American voters are President Obama’s largest and
most steadfast supporters. They are also one of the
largest and most steadfast opponents of marriage equality.
So, when President Obama finally made public his support
of same- sex marriage, one group wondering how they
might parlay their support against him with African
American voters are white Southern Baptists - a huge
denomination comprising the Christian Right.
over two decades, white Southern Baptists have been
trying to make inroads with the African American community,
particularly the black urban community, not only to
increase their dwindling membership but also to promulgate
an aggressive anti-gay agenda.
just months until the November election, the Southern
Baptist Convention elected Rev. Fred Luter
this past Tuesday as president. This may pave the
way to their goal of promoting an anti-gay message.
of color are now the front persons evangelizing for
Fred Luter, a native son of New Orleans, ran unopposed and was unanimously elected. He is the first
African American president of the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC). But Luter’s
ascendency to the highest office of the nation’s largest
Protestant denomination (and the world’s largest Baptist
denomination) raises the query - is his post a symbol
of honorific tokenism? Will he have any real power
with a predominately white denomination.
minorities make-up a new worshipping contingent in
a shrinking membership body, it is this group the
SBC is wooing. And ministers of color are now the
front persons evangelizing for the denomination.
cannot expect to reach this do-rag, tattooed, iPod
generation with an eight-track ministry. We have to
somehow change how we do things,” Luter
told reporters, expressing shock and utter surprise
that his proposed descriptor could be viewed as offensive.
present, the SBC is approximately 20 percent people
of color with about 7 percent African-American, 6
percent Latino, 3 percent Asian, and 4 percent other.
African-American congregations have grown by 85 percent,
up from 1,907 in 1998 to 3,534 in 2010.
paltry number of people of color in the SBC is rooted
in its once upon a time,
unabashedly racist history. Notoriously known to have
filled the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan, Southern Baptists
have been vociferous defenders of anti-miscegenation
laws, Jim Crows edicts, and lynching mob justice,
to name a few. The Southern Baptist Convention was
founded in 1845 in defense of slavery.
lament and repudiate historic acts of evil such as
slavery from which we continue to reap a bitter harvest,”
the Southern Baptist resolution on racial reconciliation
stated, acknowledging that some congregations still
excluded African Americans but promising to “commit
ourselves to eradicate racism in all its forms from
Southern Baptist life and ministry.”
Luter was unaware of the SBC’s dark history.
a huge denomination comprising the Christian Right
and its anti-gay agenda, Luter may also be unaware of how the Southern Baptist Convention
may actively recruit him, during this election period,
to reach African American voters to unseat Obama by
exploiting black homophobia.
1995 - when the SBC held a conference on racial reconciliation
in Dallas, and it generously donated $750,000 to rebuild Southern black
churches that were recently burned - the once non-existing
relationship between the SBC and black churches has
now become wedded in an unholy matrimony.
Luter would wield enormous
influence in pushing a right wing agenda
first sign I saw here in Boston was back in 1998 when
an editor called me to solicit my opinion about an
African-American minister named Rev. Jackson, who
had joined with Ralph Reed’s Christian Right movement
to funnel $5 million to $10 million to Black Churches
to help them rejuvenate African American urban communities
nationwide; it was called the Samaritan Project.
the culture of many faith communities and denominations
(that were once upon a time helplessly homophobic)
are changing, a preponderance of these black churches
will not (and sadly to say. they won’t in my lifetime).
it’s this homophobic faith tradition from which Obama
- in his first presidential run to the White House
- unabashedly wooed and won votes.
many African American clerics came out in support
of Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage, so, too, did
many decry it.
right wing organizations like National Organization
for Marriage (NOM) courting black churches for their
strategic 2012 election game plan to drive a wedge
between LGBTQ voters and African American voters,
the question is, will Luter fall into their hands - either as the SBC’s titular
head or simply as a misguided Christian homophobe?
either reason, Luter would
wield enormous influence in pushing a right wing agenda.
we don’t know what Luter
will do in his post, there is enough data to predict
with certainty how African Americans will vote in
this 2012 election as it was predicted in 2008 - irrespective
of the President’s views on marriage equality or right
wing anti-gay agendas.
Board member and Columnist, the Rev. Irene Monroe,
is a religion columnist, theologian, and public speaker.
She is the Coordinator of
the African-American Roundtable of the Center for Lesbian and
Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) at the
Pacific School of Religion. A native of Brooklyn, Rev. Monroe is a
graduate from Wellesley College and Union Theological
Seminary at Columbia University, and served as a pastor
at an African-American church before coming to Harvard
Divinity School for her doctorate as a Ford Fellow.
She was recently named to MSNBC’s list of 10 Black Women You Should Know. Reverend
Monroe is the author of
Let Your Light Shine Like a Rainbow Always: Meditations on Bible Prayers
for Not’So’Everyday Moments.
As an African-American feminist theologian, she speaks
for a sector of society that is frequently invisible.
Click here to contact
the Rev. Monroe.