Kim Burrell Rant Ignites a Firestorm and Discussion
Gospel singer-pastor Kim Burrell received fiery backlash following a passionate, controversial sermon.
Two names in particular dominated musical headlines at the beginning of 2017. One was Mariah Carey, who gave a particularly awful performance during the annual Dick Clark New Year’s Eve special. There were numerous reasons why Carey’s set was a train wreck, but Carey herself took little responsibility, proclaiming in a tweet, “sh*t happens.” The other name to dominate musical headlines, more so for social reasons as opposed to a horrific performance, is Kim Burrell.
Talented Gospel Singer and Pastor
Kim Burrell is an extremely talented gospel singer, something that shouldn’t be diminished. Additionally, she is a pastor, something that definitely shouldn’t be disregarded. Burrell’s stylistic approach doesn’t appeal to everyone, but she’s incredibly distinct. Vocally, she is known for her runs and her ability to sing and fuse numerous styles, particularly jazz and R&B/soul namely. She has collaborated with numerous musicians, including Harry Connick, Jr. and perhaps most interestingly, Frank Ocean, considering her recent controversy.
While some may have their preference whether or not they like her voice, her talent isn’t in question. What is in question, creating a social and religious argument, are her comments about homosexuality. A sermon recently ignited a firestorm as the musician/pastor had harsh words about homosexuals that, unsurprisingly, infuriated the LGBT community. Not only did the comments infuriate the LGBT community, it irked allies to those communities. It also invited plenty of defenses from the Christian community.
It is no secret that homosexuality and the church have a tense relationship. Also, it is inarguable that from many Christian perspectives, homosexuality is considered a sin. Many Christians, particularly those from the past generation, are staunch in such views. To a more accepting, more liberal, younger generation, such views generally aren’t the case. Sure, not every millennial embraces the LGBT community or every Baby Boomer and beyond denounces such, but generally, the attitudes of each generation trend as aforementioned.
The Infamous Sermon
Rather than transform this into an essay about the validity of either argument, let’s focus on what got people so hot on Burrell. The messaging itself is naturally controversial, particularly in a time where homosexuality has become more acceptable than ever. That isn’t to say that everyone feels that way, but generally, it’s not as frowned upon as it has been historically. Stating an opinion against homosexuality adds fuel to the fire of a firestorm, but in the case of Burrell, her approach itself was more damaging.
Playing devil’s advocate, in defense of Burrell, she is clearly entitled to freedom of speech. Additionally, Burrell is entitled to freedom of opinion. While the LGBT community likely wouldn’t have approved of her if she’d been more sensible in her comments, arguably, likely they’d be less angry. There are numerous people, particularly Christians, who disapprove or disagree of homosexuality.
This is where the relationship between the two becomes tense. That said, there are numerous churches who have members that are LGBT, regardless of differing opinions. There are also LGBT friendly churches, better known as Gay Affirming Christian Churches. It should also be noted, that every Christian DOESN’T feel the same way as Burrell or if they share some of her sentiments, they don’t necessarily approach it the same way.
Perhaps the biggest issue is with the comments given are hate. The comments feel hateful and exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. The tone that Burrell took was anything but loving or compassionate, characteristics associated with Jesus Christ himself. Making things worse, she was specific in regards to private parts, which seems inappropriate for a religious setting. Even if Burrell addresses the issue in a church, referencing anatomy is unnecessary. Considering exclusivity and inclusivity in regards to the Christian faith or a specific church, this is the springboard for a separate argument. What is associated with the church and what isn’t? Come as you are or you’re not welcome?
Live from Facebook and a Lack of Clarity
Burrell didn’t handle the controversy particularly well when addressing it, or rather, she didn’t provide clarity. Essentially, she confirmed the exclusivity of the sermon and contradicted herself as loving the LGBT community, but disliking the sin. The problem is, that the message she delivers sounds hateful, given the tone. That may or may not be the case, but the way it was framed wasn’t a great look. There are numerous people who have friends and family members that they love who are gay, but don’t necessarily agree. If that argument is considered more sensible – differences of people and opinion – it wouldn’t have gained the same traction.
The other problem is, sometimes Christians tend to weigh their “sins” differently. Sometimes, Christians (speaking personally) don’t realize their own hypocrisy. We – everybody – is guilty of hypocrisy at some point in their lives. All Christians have been and are sinners themselves, saved by grace. One sin doesn’t outweigh another, no matter how intriguing Dante’s Hell is in The Divine Comedy. A sin is a sin, right? Burrell touched upon her focus being sin in her response, but again, she danced around the controversy as opposed to providing clarity.
Does Kim Burrell deserve the backlash? The responses are to be expected. Christians will say no – she’s being persecuted, much like Kim Davis. The LGBT community and respective allies will say yes – she’s homophobic and represents the problems with Christians, the church, etc. Rationally, the answer should be yes as well, at least to some extent. Burrell didn’t frame her words well. Although she seems satisfied with being exclusive, she could pack a bigger punch with being inclusive. That doesn’t mean she compromises her beliefs – they’re her beliefs after all – but this particular instance just doesn’t sit well.
The Black Church & Final Thoughts
Take it from someone who has been in the black church all his life. Even as a proud member, there are times when the pastor goes left-field. While homosexuality is a popular topic, numerous topics can create a stir. There are plenty of instances where a pastor has been called for an engagement, delivered the “wrong sermon,” and wasn’t asked back. Doesn’t just have to be the black church either.
It should also be noted that Pastor Shirley Caesar recently came in defense of Burrell. She takes a shot at President Obama in regards to same sex marriage, another topic that certainly doesn’t play well to the Christian base. Burrell certainly got people talking, to say the least.