African American SBC pastors criticize President Obama’s new view, but new poll shows a shift in the pews
By Lisa Sergent
Springfield, Ill. | Characterizing President Obama’s changing opinion on same-sex marriage as betrayal, a prominent Southern Baptist pastor who is also African American came out against the president’s declaration, capturing the views of many black Christians whose political support of the first African American President is being challenged by their convictions on this biblical issue.
President Obama announced in May that his views on same-sex marriage had “evolved.” “I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry,” he said. “… What I’ve come to realize is that for loving, same-sex couples, the denial of marriage equality means that, in their eyes and the eyes of their children, they are still considered less than full citizens.”
The NAACP followed suit with a resolution in support of the issue. “Civil marriage is a civil right and a matter of civil law. The NAACP’s support for marriage equality is deeply rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and equal protection of all people,” said NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous.
When politics conflict With Scripture
But many black church leaders, who historically have taken strong stands against homosexuality and same-sex marriage, are taking issue with the new views within the African American community. “President Obama has betrayed the Bible and the Black Church with his endorsement of same-sex marriage,” wrote prominent pastor Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, an African American Southern Baptist congregation. On his blog McKissic said, “The Bible is crystal clear on this subject, and the Black Church strongly opposes same-sex marriage. His endorsement is an inadvertent attack on the Christian Faith.”
The feeling is much the same for other leaders who find their faith and their politics in conflict. “It’s unfortunate, you want to support him, but you can’t support him on that,” said Kendall Granger, pastor of New Life Community Church in East St. Louis.
“It’s the job of parents and churches to set religious standards, not the government … It’s not in agreement with the Bible – we can’t throw [the Bible] out. We can’t always give people what they want. Sometimes it’s not good for them.”
Opposing same-sex marriage doesn’t mean “we hate or don’t want people to have rights,” Granger said.
Those who characterize the same-sex marriage debate as a civil rights issue are finding that stance in conflict with the most prominent name in the movement: King. Dr. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., says her uncle refused to make gay rights part of the civil rights agenda in the early 1960s when a leader urged him to do so. King and the leader soon parted company.
King’s niece takes a similar position today. “It is the word of God on these and all human issues that sets people free. As Christians we must have the compassion of Jesus Christ and tell the truth and shame the devil. We must not allow false compassion to force truth to take a seat on the back of the bus,” King said.
Feeling the Obama effect
Four ten (41%) African Americans favored legalization of same-sex marriage prior to President Obama’s announced policy shift, but in a Washington Post-ABC News survey released May 22, that number had jumped to six-in-ten (59%). While African Americans have previously polled less than the national average on support of same-sex marriage, this poll shows the favorable rating is now above the national average (53%).
That is a considerable shift in a short time.
According to a recent Gallup Poll (May 14-20,2012) , Mr. Obama’s approval rating among African Americans stands at 88 percent, and that popularity may be driving the increase in approval of same-sex marriage by African Americans, but it means some of their pastors must take what may be an increasingly unpopular stand.
One pastor wrote to President Obama, calling his new view “uninformed and false.” Eric Redmond is pastor of Reformation Alive Baptist Church in Temple Hills, Md. He is also former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention and an African American. Redmond wrote, “It is the Bible that reveals marriage to be a union between a man and a woman; it is the Bible that reveals all homosexual activity to be sinful. Therefore, we would reject your so-called Christian understanding of same-sex marriage as uninformed and false.”