A House Divided

Page 9 of 9

Davis's point is that the Bible is a tool, not a literal guide, that it's been manipulated by men -- white men, specifically -- to justify oppression. As a gay man, he says, he's felt the negative impact and alienation of those who use the book to justify hate -- Davis calls them "baby Christians" -- and praises his own years of schooling spent cross-referencing biblical texts to arrive at the conclusion that Jesus didn't condemn gays.

"What is the Bible to you?" Davis asks a middle-aged man seated with his wife in the fourth pew.

"The Bible is the living and true word of God," the man answers, without hesitation.

"No, no it isn't," Davis says. "The Bible is a book. The Bible isn't God. If the Bible was God, then I couldn't do -- "

The book makes a loud thud as it drops.

" -- this."

An older man lets out a loud sigh. Heads shake all over the room. A young woman in the third pew passes a note to her friend: This is gonna be World War III, it says.

"I am here to tell you that I am unapologetic and unashamed to be gay, black and Christian," Davis says. "There was a time that I let a twice-divorced, remarried minister tell me I was immoral. I was challenged, depressed. But I wasn't immoral. To treat me that way was immoral."

Near the end of Davis's presentation, he asks the audience to raise their hands if they believe that homosexuality is a sin. All but a few hands go up.

"To me, yes, it is a sin," says Pastor McMillian. "But it's no more a sin than a lot of other things, like alcoholism or adultery. I think we do have to ask ourselves: What sin are we gonna accept, and what sin are we not gonna accept?"

"I think I want to be less concerned with whether homosexuality is a sin than with whether homophobia is a sin," counters Jackson.

Reynolds takes it in, his face revealing both confusion and understanding. Everyone agrees on the concept of the whosoever church -- it's the howsoever part that's tricky. There's a sense that, even at the conclusion of the Bible study, the conversation at Emmanuel is just getting started.

Reynolds calls the congregation together in a prayer circle.

"Well, we have been challenged tonight," he says, clapping his hands together and smiling plaintively. "I would like us all to remember what Brother Herndon said about feeling that he was going to be lynched in a church. You say lynched -- that's a word that's going to mean something to black people. He's telling us that we have gotten to the point where we are oppressing people -- in church."

After the prayer, people come up to shake Davis's hand, but none linger too long. There's a sense that no one's mind has been changed about anything. Leah Lynn looks shaken as she heads out the front door for the long ride home.

After the class, Reynolds goes back to his office to do what he does after most Bible studies: He puts his head in his hands and prays.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond