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Hazelann Williams
Can you be out and proud as a black, gay Christian?

CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE: Can black people in same-sex relationships be true Christians?

I RECENTLY interviewed US gospel star and pastor Donnie McClurkin, to talk about his role on the Christian singing talent contest Sunday Best.

Whilst doing pre-interview research, I found out that the Stand singer had been immersed in controversy in 2009, surrounding the fact that he said he had been “delivered” by god from homosexuality. According to reports, McClurkin said that with God’s help and “by not choosing to act, the attraction and the appetite starts to abate.”

The fury that followed from the gay community was immense, with many people calling him disgusting, homophobic and a self-hating gay man. But the support that the pastor received from his mainly black congregation and the black Christian world in general was equally fierce.

During our interview, McClurkin did not delve into the subject of homosexuality, but he did say that he had been involved with the church since he was a young boy and that the Christian life was the only life he had ever known.

TABOO: The black church is often regarded as being anti-gay

After our conversation, I began to wonder about the compatibility of being a true, good Christian and a person’s sexual orientation. More specifically, I began to ponder the issue of being a gay Christian in the black community. After all, it’s no secret that both Christians and the black community are often widely regarded as holding anti-gay views.

So does that mean that a black, gay person who wants to love God and live in the Christian faith has to deny their sexuality?

There are many passages in the Bible that list homosexual acts as a sin. Probably the most famous anti-gay tale in the Christian holy book is that found in Genesis 19: the story of Sodom and Gomorrah – the city that had to be destroyed.

So unholy was the city that even the angels sent by God to warn Lot (the only non-sinner in the city) about the impending doom, were pursued by men who wanted to forcibly have sex with them.

For decades, it has often been taken for granted by many Christians that Sodom and Gomorrah was a haven of homosexuality, and that this was the reason why God destroyed it. But later in the Bible, in Ezekiel 16:49 to be precise, God states the reasons for destroying the city as arrogance, gluttony, failing to help the needy, and the people’s “detestable actions.”

Obviously, anybody can commit detestable actions – men and women, gay or straight. Case in point, in Leviticus 18, when God lays down sexual law to Moses, he says there must not be adultery, sex between men and men or women and women, close relatives, or with animals, and that the penalty for all such acts is death.

Even having sex with a woman when she is on her period will get you exiled, because a man has “exposed the source of a woman’s flow.”

To be sure that you keep on the straight and narrow, God reiterates in Corinthians 6:9-11 that the people who will not inherit the kingdom of God are fornicators, idolaters, thieves, drunkards and revilers, to name a few. Oh, and be under no illusion; if you curse your mother or father, you should be put to death.

Suffice to say, the naughty step has nothing on this punishment. Now let’s be honest: there are only a handful of people out there that can say they are free of all sins and aren’t guilty of doing any of the aforementioned acts. So by today’s standards, it seems there will be very few people who will be welcome in God’s paradise.

The problem with Christianity, and religion as a whole, is that people often pick and choose which sins remain sins today, and which should now be considered out of date.

I know that I commit ‘sins’ every single day by wearing trousers or jeans and by not covering my head. My grandmother never wears anything other than a top and long skirt, or a long dress, and when I was younger, I just thought it was a fashion choice. But in Deuteronomy 22, it says “a woman must not wear men's clothing.”

And in 1 Corinthians 11:06, it clearly states that a woman must cover her head, and if she doesn’t, she is a disgrace and an abomination.

I was raised in the church. I learned the 10 Commandments and the Bible’s dos and don’ts, and as such, I was scared to commit a sin in case I went to hell. But as I got older, I started to read more, ask more, and had a battle between my blind faith and common sense.

As I did that, the Bible began to lose its significance for me. I saw contradictions, different interpretations and people picking and choosing what parts of Christianity they wanted to live by.

I will be honest: right now I do not believe in the Bible and I do not think that wearing Timberlands will mean that I will go to hell. There are too many contradictions and too many scriptures that are open to interpretation, so I do not profess to be a good Christian; I just try to be a good person.

So for the many homosexual people who believe in Jesus and subscribe to the Christian faith, why shouldn’t they be able to pick and choose too?

I have a black gay friend who goes to a gay Catholic church in London. He very much believes in the Bible and lives his life as a Christian. When I asked how it worked in his church and how they preached the anti-gay passages in the Bible, he explained that they simply didn’t discuss those chapters.

He also said that there were many interpretations of the Bible that do not vilify homosexuality, like the story found in 1 Samuel of David and Jonathan – two men who many believe to have been gay lovers – or the tale found in Luke 7, of the Roman centurion and his servant – another pair whose sexuality has been questioned throughout history.

There seem to be constant conflictions between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Matthew 10:14, being gay wasn’t the worse sin that could be committed. For Jesus, it was a far greater transgression to shun his disciples, as he explained: “If no one welcomes the disciples, they will be punished more than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah on judgment day.”

Although this passage doesn’t say that Jesus condones sodomy, it does show that he believes there are worse things, so perhaps it also shows that the New Testament is moving with the times?

But of course, there are people who do not want to move with the times or accept that you can be both gay and a Christian. It would seem that Donnie McClurkin is one of those people.

After all, the singer’s belief that he was delivered from homosexuality, surely implies that he believes that being gay is wrong in the eyes of God. But personally, unlike McClurkin, I do not think that you can be ‘cured’ of homosexuality.

However, I do believe that if you want to devote your life to a different cause, and stop having sex because you think it is a sin – be it in a heterosexual or a gay relationship – it is not much different to being a nun or a monk.

Ultimately, I believe that anyone can be a good Christian if they really want to be. Sexuality doesn’t make a difference to a person who wants to devote their life to God, because after all, we are all God’s creatures.

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