There comes a time in the mental maturation of every intellect when the intellectual curiosity must ask the unthinkable question.
When President Obama recently expressed his personal views on gay marriage, did he just lose the biggest block vote he has, that of African American voters?
Did this one singular pronouncement do what Republican strategists have been plotting for four years (how to reduce the 2012 black vote under the 90 percentile mark) with their black surrogates who have argued since day one of the Obama era whether “blacks should go along with everything Obama says, just because he is black?”
This past Sunday morning African American pastors all over America had to either defy the president’s words or they struggled painfully to find words to make their biblical understanding palatable with the historic words “I personally believe that gays should have the right to marry…,” spoken for the first time by an American president.
Perhaps Obama’s lack of cultural connections to the black community when he was growing up caused him to miscalculate the backlash he would receive from the black community over his embrace of gay marriage.
Albeit any red-blooded African American growing up in and around the Black Church knows that these church goers do not, by and large, cotton to the notion of homosexuality. It has only been in recent years that black church folks have warmed to accepting members who engage in what is perceive as an alternative lifestyle.
However, the Black Church has not matured to the point that it is willing to accept men marrying men and women marrying women.
One point that is missing in the firestorm of debate that has grown up surrounding this presidential view is that the president spoke his personal beliefs. He fell short, by several miles, of urging any federal legislation that would make it a federally protected right for same-sex marriages.
He in fact promised nothing to the LGBT community. Yet this community fell for the president’s sentiment, as if Obama would fight to have his expressed sentiment cast into the black letter of the law. He did not state he would do any such thing.
In the African American community black theologians and worshippers failed to grasp the silent nuances of the President’s pronouncement. They have drawn a line in the sand - a line between those who see the expressed sentiment of the president in opposition to the biblical dictates that marriage is a sacred institution ordained by God between a man and a woman and homophobic members looking for any excuse to bash the gay lifestyle, even if it does not include same-sex marriage.
To be sure, there are biblical scholars more proficient in the scriptural text than I, but it would appear the Bible is silent on the issue of same-sex marriage.
Perhaps, this is so because same-sex marriage was such an unthinkable idea in ancient Israel, early Judaism and early Christianity. Back then those who engaged in same-sex acts were “in an environment where male-male intercourse was often more of an accepted practice than it is in our own contemporary culture,” (Dr. Robert Gagnon, author of The Bible and Homosexual Hermeneutics, Abingdon, 2001) yet they dared not seek the sanctions of society for a same-sex union on par with the biblical dictate for male-female relationships.
We do know that the scriptures denounce the practice of same-sex copulation. Gagnon states: “The ‘big picture’ of the Bible on the issue of homosexual practice is not some vague concept of love and tolerance of every form of consensual sex but rather this complenentarity of male-female bonds and the universal restriction of acceptable sexual activity to heterosexual marriage.”
Seemingly, biblical teachings since the dispensation of “Grace” began up until the present age had to do with showing love for persons engaged in this practice as one would show love to persons engaged in any other Levitical scriptural prohibition. The black church is just beginning to wrap its collective head around the latter posit.
While on the other hand, same-sex marriage is a new issue for a new dispensation, it would appear that no theologian has yet been given a word from on high in response to this notion of equality. Or, more precisely bridging the philosophical thought of “Doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” as it relates to the emerging same-sex marriage ethos.
However, Gagnon believes, “God has deemed that sexual intercourse be an experience between complementary sexual ‘others’ that creates a ‘one-flesh’ union, a celebration of sexual diversity and pluralism in the best sense of the terms.”
It is this postulation that has the black church up in arms over the heartfelt beliefs of President Obama. Never in the annals of history has homosexuals bravely demanded equity on par with heterosexual spouses as they are doing in early twenty-first century America.
I submit the two constituencies have largely misinterpreted the president’s announcement. In one instance he is heavily applauded in the LGBT community; while his position on same sex marriage confuses and befuddles African Americans, a block of voters the President desperately needs to stay solid if he has any hope of repeating the miracle of ’08.
Should the president poll less than 10 percent of the percentage of black voters who voted for him in 2008, he will likely not win re-election.
The silver lining for black voters is that this president now needs black voters like any other candidate who has ever sought and won the White House since Lincoln.
No longer can President Obama take the black vote for granted. This is the first time during his administration that a significant number of African Americans (41% in recent polls on same-sex marriage) have found a reason to disagree with his philosophical bent.
The fact this strong disagreement with the president comes less than six months from Election Day means President Obama must bargain with black leaders like Dr., , the Congressional Black Caucus and others.
These leaders have argued that President Obama’s failure to deal with issues specifically targeted to the African American community has been a black eye on his leadership in the area of civil rights.
Black leaders are now in a position to extract concrete concessions from President Obama on what he will specifically do to address issues peculiar to America’s black citizens. No longer can President Obama hide behind the theory that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Otherwise, black Americans may sit on their hands this fall caught between the Gospel of same sex marriage according to Barack and the Gospel of black priesthood according to Mormonism.
One Midwestern pastor who holds a national office in a well known civil rights organization said last Sunday he told his church: “We do not have the luxury to get upset with someone over any particular sin as a litmus test to determine our political support; especially in these economic times. As a church we know that God does not condone homosexual sex, but HE shutters just the same, over that lie you told yesterday.”
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