Monthly Archives: July 2012

Will The Black Church Stand Firm Against Same-Sex Marriage?

In my article on The NAACP’s Divorce from the Black Church (published in the Harrisburg, PA Patriot-News under the title “Gay marriage issue splits black church and NAACP”) I made the claim that most African American Christians will stand firm on God’s word, and against same-sex relationships. I believe that will be the case. But the pressure to do otherwise is becoming greater and greater all the time.

A recent Associated Press article makes these observations:

Black voters, led by black churches, have played key roles in blocking same-sex marriage in states like California, where 2008 exit polls indicated about 70 percent black opposition, and Maryland, where black Democrats were part of a statehouse coalition that stalled a gay marriage bill in 2011.

 But blacks – like other Americans – have become more supportive of same-sex marriage in recent years. Black support has risen dramatically since 2008, when only 26 percent of black people favored gay marriage and 63 percent were opposed, according to Pew.

As Americans in general, and African Americans in particular, become more accepting of same-sex marriage, the pressure on the black church to conform to the prevailing winds in our society will intensify.

Unfortunately, much of the pressure for the black church to cave on the issue of same-sex marriage will come from its own clergy.

A good example is a recent sermon preached by the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Rev. Raphael Warnock. Ebenezer Baptist has a storied history as the church once pastored by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr and his father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Rev. Warnock felt compelled to preach on the subject after President Barack Obama expressed his support for gay marriage. The article says,

 Warnock told the congregation no matter what side they are on regarding gay marriage, the church is about being inclusive.

 “There are gay sisters and brothers all around us,” he told the congregation. “The church needs to be honest about human sexuality. Some of them are on the usher board, they greeted you this morning,” Warnock said.

The teaching of this sermon is clear – the church should accept not only homosexuals, but their lifestyle as well. Ebenezer Baptist has no word of correction or reproof for those of its members who are actively involved in homosexual relationships. Instead, they are taught that their lifestyle is acceptable to the church, and by extension, acceptable to God.

The article went on to quote another black clergyman who has earned great respect and influence for his service in the cause of equal justice.

 The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a giant of the civil rights movement who delivered the benediction at Obama’s inauguration, said he agrees with Obama on gay marriage.

“I believe in equal rights,” Lowery said. “You can’t believe in equal rights for some. That’s an oxymoron.”

However: “Do I like it? I’m uncomfortable with it,” said Lowery, 90. “We grew up under boy-girl, man-woman, courtship and marriage.”

 What I notice about both these statements is that neither deals at all with the Scripture’s teaching regarding homosexual relationships. (Of course, it is possible that either or both addressed that issue, but the article didn’t report it). It seems that Rev. Lowery believes he must overcome the indoctrination of his upbringing. In reality, what he is attempting to overcome is the clear teaching of the word of God.

Perhaps it is understandable that pastors who teach their congregations acceptance of homosexual marriage as a “civil right” don’t want to bring Scripture into the discussion. It is difficult to explain away the Bible’s explicit testimony of God’s abhorrence of homosexual relationships, as expressed in passages like the following (from the New King James Version):

Lev 18:22    You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

Lev 20:13    If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

1 Cor 6:9    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,

1 Tim 1:10    for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,

Rom 1:26-27    For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

When the teaching of the church ceases to be firmly anchored in Scripture, practically any doctrine can be justified. Ideas such “inclusion” and “equal rights” sound compelling, especially to African American ears. But when those concepts are applied in ways that contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, the result is a disastrous slide into relativism. When there is no firm foundation, it becomes impossible to resist drifting with the flow of our culture.

The church desperately needs to remember the wise counsel, so important it is given twice in identical verses, of the Bible’s book of wisdom:

Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25    There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.

Faithful pastors will approach any issue first from the perspective of Scripture, rather than that of our culture. The intense pressure to conform so as to avoid being called bigots and worse will not sway them. They understand their God-given responsibility in these challenging times:

2 Tim 4:2-3    Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

Faithful pastors have come to terms with the fact that they cannot be both God-pleasers and men-pleasers! They know that because of the influence they exercise over God’s people, He will hold them to a higher standard of accountability for their faithfulness to His word:

James 3:1    My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.

Will the black church stand firm against same-sex marriage? Actually, that’s not the real issue. The important question is:

 Will the black church stand firm on the word of God?

If it does, the issue of same-sex marriage will take care of itself.

Ron Franklin

 

Photo Credit: MD Shelton via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

<== The NAACP’s Divorce From the Black Church

Why Christians Should Be Up In Arms About Voter ID Laws

NOTE: I’m pulling the bulk of this blog post in order to publish it elsewhere. You can see the original post at Why Christians Should Be Up In Arms About Voter ID Laws blog post.

The point of the post is that although proponents say the purpose of voter ID requirements is to reduce voter fraud, they cannot point to any examples, anywhere in the entire nation, showing a significant amount of fraud that would be corrected by these laws. The problem simply does not exist. So the only effect of voter ID laws is to suppress the vote among groups known to be most likely to vote Democratic.

Here’s my conclusion to the original post:

Clearly, one party is attempting to misuse the law to dishonestly gain political advantage, and that is wrong. Period.

And that is why:

Christians should be outraged about the push to enact voter ID laws!

That push is nothing more than a cynical and dishonest ploy to gain an unfair edge for one party over the other. The entire effort is permeated by the deceit required to keep the electorate ignorant of the real purpose and impact of these measures.

Christians, of all people, understand that righteous ends are not to be sought by unrighteous means.

Revelation 14:5   And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

John 8:44   You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. … There is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

God doesn’t need the devil’s methods to get the people He wants into office! Any campaign that can’t be pursued openly and honestly is not of God, and Christians should neither participate in it nor lend it their approval. Instead, we should strenuously protest the dishonest tactics being used to gain an unfair advantage in the coming election. Even if, or especially if, it is our own party that will gain the advantage, we should utterly refuse to fight the battle with the weapons of the enemy of our Lord.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5   For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

If it was clear that voter ID laws correct a significant voter fraud problem, I think most Christians, no matter their political orientation, would enthusiastically support them. Knowing that it often costs poor and inner city people much effort and expense to get ID, we would set up ministries to help them do so. We should be doing that anyway.

But since the ONLY thing these laws accomplish is to suppress the vote of one party to give unfair advantage to the other, Christians ought not to support or even tolerate them. Instead, we should resist these efforts with all the righteous indignation we can muster.

The NAACP’s Divorce From the Black Church

This article was first published in the Harrisburg (PA) Patriot-News print (7/15/12) and online (7/14/12) editions under the title “Gay marriage issue splits black church and NAACP.”

As I was growing up in the segregated South of the 1950s, the NAACP was an important part of my world. I heard about it in school – many teachers and principals were members and openly advocated for students to become involved. But it was in church that the influence of the NAACP was most pervasive. Often, pastors and other church leaders were officers in the local branch, and the NAACP was considered, in effect, an arm of the ministry of the church.

Now, however, with the organization’s decision supporting same-sex marriage, it appears that the black church is no longer welcome in the NAACP. In response, the NAACP will find that it is no longer welcome in much of the church. And that is a shame.

Formed in 1909 to counter the accelerating disenfranchisement of African Americans by southern state legislatures, as well as legally sanctioned racial discrimination throughout the nation, the NAACP led the fight for equal rights. In an era when blacks could be lynched with impunity throughout the South, the NAACP fiercely advocated for the rights of African American citizens to be protected from unwarranted attack.

In 1954, under the leadership of its chief counsel, Thurgood Marshall, later the first African American appointed to the Supreme Court, the NAACP effectively reshaped modern America by bringing and winning the case of Brown v. Board of Education, which resulted in the outlawing of public school segregation throughout the nation. Because of many such successes, the NAACP has had an enormous impact for good in our society.

Throughout its history, the NAACP’s greatest base of support has been the black church. It is safe to say that without that support, the organization could have accomplished little. Now, however, the NAACP has apparently decided that it can dispense with the support of black Christians, and in fact, can safely thumb its nose at them. That, at least, is my reading of the decision this past May to endorse same-sex marriage. Claiming that “marriage equality” is a civil right, the NAACP board voted 62-2 to back that policy. In doing so, the NAACP decisively cut itself off from its roots in the black church.

Based on the comments of NAACP leaders regarding their decision, I doubt they really understand how unbridgeable is the gap they have created. For example, National Public Radio reported how the head of the Indiana NAACP, Barbara Bolling, responded when asked about the reaction of members in her state. She said with a laugh, “Right after it was announced, kind of a little firestorm started.” And when one of her branch presidents resigned in protest, Bolling thought it was just “an emotional thing.” National Chairwoman Roslyn Brock says of those who oppose the group’s move, “we hope they will evolve and stand firmly with us.”

What these NAACP leaders fail to grasp is that, for most members of the black church, it’s not an emotional thing, nor an issue of personal preference. It’s an issue of biblical authority. The black church’s opposition to same-sex marriage is firmly rooted in passages such as Romans 1:26-27, which says, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.”

For Bible-believing Christians, such statements of scripture are decisive for our attitude toward homosexual relationships. We will never “evolve” to a stance of approval. For that reason, the black church as a whole will never follow where the NAACP is attempting to lead us. Not now, not ever.

In effect, the NAACP has demanded of the black church: You must choose between us and God. I believe most of us will say with the apostle Peter, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Ron Franklin

 

Photo Credit: Anthony DePanise via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Will The Black Church Stand Firm Against Same-Sex Marriage? ==>