Shayne Lee, Ph.D, is an associate professor of sociology at Tulane University. He is the author of "T.D. Jakes: America's New Preacher," which analyzes major changes in the black church culture and contemporary American religion, and co-author of "Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace," which looks at the appeal of celebrity preachers. His recent book, "Erotic Revolutionaries," explores the topic of black women, sex and pop culture.
As a sociologist who studies black churches, my research allows for compelling conversations with some of our nation's most powerful religious leaders. But my most memorable interview to date was not with a celebrity preacher, but a lesser known young gay Christian I'll call David.
Like many black Christians, David grew up in a theologically conservative church culture that views the Bible as the authoritative word of God. This supplied David with a healthy dose of guilt and regret for succumbing to same-sex cravings, eventually leading to his despondent spiritual state. In gripping detail, David recalled spending many days and nights fasting and praying for God to "deliver" him from his homosexuality.
The recent allegations of four young men against Atlanta, Georgia, megachurch pastor Bishop Eddie Long have curious onlookers marveling at the irony of how a prominent preacher could find himself staring at the barrel of the same gun he aimed against homosexuality for years.
Whether or not these charges against Long hold true, David's struggle sheds light on a church culture that often requires biblical leaders to vigorously and rigorously uphold biblical injunctions against homosexuality, despite the inherent visceral conflicts such a position might present.