Editor’s Note: Clay Cane is the author of “Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race,” which is available for preorders now and will be released in June. Follow him on Twitter: @claycane.
Clay Cane: I have always said, if you want to meet a whole bunch of black gay folks, just go to a black church
But the anti-love language in black churches is why so many black queer youths are suicidal, Cane says
I hope people will remember George Michael’s nuanced legacy. He wasn’t just a pop star. He was soulful and innovative, with intersecting identities that paved a way for artists to live as their authentic self in a manufactured music industry.
While the actual date of the so-called sermon is unclear, the video went viral this week, just days before she was scheduled to appear on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” hosted by one of the most visible “homosexual spirits” on the planet.
“Everybody in this room who’s filled with the homosexual spirit, beg God to free you,” Burrell ranted in the video. “You play with it. What does that mean? You’ll die from it. You play with it in God’s house in 2017, you’ll die from it.”
How Christ-like of her.
Following an epic backlash on social media, Burrell released an asinine apology for, and defense of, her ugly message on a Facebook Live. “I never said God was killing gays in 2017. I said people who operate with that spirit in the church, with deception and attached themselves, are going to have to face the master. That’s what I said, and death is attached to their behavior,” she said.
She also blamed the reaction for her alleged sermon on “the enemy” being at work.
Burrell is clearly terrified her “business of church” will be affected by the media firestorm. After all, the church is a corporation – one that doesn’t pay taxes – and appearing on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” would no doubt give her business a boost.
But according to reports Tuesday, Burrell won’t get a chance to put her soul on the auction block for a boost in sales for her single with Pharrell Williams, “I See a Victory.” DeGeneres reportedly canceled her appearance. Ironically, the song – which Burrell was scheduled to perform on the show – is from the movie “Hidden Figures,” which stars Jim Parsons, an openly gay actor, and Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae, all of whom have been advocates for “homosexual spirits.”
Burrell, it seems, is happy to benefit from “homosexual spirits” even while damning them to hell.
In her Facebook Live defense, Burrell trotted out a familiar argument.
“To every person that is dealing with the homosexual spirit – that has it – I love you because God loves you. But God hates the sin,” Burrell said. But as Dr. Kenneth Samuel explained in my documentary “Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church,” “That doesn’t make sense, because if you love the person, you love all of them. You say that you hate the sin but you love the sinner. It’s impossible because you are talking about a person who cannot separate him or herself from the body that they are in.”
Yet this isn’t really about Burrell, who wasn’t born with unbiblical bigotry. Instead, her mindset is a hate that has been passed down from the pulpit, by church leaders who endorse a doctrine that is caging people’s souls, ruining their ability to love and placing them in an entanglement of self-hate.
As James Baldwin once said, “Because I was born in a Christian culture, I never considered myself to be totally a free human being.” This brand of theological violence represents everything that is wrong with the church, specifically the African-American church. And while homophobia in religion is by no means exclusive to the black church, there is something unique going on: The black church could not function without the LGBT community.
I have always said, if you want to meet a whole bunch of black gay folks, just go to a black church. From the choir to the pastors, the LGBT community has been serving the black church since the African-American church existed. But this anti-love language is why so many black queer youths are suicidal; why would you not take your life if you believe you will burn in the lake of fire? Hateful language from so-called faith leaders is partly why some 50% of black men who have sex with men are at risk of becoming HIV-positive; why would you not protect yourself with a condom if you are taught you are an abomination?
There is blood on the hands of many black churches.
But why would Burrell or church leaders listen to a commoner like me, one with a homosexual spirit? They won’t, but the backlash is a promising step in a loving direction.
This is not an assault on conservative Christians. Instead, this is a call for a panoramic view into the structural underpinnings of the use of religion as a tool of oppression. Sure, not everyone who is anti-gay or opposes equal rights for LGBT people is hateful. But those who follow the supercult of religion have no idea they are being fed microwaved soul food.
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Spiritual development unfolds and regenerates itself in various ways through different periods of human existence and cultures, but the current construct of religion is a spiritual mini-mall. Nothing handcrafted, just an assembly line of reversible, matching little outfits for the spirit, attaching shame to the human potential for spiritual ascendance and transcendence.
I thank God for the response to Kim Burrell. Ten years ago, she could have made these comments and her offering plate would overflow. But such rhetoric is no longer as marketable – and, at the end of the biblical day, pastors want to make tax-free money. So, in 2017, hypocrites will not get a pass on discrimination by using the name of Jesus. You will not use the LGBT community while calling for their death. Not Kim Burrell, or any others.
As it’s said in the black church, not today, Satan. Not today.