Friday, December 2, 2011

Interracial Couples Banned from Church

With a headline like "Kentucky Church Bans Interracial Marriage,"you might expect to check the date on some crumbling newspaper and see this sad story. Not that an earlier date would make the sentiment any better, but it is a bit more shocking to see that this story is from yesterday--December 1, 2011. 

A longtime church member, Stella Harville, from a small (40 person average) congregation brought her fiancé to church and together the two sang a duet. Afterwards, according to Yahoo News writer Eric Pfeiffer:
Dean Harville, Stella's father, said he was told by the church's former pastor Melvin Thompson that his daughter and her fiancé were not allowed to sing at the church again.
That's right, this pastor couldn't make his bigoted demand directly to the people involved, but to the woman's father.

As a point of clarity, the church made it clear that they aren't singling out couples who sing together. A WYMT obtained copy of the church resolution explains the complete viewpoint on interracial couples:
That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals. All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.
Right. So, that's pretty horrible any way you approach it, but let's pick this apart a little.

Note that it's the Church as an entity that does not "condone interracial marriage," and--at least for many people, and I'm willing to venture and say that for most churchgoing people--marriage is a union in which church approval is important, that is a formal act on the part of the Church.

People who choose to disobey the Church and marry anyway will be ostracized by being denied membership and access to church functions. In the case of Ms. Harville, someone who is already a member, I guess--though it's not explicitly stated--membership will be revoked.

Here's where it gets so sad it makes me laugh because the hypocrisy starts to run so deep I can't keep track of my reaction. "All are welcome to our public worship services." So, see, they're not racist! You can come to church!

And the decision to ban members who marry interracially is "not intended to judge the salvation of anyone." Well, how gracious of you, deciding only that these people aren't worthy of inclusion in your precious community, and not that they should burn in Hell.

And then--wait for it--the decision is meant to "promote greater unity." On the face of it, this is the greatest hypocrisy of them all. You choose to strengthen the "unity" of your community by refusing to let people into it. But what this statement really means is that unity can only be preserved when there is an other. There is no "us" if there is not a "them." To me, this Church's stance blatantly means that their priority is not in spreading God's message or providing a space for salvation, but to preserve their own short-sighted and bigoted definition of humanity.

And what, exactly, is an interracial marriage in the Church's eyes? What gets defined as a "race?" Can we just pick people we don't like and decide that they are too different to count? This sounds like an easy way to preserve "unity" indeed. And if that's what unity looks like, I'm glad I'm part of the "them."

1 comment:

  1. This is a great analytical post. You broke it down to its hypocritical bits, in the process exposing just how deep the bigotry of this "church" (though it sounds more like a clan to me) runs. I notice you said, "former pastor." Dare I hope he was replaced, along with everyone else in the clan-gregation?