Aisha and Sally Steenland talk with Rev. Dr. Dennis W. Wiley, co-pastor of the Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. about LGBT equality in religious communities today on the Center for American Progress website.
Aisha Moodie-Mills: Another thing you talk about in your “Gays Are Us” series is the connectedness of oppressions. You lay out three different oppressions and how they are interrelated. Can you talk about connecting the dots?
D: Martin Luther King has been a tremendous influence on me and my theology. So have many others, including James Cone, whom I studied with for my doctorate of philosophy degree at Union Theological Seminary. He is considered to be the father of black theology.
I grew up in a black Baptist church in the south, and so I have always been in the church. In terms of connecting those dots, Martin Luther King, toward the end of his life, put a strong emphasis on racism, materialism, and militarism as the three giants of oppression. In so doing, he was connecting the dots. He was helping us understand that the issue of black people in this country is not just racism in an isolated way. We must also look around the world and be in solidarity with the freedom for oppressed people anywhere. That relates not only to racism in America but to poverty and classism wherever it may exist. Dr. King also understood he could not be a nonviolent warrior in America without being against the insidious violence that is perpetuated by this nation and other nations on each other. And so he came out strongly against the war in Vietnam. He got in a lot of hot water with that. He was controversial but he was very strong and very clear.
Today it seems clear that other issues have risen to the surface, including sexism, as well as heterosexism, which has to do with discrimination against our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters.
We are complex human beings. None of us lives in an isolated silo. We are people who need health care, employment, and good housing. We need education. We hope that we will not be trapped in the criminal justice system, which is now being called the new Jim Crow. These are issues that we as human beings need to confront together. We can’t just say, “I am going to deal with this one issue and ignore the others.” We need to be sensitive, involved, and engaged in all these issues.