Thank you, New York lawmakers. Thank you for overturning the ancient Mosaic Law that is at the root of our hate.
Slowly but surely, Americans are shedding their blind belief in ancient misconceptions about human sexuality. The weary “Bible makes it very clear” defense for homophobic belief and behavior is losing its hateful grip on otherwise reasonable people, folks who believe that the Bible is “the Word of God”—with the exceptions of the parts they don’t believe are true.
It is no small irony that people who consider homosexuality a choice made by naturally heterosexual humans selectively choose what is true in the 20th chapter of Leviticus: They consider it diabolical for a parent to murder a child for being disrespectful, and totally wacko for us to kill everyone we know who cheats on a spouse. But the Bible makes it very clear that we should do both. We’ve chosen not to believe it, just as we’ve chosen not to believe God said that menstruation is “a sickness,” as the Bible claims.
We also don’t banish a man from society if he lies with a menstruating woman—and send her packing, too. That says a lot about human nature and and adherence to the Bible when the only verse in the 20th chapter of Leviticus that we choose to embrace is verse 13. We flaunt it with great piety to belittle, bully, discriminate and even legislate against gays and lesbians.
Why don’t we go on a killing spree, as God mandated in the rest of the chapter? Because we choose to be smarter and more evolved than to do what the Bible tells us to do.
The belief in a God who hates, judges, brutally punishes and kills was reasonable way, way, way, way back in the day. After all, these were folks who engaged in inhumane practices, extreme punishments, and solved problems by stoning and crucifying people. It’s only natural that their God and scriptures would reflect their barbarism, beliefs and limited knowledge. That doesn’t mean that their writings were accurate or that we should still be embracing it thousands of years later, which brings me to…
A Bishop, Two Ballers, and Bawdy Comedian
Homophobia used to be cool, even chic. Not so much these days. In fact, as we’ve witnessed from the balcony recently, it can be very costly.
In rapid succession, we’ve watched four high-profile men pay the high price of wearing hate like a wardrobe of Brioni and Canali suits: Atlanta megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, and comedian Tracy Morgan, who recently encored a homophobic rant that drew little attention a year ago. Paying profane homage to Levitical barbarism, Morgan told his Nashville audience that he’d stab his son to death if he was gay. That crowd-pleasing imagery is sure to impact his career trajectory.
Morgan apologized. But as his 30 Rock boss Tina Fey responded, “I hope for his sake that Tracy’s apology will be accepted as sincere by his gay and lesbian coworkers at 30 Rock, without whom Tracy would not have lines to say, clothes to wear, sets to stand on, scene partners to act with, or a printed-out paycheck from accounting to put in his pocket.”
Slurring in the name of the Lord hit Bryant and Noah in the pocket, too. The NBA fined Bryant $100,000 and Noah $50,000.
It is no small irony that all four of these men, either through rage or religion, have verbally attacked others for an immutable physical characteristic: sexual orientation. Aside from the damage to their reputations and bank accounts, what else do these four guys have in common? They are Black. If someone disparages them because of their color, it is considered ignorant, condescending, dehumanizing—and hateful.
Most Blacks call themselves Christians. But if Christians really believe that Jesus freed us from the shackles of so-called Mosaic Law, why are we still citing it to denigrate others? If God’s alleged prohibition against homosexuality is applicable today, why aren’t all Levitical laws still applicable?
Who in our homophobic ensemble believes that adulterers should “certainly be put to death?” We can’t hear you, Kobe.
Research and Religion
Researchers have found homosexuality naturally present among animals—birds to mammals—who aren’t cerebral and don’t make a choice. Ditto for insects and plants. In 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in its journal, Pediatrics, that current research suggests sexual orientation is usually established during early childhood. In fact, I recently read a report on identical twin boys whose behavior as toddlers demonstrated that one was likely to grow up gay and the other straight.
So much for the nurture vs. nature debate. Although they emerged from the same womb and were reared in the same home at the same time, these children’s sexual orientation is dramatically different. Should one be punished, ostracized, ridiculed and denied the opportunity to openly love or marry whom he desires? Which one? Why? When the gay child is older, should he choose to be sexually attracted to girls so that he can be like his brother?
But wait! The spotlight on the stage has shifted to…
The Homophobic Bishop
The cagers and the comedian probably haven’t given a single critical thought to scholarly research on sexual orientation or the history of the Old Testament. They’ve blindly embraced these prejudices, just as generations of racists have blindly embraced beliefs in the inferiority of Blacks, Jews and women.
What’s Bishop Long’s excuse? Not only has he encountered racism on countless occasions in his life as a soul in African-American costume, he has studied theology.
Divinity schools have long taught that Moses didn’t write the so-called Mosaic Law. (Someone actually figured out that Moses couldn’t have written about his own death or about empires and individuals that existed after he left the planet. Ingenious!) So why does Bishop Long promote Leviticus 20:13 as credible and actionable?
Does he give the other inhumane Levitical laws as much credence? Why has a learned man been sucked into this hateful vortex? Does he really believe that parades, prayers and counseling can make gays and lesbians choose to be straight? If that were possible, there would be no bullied gay teens choosing suicide rather than the opposite sex.
Whose inclinations is the bishop really trying to change? If sexual attraction is something we choose and can control, would he have been center stage in a hyper-explosive hypocritical legal drama in which he was accused of sexual improprieties with four gay teens? And, oops! An update: The identity of a fifth young man, Centino Kemp, surfaced months later.
FOX5 Atlanta tracked him down in late July, as you’ll see in the photos accompanying the story. In addition to the eye makeup and Rihanna-style hairdo, Kemp had something else that distinguished him from the other four accusers: Long’s name is tattooed on his inner wrist. Below, it reads: “Never a Mistake, Always a Lesson.”
Always a Lesson
Long had vowed to fight the young men’s allegations. A legal battle could have caused their cases to suffer from the typically interminable delays in the court system. Cases without merit can also be summarily dismissed. Neither happened. The cases were resolved within months through costly out-of-court settlements.
After the settlements were announced, I decided to climb into the cyberspace balcony of Bishop Long’s New Birth Missionary Baptist Church to watch a Sunday service, hoping for a glimmer of insight into this man of God. By the time I closed that browser tab, it was clear that whether Long settled the cases for a dollar or the rumored $15 million, he received little in return, and his congregation is getting even less.
The good bishop emerged from that eyebrow-raising legal experience trumpeting the Old Testament declaration that God is unfair. He preached that God loves some of His children more than others, and the New Birth congregation certainly was among His faves. In fact, he told the cheering crowd that God would bless them so mightily that they wouldn’t even have to pay their bills.
“You don’t have time to pay back all those debts,” he loudly declared. “Angels are waiting to give you what you want.”
B-b-b-but what about the people they owe? I wondered.
“You have favor!” He shouted, to the joyous approval of his flock. “And favor ain’t fair!” he laughed.
Suddenly it all made sense. Bishop Eddie Long believes that we can do anything we want; we don’t have to play by the rules because someone else will pay the cost of the mess we’ve made. The Jesus story in modern time.
“You have favor!” He shouted, to the joyous approval of his flock. “And favor ain’t fair!” he laughed haughtily. Fascinating stuff. The sad part is that black folk tend to believe anything our ministers say.
In the only mention of the lawsuit settlements, Long said that his father used to make some decisions he didn’t understand. And he dismissed the idea of explaining to anyone why he made the decision to settle with his accusers.
What Did We Learn?
Long knows his congregation well, and apparently knew that his Unfair God message would resonate deeply with them. Consistent with his claim that God is not equitable, he reminded the flock that God returns more than they give. That signaled that it was time for them to “seed the kingdom.”
He passed the plates, stacked high, passed by a long queue of ushers. Twice. The second time was a special $50 donation for the…Pentacost. They gave, probably expecting to receive more than they put in the plate.
The power of Long message is undeniably strong, as evidenced by the steady stream of un-churched visitors who answered the call to become members of New Birth that Sunday. They returned to their homes with Long’s lessons close to their hearts: We don’t have to consider the impact that our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors have on others. We are better than others. We have God’s favor. (And apparently members of the LGBT community don’t, unless they sue him.)
Some people are not independent thinkers. I understand that, and I’m not judging them for it. However, we have hurt countless humans over the ages because we’ve judged them based on the word of men who wrote that God solves problems by sadistically killing and torturing His children, and has ordered us to judge, discriminate against and even murder members of our human family. They called it the infallible Word of God and we’ve been parroting it for centuries.
Because we refuse to read for ourselves, we now must rely on thinking people in legislatures across the country to upend inhumane laws that these barbaric men created. Thank a loving God that they’re finally stepping up to speak truth to travesty.
Until we believe in a God that is more divine and less human, we will continue to hurt each other. We will continue to distance ourselves from the greatest commandment: Love ye one another.
Maybe the ripple effect of gay marriage laws and the love that flourishes from it will touch the hearts of homophobes such as Kobe Bryant, Joakim Noah and Tracy Morgan. Most of all, I hope it penetrates the heart of Bishop Eddie Long.
I hope it empowers him to stop hating and hiding that part of himself that ancient men with limited biological knowledge decided was a choice rather than a characteristic. The soul that is on Earth as Bishop Long might be The Appointed One, the one who came to heal millions of human hearts.
This might be his soul’s moment in eternity to help us know with certainty that beyond religion and religious teachings, there is but one God, that our God is Love and Love is fair, and that God hates no one in Its Creation—no matter whom they love.
For his soul’s sake, I hope Bishop Long doesn’t miss this magnificent healing opportunity.