Many people say yes.
On Thursday we posted The New Yorker's brilliant profile of gospel singer Tonex and the black church's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" hypocrisy around gays in church. Today at The Grio, writer Patrick D. Shaffer criticizes the anti-gay and charismatic black Pentecostal churches that have even mocked black gay men even in death:
The bishop opened with a greeting and then said what I knew was coming: "Well, when a duck dies, ducks come to the funeral. When a chicken dies, chickens come to the funeral. And by looking at who has come to this funeral today we all know what Robert was!"
Robert was a gay man who had passed away from AIDS. I have often and still experience much shame as I listen to hate-filled rhetoric (and most times criminally hypocritical) from the black pulpit that polarizes and exploits members of our churches when it comes to the issues of sexuality, sex and HIV/AIDS. I am almost 35 years-old and have been in the church all my life and I have been to as many funerals for men and women under the age of 45 who have died from HIV/AIDS as the number of years I have been alive.
Most, if not all of these deaths were the effect of specific and harmful behaviors that were nurtured in the hetero-self-hating and homophobic society of the black Pentecostal church. In my twenty some odd years of observing and doing care work within the church, my conclusion is that the black church has been complicit in the spreading of HIV/AIDS because of our deafening silence on this issue that has never escaped us. From day one the issue has been seated in our pews and we have most often looked away. Our conscious sin has been to allow young lives to end because of our phobias, biases and bigotry. The deeper subconscious sin still left unattended to, may be found in the question: Why are we okay with this?
Last August while appearing on CNN, Judge Penny Brown Reynolds said the black community and black church "need[s] to remove the shame and the self-worth issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. ... The black church needs to be at the forefront of this like civil rights."
It's generally regarded that homophobia and discomfort surrounding sexual issues was the reason the mainstream black churches were slow to respond to HIV/AIDS. Only two years ago and 25 years into the HIV/AIDS crisis, the National Baptist Convention USA, the nation's largest black religious organization, finally mentioned HIV/AIDS for the first time. The NAACP's official publications continue to mention HIV/AIDS only as far as its impact on black women. Meanwhile: The Centers for Disease Controls reports young black men who have sex with men are the demographic hardest hit by the HIV epidemic.
Read the full essay at The Grio ...