This was not accidental. Tony Perkins, whose "Family Research Council" puts on these shows, is a savvy pol. He knows his market.
And the one fact liberals have yet to grasp hold of is the rise of the Black Megachurch.
Atlanta has a number of these. Bishop Eddie Long runs one. Creflo Dollar runs another. They are run much like any white mega-church. That is, they provide social services designed to keep parishioners occupied, to keep them out of the hands of the government.
These churches provide an important service for the black middle class, which is growing across the South. They validate. They also segregate. They separate congregants from the pathologies of poverty. They preach a gospel of wealth, based on self-discipline. With half of all black kids born without fathers present, with a third either in jail or on probation, with the odds so stacked against those born in poverty, this is a powerful message.
To empower these people, everything becomes a choice. Graduating from school is a choice. Avoiding drugs is a choice. Avoiding sex out of wedlock is a choice. And thus, inevitably, being gay is a choice. If you have money, a big house and a fine car, you have made the right choices. If you don't have these things, it's your own fault.
It's a conservative message.
In my experience, black Democrats are far more socially-conservative
than white Democrats. They are new to the middle class. They feel they
have earned their status. They fear losing their status. They relate
their own success to their personal habits. They are far more likely to
be violently anti-abortion (it kills black babies) and anti-gay (think
being black is hard -- try being black and gay) than white liberals.
They are ready, Perkins feels, to be weaned away. And the way to do it is through gay issues. These people feel personally insulted at the very idea that denying the humanity of a gay man is the same as denying their own humanity. They see sexuality and all forms of behavior as a choice, and are quite ready to cut off any black person who engages in what they see as bad behavior.
Note the picture at the top of this entry. Note the black faces. Now note that the black faces are C-list celebrities. (In the Christian political sphere, the whites are all A-listers.)
- Alveda King is, indeed, a niece of Dr. MLK, but she's based in California.
- Wellington Boone runs his ministry from an office park outside Technology Park in Norcross.
- Andy Lusk runs a Philadelphia ministry whose chief public ally is a white man, Eagle Coach Andy Reid.
These people are all ambitious. They are entrepreneurs. They are wannabes. And what they wannabe is Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long or (better yet) T.J. Jakes. Perkins hopes that by building-up these people, he can persuade B-list or A-list preachers to "come out" on his side.
In many ways, however, those people already are on his side. Were it not for the continuing, overt racism of white southerners, these black southern megachurches would have told their flocks to switch sides long ago. Even despite that racism, preachers like Long have detached themselves from the Democratic Party, and wish to be considered independent, hopeful of being wooed rather than taken for granted.
This movement is stronger in the South than in the North, and my point today is to note that the social conservatism of the black middle class is likely to keep the South conservative no matter how high the liberal tide runs elsewhere, for a long time to come.