Although I am a strong supporter of the Black Church, it is important to think about and discuss some of the most vexing contradictions of it. First, I want to make it clear that I am a Christian, a member of the Black Church, a member of Paradise Church of God in Christ in Forest Park, Georgia, heterosexual, and an African-American. I love the Black Church, especially my church, Paradise Church of God in Christ in Forest Park, Georgia. I love my pastor, Bishop Paul L. Fortson, and my first lady, Evangelist Carolyn C. Fortson. Let’s be clear—this article is not about the church that I attend and my Pastor and First Lady. This article has a larger purpose: to critique the contradictions in the way the Black Church treats homosexuality.
In the Black Church, especially in the Church of God in Christ, I often hear about how God despises homosexuality and I agree with this position because it is very much supported by Scriptures. My problem with how homosexuality is discussed in the Black Church, especially in the Church of God in Christ, is that it often comes off as being very hateful and/or insensitive. You can tell people that they need to change their ways without being so exploitative in the way in which you refer to them. For example, I have often heard in sermons in the Church of God in Christ homosexuals being referred to as “sissies,” “faggots,” and “dikes.” Now, this use of language is unnecessary to inform your audience that homosexuality is not supported by the Scriptures. This use of language seems to be tremendously mean-spirited. The role of the preacher and Church is to help to drive people to Christ—not to run them away. It seems that this use of language emerges from laziness and the failure of Black preachers in the Black Church to employ effective persuasion to change people’s homosexual ways, so they use a simplistic strategy: name-calling. Name-calling is for children—preachers are supposed to be adults, so act like it.
In Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism, Cornel West (2004) writes, “For Emerson, to be a democratic individual is to speak out on uncomfortable truths; to be an active player in public discourse is to be thrown into life’s contingency and fragility with the heavy baggage of history and tradition, baggage like the American legacies of race and empire” (p. 74). As a person with a commitment to Socratic inquiry and bearing prophetic witness to Truth, I have to speak those “uncomfortable truths” that Cornel West states that Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about. If the Black Church was so serious about homosexuality, then it would not take homosexuals’ money during offering time. During offering time, I want to hear these preachers say, “We don’t want your gay money.” I want to hear them say, “Sissies and dikes stay in your seats because we don’t want your nasty money.”
The Black Church seems to be tremendously dishonest when offering time comes: Preachers become everyone’s friend when offering time comes because they want everyone’s money. I would just like them to remember how harsh they are to homosexuals during their sermons, so be consistent and honest and tell them you don’t want their money. If you can speak to them in such disparaging ways during your sermons, then use the same rhetoric when you are passing that collection plate around. How’s that for transparency? Have I unsettled you yet? If not, maybe I will now. In many Black churches, people are gaining salvation while many homosexuals are singing and playing the music that they are shouting and dancing too. Hmm…Now, when will these preachers remove the homosexuals from their choirs and music departments if they are so serious about homosexuality?
The Black Church’s love of money exposes its contradictions on the issue of homosexuality. With all of the sins the Bible speaks about, it seems that the Black Church wants to focus on the most divisive sins in the Bible. The reason why I see that preachers are wanting to focus on the more divisive sins is they gain them much more attention—just like controversy breeds cash in the media, controversy breeds cash in churches. Some preachers have even gained their fame by how harsh they speak about homosexuality, but where is the love of Christ in this harsh language you use about homosexuals? Did Christ say love and respect everyone except homosexuals? No!
While I very much contend that the Scriptures speak against homosexuality, I argue that the Scriptures also tell you to talk about homosexuality with love and compassion. Now, how can you say that you are treating people with love and compassion when you are calling them “sissies,” “faggots,” and “dikes.” I already know I’m going to receive a significant amount of criticism for this article, but what I have said in this article needs to be said. People think it is so funny when preachers in the Black Church try to get the audience’s attention by using derogatory language to refer to homosexuals, but what if more derogatory language was used to expose your lying, fornication, profanity, watching and viewing of pornography, intoxication, gossiping, and etc.? It may not be so funny to you anymore. Hmm…I’m just saying.
Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison