A Note to Kim Burrell:
We All Have a Seat at God’s Table
A version of this Op-Ed was published on Religionnews.com
What do you say to your aunt, parent, fellow fraternity/sorority member, or neighbor who thinks you are perverted and going to hell for being Same Gender Loving, Bisexual, Trans or Queer (SGLBTQ)? By now many have heard about and/or seen the homophobic rant expressed by the gospel singer Kim Burrell that grabbed headlines and set Twitter chirping recently. The backlash to her comments was swift- with canceled national television appearances and the termination of her local public radio show. It is important to note however, to those of us in religious communities that even if the controversy of Ms. Burrell’s statements, which were made during what was suppose to have been a preaching moment, may recede from the national spotlight the issue of what goes on in the vast majority of American churches remains open like a festering wound. I say this because the truth of the matter is, that what Ms. Burrell said is not unlike what is preached from pulpits on any given Sunday, said with fervent conviction in the choir loft or on the church van after Bingo Night anywhere in the USA. Homophobia has been the prevailing theology not only within the African American church, but also in white, Latino, Asian and Native American churches alike for decades- and that’s the real problem we must face as we seek to talk and think about faith, God and humanity.
So how do we live together and worship in the same communities where most believe that the bible and their faith stipulates that being Gay is an abomination to God and guarantees eternal death? Never did I imagine that Beyoncé’s little sister, Solange latest work of art, “Seat at the Table” would have the prophetic answer to such a vexing issue, but she does.
“No misguided, biblical literalist can distort or destroy the sanctity of our lived lives and salvific testimonies as children of God, crated out of divine, unconditional love with a purpose.”
I believe God has exclaimed for generations that we ALL have a seat at God’s table. Yes, all of us no matter the human definitions, boxes or labels we may use, we ALL have a seat at God’s table. I noticed something powerful and different in how this latest example of homophobic hermeneutics was met from times past. This time it do not go away quietly like a soothing baby in the back of the church. No, this time those of us who are often on the receiving end of pulpit pronouncements of eternal damnation stood up and said NO MORE! We, the preverbal outcasts and rejects (the kind of folks Jesus said he came to liberate) are tiered of sitting by passively as our own people castigate and seek to disconnect us from God. No misguided, biblical literalist can distort or destroy the sanctity of our lived lives and salvific testimonies as children of God, crated out of divine, unconditional love with a purpose. You may not understand this and that’s OK, but please know that many SGLBTQ people have heard and received the full gospel of Jesus the Christ, not just the letters of the Apostle Paul, and we have truly been set free from shame, self-doubt, and fear of ecclesiastic retribution. Instead of worrying about the particulars of how we express our love sexually, I kindly ask that you speak with us about our testimony of how we live and still find joy even in adversity.
Ask us what motivates us to live instead of speaking death into our lives. Take the time to make the word “love” an action verb and not a doubled edged sword of affliction. We may not be able to stop you from how you read the bible but will not allow you or anyone on this earth take away our seat at God’s table.
“we have found our station at God’s table, we now stand up and speak out because we know the toll of living a life burdened by depression, silence, suicide, and desperation has on anyone.”
The invitation has been sent to whoever will come to the table and many SGLBTQ folks have gladly taken our seat. Because we have found our station at God’s table, we now stand up and speak out because we know the toll of living a life burdened by depression, silence, suicide, and desperation has on anyone. Your un-Christ like words, actions and beliefs ravage the spiritual and physical health of so many of us, and we say no more. We stand at the gates God’s holy estate, pointing to all those tricked by the lie that, “God loves you but hates your the sin,” proclaiming the good news that the wages of sin have already been paid by the One who is our redeemer. We will let all of God’s children know that no matter how you may feel about yourself or what you have been told, you STILL have a seat at God’s table because God provided it- not humankind or the church. We have a home and a resting place in Christ Jesus not because any of us has earned it, but simply because it was freely, graciously prepared for all of us out of unconditional love.
F. Romall Smalls, M.Div. is the Associate Minister for Social Justice at Grace Baptist Church, in Mount Vernon, NY, is the vice chairperson of the LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent (FLoAD) and also the Spiritual Care Counselor at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) in New York, NY. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @romall06.