I presume this to be a mystery, falling short of a paradox, that God condemns homosexuality while, at the same time, creating homosexuals. To suggest someone can be born into an inescapable sin is to deny the power of the cross. To suggest that a person must war against their own nature and embrace shame and scorn just to make it into heaven and be embraced by a loving God is paralyzingly stupid. In that context, making criminals of homosexuals seems wrongheaded. This is our fog of war, our stumbling blindly around in ignorance and fear rather than prayerfully studying and engaging. This is an issue the church must come to terms with, but for which Christ left no specific model. What should our response be?
than the issue of homosexuality. In violation of the scriptures,
of the New Commandment given us by Jesus Himself, and of their
own church covenants, the overwhelming majority of Church Folk I
know presently or have ever met in my entire life have shown
unbridled and unapologetic naked hostility towards gay persons
and persons they, in their ignorance, presume to be gay. This
unbiblical hatred is most often stoked by, led by, closeted
homosexuals themselves; church leaders and pastors living life
in the shadows. Some of the most vehement, oppressive revilers
of gay persons I’ve ever encountered in the church have been
people later revealed to have themselves been gay, lesbian or
bisexual. In our tradition, LGBT persons not only attend but, in
most of our churches, serve in key areas. While spewing hatred
with our lips, we routinely turn a blind eye toward persons we
know, instinctively, are same-gender loving people. So long as
they don’t confirm our suspicion, we embrace them, we welcome
them, and we allow them to serve. However, the minute they step
out of the shadows and tell us things which are, let’s face it,
none of our business in the first place, we denounce, revile and
excommunicate these very same people.
All of which has created an antichrist culture of our claiming a certain set of standards and values while not actually practicing it. Our standard and our value should be love, which we practice selectively in violation of scripture. But, even churches who believe this ignorance of gay bigotry somehow being blessed and ordained by God, practice their *bigotry* selectively. Because we really need a musician, and that boy can really play. So we pretend we don’t know things we surely do. And, truthfully, we really do love him. He’s great to hang out with. He’s funny, he’s good looking, he’s smart and intuitive. He’s dedicated to his calling in Christ and strives for deeper and tighter bonds with God and the church. But we will surely turn on him if he ever chooses to just be who he actually is.
The flip side of our dysfunction: we use “gay” as a means to destroy people. We out people we suspect are gay (many of whom are not), or we lie, purposefully branding someone as gay because they are our enemy or because we want their slot or position. In our tradition, we use the term “gay” as a weapon and, once branded, the accused can spend their dying breath denying the charge to no avail. They are scarred for life, a burden we “Christians” have placed upon them out of selfishness or jealousy.
This is why so many LGBT persons stay in the closet. They love the Lord. They want to worship and to serve. But they also see the childish, immature, and patently evil way Church Folks behave. Many LGBT persons choose instead to fly beneath the radar of the Black Church Witch Hunt that’s been underway since the 1960’s—an era the Black church, for the most part, continues to believe it exists within. Our pastors tolerate this nonsense because they know, for fact, to embrace or defend gay persons is to risk yourself being branded gay. Why? Because Church Folk are like children: immature, paranoid, running their mouths too much, gossiping, quick to blurt out any and every unexpressed thought that pops into their heads. A pastor who is branded gay becomes saddled with the burden of proving he is not, which, of course, is impossible. You can’t prove a negative. There is no such burden for his accuser: all they do is run their mouth, usually on the phone or by text. Anonymous, in the shadows. Most pastors I’ve ever met treat their jobs like a permanent retirement. Most ministers I know desire to pastor not because they have a vision—very few of these people have any real ideas or vision at all. They desire the pastorate because it pays well and they can set their own schedule. A pastor of a healthy church is set for life, so long as no scandal interrupts his tenure. Standing in a black pulpit and teaching that Jesus never once condemned gays, but commanded us to love everyone, unconditionally (John 13:34), can cost the pastor his gig. Most pastors I know perpetuate mythology, superstition, and lies in their churches out of self-preservation. Preaching truth should involve personal risk. A pastor—a preacher—unwilling to place himself and his career at personal risk is an affront to the cross. Playing it safe, ladies and gentlemen, is sin. Somebody needs to step up.
This seems a strange word for any demographic to rally around,
as if any of us have to make a point of not being ashamed of who
we were. In the 1970’s James Brown made a black national anthem
of Say It Loud (I’m Black and I’m Proud). I’m not sure I’ve ever
given black pride much thought one way or another. For me, being
black simply was. I was neither shamed nor proud of my
blackness, but recognized it as a weight I had to drag through
my formative years as, each and every day, I had to find new
ways to validate my existence and my right to breathe the same
air as the next available white person. The notion of gay pride
or, more politically correct, LGBT Pride, suggests a population
group who may have once believed or, even now, still believe
they should somehow be ashamed of a humanity they are not
individually responsible for but are, like myself, forced to
bear the burden of the ignorance of others throughout their
When Washington Wizards center Jason Collins came out in April, the wheels of public opinion hardly shuddered. Much like being black in America, being gay in America is slowly becoming socially acceptable, by which I mean socially acceptable to straight white males who continue to be the baseline standard by which all things ethnic are compared. However, also like being black in America, being gay in America continues to stoke an active irrational hatred among (presumably) straight white males; they’re just talking about it less. The most obvious and profound effect of the election of the first black U.S. president was the collective vomiting of Ignorant White America (which is to say, not all of America because Barack Obama could not possibly have been elected without a substantial white vote) and an unprecedented explosion of obvious, naked, irrational hatred of the sitting president.
I imagine this current wellspring of acceptance and affirmation for LGBT persons is likewise transparently false. People are likely saying one thing to the pollsters while continuing to use heinous slurs against gays in private. The eruption over the first openly gay U.S. president will likely dwarf the tsunami of idiots wrecking the country just because Barack Obama Is A Black Man And They Hate Him. The trend toward an ideologized liberalism toward LGBT persons cannot be trusted any more than the false assumption most of us, myself included, had that America had finally become post-racial. The hatred is still there, even among the young. Ignorance is terribly difficult to breed out.
Guitar Cases & The Communist Threat
I used to have very long hair. Long, flowing hair like my mentor, Larry Hama or the other Larry in my life, the musician/minister I modeled myself after, Larry Norman. Most people reading this will have never heard of Larry Hama (who created the current incarnation of G.I. Joe) or Larry Norman (who created contemporary Gospel music), and thus have not a lot of chance of understanding me or my motives or, for that matter, my hair. But it came to pass that Adam and I were having lunch down at the South Street Seaport, and the waiter—a young man of late teens to early twenties—all but refused to wait on us. He seemed angry and hostile towards us, annoyed. I couldn't figure it out until I looked over at Adam, a close friend for some years. Adam also had long hair. A Jewish guy with amazing hair who described his hair-care regime thusly: "I wash it, and let it dry." Presto, amazing hair. Long, flowing, rock star hair. And this kid was giving us the worst service ever.
Then it finally hit me: the waiter thought we were gay. Which upset him or angered him for some reason. I leaned over to Adam, whispering, "Hey—I think that kid thinks we're gay." And I wondered if he'd just fallen off the chicken truck. New York City is literally jammed with all manner of ethnic, racial, religious, and political types. On any given day, in any given part of the city, literally, the entire cultural world can and will pass you by. Judging a book by its cover (or, in our case, its hair) was an utter waste of time. My wife was Adam's wife's best friend, but this idiot kid was going to spit in our food. I couldn't imagine why this kid would even care what we were or why it upset or angered him. But that's what gay people do: upset and anger people simply by walking around breathing. And, rather than investigate why we react the way we do, we lash out at them. As if our hang-ups and insecurities are somehow their doing.
So, I finally called him out, standing at my table and shouting over at the waiter,
"HEY, you IDIOT— I'M NOT GAY." I
pointed at my chest, "I'm a MUSICIAN." Then I pointed at Adam.
gay!" There was laughter throughout the plaza, but I was
pissed. Adam and I went somewhere less homophobic to eat and, as
we walked across the plaza, I said, "Y'know, if we were carrying
guitar cases, we'd have our lunch by now." Long-haired guys
carrying guitar cases are a universal, everyday sight in every
city in America. Nobody thinks Lenny Kravitz or Steven Tyler or
Willie Nelson are gay. Why? Because they're carrying guitar
cases. And maybe that's the
answer: if we issued every gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgendered person a guitar case, maybe the country and the
church would stop beating these people up.
This week, somebody's going to accuse me of being gay. It's okay, I'm used to it. It's what ignorant people do. It is, frankly, easier to presume an ulterior motive or guilt by association than it is to wrap our narrow little minds around the concept of Christ's perfect love overcoming ignorance and fear. This is why I get angry for being so presumed: it lets ignorant Church Folk off the hook. It enables them to dismiss the whole idea of engaging the issue because it presumes an ulterior motive on my part. During the 1950's, if you talked about Communism you could end up blacklisted and unable to work, or worse. When he refused to invade Cuba (and potentially trigger World War III). President John F. Kennedy was labeled "soft on Communism," a label that stuck. He was assassinated a year later. Many of our pastors fear political assassination and blacklisting simply for showing any kindness at all to LGBT persons. Thus,. the black church's response to the community is typically a non-response motivated by fear rather than faith: a disorganized hash of Stuff We Done Heard Someplace.
Many of our pastors simply have no idea how to respond. They haven't done their homework. Haven't had even one honest and informed dialogue with gay clergy or civil rights groups. The entire subject is simply radioactive, with most of our pastors choosing to ignore it and hope it goes away. But it's not going away. And, lacking a cogent, reasonable response that stands both biblical and anthropological tests, the church seems that much farther removed from reality simply because of its fear of actually dealing with reality. The anger and bombast and denunciations and all that sending people to hell reads as what it is: fear. Love has no need to employ hate as a medium for its message. Love does not inspire hateful acts.
The notion of Communism being "evil" was part of a PR campaign invented by Dean Atchison, President Dwight D. Eisenhower's undersecretary of state. Atchison felt the postwar Soviet threat was too complex a concept to explain to the American public, so he fitted the Soviets with a black hat, painting them in simplistic, child-like tones of black and white, and literally invented this notion of the evil being not merely the Soviet Union but the political ideology of Communism itself which, in turn, led to Korea and Vietnam. Atchison literally invented the Cold War, which at times threatened to destroy the entire planet, as America naively waged war against an idea. Not even specific persons, but a political concept. This thinking is now deeply embedded within our cultural DNA as we still consider Communism "evil," as opposed to more properly understanding some Communists have done evil things. Right-wing conservatives have successfully translated this concept to Islam. Rather than our focus being on specific people who commit evil acts, we ascribe the quality of evil to an ideology and fight the air. People can be hunted down and killed. Ideas cannot.
The church is, in much the same way, entrenched in a cold war of hate. Not against specific persons and not even in response to a specific action or wrong. We are fighting the very idea of homosexuality without understanding it, without understanding what the bible actually says about it or what those words actually mean Much like postwar America bamboozled by Atchison's twisted rhetoric, we are uninformed about our reasons for loathing these people. We walk in ignorance and lash out in hate, while calling ourselves Christian. Thus, not only are we not having the discussion, we're afraid to have it, afraid of the finger which will inevitably be pointed. This is how the enemy deceives us: gets us all warped and believing we are somehow doing God's will by hating people. Well, accuse away. I'm used to it. I've been called much worse.