When Lisa C. Moore's apartment burned to the ground four years ago, she was in the middle of editing an anthology about black lesbian and gay spirituality. What did the fire mean? Was it a sign from God so obvious that even the New Testament's Blind Man of Bethsaida could see it? Or was the strange electrical mishap simply a cruel cosmic joke? Fire and brimstone indeed.
Moore didn't spend too much time stressing over the larger significance of the fire that destroyed her Hyattsville, Md., home. After mourning the loss of just about everything she owned, she got right back on track. Though it took several years, that anthology, Spirited: Affirming the Soul and Black Gay/Lesbian Identity, has finally risen from the ashes of Moore's disaster.
“There was a black hole where my apartment was,” says Moore, a youthful 42 years old behind owlish glasses. She co-edited, with G. Winston James, the recently released Spirited and founded RedBone Press, which published it. “I managed to turn on my computer, but smoke had damaged the hard drive. I could salvage some of the essays but not all of them. So we had to piece the book back together.”
This book of 40 provocative, heartfelt essays examines both the pain and power of spirituality for black lesbians and gay men. (Full disclosure: An essay I wrote called “Revelations” appears in the collection.) Contributors include several lesbian ministers, a number of writers coming out against the backdrop of the church and others driven away from it. There's a “southern sanctified sissy,” a “heathen,” a “preacher's kid,” and one writer who says simply in the title of his piece, “I Hate God.”
Despite the delay in publication, Spirited came at the right time: just when many of us need it the most. Large numbers of black lesbians and gay men who were raised in the church have found ourselves drummed out of it. We've been damned and cursed by people who learned better, betrayed by an institution that should be saving souls, not destroying them.
Most recently, we've seen the most visible sector of the black Christian church lose its way. Over the past several years, a number of big-name African-American clergy have been co-opted by the Christian right to bolster its poisonous movement against lesbians and gay men, particularly gay marriage. What happened to the African-American church, which was synonymous with freedom, justice and civil rights, producing leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King? Too many of the flock have become acolytes of the Bush Administration with its politics of exclusion and are worshipping at the altar of capitalism.