Prince George’s County, Maryland, sits just outside of Washington, D.C., and is one of the richest black counties in the United States. The county is also filled with several megachurches. Rebecca Danielle, a married, black lesbian with two children, recently found herself at one of these churches on a Sunday morning. She left infuriated. After she left, she wrote an open letter to John K. Jenkins Sr., pastor of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, and posted it on Facebook.
The letter, which perfectly shares the feelings of many members of the black LGBT community who have been degraded and dehumanized while sitting in the pews. Rebecca Danielle pulls no punches. Below is the letter:
“Greetings John K. Jenkins Sr,
I attended your 10:00 am service on 5/22/16 and left completely disturbed and unsettled. With hesitation, I took my mom to your church to celebrate her birthday. The ground shook underneath me when you started speaking about how God is grieving the damage being done to the Black family.
You went further to say that God is grieving because two women have the right to get married. You attributed marriage equality to the demise and degradation of the black family. I felt my heart stop. I felt my mother’s uncomfortable stillness.
Coming out to my mom was the most difficult feat, as well as the most freeing undertaking I’ve ever experienced.
My mom’s deep relationship and connection to her religious beliefs played into her predetermined disdain for my life.
It was the birth of my children that brought on an almost immediate resolve with my mom. She loves my wife and children unconditionally. So imagine the pain I felt when you poured salt into a very recently healed wound. Imagine the discomfort we both experienced when our goal for that day was simply to draw closer to God.
While I agree the black family is under attack, I am clear that same-gender loving couples are not the reason.
Low wages, high incarceration rates, and [African American] illiteracy rates are not caused by gay and lesbian people. I am not the reason black ministers step outside their marriage and sleep with members of their congregation sending a resounding message regarding the sanctity of the black family. LGBTQ people are not responsible for the high divorce rates in our community, poverty, poor schools, and fatherless homes.
Gay people are in fact NOT the enemy.
When you use religious rhetoric to suggest otherwise, you simply lie on God. Your quick divisive claims are indeed poor biblical scholarship. It is irresponsible to use the pulpit as a platform to spew hate and ostracize a subset of God’s children, especially when your claims lack sound interpretation. You also suggested that God is “grieving” because two women have the right to get married. This is not biblical and represents your personal and emotional prejudices that are devoid of God.
Ecclesiastic councils are not equipped to shape civic legislation. Partly because regressive and narrow-minded clergy use their platform to divide our community over and over again. My rights and your opinion actually live in two very separate areas. It’s no surprise we aren’t free. While sitting in your pews I felt like I was on a modern slave ship. Your religious rhetoric was simply a whip used to put scars on my heart.
I am sad for all the LGBT youth who sat and heard your Sunday morning soundbite where you showed your personal disdain for gay and lesbian couples.
I am sad for the teen that contemplated suicide after hearing your misrepresentation of God.
I am sad for the child that sat in your audience wondering if you were talking about his/her two moms. I am sad for all the members of your congregation that cheered. Their ignorance allows you to flourish and perpetuate pain and separation. I am sad for my mom who sat and listened to you attack her daughter. Lastly, I am sad for myself. I’m sad that your teachings mirror the religious nonsense that brainwashed my entire childhood.
You bragged about having 20 million dollars cash to build a Family Life Center. If you really care about the black family, take that money and attack some of the real issues tearing our families apart. The last thing [Prince George’s County] needs is another basketball court. With 20 million dollars you could single-handedly close the literacy gap in the schools in the communities surrounding your church.
There are young men sitting in your pews that are illiterate.
They will eventually be the demise of the black family, not my beautiful wife and children.
One day I hope you change your narrative to teaching God’s love. I don’t expect you to change your personal views on gay marriage, but when you stand before the people to speak on behalf of God, the least you could do is be honest and represent his teachings accurately. At the very minimum you should be drawing people closer to Christ, not ending your rhetoric with “And I don’t care if y’all come back.” That sentiment is not prophetic, it’s personal.”
Featured image: Lambda Legal/Leslie Von Pless