According to a recent article in The New York Times, Anthony Heilbut - "producer, reviewer and historian of black gospel music for nearly a half-century,"- is coming out with a new book which promises to blow the lid off of how the black church embraces gays and lesbians in gospel music while at the same time denying their existence and espousing about how homosexuality is a sin:
. . . amid the volatile national debate about same-sex marriage, Mr. Heilbut has thrown the doors open to what he calls the “secret closet” of gays in gospel. In a lengthy chapter of his forthcoming book, “The Fan Who Knew Too Much,” he not only pays homage to the artistic role of gays and bisexuals, but also accuses black Christians, clergy and laity alike, of hypocrisy in opposing same-sex marriage while relying on gay people for much of the sacred music of the black church.
The timing of Mr. Heilbut’s book, and the intensity of his argument, has thrust it from the dusty corners of arts criticism into the heat and light of the political arena in a presidential election year. Same-sex marriage, more than any other issue, has forced the black church as an institution to try to reconcile its dueling strains of ideological liberalism and theological conservatism. At the congregational level, it has meant the awkward coexistence of gay musicians and antigay preaching and casual ridicule.
“The family secret has become public knowledge,” Mr. Heilbut writes in his book, “and the black church, once the very model of civil rights, has acquired a new image, as the citadel of intolerance.” Left unchecked, he continues, the trend “would introduce an ugly but not uninformed term, ‘black redneck.’ ”
As the article points out, it would seem that there is more of an emphasis on what this situation has to do with the argument of marriage equality than lgbtqs of color in the Black church in general.
While this is unfortunate, the good thing is that this book will no doubt continue a discussion of the hypocrisy of some vestiges of the Black church as it pertains to the lgbtq community:
Mr. Heilbut, 71, discovered gospel while exploring Harlem as a teenage member of the N.A.A.C.P. As he went on to write “The Gospel Sound” and to produce award-winning gospel records, he was also immersed in the everyday homophobia of the black church. “I heard it forever,” he said in a recent interview. “ ‘He’s a great singer, but he’s a sissy.’ Or, ‘He did a terrible thing, but at least he’s not a sissy.’ ”
His reasons for breaking his silence are partly practical. Many of the musicians he identifies as gay or bisexual — James Cleveland, Alex Bradford, Clara Ward, Sister Rosetta Tharpe — are now dead, and in Mr. Cleveland’s case, dead from AIDS.
In the book, Mr. Heilbut recounts a conversation with another gay musician, Charles Campbell, shortly before his death. When Mr. Heilbut asked if he could “tell his story and quote him,” Mr. Campbell replied: “Sure, baby, I think it needs to be told. It all needs to be told.”
Read more of this article here
NPR exposes the complex relationship between the Black Church and gays