Devout Christians: Getting excited over nothing: Truth? and the Black church experience.

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( When Jesus warned his followers about the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of that day (Matthew 23: 1-34) He was referring to the fact that those religious leaders had made non-essentials into issues of doctrine (Matthew 23: 4). Fast forward to today; Jesus would be issuing the same rebuke against many leaders in the black church.

The relevance of the black church in a community under siege cannot be understated. Driving thru the average Black community it’s easy to see that the house of worship is highly exalted above just about every other type of business. There are churches on nearly every corner and every major street. It would go to follow that these communities, with such a high saturation of houses of worship, would not simultaneously be home to some of the nation’s highest concentration of poverty and crime rates. Jumping to the conclusion that the church has failed would be logical to the casual observer. However, as an historical institution in the black community churches have been at the forefront of most, if not all, of the great social change movements in this country.

Black Church - Christians.

So what happened? The answer is obvious. The leaders of the black church have made non-essentials into essentials.

From overly zealous prosperity preachers who equate financial abundance with godliness, to churches where the emphasis is on having an emotionally charged feel good cardio-vascular workout, many black churches have pimped the message of the gospel for non-essential temporary gain. Sadly many of these churches have devolved into places that put more emphasis on exercising a sincere yet misplaced desire to recreate the feelings associated with have an experience with the true and living God.

In the end essentials are replaced with non-essentials, the very thing that Jesus condemned the religious leaders of the day for.

“A few years ago” a video went viral of a young man who had come to the front of his church to testify that he had been delivered from homosexuality. The church was predominantly black and his bold announcement was greeted with much enthusiasm by both the congregation and the pastor. Towards the end of his testimony the very excited pastor reached in his pocket and gave him a $100 bill, I guess to congratulate him.


Rewarding someone’s sexual orientation misses the greater issue of the gospel. It sends the message that identifying as a heterosexual is THE litmus test for being saved. Conversely it sends the opposite message that identifying as a homosexual is the automatic scarlet letter. In short, if you’re catching feelings for someone who has the same tender bits as you then you’re going to hell.

The historic black church has always had a “don’t ask don’t tell” relationship with the issue of homosexuality. Why? Culturally normative behavior in the black community tends to excuse unrestricted rampant heterosexuality while at the same time denying the existence of homosexuality. Thus keeping it on the “down low” doesn’t just become an expression but a way of life. The resulting attitude has been abysmal. African Americans account for a disproportionate amount of HIV infections and deaths. This is not all as a result of homosexual activity, but a great deal is. The church should be leading the conversation on this topic. Sadly it doesn’t.

We can see several places in scripture where the issue of homosexuality is dealt with. Of course throughout the Old Testament we see, very clearly, that the Law condemns homosexual activity (Leviticus 18 and 20). In the New Testament Paul refers to the fact that some of his own followers had been practicing members of that community (1 Corinthians 6:11) but, as a result of being washed clean by the name of Jesus Christ they no longer practiced that lifestyle.

There are a lot of people who claim that Paul didn’t live in the same world that we live in with our cultural sensitivities that tend to lean towards acceptance of different kinds of lifestyles. Nothing could be further from the truth.

During Paul’s time pederasty, amongst the ruling elite, was considered to be the highest form of intellectual enlightenment. It was when an older man, usually in the position of a teacher, took a young boy under his tutelage and performed illicit homosexual acts with him. This practice was widespread and noted often in ancient literature of that time. In The Symposium of Plato, written by the philosopher himself in 385-370 BC, this practice is described in lurid detail.

In Ephesus (modern day Turkey), which was also a seaport town, etched into the marble paved streets are footprints that led sea weary sailors to the nearest house of prostitution. It was also the home of the Temple of Artemis (Diana), once considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. She was represented as a multi-breasted deity whose priestesses practiced prostitution in order to finance temple activities.

This was the world that Paul was accustomed to. He was acutely aware of all forms of homosexuality. Paul did not run from acknowledging that it existed. It was all around him. He tackled it, and a litany of other perversions, with the same boldness that he spread the message of the gospel with.

And what is the central message of the gospel? That Christ died for our sins, He was raised on the third day and now offers those who believe a share of that same triumph (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It’s a pretty simple message that needs no overly theatrical presentation or conversion therapy sessions. Since the work of salvation is truly a God thing the only thing that a leader should be doing is clearing all misconceptions out of our lives so that the simplicity of God’s grace and mercy can reign supreme. That, in and of itself, will change how a person self identifies.

Not a $100 bill and not people falling out in the aisles.

The black church used to be the moral center of the community in large part because it stuck to the essentials. The good news is that God specializes in revival and restoration. For the black church a new breed of leader is slowly emerging who understands that Christ will complete the work that He has begun in us (Philippians 1:6) in His own time. The shepherd will recapture his lost sheep if we would just get out of the way.

Staff Writer; Steven Robinson

Christian brother who is serving the man above. He may be contacted at;