Religious stereotypes bring down society

Four men accused a very prominent Atlanta-based pastor of sexual coercion last month.

The accusations around Bishop Eddie Long caused tumult between religious and non-religious people. But with many people’s “well this is what I think” and “personally, I feel like” perspectives, new accusations have arisen.

Allow me to introduce the newly accused “Black church” and the allegations: homophobia and operating on homosexuality bashing and negative attitudes.

Many people have declared that this incident should force “Black churches” to deal with their homophobia and negative attitude toward homosexuals.

Long, pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, has openly spoken out against homosexuality. In the eyes of those who believe the accusations, this is a major contradiction. So now that a pastor, clearly against homosexuality, may in fact be a homosexual, his church and all others like his needs to reverse their thinking.

This should be a wake-up call to “Black churches” right? Wrong.

The claims of homophobia and negative perceptions of the gay and lesbian community pertaining to the “Black church” could not be further from the truth. Even the term “Black church”, which, according to The Christian Science Monitor, is used inaccurately by Long’s critics.

There is no such thing as a “Black church” just as there are not Caucasian, Mexican, or Asian churches. It is true that in most cases the ethnicity of the pastor is largely represented in his or her members, but no congregation is 100 percent one race.

According to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of African-Americans feel that religion is very important to their daily lives. A large majority of African-Americans are Christians, especially of the Baptist denomination as is Long’s church in Georgia. Christianity, though at times this varies between denominations, is largely grounded in the Bible, which opposes, in many scriptures, homosexuality as well as numerous other acts such as bestiality, drunkenness and covetousness.

According to the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of African-Americans oppose same-sex marriage. The Bible that Christians follow states that marriage is between a man and a woman only.

Now, Merriam Webster defines homophobia as irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. African-American Christians do not run and hide when they see a gay couple or get goose bumps and become frightened at the thought of interacting with someone who is a homosexual. Nor do all Black clergy teach hatred or dislike of those who choose alternative lifestyles; they teach to love everyone even if you do not agree with his or her sexual orientation. These people are merely practicing their faith and what they believe, as do all other religions. It has nothing to do with fear or a negative mindset; it is simply obedience.

Concluding that certain religions are homophobic or express negative attitudes about homosexuality is nothing short of a stereotype.

Haven’t we all seen the pain and destruction stereotypes cause? Pointing the finger at religious practices and beliefs is the same way people point the finger at homosexuals, women, minorities and every other group working so hard for equality. Telling a person, group, or organization “you are this” and “you are that” and making generalizations that are not true weakens us as a society.

Unfortunately, we will all experience the unpleasant effects of stereotyping at some point. Let’s make an effort to be one less cause.

Pledge your effort to Shala at smmarks3@asu.edu