By Jennifer Adriel
The recent backlash against the LGBT community by a few religious leaders of African American decent led me to do some serious thinking. It sounds like these folks are saying that the LGBT civil rights battle is not one of justice and equality, but rather it is one of forcing a personal choice onto a righteous society.
They are justifying the physical and spiritual violence that is perpetrated onto the LGBT community by insinuating that the violence is somehow warranted because of their personal belief that we are immoral. And they discount our suffering by saying that we do not know what suffering is. Tell that to the Shepherd families across this country. I don’t know about you, but I think this whole thing smacks of history repeating itself.
Is equal protection under the law a civil rights issue? Of course it is. However, the question of civil rights or not civil rights is well on its way of becoming the next great divide. In a CBS news article last week, I read that African American Bishop Gilbert Thompson from the New Covenant Christian Church in Boston does not like it when we compare LGBT struggles, such as same-gender marriage and this whole amendment thing, to the civil rights movement.
He said, ” I resent the fact that homosexuals are trying to piggy back on the civil rights struggles of the 60s.” Perhaps he forgot that the civil rights movement of the 60’s piggybacked on Gandhi’s civil rights movement of the 30’s. SMACK!
As any good Soulforce activist would, I did a little probing to find out who this Bishop Thompson is. I wanted to get to know my adversary. I found nothing to lead me to believe that he was involved, first hand, in the civil rights movement of the 60s, however I did find something very interesting in his biography. The Bishop had a vision from God to build “a church without walls.”
His vision was to “transform cities and regions – spiritually, economically, socially, educationally, politically, and culturally by the power of agreement, unity, and prayer.” What happened? A few weeks ago he told the Boston Globe that, “to say that there is a such thing as a gay Christian is saying there’s an honest thief.” How does one seriously say that he had a vision from God to build a “church without walls” and then so blatantly and with such a mean spirit proceed to dehumanize and disenfranchise a select group of God’s children? SMACK!
Here’s a good message for the Bishop from someone who was on the front lines in the 60s. Coretta Scott King, while addressing the 25th anniversary luncheon for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said, “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'” More recently she said, “Gay and lesbian people have families, and their families should have legal protection.”
This week in Atlanta, ministers from 30 churches across Georgia gathered to publicly proclaim that the dividing line of the civil right issues is that “blacks suffered unwarranted discrimination, but gays are persecuted for an immoral lifestyle.”
Rev. Clarence James, an African-American Studies professor at Temple University who was active in the civil rights protests of the 60s, is quoted as saying, “when the homosexual compares himself to the black community, he doesn’t know what suffering is.” SMACK!
Shame on you Reverend! You were with King during the Civil Rights movement and you should know better. One of your contemporaries, Dr. John Lewis, who sat at the lunch counters and organized the freedom rides and eventually served on Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s staff, recently testified, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and bigotry.”
Not long ago in this country African-Americans were considered to be less than human and even “immoral” and the Bible said so. They were not worthy of living side by side with white folks, except to be sex toys and whipping boys for the more powerful white man. White clergy and their followers used misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the Bible to justify their belief in what they were doing to God’s African American children. They dehumanized and denied civil rights using the Word of God as their justification. Sound familiar?
Those gathered in Atlanta are dehumanizing and denouncing civil rights to another group of Americans: Homosexuals.
Oddly enough they have, as clergy, justified their shameful actions using misinterpretation and misrepresentation of the Bible and the Word of God. SMACK!
Was Gandhi right when he said, “The oppressed eventually become the oppressor.”
Perhaps here is another insight from someone who was on the front line of civil rights in the 60s. Dr. James Lawson, who worked side by side with Dr. King while training the young people who staged the lunch counter sit-ins and the freedom rides said, “Gays and lesbians have a more difficult time than we did. We had our families and our churches on our side. All too often they have neither.”
What would have happened if Gandhi had told King, Lawson, Lewis and Rustin that their fight for social justice and civil rights were not the same as his peoples’ and he resented the fact that they were trying to make it such?
Those who do not believe that our struggles are struggles for civil rights are missing the moment of opportunity to do exactly what Jesus, Gandhi and King would have done – fight for the civil rights of others. It seems to me that those that are denouncing our right to “Civil Rights” have become the oppressors they once faced. Is this what is called sleeping with the enemy? SMACK!