The recent public airing of statements made by presidential candidate Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, opened a Pandora’s box surrounding the underlying racial tensions that still exist between the black and white communities in the 21st century, as well as the continued existence of institutional racism.
The LGBT community has quickly inserted itself into the discussion, evident by a recent Dallas Voice headline that cried, “Rev. Wright controversy reminiscent of McClurkin.”
The article, written by Lisa Keen of Keen News Services, opened with the media-saturated phrase that caused even LGBT eyebrows to raise and tongues to click, “God damn America,” followed by Wright’s fiery declaration that Hillary Clinton “ain’t never been called a nigger.”
This all appeared on the front page, which seemingly supports what the mainstream media has been successful in accomplishing: painting Wright as a racist and a bigot.
My first thought mirrored that of millions of black Americans as it relates to our perception of how our white compatriots process the lingering effects of racism and its effects on our community: They just don’t get it.
As the article progressed, a comparison was made between how Sen. Obama handled this political challenge and how he handled the controversy over the popular black gospel star Donnie McClurkin participating in a campaign event before the South Carolina primary.
Without the backdrop of this election, which has provided a glimpse of the historical and current issues the Democratic Party has with its black constituents (widely acknowledged as the party’s base), Keen’s comparison of these two men fell flat. Or as I like to say, she was comparing apples to oranges.
Despite his sometimes thought-provoking sermons, Wright is respected in white and black religious circles. Trinity United Church of Christ has diverse outreach ministries that are often duplicated by both white and black churches that seek to affirm all people as “God’s children.”
Trinity’s outreach efforts also extend to the LGBT community, as pointed out by Keen, and include active engagement in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with education and direct support services at a time when other mainstream black denominations and churches were and are unwilling to do so.
McClurkin, who is also a pastor of a large congregation, has seen his star rise in the black gospel community with his testimony and profession of being delivered from his seemingly innate homosexuality through God, which strongly resonates in the mainstream black religious community.
For the record, many like myself in the black, same-gender-loving community, religious or not, do not support McClurkin’s supposed “conversion.” We prefer to side with the sentiment that he has been unable to reconcile his traumatic childhood experiences of sexual assault and rape with his authentic, spiritual self.
Because his experience is similar to that of many LGBT members in our community who would rather hide within the black church than acknowledge their sexual reality, we sympathize with him but simply don’t agree with his position.
Black liberation theology, infused with acknowledgment of our healthy, sexual, God-given self, is how we choose to express who we are in a society that would rather oppress us, first, because we are black, and second, because we are proud, unapologetically LGBT people.
This stance should come as no surprise to the white LGBT community because its own religious institutions also embody and practice the spirit of liberation theology in response to the oppression of the LGBT community and the rights and privileges we seek. The same holds for the Latino and feminist communities, whose religious leaders have espoused the merits of liberation theology as necessary for the integration of their respective constituencies into society.
LGBT works of nonfiction have been dedicated to the study and application of liberation theology, including “Gay/Lesbian Liberation: A Biblical Perspective,” by George R. Edwards; “A Place to Start: Toward an Unapologetic Gay Liberation Theology,” by Micheal J. Clark; “Know My Name: A Gay Liberation Theology,” by Richard Cleaver; and “Defying the Darkness: Gay Theology in the Shadows,” by Michael J. Clark.
When I came out in 1994, I was and still am a member of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, a local black congregation that embraces black liberation theology. I started attending the primarily LGBT Cathedral of Hope during that same period in an effort to affirm and merge who I was as a black gay man.
The experience was wonderful, and at one point I contemplated changing my membership to Cathedral. In the end, I remained at St. Luke because it affirmed who I was as both a black man and gay man.
So before the white LGBT community decides to join in the political fray over how racially insensitive Wright may seem in his acceptance of a theological pedagogy that affirms the history and current existence of black Americans, perhaps we need to look no further than how the religious LGBT community also seeks to validate its own existence and place in society through the same medium.
— Linus Spiller is the externship coordinator at Everest College in Dallas, and is a former candidate for Dallas City Council.
Don’t forget to vote!
The North Carolina Primary is May 6. Don’t forget to head to the polls and vote!