The Story: Award-winning gospel musician Donnie McClurkin claims he was uninvited to a concert in Washington, D.C. celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington due to his stance on homosexuality.
The Background: According to the Washington Post, McClurkin was scheduled to perform in the D.C.-government-sponsored concert with other singers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial during the “Reflections on Peace: From Gandhi to King” event. But at the request of Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), who fielded concerns from activists Friday, the Grammy-winning singer decided not to perform, according to the mayor's office.
In a lengthy video statement posted online Saturday, McClurkin said Gray “uninvited me from a concert that I was supposed to headline.”
“There should be freedom of speech as long as it's done in love,” McClurkin said in the video, adding that he believes it is unfortunate that in today's world, “a black man, a black artist is uninvited from a civil rights movement depicting the love, the unity, the peace, the tolerance.”
In 2002, McClurkin wrote on the website of Charisma magazine,
At the age of 8, I was hurled into a chasm of confusion by a violation of rape. This Pandora's Box was opened in my prepubescence and introduced me to adult sexualities, issues and perversions far beyond my years and definitely beyond my ability to escape without damage. . .
. . . I've been through this and have experienced God's power to change my lifestyle. I believed that I was meant to be a whole man, made for one woman, and God brought it all about. I am delivered, and I know God can deliver others too.
These decade old comments were used by homosexual rights activists to justify excluding him from the event. Phil Pannell, a DC-based gay rights activist and civil rights advocate, said he raised objections with the mayor's office Friday because he thinks McClurkin's comments on homosexuality have not been in the spirit of the “beloved community” about which King spoke.
“I take no joy that he is not performing,” Pannell said. “I really admire Donnie McClurkin's artistry, but this is a situation where a political polemic obscured his artistry.”
Why It Matters: Jesus healed the sick, cured the blind, and even raised the dead—-and for these good works they crucified him. He warned us that because he has chosen us out of this world that the world will hate us too. (John 15:19) This hate is not a mere effect of our focusing on what have suddenly become divisive cultural issues; this is the default attitude of the world toward Christians.
Nevertheless, recognizing that we will be the culturally despised does not mean we should not protest such hateful treatment of Christians in the public square. We should be concerned about our freedom of expression now that we've reached the point when a famous African-American gospel singer is being excluded from an event honoring a famous African-American Christian minister and civil rights leader simply because—over a decade ago—the singer made comments critical of homosexual behavior.
“The notion of tolerance is changing,” says Don Carson, “and with the new definitions the shape of tolerance itself has changed.”
Although a few things can be said in favor of the newer definition, the sad reality is that this new, contemporary tolerance is intrinsically intolerant. It is blind to its own shortcomings because it erroneously thinks it holds the moral high ground; it cannot be questioned because it has become part of the West's plausibility structure. Worse, this new tolerance is socially dangerous and is certainly intellectually debilitating.
And as Voddie Baucham says,
Unfortunately (and quite ironically), many Christians have been bullied into silence by the mere threat of censure from the homosexual lobby. “Oppose us and you're no better than Gov. Wallace, Hitler, and those homophobes who killed Matthew Shepard!” is their not-so-subtle refrain.
We can and should oppose affirmation of homosexuality as a test for whether we can be allowed into the public square. Like McClurkin, we should do so forcefully but charitably, remembering that our purpose is not to defend our rights but to ensure that we can effectively love our neighbor.