For the Last Time: You Can't Be "Delivered" from Being Gay

by Kinsey Clarke

The recent video of Andrew Caldwell, a “cured” gay man being spiritually delivered during an altar call at a Church of God in Christ convention has sparked a conversation about whether or not being gay is something a person can be “saved” from. For those who are unaware, the term “being saved” means that a believer in Christ confesses of their sins and believes that Jesus is their Lord and Savior. In addition to this, the believer renounces things that are usually deemed sinful by the church and—having undergone this change—the believer begins their life anew, doing their best to avoid their previously sinful behavior.

The Black Church has a long history of being one of the few places black people have been able to find solace, hold leadership positions, shed their burdens, and receive a message that is meant to uplift and encourage their spirit. The purpose of the church is clear: to be a place that welcomes and ultimately becomes a home for those who wish to attend. This purpose, however, has not always been extended to those members who are on the fringes of the church’s mantra.

There is an immense pressure in the church to conform and follow the crowd in many ways. When attending services, this often relates to “catching the spirit” during praise and worship. Often, those members who have difficulty achieving this level of praise start to pretend, and they succumb to the pressure to follow the crowd instead of following their own path of spiritual connection. Because everyone else around them has seemingly attained this level of spiritual enlightenment, the believer starts to feel as though something is wrong with them because they haven’t reached it. After lifting your hands in praise, shouting, weeping, and pretending to feel whatever else the congregation is feeling, you start to hope that maybe one day you can feel this connection and stop feeling alienated from your faith. But this only causes the interactions you have in the church to be forced and you begin to feel disingenuous.

I watched the video of the Caldwell being delivered, and I couldn’t help but think of this recent article, showing how queer Christians feel as though they must denounce part of themselves in order to be accepted into the church. The church loves to tell their congregations that everyone is created in God’s image, but through the church’s actions this clearly does not extend to their LGBT+ members. Where does it say that identifying as LGBT+ means a person was not created in the image of the Lord? Call me sacrilegious, but I didn’t know there were conditions on identity in the John 3:16 scripture, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” As I watched that young man become a viral hit on the Internet, I realized that the complex identity of being both queer and Christian is often a joke to those who don’t have to live it.

Queer Christians are called “homosexual” as a slur, especially within the church, as a way to other their lived experience. (The video’s description on YouTube even uses this term.) There have been many instances of churches criticizing the queer community to the point of excluding them, instead of welcoming the diversity and shedding the biblical literalism it holds so dear. Instead of being a welcoming entity, the Black Church is concerned about being an exclusive club, unwilling to accept anyone who differs from the “norm.” Instead of creating a safe space for people who wish to serve the Lord, the Black Church perpetuates homophobia. Indeed, the believer in the video—even after receiving the Lord—experiences almost no real support from the congregation, outside of people dancing along with him. Although the church claims to be accepting of those who wish to join, the message is clear: the LGBT+ community is not welcome, even after being “saved” by the church’s expectations.

Although I do not know this young man, I feel as though his decision to renounce a significant part of himself is part of the dogma of the church preaches in order for believers to be accepted. The pressure to adhere to these cultural norms is strong; seemingly stronger than the Black Church’s responsibility to create a loving, caring environment for its followers.

Instead of renouncing and condemning queer Christians, how about the Black Church finally deliver itself from its outdated beliefs? How about the Black Church be more accepting and loving of its members, no matter what their walk in life and faith might be? After all, isn’t that what following in Christ’s footsteps mean?

Kinsey Clarke is a senior at Michigan State University. She enjoys aerial silks and solo trapeze in her spare time. You can follow her personal Twitter account here.

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