Taking down Kim Burrell: Sermon on homosexuality gets quick, one-sided media react

When I read about pastor and entertainer Kim Burrell’s sermon where she called homosexuality “perverted,” I knew she was going to be made to pay for that and pay big.

Not only is her name mud in the entertainment world, but her recently launched radio show on a local Texas station just got cancelled.

Believe me, that will just be the beginning. What makes this so timely is that the movie, “Hidden Figures,” in which Burrell sings for the soundtrack is opening this week.

Here’s how the Los Angeles Times explained things:

Gospel singer Kim Burrell labeled homosexuality “perverted” in a sermon she gave in her other life as a Pentecostal preacher, quickly eliciting responses from both Pharrell Williams, with whom she sings on the “Hidden Figures” soundtrack, and two stars from that film, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.
Burrell and Williams were originally scheduled to perform the soundtrack song “I See a Victory,” on which he is also a producer, on “The Ellen Show” on Thursday, with Monáe also slated to appear as a guest. But on Tuesday morning, show host Ellen DeGeneres announced on Twitter that Burrell would not join Monáe and Williams on Thursday’s show.

Then followed the withering tweet by DeGeneres and then:

“I came to tell you about sin,” Burrell said in the recent sermon at the Houston church she founded and where she is pastor, Love and Liberty Fellowship Church International. “That perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women.”
A firestorm of criticism was touched off when video of the sermon began to circulate and Burrell took to Facebook Live to add, “There are a lot of people that I’m aware of that struggle or deal [with] or have that spirit. Have I discriminated against them? Have I ever outright told them that I don’t love you and you going to hell? … I don’t give that call.”

That and USA Today’s account were two of the less hysterical stories on the issue. It led with DeGeneres’ decision to dump Burrell and added a few more details, including Burrell’s video on her Facebook account, sticking to her doctrinal guns. 

What confounds many in flyover country and some of us on the Left Coast is that a lot is said about Burrell using “hate speech” but nothing about how she’s in line with the doctrines of her faith on homosexuality. Visit black Pentecostal and charismatic churches and see what people there believe about sex outside of marriage and homosexuality, in particular.

Instead, we got an essay on NBC News where the reporter interviewed a black graduate student in a very blue zip code who was outraged by her words. 

"I'm straight, but I'm sick and tired of hearing [about homophobia in the church]," says Marlon Millner, a doctoral fellow in religious studies at Northwestern University who has followed the artist's career for more than two decades.
Burrell, black religious studies scholars say, has benefited from the support of the LGBTQ community for years -- even as she preached against them. Indeed, Burrell makes a guest appearance on "Godspeed," a song by Frank Ocean, wrote about his sexuality and romantic interest in a man.
She was booked on DeGeneres' show to help promote the new film Hidden Figures before the host, who is a lesbian, uninvited her. Millner suggests Burrell can't have it both ways

With all due respect to the good point Millner makes here, since when does a network ferret out a blogger and doctoral student for quotes? Stick with actual professors, folks. And why seek defining quotes in the Upper Midwest, as opposed to Burrell's home territory in Houston?

As I scanned how everything from Time magazine to BBC News was calling Burrell “homophobic” without the quote marks, I wondered if reporters actually read her remarks. She did profess love for gay people. They may not believe her, but is “homophobic” the right word to use? At this point, is 2,000 years of Christian doctrine on this subject simply "homophobic" and that is that? For example, is Pope Francis "homophobic"? 

For the zillionth time in this blog, we remind you that blindness to more than one POV is known as “Kellerism,” a term that means that a media outlet that has made up its mind on a certain hot-button issue to the point where there is no need to do legitimate, informed, coverage of the beliefs and actions of people on the other side to the story. Thus, only one point of view is expressed.

The New York Daily News at least broke some new ground by quoting fellow black Gospel singer Shirley Caesar. 

While Kim Burrell faces massive backlash for her homophobic sermon, a fellow gospel singer has stepped up to defend her.
Shirley Caesar, an 11-time Grammy winner, included a message to Burrell in her latest sermon, which appears to be at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Baltimore.
“You should've said something four years ago when our President made that stuff all right,” Caesar, 78, said in a video recording posted online Wednesday night.

What’s interesting to watch is the discussion among blacks and gays on this, with the gay black personalities like filmmaker Clay Cane making sure to to whip their African-American confrères into line on this matter. His editorial on CNN.com claims that black churches are filled with homosexuals and promises a backlash against those who call them out. The Root has similar sentiments.

One bright spot: KHOU-TV in Houston had one of the more balanced reports on Burrell. The Houston Chronicle, Burrell's hometown newspaper, hasn’t done a lot of original reporting on the matter, other than mentioning that not only has Burrell lost her radio show, she may have also lost a recent TV talk show she premiered in September. 

I’m still waiting for a reporter –- somewhere, anywhere –- to interview black church leaders who agree with Burrell.  They’re out there and their views are important. They are a crucial part of this story. Where’s T.D. Jakes these days? And Creflo Dollar? And A.R. Bernard? Where are the black church leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, in Texas and elsewhere?

Or is it just the female black preachers who are willing to take the media hits? You can hear Gospel minister Iona Locke preaching the same essential message about homosexuality. Just look on the Kim Burrell-We Support You page on Facebook for her sermon

So, are critics of black churches right when they say there’s been a lot of hear no evil, see no evil when it comes to blacks and the LGBTQ movement? Are some of these black male spiritual leaders not willing to publicly face this issue?

There are good stories out there to be written on this topic. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough reporters who will stop throwing around terms like “homophobic” and “anti-gay” to get at the theological questions that should be asked. Or maybe they are out there, but those aren't the stories their editors care to run. 

Either way, only one side of this debate is being told. Again.

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