I read a fascinating NY Times article last week about black pastors accepting gays and lesbians into their chuches and going so far as preaching acceptance of homosexuality.
According to the Times, "Some black ministers, like their white counterparts, said they had been moved to reconsider biblical passages about same-sex relations by personal events, like finding out that a friend or relative is gay. Some members of the clergy contend that because of the antipathy to gay men and lesbians, black churches have done little to address the high rate of H.I.V. infection among African-Americans."
What fascinates me about the article is the formula it cultivates:
- "Black churches," like any other Christian churches, do not theologically support homosexuality.
- To meet social and cultural expectations, rooted in the Church, black men keep their homosexuality on the "down low" and have affairs with other men but maintain a heterosexual, "public" relationship as well.
- Sexual diseases are transmitted through these homosexual affairs and are relayed to heterosexual partners.
- Now that HIV/AIDS is a national, but underreported epidemic, churches are willing to adjust their attitudes about homosexuality to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS among the black community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides the evidence to support the rationale:
- According to the 2000 census, African Americans make up approximately 13% of the US population. However, in 2005, African Americans accounted for 18,510 (49%) of the estimated 38,096 new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States...
- Of all African American men living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was sexual contact with other men, followed by injection drug use and high-risk heterosexual contact.
- Of all African American women living with HIV/AIDS, the primary transmission category was high-risk heterosexual contact, followed by injection drug use. (According to the Black AIDS Institute, HIV is the leading causing of death for African American women 25-34 years old.)
The question becomes: Are predominately black churches taking the best approach to helping their communities?
No. By sacrificing their theological integrity, black churches lose that which gives them credibility and in turn lose the influential voice they so hope to utilize to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic that threatens their communities. African Americans already understand Christianity's stance on homosexuality and promiscuity. Black churches can do no more than what they've done for years -- enforce their moral standards based upon Christian doctrine. Already, black churches that have embraced homosexuality are seeing a decline in church attendance -- by as much as 50 percent according the Times article.
To slow the momentum of the HIV/AIDS epidemic African American leaders outside of the church (like a Barack Obama) need to take the charge and lead a cultural shift in which:
- (a) African Americans of all sexual orientations become better educated about sexual protection to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS and other STDs/STVs.
- (b) Gay African Americans become more comfortable with public homosexual lifestyles so that they do not feel the need to keep "public" heterosexual partners.
There's more to be said about all of this, but I'm spent for now.