Every once in
a while a reader will ask me to please respond to their question in
my column. This reader asked, "What
should be the mandate for today's Black Churches?" The question
suggests someone wants a comprehensive response. I am hoping maybe a
church, a homophobe having second thoughts, or an LGBTQ + Christian
struggling to come out.
of the mandates for today's Black Churches is to address its ongoing
struggle with the spectrum of human sexuality.
2021, I am still asking these three questions: Why can't we as an
African American community tell the truth about our sexuality? What
price do we pay in telling the truth? And what role does the church
play in perpetuating not only unsafe sexual behavior but also
demonizing its members of the LGBTQ community?
Black Church purported to preach and practice a prophetic social
gospel. However, in truth, it preaches and practices a
heteronormative conservative gospel tethered to a model no longer
relevant to a younger generation that embraces LGBTQ+ social justice
Black Church played a part in the death of African Americans with
AIDS. While its silence on the issue was appalling and
unconscionable, so too, was its various forms of homophobic
pronouncements that denigrate both LGBTQ+ people and women.
has never been a comfortable topic of discussion in the African
American community. This is due primarily to slavery, and what we
appropriated from the dominant culture about sexual behavior to deem
ourselves human beings in our oppressors' eyes. First bred as cattle
during slavery, and later either touted as sex sirens or taunted as
sex predators, black sexuality has never had a chance to evolve in a
milieu free of abuse, violence, and stereotypes. The raping of black
women and the lynching of black men in this country by white men have
always kept the control of black bodies away from us. In carving out
a racial identity, African Americans have done it at the expense of
leaving our bodies and sexualities behind. However, with the embrace
of fundamentalist Christianity embedded in its tenets and an asexual
theology, African American bodies, and sexualities that were once
systematically usurped by white slave masters are now ritualistically
harnessed by the black church with a "politic of silence. "
Sadly, this was viewed as a revolutionary act against the oppressive
white gaze. But what happens in churches, communities, and families
where people lose touch with their bodies and sexualities?
answer is that the Black Church continues to stay on the "down
low." The most significant factor that keeps the Black Church on
the down-low are closeted, homophobic ministers. Pastor Donnie
McClurkin- a three-time Gospel Grammy winner and the former poster
boy for African American ex-gay ministries - is one example.
sexuality has been an open secret, but now, at 61 years old,
McClurkin is lamenting about growing old and being alone. While the
Black LGBTQ+ community would applaud someone of McClurkin's status
telling the truth about his sexual past, many of us can't care
because of decades of damning and damaging messages he hurled at us.
there might be some light at the end of this tunnel. This month, the
African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest black denomination
church, dating back to 1787, will convene a committee to study
LGBTQ+ issues by examining Scripture and doctrine hearing testimonies
of LGBTQ+ individuals. Some of us in the LGBTQ+ community feel the
effort is more than "a day late and a dollar short" because
a younger generation has left. However, I am hopeful.
bodies are our temples, and as our temples, they house the most
sacred and scariest truth about us: our sexuality. Sexuality is an
essential part of being human. It is an expression of who we are; it
is a language, and a means to communicate our spiritual need for
intimate communion—human and divine. However, our silence,
shame, and stigma around issues of sexual identity, gender
expressions, and sexual practices have allowed for behaviors of
denial, neglect, and abuse. Also, the lack of pastoral care
contributes to high-risk sexual behaviors and the transmission of
HIV/AIDS in the African American community.
now, Black Churches are in a crisis. The AME Church is now the first
to admit openly. The church has contributed to the culture of the
"politic of silence" because it not only lacks the language
to talk about sex, but it also sees sex as a private and personal
matter and not part of the business of the black Christian community
as a way of loving God and ourselves.
the black church is also uniquely positioned to significantly affect
knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors within congregations
and, by extension, the entire African American community. The black
church can help its congregants live their sexual lives by devising
an African American faith-based sex education curriculum where
churches embrace the concept that sexuality is God-given, an
integral part of being human, and at the core of how we interact with
has shown that sexuality education programs in black churches would
delay the onset of sexual activity among teens, reduced the number of
partners among teens and adults, significantly decrease the incidence
of sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, and