Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I came upon this interview conducted by Bill Moyers of the noted Black Liberation theologian James Cone [Pictured].

My purpose in posting this interview is not to equate lynching with the plight of LGBT people, although I see the African American civil rights struggle before the 1960's to be in many ways analogous to the LGBT civil rights struggle, especially in regard to the needed transcendence (and subsequent liberation) of both oppressed minorities to never lose touch with their essential dignity and humanity, in large part gained by fighting against that very oppression, realizing that the needed strength for that fight is immeasurably enhanced by one's relationship to God in community.

Rather, this interview is instructive on many levels, not the least of which is the role that the understanding of the Cross and the presence of God within that Cross, and the recognition of the power of God in one's fighting through that Cross experience, is being denied many LGBT people who understandably resent the church, Christianity, and sometimes even God.

While so many African Americans had, and still have, the "Black Church" to affirm their dignity and inherent worth, all too many LGBT people have been deprived of this wonderful source of affirmation. Hence, the value of the denomination of the Metropolitan Community Churches, founded in 1968 by Rev. Troy Perry, and all truly and fully inclusive churches of which there are, shamefully, relatively few within the institutional Church.

We are not to ever let the haters who pose as Christians define our realities for us, or ever allow them to define Christianity for us, or define our self-worth for us, or define the nature of the church for anyone or, most shamefully, define the nature of God for anyone. Rather, Christianity, and its manifestation in the individual lives of Christians and in the corporate life of a church that is worthy of the name, in that it is truly honoring to God, must be seen to manifest the Christian virtues of grace, love, and empowerment to all of God's children!

There isn't a church in the world that represents God if it in any way excludes any of God's children, or that extols tradition that makes void the word of God (Matthew 15:3), allows legalism to trump grace, or invokes prejudices that trump freedom from yokes of bondage from which Jesus came to set all captives free.

Christianity is a relationship with God, our God of love, empowerment, and liberation! And all sorts of religious media figures, and clergy who are self-appointed guardians of "morality," based upon their self-interests and preconceived prejudices, are not to be allowed to define Christianity's beauty and power and reality for any of us!

The best way to spot counterfeit money is to constantly familiarize oneself with real money so that when counterfeit money is given to us we can readily tell the difference between the real money and the fake money. The same is true with one's spiritual life! When a person knows the Christian life as it is truly meant to be lived, one can easily spot the hucksters and the phonies who seek to put people into bondage or, just as bad, seek to prevent people from the liberation that is to be found in Christ.

Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him! (John 10:27) We are not to let false shepherds, often hucksters who milk the gullible, the suckers, by feeding them messages that confirm their prejudices so that they can portray themselves as "victims" who need money to "fight against the enemy" and who, thereby, successfully garner tremendous material and/or psychological and/or social and/or political and/or religious gains, stand in the way of all of God's children, LGBT or Straight, from listening to Jesus' voice.

And that voice is most readily heard, and empowerment most readily seen and given, through the Cross, if His oppressed children give themselves permission to hear it! I wonder how many LGBT people have seen how the following verse of Scripture applies to them: "And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." (John 10:16)

The Black Church has done inestimable good for its members, by enhancing their spirituality, reaffirming their inherent dignity, conveying a needed sense of empowerment, and by enabling the sharing of community that is vital in anchoring its members to their roots. LGBT people deserve no less!

I hope this excerpt from the interview of James Cone will both whet your appetite to read the whole interview, and also give you permission, if you would like such a church experience, to seek solace and empowerment in a truly affirming church such as the MCC.

Moreover, Cone's words might well be adapted to the LGBT experience of oppression, so that a theology of liberation can be adapted and applied to the struggle for the acquisition of full and equal civil and sacramental rights that will both immeasurably enhance one's sense of self, one's inherent dignity as a child of God, and one's tenacity in the struggle against oppression. The Metropolitan Community Churches, and all such fully inclusive churches, have gone a long way toward articulating that theology of liberation!

JAMES CONE: They [White Supremacists who lynched African Americans] wanted to remind black people that they were in charge and that whites controlled, for the same reasons why Romans-- crucified people in the first century.

BILL MOYERS: It worked, didn't it?

JAMES CONE: Yes, it worked.

BILL MOYERS: It worked.

JAMES CONE: It worked to a certain degree. It only worked in the sense that it reminded black people and white people that whites actually had political and social control and economic control. But, they didn't have control of their humanity. See, that's what religion is about. Religion is a search for meaning when you don't have it in this world. So, while they might have controlled the black people physically and politically and economically, they did not control their spirit. That's why the black churches are very powerful forces in the African American community and always has been. Because religion has been that one place where you have an imagination that no one can control. And so, as long as you know that you are a human being and nobody can take that away from you, then God is that reality in your life that enables you to know that.

BILL MOYERS: And even though you're living under the shadow of the lynching tree.

JAMES CONE: Even though you're living under the shadow of the lynching tree. Because religion is a spirit that is not defined by what people can do to your body. They can kill your body, but they can't kill your soul. We were always told that. There is a spirit deep in you that nobody can take away from you because it's a creation that God gave to you.

Now, if you know you have a humanity that nobody can take away from you, they may lock you up. They may lynch you. But, they don't win.

Click this link for the full interview.



The following is a video interview with James Cone that I think you will like that has tremendous implications for LGBT people in this civil rights struggle, and for all Christians who, to be true to the Gospel values, must read Scripture "from the bottom up." All too often, professing Christians (and virtually all of the institutional Church) identify with the powerful, whereas to understand Christianity, to live out the Christian life, and to understand Scripture, we must identify with the powerless.

Also, click this link for an excellent video presentation by Cone entitled, "Strange Fruit: The Cross and the Lynching Tree," delivered at Harvard University in 2006 by this distinguished theologian, and that fleshes out much of what he covers in the above video.
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