When President Obama announced his support for marriage equality last week black preachers lined up ready to speak out as a voice of the black church going voters. The clergy self righteous and passionate in their opposition to gay marriage were ready make the point that Obama would stand to lose a significant amount of support as a result of his support for equality for all.
The debate over marriage equality is not about religion. It is about justice and the belief that all people deserve the same rights under the law. As Michael Eric Dyson said Friday, “Black people do not have a copyright on civil rights insurgents or resistance.” Black clergy need to think much more strategically long term. And black church goers need to do the same. They need to consider for a second who it is they are receiving messages from. This moment is a paradigm shift that will leave behind those unwilling to even entertain the idea that the Bible also teaches Christians to love everyone.
Prominent Pastor Dwight McKissic said, "President Obama has betrayed the Bible and the Black church with his endorsement of same-sex marriage. The Bible is crystal clear on this subject and the Black church strongly opposes same-sex marriage. His endorsement is an inadvertent attack on the Christian faith."
Well, the Bible is crystal clear on a variety of things that modern day Christians simply ignore. But for some reason, the gay issue is always the one that is a deal breaker. And why is that? Certainly, homophobia among Black clergy should be viewed critically especially given recent events like the allegations of sexual misconduct against anti-gay mega church Bishop Eddie Long. We need to begin viewing the messengers with a more critical eye.
When will some of these Black preachers who behave as if they are “disappointed Obama supporters” be asked if they were even supporters of the president in 2008? Bishop Harry Jackson who has been making the media rounds on every show making a false comparison between same sex marriage and bigamy, is voicing is concern in front of any camera that will let him speak. Was Bishop Jackson even an Obama supporter before? No. Jackson supported Mike Huckabee in 2008. And what are some of Jackson’s other views? Affordable access to contraception included in Obamacare is not a good thing for women everywhere because it is really super secret government population control of the black community. The messenger matters.
However, the Black preachers are not alone. Prominent white preachers like Franklin Graham, who has questioned Obama’s Christianity in the past, said of Obama’s support for gay marriage, "In changing his position from that of senator/candidate Obama, President Obama has, in my view, shaken his fist at the same God who created and defined marriage. It grieves me that our president would now affirm same-sex marriage, though I believe it grieves God even more." Graham has never been an Obama supporter.
What President Obama did last week was shine a light on Christians nationwide and challenged them to really live up to the rest of the lessons in the Bible. If Black voters (who are not in any way a monolithic group even able to be swayed by one preacher’s opinion) don’t allow marriage equality to form a wedge between them and the Obama administration, it will marginalize many of the voices of clergy we’ve been hearing from lately. In a CNN op-ed after Judge Walker in California ruled that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional, Bishop Jackson wrote, “A marriage requires a husband and a wife, because these unions are necessary to make new life and connect children to their mother and father. Judge Walker's decision will not stand the test of time and history.”
It wouldn’t be much of a leap of faith to challenge this notion and say Bishop Jackson’s views on homosexuality may not stand the test of time and history either.