Kim Burrell, girl, you messed up.
I’m sure you know that by now, since the backlash you faced after a clip of your homophobic “sermon” in which you called gays and lesbians “perverted” and an embarrassment to the kingdom of God went viral. You tried to clean it up with a Facebook Live video where you claimed you had no hatred in your heart for LGBT people, but doubled-down that queer people are practicing “sin.”
Girl, you messed up.
And not just because lesbian icon and America’s Sweetheart Ellen DeGeneres uninvited you to perform on her show—an opportunity that would’ve expanded your reach and impact. Not just because your Ellen duet partner Pharrell Williams had to come out and condemn your hate speech and will be performing on the show without you. Not just because the mother of your other former duet partner, Frank Ocean, wants to “crop” your voice out of her queer baby’s song. Not just because you’ve been lambasted on every social media channel and in the press — but because your heart’s not right.
In the sermon that caused the uproar, you mocked queer people telling you “you need to love everybody.” You dismissed “loving” as secondary to your arbitrary judgment of who they are. There’s one major reason a religious person would do this: the God they know judges and punishes first and loves after you’ve come around to whatever has been collectively deemed “God’s way.” As a lifelong Christian, this is not the God I know. The God I know meets me with love and acceptance every minute of every day. There is no condemnation in the God I know.
Let’s get back to your arbitrary judgment of queer people. This is the fundamental part I think you’re missing. You think by naming gay and lesbian sex acts that you’re just condemning an action you don’t like. In reality, you’re condemning who people actually are. I know, growing up in Christian purity culture, any kind of sex was demonized as sinful, and we were socialized to hate our own flesh as prisons of sin. But all of our bodies are beautiful, unique expressions of the Almighty God, and for those of us who have sexual feelings, God gave them to us. For many people, sexuality is a spiritual gift from God that makes up who we all are. You dehumanize queer people when you reduce them to sexual behavior instead of understanding that sexual behavior—or lack thereof—helps to make up how they experience the world.
You further dehumanize queer people when you remove sexual behavior or sexual orientation from the experience of love. While not all sex has to do with love, not all queer people are sexual beings. (The “A” in LGBTQIA stands for “asexual,” after all.) But every person on earth deserves to experience the intimate, affirming, all-encompassing love and companionship of another human being. When you condemn a queer person for finding love and companionship as “sin,” you dismiss them from the human family, and despite your claims to “love” everybody, you couldn’t possibly with that attitude.
I need you to understand that you are not the victim here. You are not being attacked by “the enemy”— you are “the enemy.” The queer people who cried out to you in anger, in pain, ought to make you stop and reevaluate your understanding of God. Because the evidence of God’s presence is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. No one felt “loved” after hearing your words. Instead, your words caused only hurt on top of hurt, because there is no “nice” way or “godly” way to tell people who they are is a sin against God. And you can smile while you’re saying it and preface it with the word “love,” but it’s just a lie—intentionally or otherwise—it’s an evil lie and God is nowhere in it.
Because any “love” that doesn’t accept people for who they are, any “love” that requires people to suppress themselves in order to belong, isn’t love at all—it’s emotional abuse. And this is the fruit:
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely than heterosexual youth to attempt suicide. A staggering 50 percent of trans youth have considered committing suicide. Children are killing themselves over how they’re being treated and what they’re being taught about what it means to be queer. That’s the abomination you and other Christians ought to be fired up about.
God’s love for God’s own creation is beyond the bounds of your understanding. God’s acceptance and validation of every queer person, you couldn’t even comprehend. So until you even get an ounce of that kind of unconditional acceptance and love, you should just be quiet. You should stop trying to build your career on the backs of queer people who you can’t accept as human. You should stay far away from queer people and don’t refer to them at all until God gets your heart together.
Brooke Obie is an award-winning writer and the author of the Black revolution novel Book of Addis. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeObie.
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