Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barack Obama and Reverend Wright: An Agnostic's Take

I received an e-mail from a reader who gave me a link to a post he did concerning the recent flap over Reverend Jeremiah Wright who has now resigned from involvement with the Obama campaign due to various inflamatory and disparaging remarks he has made. The post can be found here: I believe Malik does a good job in looking at the conflicted feelings Obama may hve about Wright which by no means indicates the Obama agrees with or supports Wright's views. I would encourage readers to check out the post. As he points out the Rev. Wright married Barack and Michelle Obama. He baptized his children. He guided Barack Obama to Christianity and took him into the community when he came to Chicago. Thus, it is difficult to reject the person whom has played a role in important benchmarks that occur in one's life.
More importantly, Malik also discusses the conflict many gays encounter in coming to terms with who they are and their sexual orientation versus the religious environment in which they were raised. Malik dealt with the conflict in one way by leaving Christianity, while others such as myself often struggle still at times with reconciling one's faith and the all too often hatefilled anti-gay Christian community. A number of things that he says resonate with me having been raised in a conservative Catholic environment and ultimately walking away from that faith tradition. Here are some highlights:
I grew up in the Christian faith at the Emanuel Temple Church in Brooklyn, NY under District Elder, and Pastor, Tommy Lee Seals. As someone who had a childhood filled with many good father figures, but never that singular father, Pastor Seals provided me with much guidance on my path toward adulthood.
It is one of the reasons that walking away from the Christian faith was so difficult for me. It felt, in a way, walking away from my relationship with him. While growing up, I realized that I was different than others around me. When the other boys were talking about the girls that were developing in front of their eyes, I was instead looking at them. And it terrified me. The Pentecostal denomination of the Christian faith is not one that is particularly forgiving when it comes to homosexuality. Neither is the black community at large.
I listened to the sermons of the man I looked up to, sermons that in many memorable cases demonized gay people. I listened with growing horror and self-loathing at my burgeoning feelings as I entered and progressed through puberty, hearing speech of "those people" who were destined for hell. "Those people" who should never be allowed near children. "Those people" who fornicated in filth and were no better than gutter trash. In light of these sermons and my own readings of the Bible, as well as my strongly held belief that you cannot cherry pick your faith simply to fit the particulars of your individual life, that I walked away from Christianity.
Despite my burgeoning problems with the orthodoxy surrounding the nature of faith and the calls to accept it blindly and without question, it was truly my sexuality that finally pushed me to walk away. It was, in the end, the tipping point. I could either go insane as a closeted gay man in an anti-gay, anti-me faith, or I could walk away from my faith and answer the questions I had about it, regardless of sexuality. And yet, despite the trauma of growing up gay in the black community, in the incendiary Pentecostal faith, could I curse the man who I saw as a father figure then, and hope would see me as an accomplished young man today? Who would look at the sum of my life and pronounce himself proud of me?
I left Christianity at 17yrs old, 13 years ago. And yet, the answer to that question has to be unequivocally no. Despite all of my disagreements with the Christian faith, whether it be on homosexuality, the validity of other belief systems, science, and many other topics. Despite all of the psychological pain I endured, it would be exceedingly difficult to do what Barack Obama is in the process of doing today.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My only concern is that the two videos floating around can't be the only two negative messages said by this preacher. He has been Obama's preacher for 20 years! I would rather have Obama be the Democratic nominee but this could really hurt him. I am glad he is speaking out but the video's by his preacher are not just negative but vile.