Reverend Emmett Burns, a prominent black pastor in Maryland, made quite the sensation when he was interviewed by CNN in the wake of President Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage. He promised to neither vote for President Obama nor for Mitt Romney. “I don’t plan on voting for Romney, for sure,” he said on CNN. “Right now, I plan to stay home.”
But in an interview with National Review Online, Reverend Burns says that he changed his mind. “I’m from Mississippi where blacks fought long and hard” for voting rights. “Someone is going to be elected president, and I don’t want it to be Romney. I, for one, support Obama.”
Reverend Burns is a Democratic member of the Maryland House of Delegates, in addition to his responsibilities as pastor for the church he founded. Marriage, he now claims, “is not a make-or-break issue” for him. He still believes that same-sex marriage is “dangerous for the nation,” and that it’s “bad policy.” He envisions the day where “children will be told that homosexuality and heterosexuality are equal.” Traditional marriage, he believes, is still the best policy.
Even if he votes for Obama, he will nonetheless fight him on this issue. “I will not support his belief in same-sex marriage. I cannot support the issue, but given the choice, we know Obama. We don’t know Romney.” He doesn’t like Romney’s positions on the automobile industry and health care, and he is skeptical of Romney’s economic agenda. “The free market is good for the top,” he argues, “but not for the middle.”
#more#His role as a black Christian leader is “to speak truth to power. The prophets did this to the kings, and the Lord stood by them.” He therefore must reconcile his disappointment in the president with his overall admiration and general agreement with the man.
Although he will vote for the president, and he will encourage his congregants to do the same, he warns that other black clergy “feel stronger” about same-sex marriage than he does. “There is a chance that they will stay home” from the election.
One of them, potentially, is Reverend Dwight McKissic. The senior pastor of Cornerstrone Baptist Church — home to 1,800 regular church attendees, most of whom are black — Reverend McKissic is scathingly hostile to President Obama’s support of same-sex marriage. He says in an interview with National Review Online, “The moral impact of this decision is equal to the military impact of al-Qaeda when they attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11.”
Reverend McKissic finds the president’s explanations dubious.“The golden rule [to treat others as you want to be treated] doesn’t discuss marriage. If the president wanted to know what Jesus thinks about marriage, he could read the Bible.” Reverend McKissic is adamant. “I cannot support the president on this position. . . . As a believer, the final authority is God.”
He does not oppose the decision only on religious grounds. Reverend McKissic notes all the problems the black community faces: “divorce, out-of-wedlock birth, absentee fathers.” Same-sex marriage will exacerbate the problems, he argues. It will have a “devastating effect on families.” The president “slapped history in the face” by “going against natural law.” “A nose cannot do the work of an ankle,” Reverend McKissic explains. “Women are receivers and men are givers. Two homosexuals cannot do that. One is by design and one is unnatural.”
Reverend McKissic says that “it’s going to be difficult to vote for anybody” in the upcoming presidential election. But he concedes that he would “respect whatever decision [his] congregants make” about voting. His main focus is to “lift this discussion outside the realm of politics.”