My experience with the Black Church
Now, If you‘ve spent a significant time around the Black Church, you've probably heard the terms sissy, jelly back, or flip-wrist thrown around one too many times.
Having been formally introduced to Christ through the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), I know I have. As a younger man, I didn’t see these names as an issue, but after seeing the viral video of the young man being “delivert” from homosexuality last year, and now, Kim Burrell’s rant about the LGBTQI community, I’ve now converted to a new opinion.
After watching the video, I couldn't help but think about the young men who have been feeling the brunt of those homophobic statements for years.
We all know the Black Church has always had an issue with homosexuality - even becoming the most outspoken of communities against it. However, we tend to neglect the complexity of its relationship with this targeted sin and the nuances that inform its objection.
COGIC churches, like other Black and white Pentecostal denominations, usually have fundamental beliefs that are soundly built on biblical doctrine, i.e. eschatology, soteriology, and other big words. However, their praxis usually ignores the context and approach taken by Jesus, the first church, and others. Now don’t get me wrong. While they espouse the biblical importance of the laying of hands (Acts 8:17) and personal confession/testimony (Revelations 12:11), they forget the most important thing: Grace, especially when attempting to provide more "deliverance" for the people they service weekly.
What does it mean to be delivered?
Now let me start by saying: there’s no such thing as being “more delivert”. Deliverance is defined as “a rescue from bondage or danger.” In the Old Testament, deliverance manifested itself in God’s removal of those who were in the midst of trouble or danger. But in the New Testament, God becomes the subject—and His people— the object of his deliverance. Fascinating, right?
I think most Christians would agree with me that we are ALREADY delivered from the grips of sin and Satan. But our bad theology has prompted us to seek to be "Delivert more" as the young man approached the altar saying without considering the role God already played in the matter.
Biblically speaking, one cannot be more 'delivert' than they already are after accepting Christ. Biblical deliverance is already bought and dispensed by God’s Grace. According to Hebrews 10:18, our sins have been forgiven and due to the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. So any more desire for deliverance is pointless and misguided. Any hope of becoming more delivered only perpetuates an inordinate desire to want to reestablish righteousness with God – a righteousness that we never could have earned ourselves to begin with (Ephesians 2:8). Our distrust in the fact that we are already righteous through Christ is what has created a fallacy in our theology.
In addition, neither Jesus nor his apostles ever delivered anyone from homosexuality in the Bible. The only instance where deliverance is mentioned in the New Testament was when Christ delivered people from disease and death (Luke 17: 11-19, John 11:44, etc.) To conflate or liken homosexuality to death and disease has large implications and, in my opinion, is biblically irresponsible and anti-Christ. Not to mention, it highlights other problems present in our congregations and raises some crucial questions: Why are we not praying for deliverance from fornication among heterosexual Christians, idolatry of our leaders, and greed in the pulpits as adamantly as we are against homosexuality?
The Problem with 'Praying the Gay Away'..
Many people don't know this but “praying the gay away” is not a biblical concept. In fact, it is entrenched in a homophobic opinion of Christianity that isn’t supported with scripture in its proper context.
In many instances, references from the Old Testament are poorly framed for contemporary audiences, i.e. the Levitical reference: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination (Leviticus 18:22). This verse was spoken to Moses for the Jews about God’s ordinances for purity.
Though such verses are important for attaining biblical knowledge, they were not meant to be the basis of Christian life, post-Jesus. Jesus’ words about purity were simple : anyone who looks at a woman [or man] lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28). This verse makes us all rather culpable if you ask me, but our pride, clergy or not, would never let us admit that. That’s why the concept of 'praying the gay away' is not a biblical concept, but rather, a social construction.
What if you can't pray the Gay away... Would the church be ok with that?
In many Christian communities, the desire for conversion/deliverance from a homosexual lifestyle is more for social reasons than it is for actual spiritual transformation. In the church, homosexuality is usually framed as being unredeemable and unregenerate by hateful preachers. However, these diatribes are rarely, if ever, in tune with God’s current sentiments concerning the world and man’s sinful condition (John 3:16) due to the Church’s fears and discomforts. However, our discomfort does not grant us the right to condemn sins. We are called to love and show grace. Since Jesus himself didn’t condemn, we can’t either. But these preachers’ warped view of God has led them to do the opposite. And it’s that kind of pride and piety that is being displayed in pulpits, instead of God’s Mercy, that is causing more and more people to come to altars under condemnation...
And trust me, I know.
Like Andrew Caldwell, I have gone to the altar a number of times seeking my own personal "deliverance” from my own indiscretion, and now understand how easy it is to fall into the theatrics of getting "delivert" more.
...You know, the falling back, foaming at the mouth, screaming, shouting, and other hoopla that, to others, is evidence of transformation in front of the entire congregation. To be honest, most of those displays of religious exuberance are disingenuous, having been taught, rehearsed, practiced, or even fabricated in some cases. Now, I don't want to paint what you see at most churches with a large brush of insincerity, because I'm no one's judge, but please know that not all of the “deliverances” you see at the altar are “Spirit-led.” Deliverance happens internally first and foremost. Any external “signs” are only a manifestation of the work that occurred within through the Spirit. But more on that in another post…
...not all of what you see at the altar are "Spirit-led."
Now I know this may be controversial to some, but I don’t believe that the gay is meant to be prayed away. Rather, it is meant to be lived beside and addressed in love, not phobia. Why? Because Jesus did the very same with sinners of all kinds and none of them, from Peter, Mary, Zaccheus, and even Judas, were never turned away.
That being said, I have one simple call to action to the Church:
In response to both videos, the social stigma surrounding homosexuality, and appropriate Christian responses, we as the church, COGIC and otherwise, need to do away with this hierarchy of sin that, though culturally touted, is biblically irresponsible and insensitive. As Andrew Caldwell, and so many others in pulpits and pews are attempting to reconcile their sexual identity with God, we as the church need to begin to WALK with them through it with a Grace that resembles that of Jesus. And not with pious convocations and theatrical testimonies, but with honest conversation that uproot our bad theology to allow us to repent for the phobia we have toward one another. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what true deliverance will really look like.