A Gentleman's Guide

MAY | 2018

MAY | 2018 | FRONT PAGE

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THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY HOMOPHOBE

Fathers are important. They provide their children with an irreplaceable kind of care and when necessary, serve as disciplinarians. Our relationships with our fathers, or lack thereof, can affect us from the cradle to the grave. In the best of circumstances, our fathers create the templates of our lives. If he is responsible and loving, then we will strive to be as responsible and loving as he is. Similarly, If he is abusive and controlling, then there’s a chance that we will be abusive and controlling as well.

Let’s assume that the sons of good fathers do their best to imitate them. That they will strive to make their fathers proud at almost any cost because they feel obligated to do so. Let us also assume that the sons of fathers who are complete and utter trash will either follow their trash-ass example or work to become anything but them. Of course, both of these assumptions should be made while leaving a little wiggle room for the limitless number of possibilities that life can produce as one can never be too sure of who will become what, why they’ll become it, and how.

This month we’re taking a comparative look at our relationships with God, the Black Church and the types of relationships that we have or have had with our fathers. The goal isn’t to correlate these relationships as much as it is to discover the similarities that exist between them.

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We already know the difference between a good father and one who is trash, just as we know the impact that being raised by either type has on the subject. But what, if any, comparison can we make between these relationships and the relationships we have with God and the Black Church? What are the similarities?

In venturing to liken our relationships with our fathers to our relationship with God and the Black Church, we find that those of us who have or have had loving fathers who wanted nothing but the best of and for us, loved us unconditionally, and were present and supportive, might glow at the thought of our fathers. Similarly, we might also find that those of us who have attended churches that are as affirming as they are inclusive have an unrivaled relationship with God and the Black Church, alike. The devil, in this case, is in the details of the relationship.

The markers of any good paternal relationship include, but aren’t necessarily limited to, knowing that you are a priority, being able to engage in open and honest communication, being (and not just feeling) supported, inspired and accepted.

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The good father makes it no secret that his son is his top priority. He engages in open and honest dialogue with him and challenges him to be as good as, if not better than, he is. The son of a good father knows that not only is he the apple of his father’s eye, but that he is the living embodiment of his hopes, dreams, and aspirations as well.

Comparatively, the good church makes sure that each of its members feels like a priority and that their spiritual needs are no less important than those of other members. Members of good churches know that they, regardless of their sexual orientation, are valued. All of this is important when it comes to forming a relationship with God, as we are often introduced to God through the church. The result of members feeling wanted and valued in church makes them feel just as wanted and valued in the eyes of God.

Conversely, anyone who has ever attended a service at a church where homophobia is being hurled at them from the pulpit can tell you how abuse feels. Some churches have engaged in behaviors similar to those found in abusive parenting. In these instances, we find members who have experienced the sting of neglect, favoritism, and oppression. Almost every Beaux of faith has, at one point or another, found himself at the receiving end of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 and Romans 1:26. Occurrences such as these scream of the church’s neglect in meeting the spiritual needs of all of its members and demonstrates a form of dog whistle favoritism with the favor tilting towards those who aren’t committing the abominable act of same gender love.

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Further, tithing members of churches operating under these practices often feel shame or fear being labeled as a moral pariah as a result of their sexuality becoming known. It's almost like (well, exactly like) the moment that the members of these congregations realize that you are who you are, they immediately erect invisible (but visible) barriers.

This kind of rejection leaves members with one of two choices. The first of these two choices involves leaving the church, and possibly the religion, outright. The saddest part about this is that the behaviors of people who deem themselves to be Christ-like literally drives others away from seeking the kingdom of God.

If we look at the effect that the feeling of not being loved and wanted has on a child we see that children generally don’t know or understand the real causes of the negative messages they receive about themselves. They only know that the messages exist and that their parents don’t accept and value them for who they are. As a result of this, they start to believe that there is something wrong with them and that they have to change themselves to become accepted in their parent's eyes. Sound familiar? If not, it should, because this is exactly how many Beauxs have felt in church. This feeling has left many of them asking the church and God above, the same question that children in this position ask their parents: "If I become like you, then will you love me?”;

While religion may not be everyone’s thing, those of us who are interested in it shouldn’t be kept from experiencing it. This is where we find the second and more appropriate choice, which is to find a church that meets your spiritual needs.

For many Beauxs, the struggle to find the balance between their physical lifestyles and spiritual aspirations creates a type of cognitive dissonance that can be stressful, to say the least. However, there is a silver lining that can be found in discovering that you. don’t. have. to. We’re living in a new era now, and there exists a wide variety of churches who either cater to or affirm those who exist outside of the realm of heterosexuality, and they’re all a Google search away.

The church has been a pillar of the community and has provided its members with spiritual and religious nourishment for hundreds of years. It creates and preserves tradition, involves itself with and influences a number of social and political issues, and has solidified itself as being one of the strongest forces in the African American community. None of this means that there is a one-size-fits-all model.

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The church is supposed to provide its members with a space, a space of belonging, growth, and encouragement. None of us can live our best lives Monday through Saturday only to endure being judged and ostracized on Sunday. It's not healthy.

When children don’t receive the recognition they need from their parents they innately turn to where ever its available. They act out in ways that can prove to be as self-destructive as they are attention seeking. This is something that many of us have grown out of because as adults we can do something that children can’t- make informed decisions.

We can’t stress the importance of finding spaces and places that accept you while avoiding those that simply tolerate you. We tolerate cold sores, acne and at times, the bad breath of others. None of these things are affirming and anyone with half a brain would run at the first sight of them. If that’s the case for these things then why allow ourselves to be treated as such. We deserve better.

Our goal should always be to go to where we’re wanted and such, finding places where we can praise and be praised in peace is IMPORTANT. We must strive to find a place where our inclusion is more concerned with HOW we love and not with WHO we love. Again, religion isn’t for everyone, but at the same time, it kind of is. God is compassion, He is accepting, forgiving, and His love is unconditional. God can’t (as we're so often told) love the sinner but hate the sin, because the sin is a part of the very sinner that He, in his infinite knowledge created. If you’re at a church that teaches you differently than that then beware because chances are you’re unwittingly suffering at the hands of an abusive parent.

Jeremy Carter