The Church Fights Gay Rights–But What Would Jesus Do?

It’s 2013, 15 out of the 50 United States have legalized same sex marriage, including Maryland, and the church has yet to say amen.

In fact, church folk tend to flip right to Leviticus 18 in their mental Bible or iPhone Bible app–depending on their memory–and begin their sermons with “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination,” whenever the g-word gets mentioned.

And I’m not just making this stuff up. According to USA Today, a United Methodist minister from southeastern Pennsylvania was convicted and suspended yesterday for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding: “The jury of pastors told Frank Schafer that he must surrender his credentials if he can’t reconcile his new calling to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community with the laws from the church’s Book of Discipline. ”

Here at Morgan, after the Alpha Kappa Psi controversy, Monzana T. Whaley (Mr. Morgan) helped organize Channel Orange and Blue, an open forum about homosexuality in the African American community. Religion entered the conversation almost immediately. How could it not? The black community has always been deeply rooted in Christianity. When our ancestors were brought to this country against their will, stripped of their ethnicity and their own religions, Jesus Christ was presented to them. Throughout our struggle from generation to generation, being second-class citizens in a country that we helped to build, He has always been by our side.  And when it comes time to strike something down that we don’t agree with, we also tend to use His name to do so.

“Black people are anti-gay,” said Samantha Masters, a student board member of the LGBTQA at Morgan, who sat on the forum. “And to admit that gay and transgender exist would make them less of a minority.”

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, African American’s make up 12.6 percent of the total population. We have a history of being mistreated, especially in America. Maybe, if Masters is right, we are so comfortable in our position as the minority that we hate to share the spotlight.

Dr. Kevin Daniels, a pastor and a part of Morgan State University’s social work department, says that older African Americans, such as our grandparents, who may have religious qualms when it comes to homosexuality, also support the freedom to be yourself.

“They know what it feels like to sit on the back of the bus, so they know how discrimination feels,” he says. “They may not agree with homosexuality, but because they know what discrimination feels like, they support people having the freedom to decide who they want to be.”

“We’re racist against our own people,” says Antia Gillard, a Morgan State  staffer who spoke at Channel Orange and Blue. “As people we have to learn to accept others because people don’t accept us.”

According to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, which has analyzed information from four recent national and two state-level population-based surveys, over 8 million people or 3.5 percent of the U.S. population are lesbian, gay or bisexual. The study also suggests that about 9 million Americans identify as LGBT.

I’m not especially religious and don’t think homosexuality is a sin. I do not support the use of religion or Jesus to condemn people. Unless you’re perfect (which you’re not, I can assure you), you sin. People just sin differently. If God loves you, despite all of your own sins, how can you possibly hate someone for what you view as theirs? In Leviticus 19:18 it also says “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” It’s funny how people don’t quote that part when they’re doing everything they can to prevent people from living their lives. It’s in the same book for Pete’s sake.

My point is that the Christian thing is to love one another. And stick together. Black people have bigger issues to deal with. We have racial things to handle–like high incarceration rates. According to an October report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, racial disparities exist in arrest rates for Marijuana and many other things.(For example, Maryland’s black population increased by 13 percent between 2001 and 2010 but black arrests for marijuana possession increased by 69 percent.) If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime. If we could put the same effort into keeping black men out of jail or confronting the misuse of police powers that unnecessarily criminalize black men that we do into obstructing gay rights, we’d be onto something.

It’s insane to think that everyone will agree on everything, especially in a world full of choices, from the conservative values that our grandparents may have to the extremely liberal ones that have caused even the most free-spirited individual shock. But a disagreement over values should not affect rights. Morality and law are not one in the same. As Patrick Henry said, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Moral of the story: Let people live.

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