus are you without sin? then keep on with the hatefull judgement-oh wait isn't hate a sin-seems like you a screwed in this

    June 16, 2011 at 12:26 am |
    • Steve

      got nothing better to do then hang out on a religious comment board and troll. Get a life state your position and let it be, no need to call names. is it just your demeanor.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:50 am |
  4. lyd

    CNN, didn't one of your own black dudes just come out of the closet? There, you've accomplished your mission, you turned one black man gay. I no longer watch CNN. He repulses me. So do you.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:25 am |
    • Mark

      you are a pig. Is it that attractive to be gay? you worried about yourself. The cnn guy was already gay you backwards idiot. people hide it because of people like you hatefull LITTLE creeps.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Mark

      what is cnn a spatula that turned another one? You say God hates sin-that's ok. YOU ARE NOT GOD SO STOP ACTING LIKE GOD. If all this fable you are believing is true I will be judged much nicer than you-I'm not a fake christian.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:20 am |
    • John Richardson

      CNN "turned one black man gay"???? If you read the guy's story, you'll note that he knew he was gay while still a child. CNN didn't make him gay. That's a really stupid thing to say even by gay basher standards.

      June 16, 2011 at 6:02 am |
  5. Patrick

    You so-called "religious" people are so judgmental and blind. And you really think God has a place for you in heaven? Why oh why would a fair and just god want such bigoted and hateful people in his kingdom? Why would a kind and loving god want bigots anywhere near him? He wouldn't.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:25 am |
  6. lyd

    jd, most gay people turn gay in their midlife, they aren't born that way. And the majority of them go both ways. One woman braggged that she was married for 22 years to a man and had 7 kids. Then she became a lesbian. Yeah, right gay is 'in the genes.'

    June 16, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • frank

      haha you're an idiot.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • opus512

      Every time you post, God kills a kitten.

      Please, think of the kittens.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Mark

      proof you have no science background. You took one episode as proof it happens late in life. It can occur at any time in life like immediate in mine so balance your knowledge with what I just taught you. deaf, dumb, blind

      June 16, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Mark

      OH MY GOD SOME MORON (lied) HAS BECOME AN EXPERT ON WHAT HE HATES THE MOST. No the church is no place for you kind (GOD HATES HATERS)

      June 16, 2011 at 1:22 am |
    • God

      Not true, Mark. I made people in my own image, so that means I am part hater. I am part gay, too.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:25 am |
    • Peace2All

      @lyd

      You Said to @jd..."most gay people turn gay in their midlife, they aren't born that way. And the majority of them go both ways. One woman braggged that she was married for 22 years to a man and had 7 kids. Then she became a lesbian. Yeah, right gay is 'in the genes."

      Have you actually done any true research on this, or are you just spouting off an example or 2 that you know of and over-generalizing to mean that "most" gay people become that way in midlife...?

      Please provide verifiable evidence to your claim.

      Thank you.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:19 am |
    • Mildred the Mouth

      You know how many gay people ? You say "most" do this or that. You must know a hell of a lot of them.
      So you ARE gay ?

      June 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  7. Friend of God

    Another new low for you Mr. Pearson....not too surprising though since most of your views are simply unbiblical....God way doesn't need to be defended....His way will stand....and those who boldly choose to defy revealed truth will have to box with Him one day....These are the last days and as Romans 1:18-32 proclaims we are witnessing this day.....Also, unless all who practice ungodliness (as defined by GOD) they will perish. "He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still."Rev. 22:11

    June 16, 2011 at 12:15 am |
    • opus512

      Jesus weeps every time you post your hate.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:29 am |
    • Patrick

      Precisely the reason why I despise religion so much.

      Why don't you try using your brain instead of the bible?

      June 16, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Mark

      this is the entire planet-why do you choose what you want to believe based on your hateful believes-its like the 9/11 hyjackers going to heaven if they kill lots of people-is that in the koran? But they believed it JUST LIKE YOU! God doesn't have friends like you

      June 16, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Mark

      yeah wasn't that supposed to happen on May 21. Another christian theory shot to hell. You must be miserable

      June 16, 2011 at 1:24 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Friend of God

      You Said: "those who boldly choose to defy revealed truth will (have to 'box' with 'Him' one day)"

      What the heck are you talking about...?

      You Said: "These are the last days and as Romans 1:18-32 proclaims we are witnessing this day"

      So... we have been having the ..."last days" for approximately 2,000 years. I know, I know... it's a coming ! Are you part of the Harold Campings 'doomsday' group or something...?

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:46 am |
    • Frogist

      @Peace2All: You know 'box' him... Maybe muy thai... Or some of the sweet science... God is Muhammad Ali. But I guess that would make him muslim... either way I really have to get the gym once in a while.
      Or maybe 'box' is a metaphor... Box = fist... You will have to fist god is what he's saying. And if you're not a lesbian, you're basically screwed. I don't know! That's the best I can make out of what he posted.

      June 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  8. mickey1313

    The church is no place for anyone who wants peace love understanding compassion truth wisdom, and about 100 other positive words. The church is for only those who are closed minded bigotted, hatefull cruel ect.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:11 am |
  9. Morgan

    That's it. While you guys handle the anti-gay stuff, I'm taking God into Red Lobster, Old Navy, and every other establishment breaking God's laws. No shellfish, no blends, no excuses! Leviticus says so!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  10. ravven

    I love all of these so called "Christian" and/or "religious" people spewing their hate. Sorry, God is about love, not hate. I'm sure all of these people spewing are devote in their religion and pure as the driven snow. Ye without sin cast the first stone. Instead of telling someone how wrong they are, maybe you better realize you're not God and quit judging.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:05 am |
  11. Mark

    lyd go call whatever you want a sin- I'll wait for the real God to judge me not some wannabe like you. Whatever happened to "do not judge lest you be judged". Stay the hell out of my bedroom. I definitely want no part of yours. But curiously you want a part of mine. Interesteing huh? AND how dare you tell anybody who can go to church and who is welcome in it. You are a devil-Jesus would never say or act like that. You so called "christians" really need to examine the question WHAT WOULD JESUS (your lord and savior) DO? Now answer the question. Or become a jew as you are so old testiment! Your words are nothing but hate-you shouldn't be allowed in a church.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:04 am |
    • lyd

      Jesus said "go and sin no more.' So there. If you prefer it that way. Go and sin no more. But don't try to say that Jesus looked the other way. There was judgment in His words: Go and sin no more.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:09 am |
  12. lyd

    Sodomy is wrong and unnatural. It's horrific to think about 2 men (or women) going at it. Absolutely repulsive. No matter how much you'll try to push this on the rest of us, we'll never accept it. We can't.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Mark

      oh and why the fixation on sodomy-done it? I'm no fan either. how is this we you are talking for-Nazis, white supremisists, or just the majority of really dumb americans.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Mark

      Jesus did and said alot of things that made him an outcast-and got him crucified-wanna do that to gay people too. Oh and please give me gods phone number you seem to be dilluded enough to think you can reach him.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:27 am |
    • Frogist

      @lyd: You find consensual, joyful se-x between two people who love each other repulsive and horrific? I find that honestly sad. I really feel for you.
      What really confuses me is that you seem to forget that se-x is not all that gay people are. They live their lives probably a lot like you do. And referring to them as repulsive is a sure sign you don't really realise that. I urge you to get out in your community and learn a bit more about what it means to be gay. Maybe a PFLAG meeting or something. That way at least you can honestly say you know about gay people when you post opinions about them. And if you still find their world disgusting.. well beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  13. Don

    Black churches are no different then white churches...and the reason is they both use the same Bible for teaching.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • lyd

      That's what I'm trying to tell them. They're trying to make this a black thing. Christians are colorless. I'm white and just as much against it as anyone can be.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Patrick

      If "black churches" and "white churches" are the same, then why do you all insist on segregating yourselves?

      And if being "Christian" is color blind, again, I ask? Why the segregation?

      HYPOCRITES !

      June 16, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  14. Ryan

    If only black people knew what it is like to be excluded. Then they may understand how silly it is to hate people that are different.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:02 am |
    • Don

      there's a difference between hate and disagreeing.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • lyd

      Don't try to compare yourself to black people. Being black isn't an abomination.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • jd

      I find it really interesting ( and disheartening) that 2 different classes of our culture that have been discriminated against don't rally together against the same cause of discrimination in general. Gay people are born gay and people are born with the skin color they are given are also born that way. And for those that think this is not the case are delusional. Once again religious dogma trumps rationality.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • Patrick

      lyd - Well, where does that leave the gay black person in your mind?

      June 16, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  15. lyd

    Now they look for the church's approval?

    June 15, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Mark

      who gives a god damn about the church-I'm an american and that gives me more rights than a church gives me. My church is my choice. See you go to the church of stupid unjustified hate!

      June 16, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Mark

      you are just a poor fixated idiot who pick out the thing they hate. When was the last time you worked in a soup kitchen or donated your time to teach a student math-THIS IS A REAL CHRISTIAN!

      June 16, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  16. Pat

    "Peter-puffers shall not inherit The Kingdom."
    That's in the Bible.

    June 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • Matt

      Amen

      June 16, 2011 at 12:00 am |
    • mickey1313

      the bible is bull***t,
      the koran is a lie,
      the bagna-gita did not fall from the sky.
      These are the book that were writen by man,
      they cause wars,
      so follow if you can

      June 16, 2011 at 12:06 am |
    • Bob Jamieson

      "And the Lord sayeth, "Verily thou shalt not park thy pink Porsche in thy fellow mans' fudge factory garage, and thou shalt beat the sh!t out of your wife and children so that they will know that they shall know what my divine love feels like upside their heads." Phobias 14:32

      June 16, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • Mark

      yes and either will shellfish eaters and people who don't marry their dead brothers wife and people who don't kill thier neighbors for working on the sabath. We are all sinners even Pat. That's what I learned in church. You haters can't even follow the 10 commandments. Love your neighbor. Period thats all it says there are no qualifiers. GO BACK TO CHURCH AND LEARN THE NEW TESTIMENT-dark ages people.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:16 am |
    • Mark

      where? NO AMEN

      June 16, 2011 at 12:49 am |
    • Frogist

      LOL@BobJamieson! Amen!

      June 16, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  17. lyd

    God did not create gays. He created people. But people turned away from God and accepted the devil's ways.

    June 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • mickey1313

      to base your moral system of a poorly writen fable is so foolish, it should be criminal.. Thiests make me sad for the human race.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:07 am |
    • CommonSense

      Exactly, Mickey.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:12 am |
    • Mark

      Hey expert where'd you get your brilliant idea-with all your hate YOU turned away from god. YOU NEED TO WORK ON THAT. or solve all your problems and walk in front of a bus and ask god yourself-no you are going to hell.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Mark

      The devil made me do it-STUPID

      June 16, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Mark

      God created everything including the devil-now watchagonnado?

      June 16, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • i wonder

      lyd,

      Do you realize that many consider you to be accepting the '"devil's ways" by using electricity or other modern machinery.

      Do you know that church bells were originally invented to scare away the demons who caused electrical storms?

      Do you know that Benjamin Franklin was thoroughly castigated for toying with the "devil" when he was formulating the idea for the lightning rod?

      Do you know that:

      "St. Thomas Aquinas stated in his Summa Theologica, "Rain and winds, and whatsoever occurs by local impulse alone, can be caused by demons. It is a dogma of faith that the demons can produce winds, storms, and rain of fire from heaven."

      Martin Luther asserted that the winds themselves are good or evil spirits. He declared that a stone thrown into a certain pond in his native city would cause a dreadful storm because of the devils kept prisoners there.

      Christian churches tried to ward off the damaging effects of storms and lightning by saying prayers, consecrating church bells, sprinkling holy water and burning witches. Lengthy rites were said for the consecration of bells, and priests prayed that their sound might "temper the destruction of hail and cyclones and the force of tempests and lightning; check hostile thunders and great winds; and cast down the spirits of storms and the powers of the air."

      lyd, please take your 'devil' supersti.tions and file them under ancient fiction and fantasy.

      June 16, 2011 at 4:27 am |
  18. Beth

    Let's turn this around: Stop gay fear of God.

    See how improbable it sounds?

    June 15, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • Mark

      I have no fear of God. I fear his followers who KNOW what god wants and thinks at all times-–what arogance-no rapture for you.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  19. Howard

    @ lyd ... How do YOU know what "god" accepts? Because you heard about somewhere? Or you read it in a book written by other men? How do you know those men wrote what "god" told them instead of writing down their own personal hatreds?

    The truth is, you don't KNOW a d*mned thing.

    June 15, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • lyd

      I know sodomy is wrong and unnatural. It's horrific to think about 2 men (or women) going at it. Absolutely repulsive. No matter how much you'll try to push this on the rest of us, we'll never accept it. We can't.

      June 15, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
    • mickey1313

      so its wrong, even though stistically if you've EVER stepped foot in a church, mos, synagoge ect, YOU HAVE ENCOUNTERED A PEDARAST THEOLOGEN. People who have biblical faith are so low, i would concider the word of a mentally handicaped child before the most "learned" thiest.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:09 am |
    • Peace2All

      @lyd

      You Said: "I know sodomy is wrong and unnatural."

      You are making a claim as if it is 'fact.' So, I would ask you to provide verifiable evidence that supports your claims. BTW- Using the Bible doesn't count as 'verifiable' fact or evidence.

      You Said: "It's horrific to think about 2 men (or women) going at it. Absolutely repulsive."

      You are stating your assertion as if your viewpoint is an absolute truth for everyone. I understand that it may be 'horrific' for ...'YOU' personally, not necessarily for everyone.

      You Said "No matter how much you'll try to push this on the rest of us, we'll never accept it. We can't."

      Who is 'the rest of us'...? And, how are you so certain that 'the rest of you' we'll 'never' accept it...? There are numerous examples of Christians that recognized how ridiculous their world-views were about gays, and they changed.

      Who knows... maybe you will too someday.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:56 am |
  20. Dante

    Read Scripture:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ha8loxM0JA

    June 15, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
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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.