Wednesday, March 19, 2008

By request, my thoughts...

A certain Carrie wrote this bitch asking why I have not spoken out more about "fiery" rhetoric in the black church.

Well, since it looks like conservatives are tossing rocks wrapped in this topic despite their glass houses (can you say Hagee?), a rather timely one too.

Shall we?

A bitch grew up attending a rather conservative Missionary Baptist Church that was predominately black. We were big on social responsibility but not as heavy as some other churches on fiery rhetoric. Many a Sunday I listened to sermons that preached the Gospel and instructed members to give of themselves, try not to sin and build a forgiving heart. I also sat through several sermons that didn’t agree with. I remember asking my father how to handle that and him telling me that God gave us free will, pastors aren’t divine and part of being a Christian is developing a personal sense of faith.

When I grew up I became distant from the black church but did take a step back in during my 20’s. By then I lived in Dallas and attended another Missionary Baptist Church there where the sermons where equal parts social responsibility and fiery rhetoric. Once again I sat through some amazing services but I also sat through a lot of “oh, hell no…I don’t think so!” sermons that made me question my membership. The final straw came when a visiting Pastor spent over an hour blaming black women and our lack of faith for the dismal state of the black family in America. He went so far as to spend 30 minutes explaining that women need to submit to the will of men or we women will be offending God.


Yeah well I never went back.

The thing is I miss church. I miss the music and the fellowship and the weekly reminders that we humans can and must do better by each other.

My father found his activist mission in the black church. Many a Civil Rights era person went to church for courage, strength and spiritual fuel. The Movement was often organized in the black church, Mamie Till confronted a nation with its injustice in a black church and one of the greatest tragedies of it took place at a church.

Mayhap that is why some seize this moment to attempt to humble the black church?


I’ve worked hard to not blame Catholics for the words and actions of Archbishop Burke here in St. Louis. Some of the fiercest human rights activists I know are Sisters within the Catholic Church…many Catholics are pro-choice…and many a Catholic has openly allied themselves with the LGBT community despite the positions expressed by the Catholic Church.

See Carrie, I know that attending mass and blindly following the leadership of Archbishop Burke are two different things because I’ve been there (on a Protestant tip) sitting in a pew disagreeing with a lot of shit but also feeling my soul lifted up. Everyone has their own limits and needs…everyone must decide whether they still get something out of fellowship…everyone has that free will stuff (wink). All of that explains why every black person isn't a member of a "fiery" black church and every black person is not a Christian.

In all my years of attending black churches I gained far more than I disagreed with and I disagreed with plenty. Honestly, I gained the most from learning that I disagreed with certain things that I first heard sitting in a pew in a black church!

I hope that the same is true for the thousands of people who attended churches where Falwellian rhetoric is preached or the words of Pat Robertson were repeated as instruction.

As for the tone and volume of Rev. Wright’s sermon…well, you may want to go to a black church some time. That’s style and tradition, not some random freak out rage-based incident.

I’m confident that you will be made welcome, but your ass may fall asleep because black church services are not a one hour thing. And Gawd help you if you forgot to eat breakfast (wince)…


Jackie G. said...

Thanks for this ABB.

Like you, I grew up in a predominantly Black church - United Methodist to be exact and seriously remember the firey sermons that would wake you up if you'd started napping. Sermons like that were like spiritual smacks upside the head.

Can it be spiritually uplifting? Yes. Can it be harsh and unforgiving? Yes. Ask anyone if they completely agree with what their preacher said and you'll get as many different answers as there are people in the pews.

What facinates me about much of the commentary about Rev. Wright (and I wonder if anyone noticed that he's a signatory on the Marriage Equality Campaign) is how much white folks still don't know about the Black church experience in America. That style of preaching can be very effective, especially if the preacher in question is warming to the subject and really gets rolling. But in a society that prefers the recycled speeches of Dr. King (which can be easily digested), having a firebrand preacher go at it live and in person can be a daunting thing.

And can I say I'm a little tired of the whole, "Would I (white person) be welcome in a church like that?" thing. Of course you'd be welcome. Dress neatly and come prepared to participate and not just sit in your seat. Notice no one turns around and asks the opposite question, "Would people of color be welcome in *my* church?"

Instead of discussing the full context and substance of what Rev. Wright had to say, so many people have gotten caught up in the "OMG, he's a hater" cycle (which is going hand in hand with the "OMG, Afrocentric church/it's Apocalypse now!!!!" whoo ha). Has anyone listend to John Hagee lately? Jimmy Swaggart? Jack Van Impe (who wins the award for cracktastic Apocalyptic vision?) or any number of evangelical preachers? The answer's no because they get easily dismissed. They don't end up as a YouTube clip.

billie said...

i know i need to take a deep breath because i am feeling my blood pressure climb higher and higher- and i told my fellow bloggers i wouldn't post anymore on the primary race because i have already voted and blah, blah, blah... but i am really struggling. breathe... i am a woman- and i am a woman without color (in the winter i take on a opaque hue) and i am so infuriated right now by folks ganging up on rev. wright for his words. words that sounded like frustration and probably were. they were true. and no one is calling out the overt racism anywhere else- but they certainly are also playing the misogyny card when called on racist comments. i know- i am all over the place but i am angry as a woman.

i am probably going to have to write another post. sigh. i am angry because it is all politics. i don't really have a horse in the race- i am a kucinich fan- but i am backing obama this last go round. i am tired of the playing of the race card by camp clinton- whispering muslim in place of black- and when that didn't work- using the word black. then backing off wounded while calling out the white feminist bloggers to cry misogyny. nothing makes me angrier than that. omg! i may have an apoplectic fit. there is genuine racism and genuine misogyny out there and playing both for political gain makes me disgusted.

Jonzee said...

ABB, I am on the verge of taking a moratorium from watching TV, reading the news--especially my google reader, and writing my blog.

My blood pressure and anger is through the roof on this thing--I picked up a cigarette yesterday.

The thing that angers me the most about this, is That SBO had to make this speech in the first place--regardless of how poignant and important to the cabals of American Political Discourse.

The other thing that angers is me, is how the Christian right--especially the founders of the Moral Majority, have been preaching sermons about America going to hell for Gays, Abortion, Affirmative Action, Desegregation, and any other action that is seen as "Progressive", and they are not only praised, they have dinner at the White House, they damn near lie in State (well, former presidents and cabinet members show up at their funerals). Yet, Dr. Wright's use of the word damn, which if we look up in the dictionary means to "denounce an action or thing." then the context of his words make sense.

Why is it okay for them to practice their "Christianity" and divisive (i.e. racist, sexist, homophobic) way, but a man like Dr. Wright who is speaking from a social justice and liberation context made to be the most unpatriotic person ever.

No other candidate has ever been pushed to do this. He handled it better than any one in his position could have--but now he has become a polarizing figure.

So perhaps this whole thing goes on to prove Dr. Wright and my own pastor's feelings that America has not arrived to be more socially just--and the majority who don't understand how history's effects linger long after laws are enacted, still believe that we folk of color have a big chip on our shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Shark-Fu, you may be interested in a St. Louis event coming up April 17-19, the People of African Descent biyearly conference of the national Metropolitan Community Churches. Here's the link:

Lots of good speakers, Carlton Pearson is probably the most well-known of them. If you miss black churches but want to be in a crowd of black Christian LGBTs, here's your chance to meet. MCCGSL (112 Sidney, next to the Mississippi floodwall) is the host church. Greater New Higher Heights UCC (on 4657 S. Grand Ave.) is also helping - it's part of the Fellowship, founded by Bishop Yvette Flunder, for black LGBT-affirming churches. Visit one or both sometime. 11:30 service for the MCC - 9:30 is for the "frozen chosen", more liturgical and Catholic-friendly.


P.S. Obama hit it out of the park. This just might be a historic speech.

a.eye said...

Very well put. I think people forget that damn near everyone you listen to, regardless of where, is going to say some things that you may not agree with. Especially in a religious institution.

I hope you don't mind that I linked to this post on my blog (with props to you, of course).

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this post. It resonated a lot with my relationship to church. Your father's response makes a lot of sense (and I wish I could have had that conversation with my own parents). Still, it's so difficult to be a smart woman sitting in the pew without being able to talk back. I'm there with you about missing the communal aspects of mass, and knowing how important religious community can be to activism and courage. I, for one, would really like to go back to a Catholic church community, just to prove I don't have to leave a place because I disagree with many of the messages. How people deal with Falwellian rhetoric in a non-robotic, inhumane way is a question that's important to me. Til then, my queer brown self will be wondering.

jsb16 said...

My first thought when I read LadyJ's question ("Would people of color be welcome in *my* church?") was "Sure!" I'm an atheist. My 'church' is the laboratory, the seminar room, the clear night sky. But then I had to pause and think, and you know, I'm pretty sure people of color are welcome in all mainstream science disciplines now, but that's actually pretty recent, historically speaking. People are so incredibly stupid...

Anonymous said...

beautiful hit so many themes in my own break from The Church...

i don't really have anything else to add...i just wanted to tell you how much i appreciated it.

Jaelithe said...

I thought you might want to check out this longer video I found of Wright's 9/11 sermon. When I saw what you wrote before about being angry when preachers imply that disasters are some sort of divine judgment, I was nodding in agreement. But this morning I found this longer video of the speech on YouTube, and realized that in context Wright wasn't talking about divine retribution-- he was talking about failed foreign policy (and failed domestic policy). And in fact he was doing so not in the context of trying to place blame, but in the context of urging people to fight the urge to take revenge on innocents who were not involved in the attacks.

And some of the most "controversial" quotes that have been attributed to Wright from that speech were actually not even his own original words-- he was paraphrasing a U.S. ambassador.

Kellybelle said...

Wow, you nailed my experience in the Black Church with that blaming Black women sermon. But like you, I do miss the music and the fellowship. Good post.

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