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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. Adam

    Is there anything that you won't blame whites for??

    June 16, 2011 at 3:19 am |
    • Landrix

      Are you speaking to the author? The author did not blame anyone for anything.

      June 16, 2011 at 4:53 am |
    • myweightinwords

      I must have missed the part where he blamed whites for something?

      Unless you're talking about the part where he discusses the use of se-xual submission by slave owners to keep their slaves in their place? That isn't laying blame. That's just facts.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:16 am |
  2. Spockky

    Religion makes you believe absurd things that are not true. The same things that it made people believe thousands of years ago. Luckily, today we have science and technology to tell us that humans evolved, they were not created. The Earth revolves around our sun, not vice-versa. And there are no gods. I used to believe in a god, because my parents and others told me to, but now I see the truth, and having the truth is better than having so-called faith.

    June 16, 2011 at 3:04 am |
    • Then

      The existence of a God has nothing to do with whether or not we were created.

      June 16, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Then

      I'm sincerely curious as to your statement. Would you be willing to elaborate further please.

      Thanks.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:14 am |
    • Adam

      Religion creates a set of rules for a society to follow. These rules prevent chaos and anarchy, setting the minimum moral requirements for the members of that society. Secular laws help punish offenders of crimes, religious laws help prevent people from committing crimes in the first place.

      June 16, 2011 at 3:25 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Adam

      Hey -Adam...

      I'm sincerely curious... Please provide verifiable factual proof to your claim that (paraphrasing here)..."without religion and it's supposed rules and laws:

      #1)Religion 'prevents' chaos and anarchy. ?????

      #2)Religious 'laws' 'prevent' people from committing crimes in the first place. ?????

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:34 am |
    • Hey

      @Peace2All – I was surfin and came across this article on NDEs

      skeptoid.com/episodes/4261

      As it reminded me of you, I thought you might like to read it if you haven't already. Peace, bro.

      June 16, 2011 at 8:43 am |
    • Peace2All

      @Hey

      Sum Dude ??

      Anyway, whoever you are... thank you thinking of me, and sending me any information on things that interest me, which is almost everything. LOL !!!

      As for the link to the NDE sight, I read it, and there wasn't anything in particular that wasn't re-hashed old hypothesis' and opinions on it, however at the end like the writer says..."ya' never know."

      And as for me... if you've read my postings, I have always maintained "I don't know"... I have kept an open mind, and stay balanced with the whole experience/phenomena.

      Thanks again -Hey !

      Peace brother...

      June 16, 2011 at 11:40 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      @Adam
      The 10 Commandments, (even though there are actually 628). Let's go through them, shall we?

      -- #1-4 NO, all of them imply an obedience to theism which is totally against my beliefs, and in America I have a legal right to my beliefs. This isn't Egypt.

      -- #5 NO, my parents were not worthy of honor, I heard, I never met them. Some just aren't.

      -- #6 YES, I've never killed anyone and never will. I've never even physically harmed anyone in 20+ years.

      -- #7 NO, that's an outmoded rule rarely practiced these days even by heteros. Spouses are people, not property.

      -- #8 YES, good rule, congratulations.

      -- #9 YES, I don't lie about people, even when they're calling me an abomination based on ancient prejudicial drivel in Leviticus; I call them bigots, however, which is perfectly true.

      -- #10 YES, I have no interest in anything of my neighbor's. He has really bad taste.

      Wow, 3 for 10. And I'm a very normal modern guy.
      Listen up: you will not inject your religion into my government.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Hey

      @Peace2All – Sorry to hear the article wasn't anything new. I didn't read much of it myself.
      Yeah, I'm doing "Sum" stuff today. Glad to see you're still being peaceful to all. 😛
      I've been seeing posts that are what I would have said, yet I did not make them.
      So don't expect everything that sounds like me to actually be me, as some have done.
      (I've made the same mistake a few times)
      It's nice to see, though. I don't feel I need to post as much when there are others who do it much better.
      Gives me time to get other things done. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would ever make a comment on the internet, I would have said, "definitely not."
      If you had asked if I was likely to become addicted to spouting my own gibberish on the web, I would have denied the probability if not the possibility. It is a foolish addiction we all share. A two-step program is what I need. Maybe Reality will whip one up for us.
      But I digress. I hope you are well and having fun as usual?
      Of course you are. I'm being silly.
      Gotta go. Peace2u.

      June 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  3. whiteisrite

    didnt you uneducated peple ever learn the bible? it says god made adam to mate with woman eve. adam and eve not adam and steve. thats why there are always kings and queens not kings and kings. look at william and kate. they are man and woman.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:59 am |
    • Clues to the Clueless

      Didn't you ever learn that Adam and Eve is a bullsh!t story? I mean seriously, even if you don't believe the enormous mountain of evidence that is evolution, you just cannot possibly believe the Adam and Eve story is actually true. It's so obviously impossible. You aren't that gullible, are you?

      June 16, 2011 at 3:05 am |
    • So

      So, what about all of the rest of humanity that God created that wasn't in that story? God created humanity and that included gays.

      June 16, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • EuphoriCrest

      @ WisR (Your name cheapens the integrity of any comment you post)

      Here is a partial list of kings who WERE queens:

      Edward II of England
      James I of England
      William III of England
      Louis XIII of France
      Rudolf II of the Holy Roman Emperor
      Frederick the Great of Prussia

      And truly educated people read more than just one of the bibles.

      June 16, 2011 at 10:08 am |
  4. ChiRomagnon

    Oddly, the Jews managed to survive enslavement by Africans without abandoning the faith of their people. Africans enslaved in America did just that.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:37 am |
    • John Richardson

      Assuming the whole slavery in Egypt story is even true, which it may or may not be, AND that Judaism as we know it didn't really arise much later under the influence of monotheistic Zoroastrianism during the later and more plausible exile, all it means is that the Egyptians didn't particularly care what this group believed, whereas the Christians in the Southern US, like Christians al over the world, imposed their beliefs on people they subjugated. That's how Christianity spread in the first place. It's an imperialistic religion and all the worse because it is,

      June 16, 2011 at 5:42 am |
  5. Nicholas

    It's not the belief we decry... it's the actions people take in the name of that belief. Harmful actions; physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Pretty similar to not hating the "sinner... "

    June 16, 2011 at 2:32 am |
    • Peace2All

      Which -belief/s- in particular are you referencing that you decry in your comparison of not hating the person but hate the sin, etc... example...?

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:22 am |
  6. Chef Sun

    Sodomy is most enjoyable and great fun. Most people are just too stupid to know what it actually is.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  7. Michael

    OK, I'm guessing those in the black community, who keep telling gays and lesbians their lifestyle is sinful because their Bible tells them so, probably see the problem in their beloved Book being used to justify slavery. Should we maybe talk the black community into being our slaves again because, you know, the Bible fully condones slavery? Funny how people can pick and choose when to use the Book and when to say it was wrongly used.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:21 am |
  8. teepee

    Pearson is probably gay

    June 16, 2011 at 2:15 am |
    • KIPSTER

      you too.....

      June 16, 2011 at 2:41 am |
    • JamminCanadian

      there is no "probably" about it.

      June 16, 2011 at 8:42 am |
  9. mm

    If you gay people don't like what is preached in the church don't take your behind there! Gay people are the most intolerant people on the face of this earth. They want to be accepted but they don't want people to have their own beliefs. The world is not going go join you in believing that your lifestyle is ok. IT is sinful and will always be! The government might pass laws but you are still a sinful set of people.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:00 am |
    • teepee

      yep yep..up to them, everyone would be required to at least try man on man or woman on woman...

      June 16, 2011 at 2:19 am |
    • KIPSTER

      who died and made you GOD. Sadly you do not get to determine what is a SIN

      June 16, 2011 at 2:42 am |
    • Timothy

      Sir/Madam: Please reread your statement ( Quoted below). The statement in itself makes no sense. WTHELL did people argue about in the 60's? At least now, we/they/you/them are not using the word animals (well most people.) How do you go to church with your hate on your sleeve?

      "If you gay people don't like what is preached in the church don't take your behind there! Gay people are the most intolerant people on the face of this earth. They want to be accepted but they don't want people to have their own beliefs. The world is not going go join you in believing that your lifestyle is ok. IT is sinful and will always be! The government might pass laws but you are still a sinful set of people."

      Cast a stone.....

      June 16, 2011 at 2:57 am |
    • christopher

      So in order for Gays to be tolerant they have to tolerate the intolerance of people like you? So the people who spoke out and marched against segregation and racism were not speaking out on injustice but were being intolerant of racists beliefs? Thank you, I now have a much stronger understanding of stupidity. God Bless you.

      June 16, 2011 at 3:02 am |
    • Peace2All

      @mm

      Hey -mm...

      You Said: "Gay people are the most intolerant people on the face of this earth."

      Gay people are the 'most' intolerant people on the face of the earth... really...? Are you sure about that -mm...? That is a massive and unfounded 'over-generalization' on your part. Please provide some kind of factual evidence to support your generalization.

      So... I guess the 'gay' people are attempting to marginalize you, take away your rights to equality, provide hatred towards all of you and say you should not have been born because the 'book of gay' says that anyone that is 'not' gay, is a sinner, and will 'burn' in hell...?

      ...-MM, I could go on and one about your posting.

      I would respectfully suggest that you may want to re-think your seeming blind-biased bigotry here.

      And lastly, if there are some gays out there who are not real happy with the Christians, have ya' ever thought that it just might possibly be due to, oh... a lot of the Christians over the centuries, and even to this day who continue, as you have done in your posting to further fan the flames of 'your' and others -intolerance- and bigotry...? If you guys had never started all of this cr@p in the first place a looooooooooong time ago about making gay people out to be evil, and instead... allowing them to be seen and treated as equals and live in peace, things most likely would be a lot better, yes...?

      So when you have the nerve to call "Gay people the 'most intolerant' people on the face of the earth" is, hmmm.... well, quite funny and sad actually.

      Regards,

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:03 am |
    • Peace2All

      @christopher

      Well said.

      Peace...

      June 16, 2011 at 3:35 am |
  10. Reagan80

    So, now we're going to be told that slave owners lusted after the black men as well? Give me a break.

    June 16, 2011 at 1:55 am |
    • John Richardson

      The sort of se-xual humiliation referenced here happens. I have no idea how common it was amongst slave owners. But it's the sort of thing that does tend to come hand in hand with gross power imbalances. But the psychology behind it has essentially nothing to do with same s-ex ATTRACTION, and hence can't possibly be the CAUSE of the existence of gay black males. The latter is an utterly foolish belief.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:51 am |
    • Frogist

      @Reagan80: R ape is not about lust it is about power. It is a tool that has been used to demoralize and humiliate those who might rise up in rebellion time and again. It was used to keep the slaves in check. It is being used as to terrorise the people of Syria right now.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  11. RightsProtected

    Funny how Islam and Judaism were both mentioned in the article, yet people only bash the Christian faith. How is it that everyone speaks of tolerance on this post, yet no one is tolerant of religious peoples views and beliefs? By trying to change them and condemn them, you are doing exactly the same thing. You may not like beliefs of some religions but according to our forefathers, this country was based on freedom to worship and believe however you want. If a religious person thinks being ga-y is a sin, that is their right, just as it is your right to think religion is wrong as long as you do not become violent and infringe on each others rights, so how about living what you are preaching liberalists?

    June 16, 2011 at 1:16 am |
    • ric

      You are asking us to be tolerant of the intolerant?...Why?..You certainly aren't. I don't hate religious people I just find them to be hypocritical. If I dislike you , or am repulsed by you , I admit it and I own it...I don't blame my religion for being intolerant of you..And I certainly don't chose a religion that tells me not to judge others and that's the first thing you do.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:04 am |
    • Nicholas

      It's not the belief we decry... it's the actions people take in the name of that belief. Harmful actions; physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Pretty similar to not hating the "sinner... "

      June 16, 2011 at 2:31 am |
    • Frogist

      @Rights Protected: You might notice that the people commenting who are anti-gay are quoting the bible to justify their position. That means they profess to be Christians. Therefore those who are disagreeing with them must deal with them as Christians... not muslims or jews. It is simply paranoia that Christians are being unjustly persecuted in these comments.
      And yes, it is your right to free speech to talk about gays being sinners, and your right to freedom of religion to say that came from your bible. But it is not your right to be given a free pass for that heinous position. Especially when that position infiltrates the laws and prohibits equality for gay people or is being used to terrorize and bully gay children. Then you have overstepped your bounds and have started intruding on the rights of others.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  12. Mark

    lyd

    God hates sin. So who are you to suggest that hate is always bad? Hate for sin, crimes, violence, is good hate. Sodomy is a sin. No 2 ways about it. I hate sin. I hate sodomy. WELL THEN DON'T DO IT, IS ANYBODY FORCING YOU? You are supposed to love the sinner forgiveness-what religion are you a part of anyway-the sodomy church? I think God hates YOU no god hates nobody-YOU HATE ENOUGH FOR HUNDREDS.

    June 16, 2011 at 1:14 am |
    • scott

      your argument is not very thought out... So god doesn't like Sodomy right... Well.. What about Lesbians? They are gay.. and as far as I know.. most never even think about Sodomy...

      June 16, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  13. jayn

    Isn't it primitive and shallow that churches divide themselves by such a superficial factor as race? All god's children huh?

    June 16, 2011 at 1:06 am |
  14. Mark

    lyd

    I know sodomy is great and I'm doing it right now. It's wonderfull to think about 2 men (or women) going at it. Absolutely repulsive if I'm not invited. No matter how much you'll try to push this in me, I can never accept it. I can't yet.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:55 am |
    • christopher

      Nobody is pushing anything on you. Just mind your own bloody business and leave people alone. I have no idea who you are but I do know I do not need your permission for anything. Not do I care what you like or dislike.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:03 am |
    • KIPSTER

      fully agree with Christopher

      June 16, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • Frogist

      LOL@ Mark! Having read the previous comments, I get the joke! lyd/guest has some weird ideas.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  15. Patrick

    Christians are fakes and phonies. They claim they love Jesus? That's B.S. He was a poor man with no personal possessions. Christians despise poor people and anything that isn't 'them." I'd like to know what it is that is Christ-like that Christians do these days. Not a thing.

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

      I agree. I know who Jesus Christ was and what he talked about. But I have never, in my entire life, actually met a Christian. Just bigots, haters and idiots trying to justify their stupidity by invoking his name.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:01 am |
    • MSfromCA

      Patrick and Christopher – Sounds like either you are prejudiced against Christians or you have been going to the WRONG churches. In every church I have ever been in there are a few bigots, but most people are just trying to live a better life. Every now and then someone says something stupid, but its certainly not common.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:33 am |
    • ric

      @MSfromCA..not common?..I come from a very religious family who sent me to military school (go figure...cram jesus down my throat and then teach me its okay to kill in war) and they wanted me to study to become a priest which I fought and left home as soon as I could because of it....80 percent of the congregation outside of church was racist, hateful and judgemental. They obstracized my aunt ( a loving human being ) for divorcing her husband and she lost a lot of friends in the community because of the church. The priest took lavish trips and wore 400 dollar shoe, while his petty wife gossiped about what the other women wore. It turned me off to religion for good.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:52 am |
    • christopher

      I am not prejudiced against Christians. Read my post again. I simply have NEVER me one.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:59 am |
  16. Joshua

    Hey lyd, you're gonna be in big trouble when your fellow Klansmen find out you're gay LOL.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  17. socalpimp

    Wow...So now we are trying to influence religious teachings with Political Correctness? This is getting to the point of Socialism.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Patrick

      Why is telling the truth political correctness?

      June 16, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • James

      i agree. let them be bigots and let the church die out.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • Aristocles

      There are 2.2 Billion Christians, bordering on 2.3 Billion, and over 1 Billion of them are Catholic. I don't think we're dying out anytime soon. What's more important is that you retract your statement over us dying out. On this forum, if you hoped the gays were going to die out (2% of humanity), half the people here would call you a bigot. You hope that Christians will die out (33% of humanity), and this forum gives you a free pass. Double standards anyone?

      June 16, 2011 at 2:13 am |
    • The Mildly Exciting Adventures of Seymore Thimblecap, Accountant

      Nice reading comprehension skills there, Aristocles. You are quite the brainiac. He wants the BELIEF to die off. Nobody here said anything about wanting all Christians to die.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:44 am |
    • John Richardson

      Socialism? Gays were severely oppressed in the old Soviet Union, You are the one sounding like a communist on this issue.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:56 am |
  18. DMS

    Do you think that Jesus Christ, in all his infinite, eternal wisdom, will send me to hell forever and ever because I am a man who has never been attracted to women? There are many others out there just like me...

    June 16, 2011 at 12:45 am |
    • EuphoriCrest

      If he sentenced every generation of mankind to death just because some moron ate an apple eons ago, well, yeah. I guess you're in trouble. But don't lose any sleep; enjoy your life and lifestyle.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:51 am |
    • JamminCanadian

      you're the one sending yourself to hell by rejecting light.

      June 16, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  19. Bribarian

    Looks like the PC gestapo is at it again

    June 16, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • christopher

      I am so tired of morons equating everything to Hitler or the SS. Do you know who the gestapo were and what they did????Or are you one of these uneducated Americans who believe that Paul Revere rode so that the British wouldn't take our guns away?
      Read a book before you comment on things you know nothing about.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:59 am |
    • Mark

      no in your case its just the gestapo-and it seems there might be a little nugget in you to start up the camps again for the next group to be blamed for all the ills of the world. yes read a book even a coloring book would be an improvement.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:04 am |
    • Mark

      Why is it politically correct to accept people-you need to go to China and get run over by a tank and see how it feels to have your rights taken away. Its not politically correct its just correct behavior for an american-no go to Iran you would like it they hang 20 year old men for being Gay. If its a choice you would think that would be a big deterent. punishment by death-choice theory blown to hell.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • John Richardson

      The real gestapo arrested and imprisoned gays. Looks like you got things backwards.

      June 16, 2011 at 6:00 am |
  20. thes33k3r

    Hey Carlton....here's a newsflash for you.....the problem is religion. Just read all the comments.

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

      the problem isn't religion, it's sin

      June 16, 2011 at 12:37 am |
    • Mark

      no the problem is humans thinking they have the right to pick out what is sin. There are lots of sins you just sin shop.

      June 16, 2011 at 1:01 am |
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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.