By now, the LGBT blogosphere and activist world has thoroughly debated the appearance of ex-gay Donnie McClurkin at Senator Barack Obama’s “Embrace the Change” gospel concert in Columbia, S.C. (just one example here).
They have brought to light his past statements against LGBT people’s integrity, dignity and worth. They have fully explored the circumstances leading up to McClurkin’s appearance and what actually took place during the concert. There is no need for me to repeat it all.
But, I do have concerns. In fact, my concerns are more than “concerns.”
I was able to speak to the Senator’s Columbia press spokesman before the concert took place. I was told, “McClurkin is there to sing and offer praise, not to talk about politics.”
Knowing now that McClurkin did much more than just sing and offer praise, I am upset. I am angry.
I am disappointed that a person I once immensely respected has now helped to give credibility to a message and an ideological viewpoint that should never be given credibility.
Below is my letter to the Obama campaign. I slept on what I thought I wanted to say last night, hoping that I could come to other feelings, but my thoughts haven’t changed. I also debated whether I would post this letter at all, or only excerpts, or in its entirety. I decided to just post the full letter. Obama isn’t the only one I want to hear my words:
Although it makes me feel somewhat more at ease knowing that Donnie McClurkin had been given a clear understanding of his role at the concert prior to the event, I still feel as though a huge mistake has been made.
You will notice that the email I sent out earlier (as well as this email) came from my personal email address, not my address at Q-Notes. I am writing this and speaking to you now in my personal voice and want to be totally honest and up-front: I am deeply upset that Mr. McClurkin was allowed to address political issues when he was invited only to sing. I am deeply upset that Senator Obama has offered credibility to McClurkin’s message.
I had come to the conclusion that since the LGBT community always asks for tolerance, I should offer the same to Mr. McClurkin. I could let him sing and not be upset about that. After all, he’s just singing and nothing more, right? I’m a Christian who can appreciate the songs and praises of another believer, right? That is what I told myself, at least.
While Mr. McClurkin’s views are certainly tame when compared to other ex-gay leaders’ and activists’ teachings, I am still hurt that he would abuse the platform he was given during the concert, a platform that was offered for him to sing and to offer praise only.
A part of me says that there was no way Mr. McClurkin could have been controlled once a microphone was in his hand. However, another part of me says that if he had indeed been told very plainly the parameters of what he could and couldn’t do on stage, then cutting his microphone should have been neither a difficult decision by those running the event, nor should it have come as a surprise to Mr. McClurkin.
I am a person who was deeply hurt (and continues to hurt daily) from being raised in a church and religious setting that taught gay and lesbian people should be put to death (“Put all the queers on a ship, pluck a hole into the side of it and send it out to sea,” my preacher would say).
I cannot support any person – whether that be a Presidential candidate or a city council candidate – who helps to give even the slightest hint of credibility to an idealogical viewpoint that is very closely linked to the real and ever-present spiritual violence I was exposed to as a youth. I was a gay adolescent attempting to come to terms with myself, my God, my church, family, community and society. People like Donnie McClurkin never made it easier.
I understand that the Senator wants to reach out to as many people as possible. I do understand that. I’m not totally inept when it comes to politics and I know (perhaps not as much as the Senator) how the game is played: Reach out to the most people without compromising one’s own values, get the most votes and win an election.
Unfortunately, Sen. Obama will have to make a decision. Does he sacrifice the votes of black evangelicals who will be turned off by his support of LGBT people and their right to exist (literally, their right to exist)? Does he try to play both angles reaching out to LGBT people and telling them they do have the right to exist while at the same time reaching out to a group who think that I should be invisible, “converted,” guilty of a crime or, at worst, put to death?
I know: it sounds extreme. But I’ve lived my entire life in the South and I’ve been “out of the closet” since I was 14. Putting gays to death? Think no one could believe that? Think again.
Allowing Donnie McClurkin to abuse the opportunity he’d been given measures up to offering the credibility Donne McClurkin and other anti-gay leaders need in order to continue ruining the lives of LGBT people.
Ask the Senator how he feels about any of the 13, 14 or 15 year old LGBT boys and girls at his concert who heard Donnie McClurkin say they are not worthy. McClurkin may not have used those words, but as a person who’s been in that situation myself, I’ll guarantee Sen. Obama that what those youth heard was a message of exclusion and hate.
I am fully aware that some may take the following analogy as an offense. I apologize in advance. I believe, however, that the situation with Senator Obama and McClurkin is no different.
Imagine for a moment that we are all living in 1840. Imagine that a Presidential candidate has repeatedly said that he will support the abolitionist movement, that he believes abolition of slavery is 100% the right thing to do. Now, imagine the same Presidential candidate invites a religious leader from the other side of the debate to one of his events. Imagine that the candidate lends credibility to an ideological viewpoint from which he has not only already distanced himself publicly, but also a viewpoint that those in the abolitionist movement find repugnant.
The candidate says it is necessary for “dialogue.”
That wouldn’t have flown then, if it had happened. Or, at least, looking back we know that it shouldn’t have flown.
Although the current situation isn’t as extreme as slavery vs. abolition, it is, nonetheless, a situation of a candidate who has promised to support equality and the offering of integrity and dignity to every person, but who now lends credibility to a movement that preaches the exact opposite. That doesn’t fly. That hurts.
Unless something happens to amend this situation very quickly, I’m afraid Obama will have lost the support and respect I once held for him. Although it is true I always supported Edwards, I also supported Obama. An Obama-Edwards ticket would have been my dream ticket. Now, I’m not so sure.
Obama should fully, publicly condemn the words and actions of McClurkin. He should apologize for allowing his campaign to become, even if for a short time, a vehicle for hate and exclusion. I don’t want to see another written statement or another prepared thought coming from some hired political press spokesman. Obama should appear publicly and apologize himself. No script, no prepared language. I think I’m owed at least that much.
If Obama truly supports equality, then he shouldn’t be afraid to condemn those voices that call for the opposite of equality.
It really is simple. Here’s to hoping Obama gets the message.