For years, the Black church has been the center of political discourse and the cornerstone for our deep-rooted faith and spiritual beliefs. These core Christian values form the basis for why many in the African-American community do not support same-sex marriage. So we thought it appropriate to ask how the Black church reconciles its widespread support for President Obama, who said this week that he supports same-sex marriage, with long-held, Bible-based beliefs? We posed a number of questions to Pastor Jamal Bryant of Baltimore’s Empowerment Temple and National Spokesman of the Occupy the Vote Movement:
BET.com: What was your reaction to President Obama’s announcement that he is in favor of same-sex marriage?
Bryant: My response was shock and disappointment. And what many clergy are trying to discern is that is this a decision made out of political expediency or moral conviction? The timeliness of this whole matter does not makes sense given what has happened in North Carolina. So my question is, is he exchanging one minority for another? It has been speculated that the president is taking the Black vote for granted, so did he think he could do this without any losses from his Black supporters?
The president has not been able to find one credible Black pastor of note to stand with him on this issue. That’s saying something.
What has been the discussion among pastors after the president seemingly had a change of heart regarding this matter?
Pastors are disillusioned, they are in deep discussions, having closed-door meetings to figure out first steps to make sure everyone is singing from the same page on this issue. I really believe that the president is going to have a blood bath on his hands and he has got to do something to stop this.
What he’s going to have to do now is that his campaign has found itself in the position of having to actually campaign for the Black Christian vote.
What is the dilemma facing pastors who now may feel conflicted about a president they supported so strongly before?
We are living in a generation where there is no national prophetic voice. Black pastors have been trumpeting Pell Grants, Affordable Health Care, or bringing out troops home. This is the first time that a social issue has come to the forefront. So they need to amplify their voices more.
Same-sex marriage is such a wedge issue. What if people make it the singular issue on which they base their decision at the polls?
I think it would be regrettable. We have so much more at stake than this one issue: predatory lending, mass incarceration, funding under attack for historically black colleges, and the disproportionate treatment of African nations as compared to Israel. We can’t make it a lynchpin.
Are you concerned that the president would make such a risky move for such a small segment of the voting population when it can be argued that he’s had a more measured approach when it comes to policies that impact his most devoted voting block: African-Americans?
He has time and time again, after meetings with the Congressional Black Caucus and other groups that represent us, marched under the banner that he is not the Black president but the president of America. But now, somewhere in the red, white and blue, he’s gonna have to find some red, black and green because people are looking to see if he has any Black loyalty.
Republicans are poised to take full advantage of the fact that many African-Americans are political conservatives and don’t align with the president’s stance. What should be the response of the Black church?
The Black church will have to wrestle with how they will address this over the pulpit. What’s more critical, same-sex marriage or polygamy? Let’s remember that Black people until relatively recently were not even allowed in the Mormon Temple so even before we get to the first debate, Mitt Romney has already alienated himself from the Black church.
What will the political fallout of the president’s decision be in the upcoming election?
While this may not push more African-Americans to the other side, it may have the impact of creating voter apathy which might impact voter turnout. Obama needs every vote he can get and someone has their toe scale. He needs to be seen in somebody’s Black church in the next three weeks.
Who would invite him?
I can’t think of anybody.
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(Photo: UPI/Alexis C. Glenn/Landov)