Is the black church guilty of spiritual hypocrisy in same-sex marriage debate?
Delman Coates at Mt. Ennon Baptist Church is among a minority of black ministers in Maryland who have endorsed gay rights.
May 12th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Is the black church guilty of spiritual hypocrisy in same-sex marriage debate?

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - Some people wonder if the black church will punish President Barack Obama for announcing support for same-sex marriage.

Here’s another question:

Why would the black church cite scripture to exclude gays when a similar approach to the Bible was used to enslave their ancestors?

“It’s so unfortunate,” says James Cone, one the nation’s most influential black theologians and author of “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

“The literal approach to scripture was used to enslave black people,” he says. “I’ve said many times in black churches that the black church is on the wrong side of history on this. It’s so sad because they were on the right side of history in their own struggle.”

Call it historical irony: Black church leaders arguing against same-sex marriage are making some of the same arguments that supporters of slavery made in the 18th and 19th centuries, some historians say. Both groups adopted a literal reading of the Bible to justify withholding basic rights from a particular group.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Opposition to gay rights is not the standard position of all black churches. Still, while several predominately white mainline denominations have officially accepted gays and lesbians in various forms, the vast majority of black churches still consider homosexuality a sin.

Black church leaders recently helped lead a successful drive to amend North Carolina’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. The Rev. Fred Robinson, a black pastor in Charlotte, says most black churchgoers aren’t hypocrites. They take scripture, and sin, seriously.

“Black people are not confused,” Robinson says. “If you look at the scriptures that oppose homosexuality, Old and New Testament, they are clearer cut than the ones people used to justify slavery.”

Yet there are other factors beyond the Bible that shape the black church’s resistance to same-sex marriage.

“It’s more than scripture – it’s history, culture, how we were raised,” says the Rev. Tim McDonald, founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council.

Some black church leaders are still fighting hard just to persuade straight black couples to marry. Accepting same-sex marriage when so many black households lack a husband and wife makes McDonald uneasy.

“I am not comfortable performing a wedding ceremony of the same sex,” says McDonald, an Obama supporter. “That’s just where I am.”

Some black pastors, however, embrace a literal approach to the Bible not just to exclude gays but to get rid of competition, says Edward Blum, a San Diego State University historian.

Some black pastors cite New Testament passages such as Paul’s demand that women keep silent in churches to argue against black women in the pulpit.

That argument is harder to make when black women’s energy and donations form the backbone of the black church, Blum says, but some still get away with it.

“The biblical literalist reading has kept male leadership in power in a church that is hugely female,” Blum says. “It keeps power in men’s hands.”

The one book that mattered

Black churches also embrace a literal reading of the scripture because of its unique history, says Blum, author of “W.E.B. DuBois, American Prophet.”

During slavery and segregation, many blacks saw the Bible as the one document they could trust. The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, state and local laws – all found some way to ignore their humanity, Blum says.

The Bible, though, was one book that told them that they weren’t slaves or three-fifths of a person, Blum says.

It said they were children of God.

“Throughout the 18th and 19th century, what document could they trust?” Blum says. “When the Bible says it’s so, it’s something that black people believed they could trust.”

Their enemies, though, used that same veneration of the Bible against them. Slaveholders had a simple but powerful argument when critics challenged them: Trust the Bible.

They cited scriptures such as Ephesians 6:5. (“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters, with fear and trembling. ...”) And they said Jesus preached against many sins, but never against slavery.

Since the Bible is infallible, and scripture sanctions slavery, it must be part of God’s order, slaveholders concluded.

“Slavery is everywhere in the Bible,” Blum says. “When Americans who were in favor of slavery defended it with the Bible, they had a treasure trove of clear biblical passages that accepted enslavement.”

Blum says abolitionists found it difficult to mount an effective counterargument. They couldn’t just say trust the Bible. They preached another approach to scriptures.

They said you couldn’t enslave people based on the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (Obama cited the Golden Rule and his Christian faith in supporting same-sex marriage).

“The abolitionist turned to the ethics and spirit of the Bible,” Blum says. “They were theological modernists before modernism.”

And what are black clergy and churchgoers today when they cite the Bible to oppose same-sex marriage?

Robinson, the North Carolina pastor, says they’re not homophobes.

“It says in the Bible that homosexuals will not inherit the Kingdom of God,” he says. “How do you explain that one away? A lot of honest Christians are not trying to hate homosexuals. They’re saying that if I take the Bible seriously, I’m not sure I can say it’s right.”

Robinson says that some opposition to homosexuality is actually based in compassion:

“If I’m concerned about your soul, I have to tell you the truth in love.”

Cone, who teaches at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, says black churchgoers opposed to same-sex marriage are instead mimicking their ancestors’ oppressors.

“I tell some people, ‘These people were against you.’ They would have lynched you. How are you going to now join them and help them lynch somebody else?’”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Christianity • Culture wars • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Politics

soundoff (4,348 Responses)
  1. Atheists??

    It's a Cnn message board, just planting seeds friend. No real harm done

    May 13, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • Atheists??

      Jim, the Kabbala was revealed forty years ago, no downfall to society occured. We now have a strong new age movement. Better than what the church accomplished the last thousand years. The time is coming when they will know anyway. I find it cruel to hold this secret.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation


      May 13, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  2. Atheists??

    7 and 8 got DC'd. I have authority to say what I did

    May 13, 2012 at 1:09 am |
    • Jim Thane

      Your splitting hairs. It is open to interpretation. Be very careful

      May 13, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation


      May 13, 2012 at 3:38 am |
  3. chrism

    Can one be so ignorant to confuse ethnicity with behavior? Race with sin? No., it's not hypocrisy when the bible would speak against l9nching, against slavery as it occurred in the US, against injustice, and it speaks against the unnatural perversity of practicing hom0s3xuality which is opposed to God's beautiful design.

    May 13, 2012 at 1:06 am |
    • be

      It may be opposed to your "beautiful" design, but God is probably okay with it. To think a deity would care more about how somebody uses their genitals than the fact that two of his creatures loved one another with their whole heart, mind and soul is beyond ridiculous! The stupidity of such a theology is unbelievable.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Observer


      Why does God's "beautiful design" include slavery, discrimination against women, discrimination against the handicapped and the torturous murder of virtually every human being including babies and fetuses on the face of the earth?

      Ever heard of the GOLDEN RULE?

      May 13, 2012 at 1:16 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Actually the fact is that there are many examples of h0m0s3xuality throughout nature. So nature that "God" created is against his design?

      May 13, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • be

      So gays are in the courts fighting for marriage, family, and the right to serve their country. The religious right is in the courts fighting to control women's reproductive rights, fight off lawsuits for illicit se x ual conduct, and for financial mismanagement. The gays seem to be the moral minority and the religious right the immoral majority.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:27 am |
    • Rich

      Read the Bible again, its does support slavery as it happened here. Its in your favorite book, Leviticus. So roll that up and smoke it in your hypocritical pipe.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  4. Ramon F. Herrera

    Ted Turner would be ashamed of these people.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:56 am |
  5. Curt29

    Most Christains pick and choose what they would like to believe from the bible.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • LinCA

      You spelled "All" wrong.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:56 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      You better believe their version or have enough money to lobby crooked politicians or you're screwed.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • Cq

      Have you ever read "The Year of Living Biblically"? It's a funny story on one guy's attempt to live by ALL the rules in the Bible. He even threw rocks at h00kers!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:59 am |
    • Jim Thane

      Its all population control.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:00 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Could be.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:06 am |
  6. Jim Thane

    @ observer,

    There are some truths that would serve mankind little good to know, life is challenge enough. The church, from whatever denomination has always tried to protect itself from the atheists that exist, by teaching of rewards for good behavior and damnation for bad. Control of the population has always been the cowards way out of facing the truth. I know i am skipping around the pole. but I have taken oaths.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • Atheists??

      Read the last synod Jim

      May 13, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • Observer

      Jim Thane,

      Your comments almost contradict his/her comments in that you seem to be giving more credence to atheists than to the church. Apparently a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Everyone enjoys keeping "secrets". It's fascinating that you aparently would keep secrets that would impact billions of people's "eternal salvation". Sure sounds unfair of God to do this, but there are MANY cases of unfairness throughout the Bible. Nothing new.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:07 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Thane, what do you have to say about all this?

      May 13, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  7. Ramon F. Herrera

    Black folks must UNITE against a common ENEMY: Bigotry. S3xual and racial.
    (CNN forum policies are designed by imbeciles)

    May 13, 2012 at 12:47 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      The word that I disguised above (and MANY others) may be typed in the Washington Post Forums.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:48 am |
    • LinCA

      You mean words like:

      May 13, 2012 at 12:52 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      LinCA: Can you please share your trick?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:58 am |
  8. Ramon F. Herrera

    Does this sheet work?? The Washington Post allows LOTS more words.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:46 am |
  9. Jim Thane


    my comment was not directed to you sir, but to the individual leading the thread

    May 13, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Don't hit the reply button if you don't wish to address me.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:50 am |
  10. Gary

    Id like to hear from the conservative gAe's and why some of them voted for Amendment 1. I ran into a father who's son was gay and the father said that his son and his son's friends believed it is the right thing to do, to vote for Amendment 1 but you don't hear their side of the story as to why? I'd like to understand their perspective.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:35 am |
  11. Jim Thane

    @observer, what he/she was saying is esoteric in nature, and never shared with the population. I can not speak for their intent or motivation but only he/she was hoping to save some, which is to say hard.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:35 am |
    • Observer

      Jim Thane,

      Your comment is interesting and l'd like to hear more. Can you clarify it and explain the "never shared with the population" part?

      As far as the attempt to "save" people, that was clear, but trashing people as soulless is uncalled for.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:39 am |
    • Jim Thane

      There are societies that think they hold certain truths passed down from ancient times, I am a member of one such group. he was obviously high up in one and some secrets just are not meant to be shared.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • Observer

      Kind of like the KKK, huh?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Jim Thane

      There is a feeling among the leadership growing that it is time to unviel certain truths, many feel the opposite, but no action should ever occur without consent of the ruling body.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:45 am |
    • Jim Thane

      Please keep it civil, I dont find your reference to racist groups funny.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:46 am |
    • Observer

      I am being civil. The KKK thinks they are a group of elite intellectuals who have all the knowledge of how society should function.

      I have always wondered what good it does to have just an elite group that know about the secrets to heaven if there are just going to be a handful of people there. Can you explain?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:49 am |
  12. A Serpent's Thoughts

    @ Observer

    Millions of hetero-sodomites? Show me your proof for such a claim! Go and finish your drinkie pooh before you spill it all over your keyboard!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:24 am |
    • Observer

      A Serpent's Thoughts,

      You can skip your brainless gay references because I am hetero.

      Ask any of your hetero friends if they engage in a-nal or oral s-x. Also watch any HETERO late night movie.

      You don't think things through too well.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:29 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Serpent never left his moms basement and she still child blocks his internet access. The name should have tipped me off. Serpent's thoughts lololol

      May 13, 2012 at 12:32 am |
    • Jacob Flaherty

      The Bible and Christianity, contrary to the gospel preached by the liberation theology movement, was not a social movement; it was about conversion and coming back to God. Paul never cheered on slavery, just as Jesus never cheered on the Roman occupation of Judea at the time. Instead, they knew that no matter the social conditions one found themselves in, God could still be glorified in it. Jesus didn't get excited about His mission on the cross, but He still took it, and glorified God by it.

      Also, and importantly, slavery in Paul's times is not akin to the African American experience of slavery in the early centuries of America. In a great deal of cases it was an indentured servant-hood, with some 'selling' themselves into slavery for protection. The ignorance of people here is astoundingly loud and clear...

      May 13, 2012 at 12:37 am |
    • Observer

      Jacob Flaherty,

      Speaking of the "ignorance of people", the Bible told how badly your could hurt your beloved indentured servant without having to be punished.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:41 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      It's a FACT that the bible was used to excuse and promote African slavery. No denying it.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  13. NYC

    Why can't nonbelievers accept that they live in a Christian majority country and we live in a democracy country. Move to North Korea or Cuba if you hate religion... I'll buy you one-way ticket 🙂

    May 13, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      What's a "democracy country"? Why is it always the religious that are trying to take away peoples choices and crying persecution at the same time? You people have a sickness. You need serious help.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      We are the ones fighting for Democracy. You are the ones fighting for Theocracy. If you want that then go move to Iran!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:23 am |
    • NYC

      Democracy = Most voters win.

      BTW many religious people favor gay marriage

      May 13, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • LinCA


      You said, "Why can't nonbelievers accept that they live in a Christian majority country and we live in a democracy country."
      How come those christians are too fucking stupid to realize that there is such a thing as freedom of religion in this country. Freedom of religion starts with, and includes, freedom from it.

      There is a very good reason to have freedom of religion. The writers of the bill of rights realized that all forms of religion were complete and utter bullshit, and to have a chance to get the boneheads to work together, we'd have to agree to disagree.

      That all means that your religion means jack-shit in a democracy. And in a civilized country, the rights of a minority are not subject to a vote.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:27 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      I see you have limited knowledge of how this country works. Please educate yourself. the U.S is a REPUBLIC, moron!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:28 am |
    • Bob

      we don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic, it's a representative gov't.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:29 am |
  14. Manny

    There's no way atheists are 2-3% of the population.... maybe 0.2% or less. The census should ask for religion!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Observer

      It does. Obviously you haven't read about them.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:13 am |
    • Jill

      Don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Manny

      Not until census ask for religion I don't believe there are any atheists out there, only very few!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Observer


      Sorry, but you need to learn about how polls are done before you dream that you know more than they do.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:18 am |
    • Yes, There Are Athests

      @Manny – You need to get out more. There are more atheist in American than there are Jews.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:19 am |
  15. Observer

    @Are there truly atheists? or just soulless humans.

    "you are correct God killed thousands of humans (without souls, atheists) to help his chosen ppl to survive, those with souls. come on think a little"

    So children, babies, and fetuses have already decided to become atheists or did God make them that way before he killed them?

    May 13, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Are there truly atheists? or just soulless humans

      my post didnt take, and ia have to go, this is a very deep subject, spiritual people likely have souls, i cant say for sure. babies are either born with them or not. man wrote the bible and it is difficult to understand. but reread the bible in the light have shown youl

      May 13, 2012 at 12:16 am |
    • Observer

      Sorry you have to run off just like another Christian did.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • Jill

      Souls are not. Don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Dig the present fold the table.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • GauisCaesar

      I don't understand why you keep saying nonChristians don't have souls? If you are a Christian, you are not knowledgeable. Everyone has a soul.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Jim Thane

      He should not be saying this

      May 13, 2012 at 12:31 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      No sir. Not saying it! NOT!...saying this.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:39 am |
  16. Martin

    Black anti-gay preachers choose to be blind to the evil in the so called "bible" like condoning slavery Old and New Testament. Colosian 3:22 slaves obey your masters...shame on the hypocrite Reverends

    May 13, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • Angela

      First of all, how can you give any kind of comment on the Bible when you clearly do not understand or believe in the Bible? 1.) That scripture is not condoning slavery. If you paid any attention to it, it is saying, in everything you do and in whatever situation you are in, do what is right. Meaning, at that time there were some people who were slaves. God will deal with those who do his people, including Jews or Gentiles, wrong. You just act on the fruit of the Spirit. Love those who love you and those who persecute you. Vengeance is the LORD's. If you even paid any kind of attention, God said, I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. He spoke these words to Abraham and his descendants. Those who are saved are a part of his descendants. Jesus told His people that they will be persecuted for following Him, does that mean He condones persecution? Of course not!!! But he told them to hold on. Those who overcome, there will be a reward for them in heaven. 2.) The only time a person was considered a slave in the "good since" is if they owed a debt that they could not pay. They had 6 years to work it off and on the 7th year, they were not only set free, but the "master" would give them things that they can take with them to move on. They were paying off a debt, not like the slavery we as Black people experienced. 3.) In some cases, like regarding Moses time, the children of Israel were in disobedience and as a result, they became slaves in Egypt. Even though for over 400 years God did not rescue them (He had his divine reasons for that. And If I were you, I wouldn't question God's judgment), He later sent for Moses and punished the people in Egypt. 3.) In case you were wondering, In Colossians, Paul was not talking to African slaves. I just wanted to add that. 4.) The only thing you need to understand is that God will always punish those who persecute His people. Man ain't got nothing on God. I rather God handle/punish them than man. The Bible says don't fear the ones who can kill your body, fear the One who is in control of your soul after you die. Man can't touch you once your dead but God can and will. So again, since you do not have a clue as to who, what, where, when, how, and why regarding the word of God, I suggest you just only stick to what you know.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:02 am |
  17. Are there truly atheists? or just soulless humans

    Look heres the thing, I am not trying to be cruel. i do have feelings for all of you. and you can acquire what you lack, but it takes work, because you are basically an evolutionary being, like a chimp or a dog. In acts a soul was given to thousands at one time. it is possible.

    May 13, 2012 at 12:05 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation


      May 13, 2012 at 12:09 am |
    • Jill

      Don't obfuscate the primary prenuptials with rasberries. Often, the pertinent cat presents fabled necessities in the parking chamfer. Realize your net precedent. Such is the rabbit under the red cold that confiscated the gear to the bosun. Vast legions of benches post ipso facto Gunther blew past the orchard.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Jim Thane

      This is not for general consumption. Why would you post this? You are wrong on many levels. Who was your sponsor?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:30 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Sponsor? LOL

      May 13, 2012 at 12:34 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      I don't know if you've taken a look through the comments but there's a lot of stuff I wouldn't deem as fit for "general consumption". You are so picky all of a sudden. Did I ruffle your feathers darling?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:37 am |
  18. Manny

    I'm Gay and I'm proud religious Christian 🙂

    May 13, 2012 at 12:04 am |
  19. Jesus = king

    OMG why do nonbelievers even comment and read religious articles?!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:03 am |
    • Bob

      Why do you keep asking that dumb question? It's because religious idiots like you also get to vote, and impact the laws and policy that the rest of us also have to live by.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:06 am |
    • Manny

      Well Christians are the majority (80% of population).... nothing you could do about it. It's called DEMOCRACY, not communism!

      May 13, 2012 at 12:10 am |
    • Observer

      It's because of the hypocrite believers who deny equal rghts to their fellow human.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Manny

      We live in a democracy country, not communist country. Move to North Korea or Cuba if you hate religion

      May 13, 2012 at 12:14 am |
    • Observer


      Study history. We are a land of religious FREEDOM. You have missed that point completely.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:21 am |
    • Godoflunaticscreation

      Hey Manny, the Theocracy you crave is in Iran.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:25 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      This is not a religious article, it is an article about religion, you Theocrat.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • Ramon F. Herrera

      Manny: "We live in a democracy country"

      Manny: Fortunately we DO NOT LIVE in a Democracy. The founders wisely selected a REPUBLIC. Read the Federalist Papers No. 10. What you mentioned is called "MOB RULE", you troglodyte.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  20. A Serpent's Thoughts

    @ Judith who wrote, "I've known children who were raised by gay parents and were every bit as happy and well adjusted as kids raised by a mother and a father."

    A few apples does not make a bushel Judith! Just as there are child molester Priests there are childmolesting gays! There are even christian child molesters! Sodomy is a wicke and vile Act of those who embellish in actions going against the sancti-ty of hetero-marriages! Yes what one does in thier own beds is between them and God! It is with much hatred I view any gayness Acts of sodomy writing in the libraries of the young students places of education!

    May 13, 2012 at 12:02 am |
    • Observer

      A Serpent's Thoughts,

      You still haven't addressed sodomy by MILLIONS of HETEROS. It has NOTHING to do with gays.

      What is your point, if any?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:11 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.