My colleague, Anthony Stanford, just published a book that couldn’t possibly be more timely. As national debates rage about homosexuality, marriage equality, and the roles of Church and State in deciding legislation, his book, Homophobia in the Black Church: How Faith, Politics, and Fear Divide the Black Community is an absolute “must-read.”
I had sometimes wondered why the Black Church, an institution that anchored black culture through generations of oppression and violence, did not show more tolerance for LGBTs–another group that has been reviled and violently opposed in this country.
The answer is complicated. Stanford masterfully tells how African-American history and the fight for equality has made black culture less (rather than more) tolerant of its LGBT members. His research is thorough and meticulous; his writing is clear and engaging.
Stanford explains the underlying reasons why blacks particularly resisted the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the military and some are unlikely to ever support marriage equality. He demonstrates how former president George W. Bush’s “Faith Based Initiatives” increased strife and division by exploiting the African-American experience and encouraging cash strapped congregations to compete for federal funds.
While some saw President Bush’s Faith Based initiatives as a way for religious groups to help more people, others saw it as a clear violation of the separation of Church and State, allowing religious groups to use tax dollars, while openly discriminating and proselytizing.
When Bush could not get legislation allowing churches to receive federal money for administering social programs passed, he rammed it down America’s throat with Executive Order #13279 in December 2002.
The program created an uneasy alliance between the GOP and black churches. Stanford said that as he researched, he was “surprised by how well organized, determined and emboldened conservatives were in their attempt to buy the influence of some African American clergy.” And they succeeded to an alarming degree.
Conservative politicians and religious groups, both black and white, put aside all other differences in order to persecute and scapegoat LGBTs. Black evangelical, Rev. Gregory Daniels told the NY Times in 2004 “If the KKK opposes gay marriage, I would ride with them.”
The hypocrisy surrounding homophobia remains the same, regardless of race. Some of the harshest critics of LGBTs are people who are later found to be struggling with their own sexuality. And it’s amazing to me that those who accuse LGBTs of tearing society apart cannot see that it is their own intolerance that causes the suffering. When people are ostracized and persecuted for being who God made them, they try to please society by forcing themselves into heterosexual roles that are unnatural for them. This ultimately causes depression, the spread of AIDS to spouses, divorce, and even suicide.
In writing this book, Stanford takes a brave stand to shed light on this important issue from an African-American perspective. Perhaps Marc Morial, National Urban League President, said it best: “In an era of divisiveness, Anthony Stanford’s work provides a thoughtful analysis of one of society’s most compelling issues. Mr. Stanford boldly confronts attitudes about race, sexuality and religion, opening the door for meaningful discussion and broader understanding.”
There are people of deep faith on both sides of this issue. There are people of all races and backgrounds. The only way to make communities stronger is to listen to one another and choose dialog over hate. Let the dialog begin.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]