Intersectionality Through the Lens of a Queer Black ManIt was the summer of 2001. I was sitting in a church worship service in a city in East Texas. I am an avid church attendee and volunteer member at the church that I consider a home church. This particular church is a large church in the city that I lived in during that time. They have a fabulous choir, an awesome youth and young adult ministry and great outreach to their local community. Every Sunday is always a pomp and circumstance with the music, dance and sermons. The pageantry is an epic occasion of people driving their freshly washed cars, wearing their newly pressed outfits, women with their new hair-do, the men with their fresh edges and tapers and the clergy and choir dressed in their angelic dress and robing. The sanctuary was always filled with standing room only crowds with a visual average of 30 years to 50. The last Sunday that I was in attendance there, the assistant pastor at the time was in charge of the pulpit as the orator of the sermon. He was a young man at the time in his mid-30’s. He was doing great with the delivery of his sermon until the speaking about the seven deadly sins. One of them being homosexuality.
I believe it was sin number five on the list. As soon as it was mentioned with his personal interpretation and elaboration, the congregation rose in a responsive shout of support of homosexuals “going tell hell for doing what they do.” As the eruption and uproar happened, I just sat in the pew. I immediately became upset, somewhat depressed and felt outcast. As soon as the hoopla was over, I made my exit out of the building with haste. I arrived to my car and the tears flowed. At that time, I was really dealing with my own self-identity and spirituality. Being a man who grew up in church, I love God and I worship God as my creator, comforter and parent. I didn’t want to do anything wrong against God. According to them and my childhood church, I did. It was that day that I decided to make a change for myself and not attend any kind of church until there was one for me and others like me. I then began a quest of find a community of spirited people with the same ideals as I had. I heard about a small community of faith not far from where I lived that was inclusive of all people. I started attending and soon became unhappy because I then realized that I didn’t want traditional church. Yes they preached a God of all but, they were not practicing what they preached. Lots of closeted religion was felt and that was not good for me and the lack of community involvement because of the fear of being put on front street. It was then that I decided not to attend church of any kind. I have always known that Sunday morning church doesn’t enhance my life or get me closer to God. Within several months, I moved here to Houston and I didn’t attend church for a two years.
Before and after my arrival to Houston, I heard about this church named Resurrection. I heard that it was a “gay church” and that phrase alone made me a bit leery at the time. I decided to give it a try and see what happens. As soon as I arrived, I noticed a very large building. I immediately thought it was a dream! A gay church. This LARGE?!?!? In the south?!?!?!?! I hope it is a church beyond the thought of just “gay church.” This has to be a joke right? So, I gave it a try. I drove up and parked. I was hesitant to leave my car just to walk in. I mustered up enough energy and where with all to get out and walk to the door. I entered the building and was immediately greeted with a hearty hello and a warm embrace. I was then a bit nervous. I walked into the worship space. Soon as I entered, I noticed a diverse group of people. Male and female. Black, brown and white. The attire of the people were very casual and the gospel choir was singing that day. I was immediately drawn in! At least 500 people were in attendance that day and I immediately felt at home. I have now been there for 11 years and it has been a blast! Since I have been here, I have learned that we are a Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) denomination with over 300 churches across the globe. We all serve a God of all. A God that loves all people of different life experiences, faith/spiritual/denomination backgrounds…churched and unchurched. I will admit, we also have our challenges as a church/Christian organization.
The preaching, teaching and living the life of a Christian has it’s challenges when educating people here in the south that we are good people who will not judge or bash a person for being basically different. To earnestly and honestly live out the golden rule of loving your neighbor as yourself is a huge challenge. We as adult people have the tendency to become rigid in our thoughts and feelings that will cause us to become oblivious to anyone who is willing to extend a Christian hand of love and full acceptance of you…not just tolerance…and not just LGBTIQA. I have invited people to our place of worship numerous times. I always have a hope that they would attend immediately following the invitation. However with Houston being a mega city with mega churches where people can get lost in attending, I have come to let people come and attend on their own. I have also seen a growth of new churches who are inclusive as well. Now this makes me a bit sad because of two reasons. The first is the thought of church competition: who has the best worship experience to get the people to attend?
The second is the thought of leadership minded people with a personal and strong conviction, taking their original faith and denomination backgrounds, starting these religious organizations and (seemingly) not healing from their own personal oppression. What I love about my local MCC church is that we do the work for healing and wholeness. We challenge the book that is called a bible and collectively talk about the history of the text as a community. Our church is not a church of pomp and circumstance. It is really about people and their wellbeing. The trick is for a person to really have the willingness to open themselves to doing church differently. It’s about personal and spiritual growth. Personal and spiritual development. Personal and spiritual change. If we as people would just do the work and gather together to talk about intersectionality within in church and religious context, the thought and practice of intersectionality will be null.
Having a church on every corner does not help when they all have the same faith roots. I understand that organizations do have an influence based on the community they are surrounded by. For example, it is important to have a Spanish, Asian and Jewish language church. It is also great to have different practices of faith and religion. I feel that it is not ok to have two of the same denominational churches a block away from one another. Why can’t they blend and work together to build community? Also, will there ever be a day where we can all bring our differences together and talk about them without demeaning one another? This is one experience that I am glad about MCC churches. We have every kind of makeup of people in our congregation and spiritual development classes every week. It is with this kind of experience of creating a place and space for people to freely be themselves that will stop self and public oppression. Respect all to love all.
- Kedric Brown