Kim Burrell is a gospel singer and minister who wants us all to know that she thinks gay people are ickie. But in displaying her homophobia, she’s accidentally illustrated something about where her religion is going, and why.
Kim Burrell is a gospel singer and Pentecostal minister at a church she founded called The Love & Liberty Fellowship Pentecostal Overcoming Holy Church. Its website, which thoughtfully features autoplay music created by I presume its founder and a splash screen featuring a large glamorous photograph of her rather than one of the church itself, informs interested parties that this is an evangelical group that does not appear to be affiliated with one of the tens of thousands of denominations already existing within Christianity–so basically, it’s standard-issue Baptist fundagelical (literalist, inerrant, Trinitarian, controlling) and very likely a cult of personality (that she’s got everything set up with the domain name “kimburrellministries.com” doesn’t help ease that impression).
She’s a very successful singer/songwriter and has worked with and influenced a number of other artists like Beyoncé, Nelly Furtado, Harry Connick, Jr., and Pharrell. She’s won a bunch of awards too. But she’s also been edging further and further into the right-wing end of fundagelicalism over the last ten years, it seems. She now calls herself a “gospel singer” rather than just a “singer,” and clearly enjoys preaching from the pulpit of her very opulently-appointed church.
On New Year’s Eve, Kim Burrell took it upon herself to preach a shockingly bigoted sermon to her flock about what she perceives to be the “sin” of homosexuality and how grody she thinks it all sounds. When she got hit with huge backlash–including from her onetime creative partner Pharrell–she took to Facebook to whine about how misunderstood she’d been.
Another Showing of the Fundagelical Not-Pology.
Christians live in a culture that slams down hard on them for being wrong. So when they get caught out doing something shockingly hypocritical, it’s not uncommon to see them offer up a “not-pology” that is meant to mollify critics without actually admitting wrongdoing or taking responsibility for the misdeed. The not-pology also functions as a silencing tactic meant to end criticism–because gosh, why are we all still focusing on the misdeed when the committer of it apologized? Except that no, actually, what was offered was not really an apology, and the guilty culprit has no intention at all of changing or even providing adequate redress for whatever they did.
Ms. Burrell’s not-pology (and actually, she’s tried to issue two of them by now) follows the familiar pattern of all the ones that have come before it. It was offered only well after the uproar hit a crescendo. It was inappropriately lax and offered absolutely no indication that she understands why what she did was wrong or even that she grasps that she is solidly in the wrong here at all. It was hugely dishonest, in that she is literally saying she didn’t say stuff that she is totally recorded saying on video (or worse, weasel-wording her way away from what she literally said). She’s distancing herself from what she did, claiming “My love is as pure as it comes,” and clearly has no plans to change anything she’s doing–except, perhaps, to be more sneaky about it. And I’m already seeing her peers in the religion starting to defend her against what they view as the sparkly gay mafia and mean ole libruls trying their best to silence TRUE CHRISTIANS™ (like her) from speaking truth to power.
Homophobia Makes For Very Rotten Fruit.
Until her smear campaign, I barely even knew who Kim Burrell even was. But now I know that she is a homophobic asshole who says shockingly perverted things while condemning people she doesn’t even know in the name of her equally bigoted and assholish god–who, by the wildest of coincidences, happens to have the same opinions that she does. I know all about what she hates and fears, and what she is completely misinformed about. In my mind, she is at this point defined solely by her dishonesty, hatred, and ignorance.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. She’s a fairly minor player in the Christian scene if I’ve never heard of her, but now millions of people know her as that horrible person they heard about in blogs and on social media smearing people who are total strangers to her and denigrating their right to live and love as they please. Others who loved and admired her music are now revisiting that opinion; at least some have already decided never to support her or her work again. She faces nearly unanimous backlash from the entertainment community and those outside it–and has already lost valuable marketing opportunities (such as a scheduled appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that has been canceled) thanks to her behavior.
Her chosen band of merry bigots-for-Jesus approves of everything she’s said, of course, and has already proclaimed her a martyr for the Christian Right. But Christianity is shrinking by the thousands every single day as it drives off its more loving, compassionate members to leave behind a solid base of polarized, hate-fueled fearmongers. Some 50-90% of Christian youth will leave the religion by the time they’re out of college, depending on what study you look at–and a large percentage of them cite anti-gay attitudes for their departure. More and more Christians are accepting of LGBTQ people–a development that horrifies their more conservative peers and leaders, but it’s an inevitable one given the demographics and changing culture of the modern world.
So Kim Burrell is part of the reason for her own religion’s downfall. She, personally, is helping to hasten its slide into irrelevance. She, personally, is part of why Christianity is a behemoth that is faltering in its tracks, about to tumble to the ground. Soon, her hateful homophobia will be delivered to nearly-empty sanctuaries (or rented storefronts, or small living rooms, since churches are also failing by the hundreds per year), and the only people who will take note of her are religion writers who will cite her as an example of how her religion is failing, slowly but surely.
If that’s what fundagelicals mean when they imply that she is their standard-bearer, then they are welcome to her. The rest of us would rather be anywhere than around people like that. We are not willing to negotiate one iota of our rights and liberties away just to make them feel better about losing their culture wars, and there really isn’t any reason that we should feel obligated to do so.
I grow very weary of fundagelical belligerence and posturing, but I can’t help but notice that every time their ignorance erupts, a few more people are alienated a little further away from the people who created this culture war and profit from it.
Perhaps that thought is something we can take into 2017 with good cheer.