Friday, August 17, 2007

The Trouble With Harry

By Dr. Sylvia Rhue
August 9, 2007

Bishop Harry Jackson, of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, is back in the news with attacks on Barack Obama, calling him a "dangerous man" and a "junior or infant Christian."

Barack Obama appeared on LOGO and HRC's presidential debate Thursday August 9. All of the candidates were asked about marriage equality for LGBT people. Although he is for full civil union rights, Obama feels he cannot open the door of equality all the way with full marriage rights for LGBT people. But even his moderate stance gets a
berating from Bishop Jackson.

When speaking to a group of Black ministers at a forum in Tennessee, Barack stated:

"I specifically pointed out that if there's any pastor here who can point out a marriage that has been broken up as a consequence of seeing two men or two women holding hands, then we—you should tell me, because I haven't seen any evidence of it…And there are some folks who, coming out of the church, have, you know, elevated one line in Romans above the Sermon on the Mount."

Jackson's response: "He's dead wrong concerning what the scriptures say, and more importantly, he's dead wrong in terms of the Scriptures, and in terms of reading culture. The culture has gone in a different direction, and the devaluation of marriage is a major problem, and I believe that he's a very dangerous man because he sounds reasonable, he sounds engaging, but he's misinformed." Jackson goes on to call Obama a "junior or infant Christian."

He states that "I think what most African-Americans buy is that there should be justice for all, in terms of the outworking of civil law. What they do not buy is that we should not rename sin as something righteous and holy."

Bishop Jackson is dead wrong. It is Jackson who has an infantile understanding of human sexuality and a wrong headed theology regarding Christ's message of inclusion. Jackson does not understand, or refuses to understand the concept of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is morally neutral.

One of the definitions of the word "sin" is "to miss the mark". Jackson misses the mark of the Love ethic for his gay and lesbian neighbors, which is central to Christian theology. When Bishop Jackson came to NBJC's Black Church Summit this past Spring, he had the opportunity to look LGBT people in the eye and hear their stories of love, commitment, devotion, honor and duty. He nodded his head acting as if he understood. He acted as if he had learned something. Unfortunately, from his behavior and statements since that day, it was all just an act.

We should defer to an authentic Biblical scholar, Rev. Peter Gomes the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard University, who writes: "No credible case against homosexuality or homosexuals can be made from the Bible unless one chooses to read scripture in a way that simply sustains the existing prejudice against homosexuality and homosexuals. The combination of ignorance and prejudice under the
guise of morality makes the religious community, and its abuse of scripture in this regard, itself morally culpable."

If Bishop Jackson ever thought he might be a drum major for justice, he has missed he mark.

Dr. Sylvia Rhue is Director of NBJC Religious Affairs. She can be reached directly at

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