So, on the rare occasion when I come across a voice from the pulpit which not only promotes love and understanding but defines the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical debate, that person gets my attention.
The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Last Sunday, he mentioned an unnamed black pastor who had voiced opposition to Obama's support of civil rights for gays. Apparently other black pastors were considering withdrawing support for the president's reelection. While quick to say he wasn't telling anyone how to vote, Otis demonstrated the error of their thinking in a stirring letter which he read to his congregation.
The text, which was found at Daily Kos, follows the video.
To My Brother:
Tell your brethren to live their faith, and not try to legislate their faith; to recognize that the Constitution protects us all. We must learn to be more than a one-issue community, and seek the Beloved Community where all may not agree, but we all recognize that we have the fingerprint of the Divine upon our spirits.
There is no doubt that there are people who are same-gender-loving occupying prominent places in the Church, but for the clergy to hide with a quick dismissive (sic) claim of poor biblical scholarship is as sinful as unthoughtful acceptance. When we make Biblical claims without sound interpretation, we adopt doctrinal positions devoid of the love ethic. Deep faith may resonate in our position, but the ethic of love will always force you to re-examine and prayerfully reconsider your position.
The question that you got wrong, my brother, is the question that should be raised: "Should all Americans have the same civil rights?"
This is a different question than what you raised: "Does the Church have the right to perform or not perform a religious rite?-- R-I-T-E."
There is a different spelling between RIGHT and RITE. These two questions are answered in two different arenas-- One in the pluralistic arena of civic debate, and the other in ecclesiastical councils. I do not believe ecclesiastical councils are equipped to shape civic legislation, nor are civic legislators equipped to shape religious rituals and doctrine.
The institution of marriage, my brother, is not under attack because of the President's words. Marriage was under attack years ago when men viewed women as property and children as trophies of their sexual prowess. Marriage is under attack by low wages, high incarceration and lack of education. Marriage is under attack by clergy who think nothing of stepping outside of the bounds of marriage to sleep with "preaching groupies".
Same gender couples have not caused high divorce rate, but our adolescent views of relationships and our inability as a community to come to grips with the ethic of love and commitment-- we still mistake sex for love and romance for commitment.
My father eloquently stated to a group of ministers the other day that our ancestors prayed for 389 years to get a President of Color in the White House. We led over 200 slave revolts, fought in 11 wars, one civil war where 600,000 people died, women's suffrage, people were lynched for the Civil Rights Bill of '64 and the Voting Rights Act Bill of '65. He stated his father never voted and he rushes to the polls to pull the lever for every member of his family who was denied the right to vote. He said that he will not allow narrow-minded clergy or regressive politicians to keep him from exercising his right to vote and helping to shape the future of his grandchildren.
The economic crash, foreclosures and attack upon healthcare were not caused by gay and lesbian citizens. Poor schools were not created by people who desire equal protection. We have much work to do.
To claim that the President of the United States must hold your theological position is absurd. He is President of the United States, not president of the Baptist Convention; not president or bishop of the sanctified Church. He is called to protect those who are Jew and gentile, male and female, young and old, gay and straight.
We, as the Church, if we dare steal away from the noise of this debate will be able to hear the voice of the prophet to say that we are called to do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God.
Gay people have never been the enemy and when we use rhetoric to suggest they are the source of all our problems, we lie on God and cause tears to fall from the eyes of Christ.
I am not asking you to change your position, but I am stating that we must stay in dialogue and not allow our personal emotional prejudices or doctrines to prevent us from clearly seeing the possibility of the Beloved Community.
November is coming, and the spirits of Ella Baker, Septima Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer, A. Philip Randolph, James Orange, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King, Jr. stand in the balcony of Heaven raising the question: "Will you do justice, live mercy and walk humbly with God?"
Emmett Till and four little girls in Alabama did not die for a Sunday morning sound byte where you could show disdain for one group of God's children. They died because of an evil act by men who believed in doctrine over love. We live today because of a Man who believed in love over doctrine, who died on a hill at Calvary in the dusty plain of Palestine.
Do not allow the rhetoric to keep you from the polls. Let us stay in dialogue together, my brother.
Sincerely, Your Brother...
Otis Moss, III