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Political 'Rights' of Gays and Religious 'Rites' of Churches

By Dr. Barbara Reynolds


( - If there is a way to miraculously part the Red Sea without Black Christians drowning over the same- sex marriage debacle, I think civil rights icon and theologian Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. and his son Otis Moss III, pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, might have found it.

Recently father and son laid out a scenario which offers a way for African-American Christians to have opposing views about President Obama’s embrace of homosexual marriage hopefully without the split resulting in dissenters abandoning him in the upcoming election.  As the elder Moss, a close confidante of Obama, said, “Our ancestors prayed for 389 years to place a person of color in the White House.” So the question becomes if Obama is indeed an answered prayer can one single issue, no matter how deeply felt, break that special bond?

The $15 million recently lavished on the president by his Hollywood pals and media heavies gushing in praise, even to the point of crowning him with a halo for his same-sex views have angered numerous Blacks. They see their Bible as the primary source of their lifestyle and resent Scripture that define marriage between male and female being changed by politicians and championed by political Christians, whose views are governed by polls and popularity. A recent poll by Pew Research Center found that about half of all African-Americans oppose legalized same-sex marriage, as compared to 43 percent of Whites.

Since the issue blew up, I have received numerous angry calls. One exchange went like this:

“Barbara, what the hell is going on with Obama? I thought he was a Christian.”

Me. “He is a Christian. Reverends Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and NAACP’s Julian Bond all agree with the president.”

Caller:  I don’t give a darn if the Pope said men could marry each other, until my Bible says that I'm not voting for Obama.”

Me: “You don’t have any choice, you certainly couldn’t vote for Romney.  Robbing the poor and the widows is also a sin which the Romney crowd does well."

Caller:  “I have a choice; I can stay home and vote for Jesus.”

In an effort to temper this mindset, Pastor Moss, in a prepared statement, urged fellow clergy not only to make a distinction between Obama as president and as pastor but also between rights and rites.

Pastor Moss said,” We should never misconstrue rights designed to protect diverse individuals in a pluralistic society versus religious rites designed by faith communities to communicate a theological or doctrinal perspective. One is answered in the arena of civic debate where the constitution is the document of authority.  The other is answered in the realm of ecclesiastical councils where theology, conscience and biblical mandates are the guiding mandates.’’

Pastor Moss, making a plea for separation of church and state, said “ecclesiastical councils are not equipped to shape civil legislation nor are civic legislation nor or civic representatives equipped to shape religious rituals and doctrine.”  In other words if the politicians and the clergy could just stay in their perspective lanes, maybe they won’t crash into Obama.

If marriage is being attacked, he argued, it is not by the president's words but men viewing women as property, low wages, unfair tax policy and “by clergy who proclaim monogamy yet think nothing of stepping outside the bonds of marriage to have multiple affairs with “preaching groupies.’’ That last statement might have frozen the arms of some stone throwers in mid-air.

Pastor Moss reminded ministers that the president is not the president of the Sanctified or Holiness Church. ‘Gay people have never been the enemy and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of our problems we lie on God and cause tears to flow from the eyes of Christ.”

Most African-American Christians agree with Moss and contest hate speech or discrimination against homosexuals. They just don’t want the Word of God defining marriage tampered with.  That point was forcefully made by Rev. Anthony Evans, president of The National Black Church Initiative, a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans. “We love our gay brothers and sisters, but the black church will never support gay marriage which is and it always will be against the ethics and teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. Obama’s position will cost him a substantial amount of the black Christian vote.”

In addition, in their May 29-June 1 meeting in Washington, Dr. Franklyn Richardson, chairman of the Board of the Conference of Black Churches, composed of nine denominations said, “All of the denominations have their positions on same-sex marriage and none have approved of it.” Leading scholars, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Dr. Obrey Hendricks and civil rights spokesman Hilary Shelton, NAACP Washington Bureau director vigorously defended rights of homosexuals to marry. In fact, Dyson attacked a female minister who tried to defend the Scriptures that deal with creation between male and female as 'having an  undeveloped adolescent understanding. By the way, the panel was all male.

Dr. Martin Luther King called on all to disagree without being disagreeable.  As people wrestle with that, hopefully there will be more unity on the long road ahead to November. As African-Americans weigh the urgent issues of jobs, health care, foreclosures, the demise of the middle class, Black clergy leaders are counting on Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage losing its punch. If that happens, the Moss model for protecting the political rights of gays as well as the religious rites of churches might work a miracle one more time.

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