Recently a number of prominent black pastors, led by Empowerment Temple's Jamal Bryant came out against President Obama's statement on same-sex marriage. Pastor Bryant talked with Roland Martin about the issue on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. 

Most African American denominations have a written policy against same-sex marriage and same-sex unions. So now we're going to have to really recalibrate how do we move forward when the Religious Right are now raising their eyebrows saying 'I told you so', so it's going to make us finally confront the issue without gay bashing, without homophobia, to say this is something that's got to be dealt with, and the Black Church is coming en masse on Sunday to hear where their pastors are and to see how the Black Church responds.

When asked about his own opinion, Pastor Bryant noted that he disagreed "vehemently" with the President on this issue, though he agreed with his presidency. He was then asked about his vote, and he noted that he would not change his vote given the material consequences of a possible Romney presidency, but he was concerned that black voters might stay home as a result. A few comments on the interview:

  • Note how Roland Martin frames the interview, by suggesting that African Americans disagree with same-sex marriage. The reality is that black attitudes are about as complex as white attitudes are. Some of us support it, some of us don't. And of those not in support, most aren't willing to take critical stances against it. Martin is a journalist here, but he's a journalist with skin in the game
  • Although Pastor Bryant slips up at the end, talking about "the Black Church" as if there were only one, he was thoughtful in noting both black denominational diversity and the structural dynamics that preclude some of them from taking a strong stand in support.
  • Finally though he probably mis-states the degree of control black pastors have over their churchgoers, he hits the nail on the head when he argues that the central issues facing black populations are economic, and that their biggest political choice come November is whether to vote or to stay home. 

A few months ago, Pastor Bryant and a number of other prominent black figures held a press conference to announce a relationship with Occupy Wall Street. I was skeptical. I thought that it was simply a media opportunity, I thought that the individuals involved were more interested in being brokers than they were in really dealing with inequality. I talked with Pastor Bryant about this on the Marc Steiner Show, and in hindsight I wished I had done more to push him. Given the message of Empowerment Temple–which seeks to combine the message of the prosperity gospel with the more political message of liberation theology (a toxic mix to be sure)–one would think that Pastor Bryant would be much more interested in wrestling with the material circumstances of his churchgoers than he would be in engaging on this particular issue.

However, while Pastor Bryant invited members of Occupy Baltimore to his services once, they were to my knowledge never invited back. I haven't heard anything about Occupy the Dream. I attended a meeting last week about foreclosure defense held at a church down the street from Empowerment Temple. Pastor Bryant was contacted but no one from his church, no members from his staff attended. It's telling that he would argue that black churchgoers might conceivably stay home because of same-sex marriage, but not because they are unemployed and are likely facing foreclosure. 

Recently Reverend Moss of Trinity United Church of Christ (Rev. Jeremiah Wright's old church) gave a powerful sermon on this issue that's worth sharing. HT to Minkah Makalani and Marvin Gladney):