Alex Blaze

The McClurkin/Obama concert

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 29, 2007 3:37 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media
Tags: Andy Sidden, Barack Obama, Democrats, Donnie McClurkin

The Obama gospel concert where Donnie McClurkin performed was last night. The NY Times reports:

The whole controversy might have been forgotten in the swell of gospel sound except Mr. McClurkin turned the final half hour of the three-hour concert into a revival meeting about the lightning rod he has become for the Obama campaign.

He approached the subject gingerly at first. Then, just when the concert had seemed to reach its pitch and about to end, Mr. McClurkin returned to it with a full-blown plea: "Don't call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have suffered the same feelings," he cried.

"God delivered me from homosexuality," he added. He then told the audience to believe the Bible over the blogs: "God is the only way." The crowd sang and clapped along in full support.

I haven't said much about this mini-controversy since I just thought the guy was hired to sing and Obama was just trying to get votes out of the whole shebang. Including a gay pastor was icing on the cake, I thought, since people would go to see McClurkin and learn a little more about the gays.

But this is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

Here we have a presidential candidate at a concert that this campaign put on with one of the singers preaching about the suffering that is homosexuality and how we can all pray-away-the-gay, and this candidate isn't a Republican. He's a Democrat.

This is proof enough that we aren't invited into Obama's big tent. Sure, we can go in there, but we're going to have to put up with attacks on our identity while everyone cheers on.

And what about Rev. Andy Sidden, the gay person of faith who was going to address the crowd?

Even an openly gay minister whom Mr. Obama had invited after the fact to try to appease his gay and lesbian critics spoke so early that few people heard him.

CNN adds more:

Sidden's appearance was notably brief and anti-climactic: He said a short prayer to the auditorium at the very beginning of the program, when the arena was only about half full, and then he left.

That sounds like a half-assed attempt to have it both ways to me. Put the gay guy in there, but make sure that almost no one sees him. Then, for the standing-room only part, give the floor to the ex-gay to preach.


The narratives adopted by those discussing the flap have been rather bothersome. Either it was "Christian vs. gay" or "Black vs. gay". Well, when those battles are set up, we lose, and Black gays and Christian gays lose even bigger. There were ways to ease these dichotomies without Obama having an anti-gay minister appear on his stage addressing a crowd of prospective Obama supporters and telling them that you can pray-away-the-gay and that homosexuality is suffering. There are ways to bring people together, people who should be brought together, without having one group trump another as if this is some sort of contest for who'll have representation come 2009.

This reminds me of something Patricia Williams described, from back when Rush Limbaugh was starting to become popular, that people would play his racist tirades in public spaces to make others feel unwelcome. There wasn't any textual discrimination there, no one was being forced away from those public spaces that were meant to be for everyone. But when made to feel entirely unwelcome, she would leave the taxi cab playing Rush or the restaurant with the radio tuned to his show. No laws were violated, but she was made to feel unwelcome enough that she would leave "voluntarily".

That's what this noise from the Obama camp is like. He says he supports us on the issues as much as any other Democrat does, but when he starts to turn up this noise, it's hard to put up with, hard to feel welcome under. His tent is big, and that's cool, but he gave the stage for someone to attack another group of people in that tent, and a lot of us don't like feeling attacked.

Obama stepped right in on this one. McClurkin can say that he's against discrimination all he wants, telling people that homosexuality is a choice that leads to suffering justifies all sorts of discrimination.

But I don't really care about his opinions. But the fact that they were preached at a Democrat's campaign rally just reminds me of where we are in this party, just how much they know that we can't really go anywhere else.

Except, of course, when it's primary season.

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Let's not forget the dear "ex-gay's" sarcastic play with the famous "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" saying in his introductory speech. What actually infuriates me is how only TWO DOZEN gay individuals showed up to protest; what a crappy sense of community do we have.

Alex, this is mind-bogglingly wrong-headed of you.

McClurkin wouldn't have even said anything about gay issues had people not been lying about him left and right.

Yes, Kevin. McClurkin is an infant who can't make decisions on his own. He is subject to the will of those mean homosexual activists who make him give half-hour anti-gay sermons at political rallies. He has no free will because he's a complete idiot, a child, or something that. I can't keep up with the excuse du jour for his behavior, so maybe you can enlighten me.

From this we know that he wasn't vetted by the Obama campaign, they didn't sit down with him and tell him not to preach (although they told the media beforehand that he wasn't going to preach, and then he did, so they're liars now too), and they tried to hide away the counterbalancing queer reverend. Get over it, Kevin. Obama's not a saint, he's not perfect, and he's fucked this one up.

We're not Republicans. We don't follow our Dear Leader lockstep. I know you like Obama, but there's really no excuse at this point for defended him as some master tactician during this fiasco. You can sit around and blame everyone like every other Obama fan at this point (I've even heard this blamed on Hillary, I guess she made McClurkin preach when the Obama campaign promised he wouldn't! Because McClurkin is an infant who isn't responsible for his actions!), but it doesn't change the facts that this is part of his message because he didn't control it, and he owns it.

I'm wondering if you'd feel the same way if instead of preaching homophobia he were preaching racism or anti-semitism. I'm not making a brash comparison between movements, I'm just wanting to know if you're coming from either a position that Obama is always right and we can't say anything bad about him or the position that gays can't legitimately ask not to be bashed at a political rally.

Of course, Obama isn't always right. Failing to vet McClurckin fully was dumb. Not the capital crime it's being made out to be, but dumb.

I do like Obama a lot, but my primary frustration is with the way the dialogue is playing out in soundbites rendered devoid of context. People are debating this issue in near-total ignorance of who McClurckin is, and where he would accurately be placed in the continuum of anti-gay thought, ignorance of his place in the history of gospel music and the changes happening in that industry, in ignorance of the contemporary trends within evangelical attitudes about sexuality. If people were getting accurate information instead of John Aravosis' attack poodle talking points, we'd be able to discuss this rationally.

If I thought that Donnie McClurckin was a guy who thought gay people were trying to kill our children, i'd be as pissed at obama as everyone. If I thought McClurckin had been invited to "tour" with Obama instead of just play one show, I'd be more pissed at Obama than I am. If I thought that he'd given a "half hour anti-gay sermon", I'd be mad too. But not one of those things are trueI understand why people are upset. But it's partly because they're not getting accurate information. My point is not that Obama is blameless, but that people are not getting accurate info.

For example, you characterize McClurckin's remarks as a "half-hour anti-gay sermon." This is straight up false, Alex. You can view a clip from it on right now. This is not some anti-gay rabble-rousing, I wouldn't even call it preaching about homosexuality. this is just a guy who feels like he's been misrepresented, trying to defend himself, and clarify what he actually believes. Watch the video, and tell me what you think. Watch the video, and tell me if you would honestly describe that as "gay bashing".

(Also watch the video because it's funny. Dude is so obviously gay.)

You also say that Obama's team said he wouldn't preach, but didn't source it--anyway I hope it's not too much to assume you haven't been to a black gospel concert, because preaching is always always always integrated into the performance.

The NYT account is a bit misleading, condensing mclurckin's comments. He actually said “Don’t call me a bigot or anti-gay when I have been touched by the same feelings. (big pause) I have suffered the same feelings." Is this an argument that "gay = suffering" or is it an honest account of his feelings about his clearly fucked up life? Watch the video and tell me what you think. Is he bashing on gay people or just trying to defend himself?

You want to talk about "what if it was racism"?!? Well given that McClurkin supports textual equality, the closest analogue i can think of would be, say, the racism of Andrew Sullivan. Not hateful, but definitely ignorant. Would I be okay with Andrew Sullivan speaking at an Obama event? It wouldn't excite me at all, but whatever, big tent and everything.

Anyway, watch the video, let me know what you think.