I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I stepped foot in a black church to worship, but easily I could say it was around twenty years ago.
I didn't stop going because I hated the people or the music. And I definitely didn't stop going because I lost my faith, although I do have major questions that no one has been able to answer. I stopped going because it occurred to me that I would get more out of reading scripture myself than I would listen to "lessons" interpreted through the lens of someone who held their own major biases and traumas.
For many of us, at least the ones who don't follow Pastor Joel Osteen, the first time we heard Pastor John Gray speak was when part of one of his sermons was Instagramed by singer, Ciara. Well, this was the first and the last time I needed to hear anything this pastor had to say.
The sermon, or at least part of the sermon, was supposed to be on how lonely, single, women could get a keep a man. *side eye* As if there aren't enough men going around informing women that we are the problem in relationships that don't work out and how we are "womaning" wrong because we don't cook, clean and bare-foot Contessa enough like the good ole days when we didn't have the right to vote and had to put on pantyhose before going out in public.
Anyway, after playfully intimating the pain felt by lonely women, Pastor Gray's offered his answer for why single women can't get a man and how coupled women DID get their men. It was simple, yet completely misogynist as usual. After offering his interpretation of Proverbs 18:22, he went on to say, "a "wife" is not the presence of a ring, it's the presence of your character," and "too many women want to be married, but you're living in the spirit of girlfriend." Ask the Lord to deliver you from that spirit [of 'girlfriend'], and carry yourself like you're already taken, and I promise you, when you carry yourself like a wife, a husband will find you," he said. Meaning, cover up your tits, watch your tone, be a good girl and then a man will come. Not necessarily the right man for you, but surely a man who thinks you might-could-be the right woman for him. Because women shouldn't have preferences, types or individual needs like men do, so a man that says he's a "good guy" should be enough.
And once this man comes, be monogamous, even if he isn't, cook for him because a mans hands should never touch a pot or a pan, clean for him even though a grown man should know how to clean his own damn house, be his emotion support for all of his traumas even when he is too emotionally stunted and manly to do the same for you, sacrifice your wants and dreams to help him achieve his, do all the things that a "wife" should do for a husband who is giving those things back to her, and maybe he will marry you. But if not, come back to church to hear me repeat this sermon about how you are "womaning" wrong.
He completely mocked and then manipulated the experience felt by women who are hurting, while also arguing that married women have somehow found a way to make themselves more "worthy" to a man, and that being a single woman is "less than."
"There is no such thing as having the "spirit of a girlfriend," or carrying yourself "like a wife." It's just another iteration of the sexist dichotomy and hierarchy of women, the same tired Madonna-whore complex: the good kind of woman vs. the bad kind."
But I guess the sermon to men about the "spirit of a boyfriend," or how to carry themselves "like a husband" is coming sometime in the new year.
Pastor John Gray recently and unfortunately caught my eye again while on "Sister Circle." Apparently, he wrote a book about how he became a man despite having a shitty dad and loving his mommy too much. While talking to two of the ladies on the panel who were uncomfortable gobbling up everything he had to say, Gray went on to talk about how his wife helped him become the man he is today. Which could be sweet, however, what he described was, in fact, the age-old tale of men emotionally abusing their wives in order to use them as stepping stones for the own personal growth.
Now, let me say that I myself have never been married, but I suspect most people go into marriage seeing it as a partnership. So how is it that Pastor Gray can say on national TV that his "wife has endured more pain birthing me than both of our children" and how he has caused his wife emotional suffering for the last 8 years, and we applaud with "awe and go "what a strong woman she is!" How, sway? Let me say this, a black woman's worth is not based on upon how much pain she can endure. Her ability to be a "good wife" is not dependent on how you can nearly kill her with your untreated mental illnesses, emotional shortcomings, oppression, self-servingness, failures, lying, cheating, instabilities, and toxic masculinity.
He then went on to say that he married a woman too sizes too big and that he needed to grow into her. No, sir. You needed to grow into a man and come correct before you got down on one knee. It is not a woman's job to finish raising you. It's is your own job to pick up where your parents left off. When is the last time you heard of a man "birthing" his wife? Never. When is the last time you heard a wife speak about how much she had put her husband through emotionally while she lived with untreated traumas and he didn't leave her? Never. Because men don't do that shit, and for good reason.
If you were confused, women are human beings too. And in the words of Janet Jackson, what have you done for her lately?
Another servant of the Lord caught my eye recently. Pastor Antonio Rocquemore. Pastor Rocquemore seemed to have misinterpreted his calling. In reality, he was asked to preach the word of God to the masses using love, light, rainbows and all that, but I think instead of filling out the resume for "pastor," he actually clicked on "bouncer." For some reason, this man of God found it his duty to kick a trans-woman out of the Lord's house. Granted from the footage it is clear he mistook the Lord's House for "[his] church."
Now, to be fair, most Black people don't necessarily see homophobia or transphobia as a bad thing. In fact, most see queerness, in its many forms, as a government conspiracy aimed to destroy the black family. (The previous sentence was not a hyperbole) That being said, wouldn't black clergymen feel even more inclined to pastor to the queer? Of course not, because we live in a twilight zone, where we alienate people based on their sexual preferences that aren't our business, to begin with, and then humiliate them in front of a community who pretend they have lived their lives for the Lord.
Forget the bit where the Lord says, "come as you are" in his various ways. The argument again is that you shouldn't be welcome in a church for living the way "some people live," but when did we start ranking sins? If the queer shouldn't be allowed in church, then neither should the divorced, the murders, the thieves, the fornicators, the liars. Oh, but then not only would the church be empty, but there'd be no one to preach...
Over the centuries, many people have perverted the word of God. The Christian religion has been stolen, interpreted, re-written, and manipulated. And if Black people think they have had no hand in this, they are wrong. Black churches are sexist and homophobia af.
Dear Black Clergy, Ya'll ain't shit.