Faith Community Takes Up Gay Marriage Debate Churches of all denominations have long been a part of the debate over gay and lesbian issues. What should preachers say about homosexuality from the pulpit? For more, Farai Chideya talks with Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C.
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Faith Community Takes Up Gay Marriage Debate

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Faith Community Takes Up Gay Marriage Debate

Faith Community Takes Up Gay Marriage Debate

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And now we turn to the issues of faith. Churches of all denominations have long debated gay and lesbian rights. What should preachers say about homosexuality from the pulpit and what role should gays and lesbians play in the faith community? Bishop Harry Jackson brings his own perspective. He's the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Washington, D.C. He's also the founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, a black conservative Christian group. Welcome, Bishop.

Bishop HARRY JACKSON (Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church): Thank you for having me, Farai.

CHIDEYA: So you just heard a little bit of Terrence talking about his life as a gay black man who is also a father and partnered, or he says married. What do you think about the ruling, the recent ruling in California?

Bishop JACKSON: Well, I think it's an egregious ruling in that you have a group of black-robed, I'm going to call them, usurpers of democracy who overruled a recent law that said 61 percent of Californians want traditional marriage to be the law of the land. And unfortunately, there may have to be a marriage amendment that they pursue out in California in order to lock the door on having judges just overturn what the will of the people is.

CHIDEYA: You're quoted as saying homosexuality is one of several factors that are taking away the interest in traditional marriage in the African-American community. How so?

Bishop JACKSON: Well, I think that there's a overall devaluation of marriage that's going on. There's a doctor named Stanley Kurtz, PhD from Harvard, who's seen that in places like Sweden and other places where same-sex marriage has been the order of the day, that there comes a hesitancy for people, A, to get married and B, for them to legitimize their wedding in order to protect their children. So out-of-birth wedlock, or - rather - out-of-marriage births go up and also people get married later.

We already have this problem in the black community, with nearly seven out of 10 black babies born out of wedlock. The whole world, not just blacks, need to deal with the fact that we have to maintain these institutions. And I believe this is an issue where the sacred right of marriage should not be trumped by someone wanting a civil right. There ought to be laws that are put into place to help accomplish the things this gentleman talked about.

So the real victims, here, I think, are traditional families, and here is where Democrats and Republicans have allowed this issue to be polarized, and polarizing for political gain, and they don't sit down and say, these are the civil rights issues that gays are talking about, here are the ways we can deal with them. As opposed to that, we are fighting over the relevancy of a major institution called marriage.

CHIDEYA: But let's break this down a little bit. Some of the worst track records for the survival of marriages, some of the highest divorce rates are in states that are considered Bible Belt. And so if the gay issue is undermining traditional marriage, those are places where gay marriage isn't even on the docket, it is not even considered. Why is that the case?

Bishop JACKSON: Well, I think there's a two-fold problem. I think we have been somewhat hypocritical, as the Evangelical church, Bible-believing church, in not first preaching more effectively to the choir, so to speak, and bringing people up to speed on this issue. I've recently co-authored a book called "Personal Faith, Public Policy" with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, and we are advocating a revival of marriage. And there are a lot of pro-marriage policies and practices that we should attempt to institute. And I think, in some ways, we should make it harder to get divorces, because in the wake of a divorce, you have issues such as children who are alienated from parents. And there is a fracture, if you will, not only the family, but the psyche of the child. So I think churches are partially responsible, because the relational skills needed to have a good marriage aren't always being taught in the church or those places where people are kind of coached along in life skills.

CHIDEYA: Bishop, let me ask you about something very specific. There is a national gay rights group called Soulforce that is going to protest outside your church, and you actually invited them to debate homosexual rights, gay marriage, with church elders. Did they take you up on the offer?

Bishop JACKSON: Well, they are coming, and they say that this is going to be more of a discussion than a debate. But they told us they were coming, invited themselves into our house, so to speak. But we are going to talk on a Saturday night, and then Sunday morning they are going to come to service. I don't know whether they are going to have placards out, or what they are going to do.

But we welcome the opportunity, in my view, to present the gospel, which I believe is transformative, and the gospel is open to any person, the gospel can change anyone's life. And I think we are going to hear what they have to say, questions they have to ask, and we are going to ask some of our own questions, and I thoroughly look forward to Saturday night, and then they'll come and hear us preach on Sunday morning.

CHIDEYA: Bishop, thanks so much.

Bishop JACKSON: Thank you very much, Farai.

CHIDEYA: Bishop Harry Jackson is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church and the Founder of the High Impact Leadership Coalition. He has authored several books, including "Personal Faith, Public Policy," and was at our headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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