(CNSNews.com) - In an Apr. 10 interview with The Advocate magazine, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said "homophobic" messages are coming from the pulpits of black churches because "most African-American churches are still fairly traditional in their interpretations of Scripture." In the same interview, Obama praised the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor and long-time spiritual adviser, for being on the right side of the homosexual debate.
"There's plenty of homophobia to go around, but you have a unique perspective into the African-American community," Kerry Eleveld, news editor of The Advocate , a homosexual publication, said to Obama, during the interview.
"I don't think it's worse than in the white community," Obama replied. "I think that the difference has to do with the fact that the African-American community is more churched and most African-American churches are still fairly traditional in their interpretations of Scripture.
"And so from the pulpit or in sermons you still hear homophobic attitudes expressed," said Obama. "And since African-American ministers are often the most prominent figures in the African-American community, those attitudes get magnified or amplified a little bit more than in other communities."
A moment later in the interview, Obama volunteered that his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was "very good on gay and lesbian issues."
"I mean, ironically, my biggest ... the biggest political news surrounding me over the last three weeks has been Reverend Wright, who offended a whole huge constituency with some of his statements but has been very good on gay and lesbian issues," Obama said. "I mean he's one of the leaders in the African-American community of embracing, speaking out against homophobia, and talking about the importance of AIDS."
In an essay entitled "What do I tell my Children?" that was published in the August 2007 issue of Trinity United Church of Christ's Trumpet Magazine, Wright criticized "black evangelism."
"My grandson, Jeremiah, has already run head-on into the contradiction called Christianity in his twenty-one years of life," Wright wrote. "He has seen the racism of Christianity that has produced slave castles and white supremacy. He has also seen the ignorance calling itself 'Black Evangelism' which produces a religion of hatred, gay bashing and heterosexism."
Black leaders and clergy reacted to Obama's remarks to The Advocate, saying they contradict the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
"The new definition of 'homophobic' means anyone who stands against homosexuality as a sin is homophobic," Rev. Ken Hutcherson, founder and senior pastor of Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Wash., told Cybercast News Service. "That gives two choices to African-American pastors. They can either be Scriptural and demand righteousness from their flock, or they can drop Scripture and righteousness and support homosexuality."
Mychal Massie, chairman of the black conservative think tank Project 21, said following Christ's teaching doesn't make one homophobic.
"The Christian church is called upon to subscribe to and be obedient to the will of God," Massie told Cybercast News Service. "That means there are absolutes. Embracing the homosexual while rejecting the act and immorality of homosexuality is not to be confused with or viewed as traditional or conservative. It is to be viewed as following the very 'Word' of God."
"The Church is taught not to reject the personhood of practicing homosexuals and lesbians due to the Scriptures teaching that they can be free from the detrimental lifestyle," Rev. Clenard H. Childress Jr., senior pastor at New Calvary Baptist Church in Montclair, N.J., and president of the Life Education and Resource Network, told Cybercast News Service.
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, president and founder of Brotherhood of a New Destiny (BOND), told Cybercast News Service that black pastors should be talking to their parishioners about homosexuality.
"It makes them more aware of the truth about homosexuality and God's view on how we should deal with it," Peterson said. "It also causes them to realize what the Scriptures say about it."
Peterson also said Wright shouldn't be celebrated for his preaching about homophobia in the black church.
"Just because (Wright) speaks out in support of the homosexual lifestyle does not make him a leader in the eyes of most black Americans," Peterson said. "He may be a leader to angry liberal blacks and radical homosexuals, but not to the majority of churchgoing blacks."
But Bishop Council Nedd of the diocese of the Chesapeake, Episcopal Missionary Church in Harrisburg, Penn., said that Wright isn't completely wrong in his thinking about homosexuality and how some Christians think of it.
"Homosexuality is a sin not unlike fornication, murder or gluttony -- no better, no worse," Nedd said, adding that God is the ultimate judge of people and how they lived their lives and that segregation still exists when it comes to the American religious experience.
"Churches are still the most segregated sector of American society," Nedd said. "Not only do we go to churches with people who look like we do, we got to church with people who think like we do."
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