by ANTHEA BUTLER
President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage has rocked America’s black church community. From Prof. Michael Dyson to prosperity preacher Rev. Jamal Bryant, the pulpits and the pews are weighing in, and the responses are shaping up to be an interesting crossroads for the relationship between the president and African-American churches in the 2012 election.
The prevailing narrative in the media is that black churches are wholesale against same-sex marriage. From the 2004 elections to Proposition 8, this narrative has dominated, despite the fact that there is significant support from African Americans in and outside of the church for same-sex marriage. Media outlets portrayed the recent North Carolina vote on Amendment 1 as monolithic, though many in the African-American church community opposed it. Take Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP, who preached a powerful message against Amendment 1, equating Americans’ use of the Bible to oppose same-sex marriage today with the defense of slavery and militarism in the past eras. Kristin Rawls, a writer and activist, notes that the efforts against Amendment 1 in North Carolina crossed racial and religious lines, with organizations coming together under an umbrella organization, Protect All Families NC.
Unfortunately, the North Carolina vote and any subsequent discussion was consumed by the president’s announcement that his thinking has “evolved” and that he now supports same-sex marriage himself. For some black religious leaders the president’s thinking represents a de-evolution, but for many others the president’s declaration was welcome news. The National Action network posted a letter signed by Rev. Al Sharpton, Julian Bond, Melanie Campbell, and Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery embracing the decision, while Rev. Jamal Bryant, megachurch prosperity pastor, was vocal in his opposition:
Our faith reserves marriage for a man and a woman. President Obama, as a product of the black church, is fully aware of that. Knowing this, the president made this endorsement without calling or preparing any of us. For many of us, it felt like a betrayal.
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