He stumbled over the explosive words as if his solemn, quiet tone could dampen their impact.
He paused and struggled with them right until they spilled, with a hesitant life of their own, from the lips of the first black President:
“For me, it is important, for me personally, to go ahead and affirm, that I feel… same sex couples should be able to get married.”
When President Barack Obama stopped by ABC’s Good Morning America to give the world an update on his marriage equality “evolution,” that one sentence exposed the deep chasm between black evangelicals and true liberalism, forever changing the course of political history.
In the frantic days since “The Announcement,” black civil rights leaders such Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rev. Joseph Lowery, and Chairman Emeritus of the NAACP, Julian Bond, have bravely broken with a socially conservative Black America that has dipped itself in pious self-righteousness when speaking out on the “evil,” “unholy,” and “ungodly” nature of homosexuality. Though many black evangelicals have voiced support for the decision, their voices are, unfortunately, being drowned out by a chorus of bigotry that typically lies dormant.
It is times like these that one realizes that for some in the so-called Black Church — which overwhelmingly supported Obama in 2008 when he was rocking back and forth in church pews across America — “change we can believe in” translates into hypocritically judging those “sins they don’t partake in” when the change doesn’t align with Christian ideology.
The question on the table is not whether evangelicals believe that it is subjectively “right” for gay and lesbians to marry, but if they can stop moralizing the civil rights of other people in this country based on their personal religious beliefs. No church is being asked to perform marriages between people of the same sex, but to simply re-evaluate the arrogant stances that churches should dictate policy.
But apparently the answer is still no.
I don’t remember one Bible lesson where Jesus said that two people can’t go to City Hall, get married, and have that marriage recognized legally, even if he didn’t agree. Should the Christian church, one church that cannot possibly represent all people, dictate the laws of the United States? What if, hypothetically, there was another religion that the majority in this country adhered to — and their beliefs being implemented would deny the collective civil rights of black Americans – how many Christians would be in accord?
Love it or hate it, religious doctrine has no place in this conversation. We’re talking about the president’s political position — which is that he thinks the states have the authority to decide the issue, but he supports marriage equality – and many in the “Black Church” have decided to damn him to hell as a “false prophet.”
My grandmother shared some wisdom with me when I was growing up. She would always say, “Never be so heavenly minded, that you’re no earthly good.” In my humble opinion, it would be extremely beneficial for more people to hear that message, if only for a moment to better understand the separation of church and state. Let’s be clear: Obama’s opinion could lead to people marching all over the country with rainbow banners, joined by Liza Minnelli and her back-up dancers singing “It’s Raining Men” and it wouldn’t matter.
This is still a states’ issue.
Churches don’t have to do a thing but keep preaching whatever gospel they choose, which means that the issue lies in the fact that Obama dared to voice an opinion that didn’t align with black evangelicals. For an institution, which for the most part is rooted in black liberation theology, it is amazing that many are threatening to turn their backs on him because he believes that the LGBT community deserves equal civil rights under the law.
In an expected twist, for those who don’t want to appear sanctimonious the argument takes on a more nuanced tone. It’s not that they don’t want “gays” to have the right to marry, it’s just that “gay rights” aren’t as important as civil rights. This binary opposition is extremely problematic and does nothing but limit our collective progression as a nation.
Simply put, equality for the LGBT community is a step forward for African-Americans because many in the LBGT community are African-American.
They are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and yes, even our cousins n’nem. They are our nurses, doctors, lawyers, educators, and yes, they face the same racism that many of us face on a daily basis. It is absolutely ridiculous that, for some reason, many African-Americans, specifically heterosexuals, feel that we own the patent on oppression.
Many of us will fight against immigration laws, because “Mexicans are taking all the jobs;” some will even assault the reproductive rights of women, because they’re “murdering black babies;” the majority of us will ostracize the LGBT community because it’s “against God’s plan;” but when the narrative shifts to issues that face the black community at-large, many of us become hypocritical broken records moaning over and over “your blues ain’t like mine.”
Well, you know what? Everyone has their own truth, and it doesn’t have to be the same to be just as painful.
I often do not agree with President Barack Obama, but in this, I support him 100%. Even as a senator, he stated that faith has no place in politics and that because we do not share common spiritual eyesight, we can only share common laws. Most powerfully, he says that “religiously motivated [politicians] must translate their concerns into universal — not religious — values.”
This means that any Christian who voted for him and is now withdrawing support after his announcement was either not paying attention, voted for him strictly because he’s black — or thought that he would be swayed by the huge levels of evangelical support into translating Christian doctrine into United States policy.
And it’s time they admitted that to themselves.
I’m not sure exactly where Obama’s support in the black community will land after the dust settles; but for me, I will take equality over religious hypocrisy every day of the week and twice on Sunday – and let the chips fall where they may.