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. rochdoc

    CNN – we attempt to divide you everyday so our agenda can be forwarded!!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  2. Aaron the Moor

    testing testing 1-2-3

    May 13, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • Aaron the Moor

      Blum uses the wornout "three-fifths of a person" argument. This 3/5s also included white people who were identified as indentured servants.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Aaron the Moor

      The South was fearful of the more populous North politically over ruling them in the House of Representatives

      May 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Aaron the Moor

      If-the-3/5s-compromise-was not included in-the-Const!tut!on-and -South-had gone its own way, then-there would-not have been a-C!v!l-War-nor would there had been an Emanc!pation-Proclamat!on and North America might very well have-slavery-in the 21st Century

      May 13, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Aaron the Moor

      hmmm it appears CNN censors do not like the following words:


      May 13, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  3. VoiceOfReason

    "The" black church? Exactly where is that one, single, solitary, monolithic church the author is talking about?

    May 13, 2012 at 9:30 am |
  4. VoiceOfReason

    You mean "are churches full of hypocrites"...

    May 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Gunny

      There are hypocrites in the church and outside the church. You cannot run from hypocrisy. The best that you can do is strive not be one of them. Study, learn, and set a example of how we are to walk with Christ.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  5. Andy

    Hell yeah it's guilty of hypocrisy.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  6. mat

    The black congressional cacus only accepts black members. I have no problem with that. But dont try to force your way into others lives if your not wanted. Your only truly free when you choose to be but as soon as that happens there will be somone who wants to lock you up.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  7. Reality

    ONLY FOR THE NEWCOMERS–------------>>>>>>>>>>

    "Abrahamics" believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the g-ay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied ho-mo-se-xuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore ga-ys are ga-y because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psy-chiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psy-choanalytic and psy-chological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heteros-exual or hom-ose-xual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of ge-netic factors and the early ut-erine environment. Se-xual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] "

    "Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, "The fe-tal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of tes-tosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identi-ty (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender ident–ity or s-exual orientation."[8

    See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with ho-mose-xuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions are supposed to obey the rules of no adu-ltery or for-nication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-s-ex unions not same-s-ex marriages.

    From below, on top, backwards, forwards, from this side of the Moon and from the other side too, gay se-xual activity is still mutual masturbation caused by one or more complex se-xual differences. Some differences are visually obvious in for example the complex maleness of DeGeneres, Billy Jean King and Rosie O'Donnell.

    Yes, heteros-exuals practice many of the same "moves" but there is never a doubt who is the female and who is the male.


    May 13, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  8. lord help

    the hypocrisy in all churches of all denomination,along with the religious lies have brought
    us to this place..its only the beginning.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Gunny

      It sounds like you don't like any church. According to you, they all are liars. In order to say that they all lie has to mean that you know the truth. So why don't you start a ministry teaching the truth. Trust me that if you do that, someone out there will then call you a hypocrite.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  9. Aaron the Moor

    It appears that CNN practices intolerance by issuing red flag incitefull articles like this that singles out a specific religion.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • mat

      Yeah. The muslims just kill them.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Gunny

      Must be a good news team because it has opened the debate. Other people do not have a clue that this issue is on the minds of some people. They do not listen or read CNN. I'm glad you and I do. If it were not for CNN, we would not be having this conversation. Good Job CNN.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  10. jason

    1. Of course blacks are hypocrites. Time and time again in state ballot measures allowing gay marriage, the black vote was the deciding factor that barred gays from being able to vote. Ironic coming from the "oppressed" blacks. But bigotry is okay when it comes from blacks. 2. Of course blacks will still vote for Obama, because at the end of the day, their "race" trumps any doctrine or policy. They see Obama as a black man, and that is all that matters. Who are the real racists?

    May 13, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • mat

      Didnt you know blacks cant be racist? 😀

      May 13, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • RdWhtNBlu

      Chris Rock: "Who's more racist, white people or black people? Black people, because we hate black people too!"

      May 13, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Gunny

      Here we go again. Hypocrisy come in all races. The black vote does not dominate any state ballot because in every state, total black population is only 25% or less. Every gay in America is able to vote. If you find on person that says that they cannot vote because they are gay, please report that because that is big news. Some will vote because of color, some because of party, some because views, and some will vote because they can and pick anybody. This is nothing new. We as Americans have been voting for these reasons since George Washington. The only thing different now is that our president is black. Blacks are not the only ones that voted for Obama. If Obama only received the black vote, he would of lost by a major landslide. More whites voted for Obama than any other race. The only race that can win elections solely on color are whites because they have the majority population. Do your homework. The candidate that supports the black mans view the least usually wins. But when the black mans views are in line with the candidate running, we are called racist. Kennedy and Clinton were not black. This president with similar views happens to be black. Thats his only real difference. Who are the real racists?

      May 13, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things*

    May 13, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • stateschool

      Other living things like squirrels and algae?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.*!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:12 am |
    • BOb the Prairie Dog

      Let me make this perfectly clear: NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a liar who probably wants your money. Please keep repeating this until it sinks in.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • mat

      prayer doesnt not????? didnt even bother to read your hate. But then to negs would make a positive right?

      May 13, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Gunny

      God knows that they are Atheist. I believe that God wants us to focus on what we are suppose to be doing and how we are suppose to be walking.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      @Jesus, aka "Anti" Jesus

      What are you babbling about with your foolish logic? So you mean to tell me some silly "stats" conducted by a group that is not Christian is reliable? Prayer has worked for me and many Christians for centuries. But foolish ones like you need to keep in mind that good and bad things happen to good and bad people for a reason, and sometimes God's will has a bigger purpose than we all realize.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • YeahRight

      "But foolish ones like you need to keep in mind that good and bad things happen to good and bad people for a reason, and sometimes God's will has a bigger purpose than we all realize."

      The famous excuse as to why prayer actually doesn't work. LMAO!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:59 am |
  12. Don Castor

    This may hurt the President a little but I think that he will be reelected. After the way my ancestors treated African Americans we should have a black president for the next 50 years, not exactly true because we are free to vote, but you know what I mean.
    I personally think that one day hopefully not to far in the future, we will all learn to love people of different color, and whatever differences, just learn to love and stop all hate and have a love and peace world just like the hippies wanted.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • jason

      Don, you're exactly the type of p.c. moron that the Dems love to hold in bondage of totally misguided "guilt." So you're saying essentially that a white baby born today owes something to a black baby born today. You're an idiot. If we had 50 years of black presidents, this country would look like all those other black ruled countries in the world. Ever heard of Africa? Not a hopping place. And it is naive and stupid to think that people will ever stop being "racist." As long as blacks continue to have by far the highest crime rates of any race, depend on the govt at much higher rates than other races, continue to ghettify every place they reside, have the highest out of wedlock births, highest dropout rates, etc and continue to play the victim, yeah you're going to have some resentment by whites. Blacks are the biggest racists anywhere.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Aaron the Moor

      and just how did your ancestors treat Africans brought to this country???? and generally speaking – how does that justify having a black president for the next 50 years? using your logic native Americans should be in the White Hosue for the next 300 years..

      May 13, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      @Jason. Well hello, Mr. Klansman. Here's your quote that I hope stays online for the next 50 years: "If we had 50 years of black presidents, this country would look like all those other black ruled countries in the world." If this is your line of thinking, then yes, we apparently need a black president for the next 50 years, you foolish hateful one.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  13. Jim Jones.

    Keep them people poor let them have many kids, tell them they deserve more and not to take just any job, do what you feel like, We can give you land as long as we can tax you....

    Be Fat, BeGay have a Great Day.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  14. Adrian Blackwell

    I not only think black churches are guilty, but all churches. The scriptures do not rate one sin over another. If churches are against sin; they must fight against all types of sin. We as Christians must drop our stones and examine ourselves. God will hold everyone accountable for his or her sins if there is no repentance.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Actually, some sins incur the death penalty while others do not. That has not changed. What has changed is that no matter what your sin is, Jesus is ready to save you from them all with His loving grace. But many in the world do not believe in repentance as they love to sin, so for them, the law still applies. But it is not up to Christians to carry out any death penalty while we are in the age of grace.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  15. Bill Davis

    Churches are Great, they can make the bible say anything they want.
    They pay no taxes and notice how rich they are...
    God Bless..
    We all need something to hide behind

    May 13, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  16. lean6

    It's not the black church...it's all churches that are by nature hyprocritical. Tired of black "leaders" speaking for me. Go handle the real problems in our communities for.a.change.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:55 am |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Black churches do take on the problems and challenges of their neighborhoods all the time. It's just that they don't brag about them, and the secular media like CNN does not hardly ever report on them. Get out and meet more black church members before discriminating against them.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  17. RightyTighty

    CNN is an evil force and will fall

    May 13, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  18. Bob

    The irony is that the black church does not support politicians that agree with it's Biblical teaching, but instead to those who pander to them and try to keep them enslaved.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:53 am |
  19. Winston5

    See, this is why I put my faith in Tolkein. The holy bible had more writers than "Speed 2" 😉

    May 13, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  20. not again

    I have no problem with gays ranting about what they believe in, although I know they are wrong, I understand their reasoning. I do have a problem with christians ranting about it being ok for gays to marry. I guess they do not read the same bible I do. Please explain to me how you throw our the teachings of the bible. No need to comment if you are not a christian. I am fully aware gays don/t believe.

    May 13, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • chiggi

      Is this the bible your reading? "If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother ... Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city ... And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die." Deuteronomy 21:18-21

      May 13, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • just sayin

      That would be the Bible and it is an absolute Truth, the word of God as misrepresented by chiggi. God bless

      May 13, 2012 at 9:04 am |
    • YeahRight

      "I have no problem with gays ranting about what they believe in, although I know they are wrong, I understand their reasoning. I do have a problem with christians ranting about it being ok for gays to marry. I guess they do not read the same bible I do. Please explain to me how you throw our the teachings of the bible. No need to comment if you are not a christian. I am fully aware gays don/t believe."

      Nowhere in your bible does your god condemn the saved loving respectful relationship of a gay couple. What your bible does condemn is male prostitution, idolatry, and using sex to worship a pagan god.

      "although I know they are wrong"

      Actually, you're the one that is wrong. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      May 13, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • jk105

      "I guess they don't read the same Bible i do."

      I guess you read a Bible that has all the passages endorsing slavery cut out of them.

      May 13, 2012 at 9:27 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.