Why black clergy ought not oppose same-sex marriage (COMMENTARY)

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A protester waving a bible walks past in the background as two women named Donna and Tina get married in a park outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, on February 9, 2015. Photo courtesy of  REUTERS/Marvin Gentry
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CALDWELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Jan. 7, 2016.

A protester waving a bible walks past in the background as two women named Donna and Tina get married in a park outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama, on February 9, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Marvin Gentry *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CALDWELL-COLUMN, originally transmitted on Jan. 7, 2016.

(RNS) This week, Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court prohibited the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples, despite the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage in all of the 50 states.

We, who marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to protest the denial of voting rights for blacks and have seen Congress and the Supreme Court whittle away some of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, ought not oppose the civil rights of LGBT persons and marriage equality.

There is an inconsistency in our commitment to human rights for all if we deny the rights of same-gender-loving persons to marry. They may be trite, but I remind us of the words “None of us are free, until all of us are free.”


RELATED STORYGil Caldwell, civil rights leader, turns his eye to LGBT rights


Opponents of same-sex marriage claim the “tradition” of marriage between a man and a woman as a rationale for their opposition. So did those who resisted racial integration because of the “tradition” of racial segregation.

Faith-based opponents of same-sex marriage claim the Bible as their source for the opposition. So did faith-based opponents of racial integration.

I am beginning to understand why some of my colleagues are drawn to Ethical Culture and Humanism and view the Constitution as being more of a guide to inclusivity than is the Bible.

Many millennials are wondering why so many “people of the Book” resist the inclusion of all people as detailed by the Constitution, Bill of Rights and other founding documents.

They wonder if the Bible is “yesterday” and the Constitution is for today and tomorrow.

Black clergy recognize that the young people of the Black Lives Matter Movement, some of whom are gay and lesbian or gay-affirming, have raised some questions about replicating our approach and have some reservations about the authentic justice commitment of the church.

Why are we in religion so concerned about the “spread of secularism,” when we are watering the seeds of a growing secularism in our exclusion of the rights of same-sex couples to marry, and our resistance to immigration from Mexico and Syria?

Some religionists must begin to acknowledge their exclusion of these groups has become an evangelism tool for growing anti-religion attitudes. Each day I am convinced of the truth of the words of James Russell Lowell: “New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth.”

Donald Trump, with his theme; “Make America Great Again,” is the leader of those who cannot accept the fact that each day we are reminded of “new occasions.” Therefore we must make our religion and our politics respond to “the new,” while making contemporary the principles of our religion and our politics.

If the “greatness” of the U.S. or of religious institutions is to be found in a retreat to the past, God help us!

The Rev. Gil Caldwell, an 81-year-old retired United Methodist pastor who is supportive of LGBT rights, poses for a portrait on April 18, 2015, during the Jack Crum Conference, a social justice gathering of the North Carolina chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action at Epworth United Methodist Church in Durham. Religion News Service photo by Travis Long

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, who contributes to the Truth in Progress website and is co-producing a documentary called “From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?”, poses for a portrait on April 18, 2015, during the Jack Crum Conference, a social justice gathering of the North Carolina chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action at Epworth United Methodist Church in Durham, N.C. Religion News Service photo by Travis Long

I was ordained a deacon in a racially segregated Methodist Church 60 years ago. I was denied admission to Duke Divinity School because of my race. Neither I, nor any of us who are black, believe there was “greatness” in racial segregation worth resurfacing.

I am saddened by my fellow religionists who are drawn to support Trump because he seeks a return to the “good old days.” They were not good for blacks, for women, or a host of other Americans.

May all of us, particularly those of us who claim a religious faith, begin to commit ourselves to the idea and practice that “change” must be authentic change, rather than a subtle way to conceal the fact that we have not changed.

(The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell contributes to the Truth in Progress website and is co-producing a documentary called “From Selma to Stonewall: Are We There Yet?” )

 

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  • Ben in oakland

    More important than any support the bible has been enlisted for when it came to slavery and segregation:

    The incidence of unwed mothers, multiple men fathering multiple children on multiple women, a 70% illegitimacy rate in the AA community, generations on welfare, high infant mortality rates, low marriage rates, and a host of other ills besetting the AA community.

    Don’t these pastors have some real problems to worry about?

  • Doc Anthony

    Doesn’t matter whether you are White Clergy or Black Clergy. Once you abandon the Bible’s clear teachings about humans and human sexuality, you’re only leading people astray and teaching them to lead others astray.

    Liberalism used to be Black America’s best friend. But NOW, liberalism is the sworn enemy of the black preacher AND the black family.

    Liberalism calls on Black America to sit down, shut up, and STOP taking their Jesus and their Bibles seriously. Black men and women stood tall against the KKK, but fell down like worn-out dominoes before Planned Parenthood.

    Worse yet, Liberalism calls on blacks to bow, kowtow, and enslave themselves to the NEW plantation, calls on us to bow to, pander to, and obey the NEW Baal. Otherwise known as *****The Gay Marriage Religion*****.

    Now that’s how you bring Black America down, THAT’s how you put it back in chains.

    Please fight back, Black Clergy. Stand up and fight while there is still time!!

  • ben in oakland

    Hysterical. Absolutely hysterical.

    They certainly are kowtowing to the make-as-many-babies-as-you-can-that-you-cannot-support religion, and don’t have a word to say about it.

  • G Key

    Didn’t Christ show us by his own example exactly how important it is to spend our free time dwelling on other people’s sex lives?

  • Diogenes

    The issue of racial discrimination and same sex marriage are not analogous, biblically speaking. While there are no biblical injunctions which support racial prejudice ( making allowance for the existing practice of slavery in ancient times, which were not based on race), there are several injunctions against homosexual practice in both biblical testaments. Nothing else really needs to be said.

  • Larry

    Nothing else needs to be said, except the truth of the matter.

    Bob Jones University officials would strongly disagree with you. 🙂

    You omit how the Bible was used to justify racial discrimination and how the religious conservatives grew out from the pro-segregation crowd. After all there is no connection whatsoever between racism and Christianity. The KKK burn a big giant “T” in their ceremonies. /sarcasm

    Bigots love to use the Bible to justify legalized discrimination of all sorts. One type of bigotry changes little from the other in this respect.

    http://www.openbible.info/topics/segregation
    http://thetencommandmentsministry.us/ministry/bible_and_segregation
    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/02/26/3333161/religious-liberty-racist-anti-gay/

  • Rev. Neil

    I understand that marriage was a religious control , put together at the Treaty of Trent. (1560,s ) My understanding is that the G L B T groups were not consulted.

    Please tell me when and where ” GOD ” came to our earth to discuss with us, our progress about ” made in my image ” .

    Please tell me when and where so many were ordained by ” GOD ” to be the ” Judge”

    There has to be a second look !!!

  • Billysees

    Rev. Neil,
    ” There has to be a second look !!! ”

    Here are two reasons why there ‘should be’ a second look.

    1. Paul, who authored most of the NT and most of the negativity about homosexuality, makes these very revealing statements about his own knowledge and understanding —

    1. …our knowledge is partial and incomplete…
    2. …we see things imperfectly…
    3. All that I know now is partial and incomplete…
    (1 Corinthians 13:9,12)

    Those are excellent examples that ‘teach us’ that Paul’s writings are too partial, too incomplete and too imperfect to be meaningful and useful for everybody in every situation.

    2. Paul also wrote — But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to the good things that are ahead………Philippians 3:13

  • Diogenes

    Beyond, what are to me (a relatively literate individual) the clear teachings of both Paul and Peter on the subject of homosexuality relative to the church, I grant that civil distinctions are in some respects another matter. Generally speaking, until most recently, civil society has not recognized the legitimacy of so called ‘gay marriage.’ That said, my opposition as a citizen to gay marriage should not be inferred to suggest I sanction discrimination in employment, accommodation, general services, general privileges, etc. Nor do I sanction or encourage any sort of physical threats to gays. Such would in no way be in keeping with my understanding of Christianity, nor the Christianity of my conservative acquaintances. My objections on religious and moral grounds do not rise to the level of hatred as I understand the term.

  • Breed7

    Millennials have it right — the Bible is “yesterday.” A book of superstitions and mythologies should not be governing lives in the 21st century, especially when said book was clearly written by people who had no understanding whatsoever about human sexuality, about women, about science, about disease, about mental illness, about race, about the Earth, the Sun, the stars.

    If your doctor treated you according to Biblical teachings, you’d sue him or her for malpractice. So why do unintelligent people proclaim that this book is full of wisdom and truth, when the reality is that it contains equal amounts of bigotry, hatred, misunderstanding, and downright wrong information?

    It’s time for humanity to leave superstition behind.

  • Richard Rush

    Well said, Breed7.

  • Ben in oakland

    I’m glad to hear that you don’t sanction discrimination in matters of employment, accommodation, threats and violence, etc. thank you.

    On the other hand, your objections on “moral and religious grounds” is another issue entirely. To what are you objecting, and Why?

    My sexuality? It’s none of your business. Im not an immoral person, despite the opinions that some people have. Your faith is not my faith. I don’t know you, I live my life as I am made, and harm no one. So why should your objection have force in law?

    Murderers, molesters, and congressmen can get married as often as they like.

    To my marriage? It’s also none of your business. But if you are going to object to my marriage on religious and moral grounds, why are you not objecting to the marriages of a host of “moral and religious” Christians who have divorced for any reason but adultery, and have remarried? I suspect that the only response that gets from you is a resounding wag of your forefinger.

  • Ben in oakland

    Sorry, the sentence beginning with murderers was supposed to go at the end.

  • Rev. Neil

    When one is allowed, to be in judgement, please let me know ! ! !

    The problem that I have is where is the inclusion of all of Gods people to work together ??

  • Larry

    Maybe black clergy should focus on marriage in general instead of trying to keep others from getting married or attacking family planning options.

    Single parenthood rates among the black community is what % nationwide?
    And what do conservative Christians have to say on the subject? Absolutely nothing of value except, keep making babies, but don’t expect to be able to raise them.

  • Gregory Peterson

    Both “race” and “homosexuality/heterosexuality” are much abused, modern era social constructs that were/are used to justify patriarchal supremacy. Both have a lot of long discredited scientific baggage. Both were/are legitimated by abusing scripture with “proof texts” ripped out of historical and intratextual contexts to justify a sense of a divine entitlement to unearned privilege at the expense of others.

    With all that in common, it’s hardly surprising that anti-homosexual arguments sound like they’ve been recycled from old anti-miscegenation arguments.

  • Gregory Peterson

    “Conservative” Evangelicals have made Paul into one of the most heinous villains in American history. To illustrate, I remember reading a book by the late Rev. Peter Gomes, who told us about a woman who after she was freed from slavery, promptly tore Paul out of her Bible.

    Despite that, I vaguely remember Paul more or less pointing out that the letter of the Law oppresses, while the spirit of the Law liberates. That’s not how it’s been used by American “conservative” Evangelicals.

  • Jack

    The black family’s collapse correlates with the rise of big government, including the welfare system, which created perverse incentives not to work nor save nor invest nor get married, and to have kids out of wedlock.

    As of the 1930s, before the rise of the welfare system, the black illegitimacy rate was at 11%. Now it exceeds 70%. The white illegitimacy rate also skyrocketed, from about 4% to over 35%.

    It’s the story of how expansive government took the place not only of family but of civil society, including the black church, which, like the white church, once was the chief bulwark against poverty and pathology, inculcating the values and virtues needed to rise in a democratic society.

    Before the rise of the welfare system, black business formation grew at a healthy clip, in spite of the injustices of racism and compulsory segregation. Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in a neighborhood filled with black business people and professionals.

  • larry

    Way to scapegoat! The alternative to welfare, back in the day as it is now is largely letting people starve to death put of public view. Its funny how some advocate that government should be too small to prevent mass starvation, but large and autocratic enough to interpose itself into the personal decisions of others concerning family planning.

    The major factor was the diaspora from the rural South to the urban North in the 40’s. The increased demand for industrial labor and Jim Crow. Large families didn’t need to stay together to work subsistence farming much anymore.

    Another factor is the racially biased effects of the “war on drugs” which enables the proliferation of gangs, disproportionately high incarceration rates and caused homicide to be the leading cause of death in black communities.

    Black clergy don’t have the time to denounce gay marriage, they have more pressing issues to address in their communities.

  • Billysees

    Gregory,
    ” …I remember Paul more or less pointing out that the letter of the Law oppresses, while the spirit of the Law liberates. ”

    I think this is the best verse to explain your comment —

    But now we are no longer interested in the those OT Laws. God has broken their effect on us so that we are serving in a new spiritual way, not in an old way dictated by written words…..Romans 7:6