DEAR Black Preachers: I've been frustrated with you for years. No, not all of you. But enough to make this worth writing.
For the past few decades, you've moved in the wrong direction. Too many of you have become puppets of power. Too many of you have allowed yourselves to become agents of grotesque capitalism. Instead of honoring the spirit of love, truth and justice, you've become increasingly obsessed with health and wealth.
Far too many of you have churches that promote gospels of prosperity — the idea that our faith and spiritual well-being can be measured through the accumulation of material wealth — instead of ministries that respond to the spiritual, emotional and social needs of your members.
Now that President Obama has announced his support for gay marriage, you're continuing to move in the wrong direction. Like many of your white evangelical counterparts, many of you have become obsessed with promoting bigotry, hatred and intolerance instead of love, justice and healing on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Yes, I know, you're "just following the Bible." Right. Well, last I checked, the Bible has much more to say about protecting the vulnerable and loving our neighbors than it does about homosexuality. Even the parts that mention homosexuality are debatable.
But it's dishonest to pretend that your stance is borne out of a commitment to following the Bible literally. After all, if you were truly obsessed with interpreting the Bible word for word, you'd be forced to abandon many of your favorite foods, condemn disrespectful children to death, and, oh, yeah, we'd still be slaves! Yep, those same Scriptures that you cite to promote homophobia were used to justify the enslavement of black people. Somehow you reject those and embrace anti-gay Scriptures. You can't be fundamentalists when it's convenient.
But your dishonesty and hypocrisy isn't just intellectual. At the same time that you rail against homosexuality, many of you are gay. One of the worst-kept secrets in the black church is that many of the biggest opponents of same-sex bonds are themselves engaged in them. People like Eddie Long, who has led marches against homosexuality, are found struggling with the very issues they self-righteously condemn.
Still, for the sake of argument, let's pretend for a moment that you're right to oppose gay marriage. Why would you allow yourselves to be manipulated and divided by a single issue? Even if gay marriage is a legitimate moral problem, what about mass poverty, unemployment, environmental abuse and gun violence? Are these not moral issues, too?
Yet you've convinced yourselves that the only moral issues worth tackling are gay marriage, abortion and stem-cell research. As a result, your congregants are becoming single-issue voters who turn a blind eye to our collective social misery in an attempt to civically punish the LGBT community. Think I'm exaggerating? Let me remind you of 2004, when black preachers delivered countless votes to George W. Bush by convincing their Democratic congregations that John Kerry was a pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage candidate. The result: Our children kept dying, our jobs kept leaving, and our civil liberates kept evaporating.
The Rev. Allyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle Church in East Mount Airy said it best in his sermon last Sunday, when he drew from the biblical story of two prostitutes fighting over a baby. In the story, King Solomon offered to cut the baby in half so that each woman could have their fair share. Ultimately, one woman decided to give the baby up so that it wouldn't get hurt. The woman compromised her principle for a greater good. His point: Digging in your heels on gay marriage will ultimately lead to greater damage. Republicans are willing to let our baby die so that Obama can't raise it. We have to be better.
You have to be principled. You have to do what's best. You have to choose. If you choose right, we can begin the work of growth and healing. If you continue to choose wrong, everyone suffers. And there's nothing godly about that. n