It's not easy being a young African-American male in Indiana — where prejudices and stereotypes still maintain a stronghold in business, religious and government institutions. It's also no walk in the park preaching the word of God in modern times to a multicultural, radically inclusive Christian congregation. Add to these attributes a person who is same-gender loving — and you've got a man on a mission. It's a calling Pastor Keith McQueen courageously accepts in his ministry at Powerhouse Church of Indianapolis.
Like a lot of people in their mid-twenties — filled with exuberance over their pending nuptials — Pastor McQueen recently posted a picture on Facebook of him and his partner, Derrick Howell, with the following brief message:
I have been blessed beyond measure to be united with someone that I KNOW is equipped to minister to my Whole being. God saw fit to connect me to an amazing man! MY Best-friend/prayer-partner/confidant/counselor/business-advisor and now fiancé!!! September 12th can't come quick enough!!!
That simple post — containing less than 45 words — created an online firestorm, generating more than 41 shares and close to 300 comments. Many comments included hateful and derogatory language, calling Pastor McQueen and Derrick "pigs," "evil," "wicked" and "Satan."
"It's double oppression," explains Pastor McQueen. "You've been oppressed as a Black person, and you're being oppressed as a LGBT person." With complete candor, he says, "If you don't deal with someone's spiritual mindset around their human sexuality, or any aspect of themselves where there's self-hate, you can't help them."
He and Derrick didn't take the negative remarks personally. "Neither one of us responded on Facebook, and the reason why is because, 'an offended man is harder to win than a strong city.' [Proverbs 18:19] If a person is in a spirit of anger, you're not really open to allowing yourself to be educated or to be illuminated." Pastor McQueen acknowledges that most of the people who made negative comments grew up similarly to the way he grew up. They were taught about a God that hates. "It's religious indoctrination," he says. "Every slur and every angry message are things that have been poured into them. They're only giving back what they have been given."
He emphasizes that same gender loving individuals are often given two options in Christian churches. Option A: You choose God. You choose to live for Christ. Option B: You "choose" to be same gender loving. He notes, "You aren't presented with Option C: You can love yourself and love God." Pausing momentarily, he says, "I think we presented some people with Option C who had not entertained the idea."
With a strong tradition of fighting for civil rights, the African American church presents an interesting paradox on marriage equality. "I do believe that the African American church has dropped the ball when it comes to defending LGBT people," says Pastor McQueen. "You would think that African Americans who have been greatly mistreated and denigrated—still to this day—would be more welcoming and accepting. But unfortunately, there is so much prejudice." The reasons may date back to slavery. "You dealt with a lot of stuff, but you couldn't talk about it," he says. "So people developed this mentality, 'what happens in this house stays in this house.'" Today, that includes a reluctance to openly discuss human sexuality, especially in the African-American Christian church.