Churches that don’t acknowledge homosexuality build a difficult barrier
By John Freeman
This article first appeared as a religion column in the Philadelphia Daily News:
Five years ago Oprah Winfrey interviewed J.L. King about his book On The Down Low documenting the reality of multitudes of black men who regularly engage in sex with men.
Often husbands and fathers, they do not identify as “gay,” but they do live secret and radically disjointed double lives. In fact, King pointed out, African-American churches are “unrealistic about the number of men leading double lives.”
Recent accusations about a well-known Southern minister in a mega-African-American church have brought this discussion back into the limelight. King cites blatant hypocrisy—ministers who condemn homosexuality from the pulpit, then have sex with men in the pews.
His concern is that the church all too often condemns homosexuality rather than admit its presence among its members and leadership. The picture King paints is that church leaders often mistakenly convey the message that this is something that happens “out there,” not “in here.”
Yet, anyone can struggle with same-sex attractions and homosexuality, regardless of race and ethnicity. It is part of the human predicament. In a sense, it’s a subcategory of the major human dilemma. What is at the essence of the greater human dilemma? Just this. The Bible says that we react to our own confusion and life’s circumstances, hurts, disappointments and pain by developing plans and strategies to make life work apart from God. We all develop approaches to life that say to others around us, and to God as well, “I have a plan for my life—don’t you get in my way.”
This is the nature of sin and extends to what we do with our heart and body, sexually speaking. How we handle sex reveals what we believe about God. Our use or misuse of sex always reveals whether we’re living lives of submission to God or rebellion. For all of us then, one of the key questions of life is whether we’re willing to call God “boss” and let him meet our needs his way.
The white church is also hesitant to admit that its members experience these kinds of problems, as well as the propensity to live double lives of hypocrisy. Yet, homosexuality seems to be a more hidden reality in African-American, Asian and Latino churches. Perhaps the white church has just lost its sense of shame—that is, an awareness that something is terribly wrong about this—while the African-American and other ethnic churches still hold on to some appearance that, biblically speaking, this is not a good thing to be open about or celebrated.
I don’t know how many black churches have become pro-homosexual. This is not a bad thing, but the avoidance of the real struggles people have is.
Keeping silent about these struggles puts those in the African-American church in a bind. The barriers to admitting the truth and seeking help, then, remain very high. These barriers must be broken down in the African-American church. This can happen only when these real heart issues and problems are discussed openly and honestly. That’s also when people who struggle with same-sex attractions might be encouraged to talk about it sooner so that they can understand how much God cares and longs to meet them in the midst of their secret struggles. The pop psychologist Dr. Phil is right-on here. He often states boldly and frequently on his TV show, “What can’t be admitted can’t be changed.”
A passage from the Bible, I Thessalonians: 4:3-5, states, “This is God’s will, that you abstain from sexual immorality; and that each of you learn how to control his own body in holiness and honor; not in lustful passion. . . . ”
Admittedly, these are hard words to take in, especially in our sex-is-my-own-business culture. But they are also life-giving words that transcend race and ethnicity. In this sense, God’s words to us are truly multicultural in nature.