Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dope Slapping Pulpit Bigots

Waiting for a cold snap here, we just got our herb and flower seeds yesterday. In Atlanta, about 150 largely Black civil-rights activists and clerics and trying to get their own shoots sprouting. They would like to publicize and promote the culture of equality from Black church pulpits. Specifically, they want to make it plain that many Black ministers and congregants support quality for all, including same-sex couples.

The three-day conference itself grew from the efforts of the National Black Justice Coalition. It has a far more indicative and important group of supporters than the anti-SSM folk supported by the loudest of the charismatic Black ministers.

We can parade Boston's Jubilee Bishop Gilbert Thompson as an example of as low as it goes. Charismatic ministers have special obligations above those of us regular folk and of most other clerics. Their personal power lets them lead many for good or evil, lets them attract large congregations, and offers them perhaps too many temptations. When they pander to the basest emotions, when they select and twist from their religions' holy books, when they seek to block freedom for others that they enjoy, they have failed their gifts.

Instead, in Atlanta, the good guys are talking about how to let people know and how to enable the ministers and activists who accept homosexuals as equals and want fair rights for all Americans.

Ironically, another minister with a large load 0f his own baggage was one of the keynote speakers. Alfred Sharpton can't be wrong all the time, although for some years he appeared to be trying. As divisive as he has been racially, he seems an odd spokesman. Yet his message was pro-equality and anti-religious hate. To wit, "In 2004, the religious right was concerned about re-electing George W. Bush. They couldn't come to black churches to talk about the war, about health care, about poverty. So they did what they always do and reached for the bigotry against gay and lesbian people."

Today's keynote at the First Iconium Baptist Church is UCC Bishop Yvette Flunder. She has incredible credentials in her ministries. The hate minister say. She does.

Many in and out of Black churches express befuddlement at the homophobia they hear from preachers who support rights in other ways. Emory University Scholar, Alton Pollard III, director of Black Church Studies Program at the school f theology there, has an explanation — "I don't think that black people are more homophobic than anyone else, but Blacks have been stigmatized for so long as sexual beings that any discussion of homosexuality causes even greater discomfort."

The folk of the good hearts and minds at the Iconium seem to agree it's time to get over that and get on with equality.

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