Kudos to Mayor Vincent Gray!

Mayor Vincent Gray - Donnie McClurkin - Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder
Mayor Gray-left (photo credit Mandel Ngan-AFP-Getty Images), McClurkin-center (photo credit Mitsu Yasukawa-The Star-Ledger) and Bishop Flunder (from Facebook)

Last week, I used this space for a last lead-in to Family & Friends Day (which was a great day, by the way!). That trumped the Donnie McClurkin controversy which was just breaking as we “went to press.” But folks are still talking about it. In fact, if you google “McClurkin and Gray,” you will see dozens of articles, editorials, and blogs on the subject. Unfortunately, most of them are written by misguided fundamentalist homophobes, who are crying “Foul!” on McClurkin’s behalf. So here’s my two-cents.

Donnie McClurkin is a well-known gospel singer who claims to be “delivered” from homosexuality “caused” by his having been molested by a gay man as a child. He had been invited to sing at one of the March on Washington 50th Anniversary events; but Mayor Vincent Gray, Mayor of Washington, DC, later rescinded the invitation because of McClurkin’s repeated and well-documented malicious hate speech about homosexuals, including calling us “vampires” and saying that being gay is a “curse.” It was deemed inappropriate (to say the least) for someone known for that kind of rhetoric to play a key role in a national human rights event.

[McClurkin] never should have been invited in the first place, in my opinion. He has chosen to make himself one of the most prominent, recognizable faces of religion-based homo-hatred in this country.

I am thrilled that McClurkin was uninvited to sing at the March. He never should have been invited in the first place, in my opinion. He has chosen to make himself one of the most prominent, recognizable faces of religion-based homo-hatred in this country. To have him in a key role in the event would have been no better than to have a current leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Hate is hate. Bigotry is bigotry. Willful ignorance is willful ignorance. Etc.

McClurkin took to the social media and posted a video, the theme of which was, basically, [my paraphrase] “Look how wrong they done me!” And much of the response has been exactly what he (and anti-LGBT strategists) must have anticipated - homophobic fundamentalists using every available medium to condemn the rescission of his invitation and blame it on the “gay agenda.” He has, whether in ignorance or by design, widened the divide between “them” and “us.” The really sad thing is that, because of his hate speech, it is just as easy to believe that he did it on purpose as inadvertently.

But there is good news, as expressed by one of my favorite and most inspirational “she-roes.” Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, published a thoughtful and eloquent comment about the situation. Here is an excerpt:

Pastor Donnie’s words and actions have done untold harm to the gay community particularly young people of color in the mainstream Black church. Having one’s feelings hurt by being disinvited to perform pales in comparison to suicides, self-loathing, and ostracization the gay community has endured as a direct result of this kind of regularly exhorted spiritual violence.

This is not an issue of undermining Pastor Donnie’s free speech. This is evidence that America is losing its appetite for exclusive theologies and responding to theologies of inclusion and justice. There is a long list of white supremacists, haters of Islam, and woman haters who would also be uninvited. It should be no great mystery why someone who historically, publicly demonizes the gay community is not quite in demand for a public appearance at a March commemorating human rights for all.

There is a palpable shift in the atmosphere and people of faith are now being guided by their religious convictions to embrace the divine design of all God’s children including gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender people. This is good news for those of us seeking to fully live Dr. and Mrs. Coretta King’s Dream of the Beloved Community.

In response to which I say, “Amen, Bishop.”

Bishop Flunder goes on to invite McClurkin and others who have committed spiritual violence against LGBT’s to have the courage to sit at a table with “LGBT faith folks” to work out a strategy for reconciliation and repair of the damage they have done to us. I hope that at least some of them will take her up on it. Our duty to forgive does not negate their duty to take responsibility for the harm they have inflicted, and to do what they can to make it right. Until then, McClurkin can continue to sell CD’s (though not to me) and sell out huge auditoriums and churches. But he should leave the human rights events to those who agree that all humans are entitled to those rights, and who do not oppose Dr. King’s dream of a just America becoming our shared reality.