The recent public airing of statements made by presidential candidate Barack Obama’s former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, opened a Pandora’s box surrounding the underlying racial tensions that still exist between the black and white communities in the 21st century, as well as the continued existence of institutional racism.

The LGBT community has quickly inserted itself into the discussion, evident by a recent Dallas Voice headline that cried, “Rev. Wright controversy reminiscent of McClurkin.”

The article, written by Lisa Keen of Keen News Services, opened with the media-saturated phrase that caused even LGBT eyebrows to raise and tongues to click, “God damn America,” followed by Wright’s fiery declaration that Hillary Clinton “ain’t never been called a nigger.”

This all appeared on the front page, which seemingly supports what the mainstream media has been successful in accomplishing: painting Wright as a racist and a bigot.

My first thought mirrored that of millions of black Americans as it relates to our perception of how our white compatriots process the lingering effects of racism and its effects on our community: They just don’t get it.

As the article progressed, a comparison was made between how Sen. Obama handled this political challenge and how he handled the controversy over the popular black gospel star Donnie McClurkin participating in a campaign event before the South Carolina primary.

Without the backdrop of this election, which has provided a glimpse of the historical and current issues the Democratic Party has with its black constituents (widely acknowledged as the party’s base), Keen’s comparison of these two men fell flat. Or as I like to say, she was comparing apples to oranges.

Despite his sometimes thought-provoking sermons, Wright is respected in white and black religious circles. Trinity United Church of Christ has diverse outreach ministries that are often duplicated by both white and black churches that seek to affirm all people as “God’s children.”

Trinity’s outreach efforts also extend to the LGBT community, as pointed out by Keen, and include active engagement in the fight against HIV/AIDS, with education and direct support services at a time when other mainstream black denominations and churches were and are unwilling to do so.

McClurkin, who is also a pastor of a large congregation, has seen his star rise in the black gospel community with his testimony and profession of being delivered from his seemingly innate homosexuality through God, which strongly resonates in the mainstream black religious community.

For the record, many like myself in the black, same-gender-loving community, religious or not, do not support McClurkin’s supposed “conversion.” We prefer to side with the sentiment that he has been unable to reconcile his traumatic childhood experiences of sexual assault and rape with his authentic, spiritual self.

Because his experience is similar to that of many LGBT members in our community who would rather hide within the black church than acknowledge their sexual reality, we sympathize with him but simply don’t agree with his position.

Black liberation theology, infused with acknowledgment of our healthy, sexual, God-given self, is how we choose to express who we are in a society that would rather oppress us, first, because we are black, and second, because we are proud, unapologetically LGBT people.

This stance should come as no surprise to the white LGBT community because its own religious institutions also embody and practice the spirit of liberation theology in response to the oppression of the LGBT community and the rights and privileges we seek. The same holds for the Latino and feminist communities, whose religious leaders have espoused the merits of liberation theology as necessary for the integration of their respective constituencies into society.

LGBT works of nonfiction have been dedicated to the study and application of liberation theology, including “Gay/Lesbian Liberation: A Biblical Perspective,” by George R. Edwards; “A Place to Start: Toward an Unapologetic Gay Liberation Theology,” by Micheal J. Clark; “Know My Name: A Gay Liberation Theology,” by Richard Cleaver; and “Defying the Darkness: Gay Theology in the Shadows,” by Michael J. Clark.

When I came out in 1994, I was and still am a member of St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church, a local black congregation that embraces black liberation theology. I started attending the primarily LGBT Cathedral of Hope during that same period in an effort to affirm and merge who I was as a black gay man.

The experience was wonderful, and at one point I contemplated changing my membership to Cathedral. In the end, I remained at St. Luke because it affirmed who I was as both a black man and gay man.

So before the white LGBT community decides to join in the political fray over how racially insensitive Wright may seem in his acceptance of a theological pedagogy that affirms the history and current existence of black Americans, perhaps we need to look no further than how the religious LGBT community also seeks to validate its own existence and place in society through the same medium.

Linus Spiller is the externship coordinator at Everest College in Dallas, and is a former candidate for Dallas City Council.

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3 replies on “No comparison between Wright, McClurkin”

  1. I’ve long said that Wright is Right.

    Sure, I don’t agree with everything he says. But he’s got a right to say them. He’s got a right to believe them.

    And the American People, black or white, are not duped into believing that Obama knew nothing of these speeches or rhetoric.

    The fact is that ROLLING STONE “Changes Headline From Obama’s ‘Radical Roots’ to ‘Destiny’s Child'”. They are doing damage control for him.

    If you don’t believe me, click on this link and see that the search is for “Obama Radical” but when you click on the related article, the name has changed.

    It was printed LAST YEAR!!! How can he claim he never knew? Give me a break.

    But like I said before, I have no problem with Wright. I think he’s right to stand up for himself. He’s not being bullied into silence and submission by many of his community. THAT’S the sign of a true leader.

  2. The Republicans and Fox News couldn’t have said it any better, Nathan. Come on. Let’s keep this campaign focused on the issues that really matter … the economy, civil rights, the war in Iraq. These are the issues folks care about.

    Most Americans don’t give a darn about Rev. Wright. Certainly, as the results of tonight’s election show, an overwhelming majority of North Carolinians don’t give a darn, either. The right blogosphere and Fox News may try to keep this non-issue alive, but it’s not going to matter a hill of beans in November when folks elect Barack Obama as our next President.

  3. I was only commenting on the fact that Wright was in the news. And that it’s disingenuous for Obama to claim he had no previous knowledge of any of this. The fact that this was on’s front page required a response.

    I do agree there are much more pressing issues. But ignoring Wright, or ignoring Obama’s support and inclusion of the anti-gay McClurkin in an attempt to persuade the conservative religious black constituency of South Carolina do nothing to promote Obama’s candidacy in the general election.

    Obama will likely not win North Carolina in the General Election but this does not mean we should not each do our part to turn Democrats out to the polls– there are plenty of local/state elections to vote in.

    At the same time it remains disturbing that Obama’s dismissing millions of LGBT voters in his attempt to persuade African-American voters in the South. Thes actions are completely un-Democratic.

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