After President Obama came out publicly supporting marriage equality, there was predictable howling and screeching from the usual suspects on the Religious Right, and there was a visible contingent of those wingnuts who happened to be African-American religious leaders. The white parts of the Religious Right are predictably and cynically trying to use the opposition of some black folks to marriage equality to drive a wedge between them and President Obama. The story that’s not being told is that of the many religious leaders who do support Obama’s stance.
Here is Pastor Frederick Haynes III, of the Friendship West Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, giving a rousing explanation for why people need to, you know, get over it. “He is the President of the United States, not the pastor of the United States.”
I witnessed another interesting event this past weekend at a large gala dinner for Democrats in Memphis. Before speeches were given and awards were handed out, a pastor was brought up to deliver an invocation, and I was bracing myself for the worst, as there is a bit of a split in Memphis over Shelby County’s endorsement of marriage equality. I was very much ready for a thinly veiled slap in the face to the younger leadership of the party, but instead something else happened. A young black pastor got up and delivered a strong invocation referencing religious leaders who, as Haynes alluded to, seem to think that Barack Obama is responsible for supporting their religious beliefs and theirs only. He reminded the gathered crowd that while many religious leaders preach discrimination, there are also many who do not, and summed up by saying that if any of us had a pastor who preached bias and hatred from the pulpit, that we are welcome to come worship with him at his church! That got quite a few laughs, and those who grumbled at least seemed to be shamed by it.
So that was a good thing. And there are many, many more religious leaders out there, of all colors, like Pastor Haynes and the gentleman in Memphis, who preach love and welcome all comers, which seems lot more in line with the guy their religion was named after.
The point is — don’t let bigoted religious leaders pretend they have the market cornered on religion. Whether you’re a person of faith reading this or not, it’s important that we at least deal with the same (correct) set of facts, and part of that is that, though the Religious Blight, I mean Right, might scream the loudest, there are millions of people of faith out there who don’t hate people, and don’t wish to use the power of the state to discriminate against people they don’t like. Let’s elevate their voices.