Commentary Strange Fruit

Gospel singer Kim Burrell performed on the song “I See Victory” on the soundtrack to the award-winning film “Hidden Figures.” She was scheduled to perform the song, along with Pharrell Williams, on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. But then, a video of one of her sermons went viral.

“Everybody in this room who’s filled with the homosexual spirit, pray to God to free you,” the sermon warned. “You play with it! What does that mean? You’ll die from it. You’ll die! You play with it in God’s house in 2017, you’ll die from it.”

And just like that, everyone was talking — again — about homophobia in the black church. And on this week’s episode, so are we, with guest Dr. Michael Brandon McCormack, Assistant Professor of Pan-African Studies and Comparative Humanities at the University of Louisville.

McCormack says at the root of some of homophobia in black congregations lies an old familiar culprit: respectability politics.

“There’s a sense in which black Christians have always wanted to seem rather orthodox in terms of their doctrinal beliefs and convictions,” McCormack says.

“We are true believers, but more than that, our morality is not to be questioned. There would be a push to take holiness very seriously. That comes across against the backdrop of the racialization of black bodies as being deviant, as already being violent and already being hyper-sexual, so there’s this whole notion of respectability politics that is pushed by a certain kind of religious orientation toward what it means to be holy or what it means to be right with God.”

Listen to this week’s episode in the player above and subscribe to Strange Fruit wherever you get your podcasts.

Laura produces Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.