Friday, October 26, 2007

This Whole McClurkin Mess

I haven’t really known what to think of this whole Barak Obama-Donnie McClurkin uproar. I suspect this is one of this instances where I’m going to leave the liberal bunkhouse and strike out on my own which is strange, since I’m not even a Barak Obama supporter. I just don’t like to see fellow liberals behave like jerks and I fear this controversy is headed in that direction.

This strikes me as a colossal case of campaign bungling. Barak Obama wanted to reach out to the African American faith community, which trends to the social conservative side. The campaign thought gospel star/pastor Donnie McClurkin was an ideal avenue for that, but someone didn’t do their homework, and now the GLBT community is in an uproar. The Obama campaign finds itself in the unfortunate position of trying to appease GLBT supporters without offending a conservative black Christian audience. Good luck with that.

As someone who covered gospel/Contemporary Christian music for several years, I’m of course familiar with McClurkin--as a talented Grammy winning artist and leukemia survivor. I’d never heard any of his views about homosexuality before, nor was I aware that he considered himself an “ex gay” and credited prayer with his “cure.”

So I was completely floored when the outrage erupted on AmericaBlog and elsewhere this week. I had to do some research, and it seems to me that while some of the anger is justified, a good bit of it is exaggeration. I obviously don’t agree with McClurkin’s statements about “the sin of homosexuality,” but at the same time some on the left are trying to portray him as the classic “religious right activist bigot,” and that’s not right either.

For example, John Aravosis claims "McClurkin let himself be profiled on ... the Exodus International website,” when in fact the profile was an article from the June 2002 issue of Charisma, reproduced with the magazine’s permission, not McClurkin’s.

It seems to me that a lot of McClurkin’s quotes are his thoughts on his own specific experience, not blanket statements about gays and lesbians in general. And while I might wish he used different language, I think calling him an “outspoken homophobic bigot” is out of line. If nothing else, this incident illustrates what happens when the language of evangelicals is misinterpreted by non-evangelicals. “Sin,” for example, is one of those loaded words that doesn’t always mean what non-evangelicals think it does.

What's really a shame is that this situation could have been used to reach out to a constituency that should be natural allies in the quest for gay equality. An opportunity to educate and inform has been lost with all of this angry rhetoric. Wouldn’t it have been better to try to engage Donnie McClurkin in a conversation, instead of slamming the door by calling him a “homophobic bigot”?