Bishop Harry Jackson
LANHAM, Md. — Bishop Harry Jackson's Hope Christian Church is the size of a supermarket, with items similarly proffered for sale as soon as you enter the front vestibule. The products are mostly media: cassettes, CDs and DVDs of Hope Christian worship services and religious conferences, and stacks of books.
Many of those books come from Jackson's own hand, including his call-to-black-conservatives Black Contract with America and another book called High Impact African-American Churches, which was co-written with white evangelical publisher George Barna. The literature reflects Jackson's relative moderation in the black anti-gay movement, but also a willingness to partner with white preachers and groups who are, in many cases, truly vicious critics of gay men and lesbians.
High Impact begins by pushing Jackson and Barna's own "research," purportedly based on 100,000 personal interviews conducted over the last 20 years, which uncovered "areas in which whites and blacks are clearly divergent." One of those areas, according to Jackson and Barna, is sexual temptation. Black people, they allege, are far more prone to it, and specifically to "physical intimacy with a nonspouse or enjoyment of pornographic materials."
In spite of this allegedly innate promiscuity — a quality that most white supremacist "race scientists" and hate groups also claim is an intrinsic characteristic of black people — Jackson and Barna conclude that African Americans are spiritually superior to white Christians, in that their faith is more "integrated" into their everyday life. Since black Christians spend more time in church than white ones, the book argues, black God-fearers are more observing of the Sabbath, while "this concept was lost more than a quarter century ago in white America" – just one more "sign that the spiritual focus remains paramount among blacks."
But there is one area, Jackson says, where good black and white Christians are in perfect accord: Their shared condemnation of homosexuality. "It's going to cost black America if we don't stand [with white anti-gay Christians] against this," Jackson told a January 2005 rally in Annapolis, Md. "We are in a moral war … a battle of epic proportions."
More recently, in a September column on Townhall.com, Jackson said: "The gay community, with the help of the liberal media, has worked strategically on a P.R. campaign to make Americans comfortable with homosexuality. From the slightly effeminate male assistant to the first gay marriage ceremony on television, American audiences have watched homosexual themes creep into their lives."
While Jackson personally avoids venomous language, he has allied himself with some of the hardest line anti-gay activists on the white Christian Right. One of them is Ohio-based Rod Parsley, the evangelical mega-church preacher whose book, Silent No More, sells three for $10 in the front lobby of Hope Christian's 3,000-member church. A chapter entitled "The Unhappy Gay Agenda" argues that gay people are much given to depression and deviance, including their "substantially higher participation in sadomasochism, fisting, bestiality, ingestion of feces, orgies … obscene phone calls … shoplifting, and tax cheating."
"Homosexuality is not just sick," writes Parsley, "it is sin."
Jackson generally finds politer ways to say similar things. "It's not good that we open the door and get this thing so confused that we have eight more Warren Jeffses," he tells the Intelligence Report in reference to a polygamist leader who was recently arrested and charged with sexual assault of a minor and conspiracy, for allegedly arranging marriages for his followers with child brides. "We have to try not to open this [legal marriage] to other inventive kinds of relationships."
Jackson works with Parsley and a number of other Christian fundamentalists through his High Impact Leadership Coalition (HILC), a collection of black and white evangelical mega-church leaders who've banded together to fight same-sex union rights and campaign for conservative candidates. Standing next to Jackson at the HILC's coming-out press conference in February 2005 was the Rev. Lou Sheldon, head of the Traditional Values Coalition, an anti-gay organization so hard-line that it is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group.
The partnership goes both ways. Jackson was a "special guest" and the only nonwhite preacher at the "Justice Sunday II" event held in August 2005 in Nashville. The gathering, sponsored by the hard-line anti-gay groups Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, was aimed at attacking those who sought to block appointment of anti-gay, religious right judges. Jackson was also the closing speaker in Washington, D.C., last September at the "Values Voters Summit," a conference meant to galvanize far-right Christian voters to engage in political action.
Still, Jackson has agreed to debate African-American religious and intellectual icon Michael Eric Dyson at a gay rights conference on the issue of gay marriage — a move practically unheard of among white Christian Right leaders. The debate was scheduled for this March at the "Black Church Summit" in Philadelphia, and hosted by the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a black gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered rights group.
Jackson acknowledged his white colleagues on the Christian Right "wouldn't even step in the door" for such a debate. But, he added, "I still don't think I'll come out of there changing my mind about the institution of marriage. … My hope is that I come from a very clear biblical place. I know there are people who disagree with me, but my hope is that I am making a stand that is protecting an institution."
Sylvia Rhue, director of religious affairs for NBJC, said that of all the anti-gay black pastors in the country, she finds Jackson one of the more pleasant she has had to deal with. He just happens to be wrong on gay rights, she said.
"I think it's disturbing when black people join the contemporary Confederate army," Rhue told the Intelligence Report. "I don't see [anti-gay religious leaders] as any different than the army who wanted a civil war to maintain slavery. They were passionate and thought that God was on their side. But they were very wrong."