You’re Marrying Who?

What’s a conservative Christian to do when a friend suddenly announces that they are gay and getting married?

Here’s my commentary on what I did when faced with that situation.

http://www.wbhm.org/News/2009/gaymarriage.html

TIRED OF BEING A COWARD

Check out my commentary in response to Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Coward” speech.

http://www.wbhm.org/News/2009/sutton-on-race.html

Finally, improvements made to store in the ‘black neighborhood’

Posted on AL.com February 20, 2009 2:00 AM

It’s amazing what the sight of a carton of milk can do. Once upon a time, I would have never thought I could go to my local Winn-Dixie to get my daughter’s soymilk. The Five Points West location, to put it bluntly, was pitiful. The lot was always dirty, and inside was no better. The selection was sparse. The lighting was drab. There were rarely any grocery carts. Once, I went in and there was only one, rusty cart available. “They steal them,” I was told.

It was as if the bigwigs, wherever they are, had forgotten about that location. Other Winn-Dixie stores I had visited were modern and cool. This one was anything but.

Last week, however, I was blown away. Bright lights greeted me when I walked inside this time. And, there was a whole stable of brand-new carts waiting for my selection. There was an amazing assortment of food, from fresh seafood to those little gourmet crackers. Then, I spotted it: the soymilk. It was sitting on a shelf with several others: plain, vanilla, very vanilla and chocolate. I was stunned.

Finally, the Winn-Dixie in the “black neighborhood” is like the grocery stores in the other areas. I mentioned the improvements to the cashier, a black woman in her early 60s. She said she had been praying they would improve the store. She said the store makes lots of money, and she couldn’t understand why it was neglected so. But, “God answers prayer,” she said. “We deserve this.”

Marie Sutton

Bush Hills

“Marketing Your Ministry” Lunch & Learn

Sutton Media Solutions will host a “Lunch and Learn” to help local churches and ministries increase their media presence. “Marketing Your Ministry” will teach attendees how to write press releases, understand newsworthiness, etiquette in dealing with the media, etc.  

A panel of journalists will take audience questions and discuss tips on how to get stories in their various news organizations. Our goal is to help attendees increase their public awareness by 100 percent! 

CONFIRMED PANELISTS:

  • Tracy Haynes, Alabama’s ABC 33/40
  • Corrine Alcazar, NBC-13
  • Sherrel Stewart, The Birmingham News
  • Jennifer Rash, The Alabama Baptist 
  • Julie Moore, Birmingham Christian Family
  • Bob Friedman, WJLD 

 WHEN: Saturday, January 31, 2009

WHERE: Homewood Public Library, 1721 Oxmoor Road (Round Auditorium)  

TIME: 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon

COST: $35 (includes materials and box lunch)  

No, Thank You

Here’s my take on being a Christian in a secular society. This ran on Birmingham’s National Public Radio (WBHM) in December 2008.

http://www.wbhm.org/News/2008/faithsutton.html

Here’s the transcript:

No, Thank You

 

Recently, my co-workers and I sat down to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. In between crunching on the complimentary tortilla chips, we chatted about gas prices, the game, and the boss.

 

Then, one of them asked me what Santa was going to bring my two young children for Christmas. “Well…” I told them. “We don’t teach them about Santa Claus. You know, it’s a religious thing.” A few of them rolled their eyes and one said, “I hate people like you. You take all the fun out of Christmas.”

 

I wanted to sink down in my chair and disappear. I didn’t mean any harm. It’s just that my husband and I don’t believe in making Christmastime about a big dude in a red suit.  Instead, we like to focus on the birth of Jesus. It’s our personal preference.

 

When asked about Santa, my one-year-old daughter and three-month-old son will one day say, “Jesus blesses my parents with the money to get our Christmas presents, not Santa Claus.”

 

They didn’t say it, but I know my co-workers thought I was nuts.

 

That’s not the first time I felt like the odd man out. As a Born Again Christian living in a secular society, I’ve had to say no in many situations…

 

No, I don’t drink.

No thank you, I don’t smoke.

No, I don’t have Beyonce’s latest CD.

No, I won’t be attending the Halloween party.

No, no, no, no, no….

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some pristine saint holed up in a cathedral sipping on holy water and reading the Scriptures 24 hours a day. It’s just that certain things don’t feel right for me in my Christian walk and those things may or may be an issue for others, Christians included.

 

Most of the things I opt out of doing aren’t heaven or hell issues. I don’t believe that if you have a glass of wine you’re going to bust hell wide open. For me, drinking that glass of wine could open me up to an addictive behavior that will ultimately dull my desire to be led by the voice of God.

 

And, I don’t celebrate Halloween because I don’t like the thought of dressing up like ghosts and goblins and President Bush. Instead, my family celebrates Hallelujah Night where the kids dress up like Bible characters, play games, and sing songs.

 

During that time of year, we usually turn off our porch light and pray no one rings the doorbell. But, it never fails, despite our lack of decorations and such, some wide-eyed seven-year-old will come to the door in hopes of getting a sugary treat. Then, either my husband or I will have to dash their dreams by saying, “Sorry, we don’t celebrate Halloween.” The kid looks perplexed, and then walks away.

 

I’m sure we have a reputation in the neighborhood. The kids probably all say, “You don’t want to go to that house. Those folks are no fun.”

 

I’m certainly not some religious martyr who, because I don’t celebrate Halloween, deserves to be canonized for my great religious stance. There are a number of things I do that I shouldn’t, like overeat, watch way too much television, not read my Bible everyday, and the list goes on. If you looked up “flawed Christian” in the dictionary, there would surely be a big ole picture of me right there.

 

I’m also not one of those Christians who look down my nose on others because they don’t believe the way I do. As Believers, we’re supposed to be a light in this world – not a flashlight shining in people’s faces and pointing out their flaws, but a candlelight, breaking through the darkness and helping others find their way to God.

 

Christians are supposed to be set apart, “peculiar people,” the Bible says. So, maybe my stand on certain issues will do more than inspire a crazy look, but perhaps spark a conversation that’ll allow me to share my faith.

CROSSING THE DIVIDE

Here’s a link to my political commentary that ran on WBHM, Birmingham’s NPR station.

http://www.wbhm.org/News/2008/crossingthedivide.html

Or, if you can’t open it, here’s the transcript:

Crossing Over

Growing up on the east side of Birmingham, most of the folks in my all-black neighborhood only went to church on Christmas and Easter Sunday. For them, religion was that dusty Mahalia Jackson album tucked away in the hall closet.

My family, on the other hand, was ultra conservative Christian, or in other words, “the odd balls.” We answered the phone by saying, “Praise the Lord…,” owned stacks of books and cassette tapes from those charismatic TV ministers, and by 6 p.m. on Sundays were gearing up for our third church service of the day.

When I turned 18, I proudly brought my conservative beliefs with me as I marched into the neighborhood elementary school to cast my very first vote. Since it was a primary, the pollster asked in an obligatory tone, “Democrat or Republican?”

When I said, “Republican,” she and others within earshot bucked their eyes as I signed a sheet that listed the only two other Republicans in my voting area — mom and dad. I cast my vote, and when I left, I felt a slew of eyes cover me as I walked out the door. That didn’t sway me, though. They were all lost, I thought. 

We were the only black Evangelicals I knew. And to our family and friends, we may as well have been traitors to our race. It was ironic, though — typically blacks and evangelicals believe along the same lines when it comes to abortion and gay rights. But there is also a perception in many African American communities that evangelicals only care about their two plum issues and could care less if other Americans can put food on their tables, have proper healthcare, and are able to send their children to college; effectively making them Christians who lack the charity of Christ.

As a Christian and a black woman, I have been conflicted about voting with the evangelicals during this election. After years of sitting under a Republican regime that has brought about war, the threat of recession and soaring gas prices, my allegiance has begun to soften. So today, nearly 16 years since I cast my first Republican vote, I am considering siding with a democrat.

I’m no longer sure Jesus is necessarily a Republican and I don’t like the pattern I’ve seen emerge among my fellow Christian Republicans. When an election comes, they preach against abortion and gay marriage, vote for conservatives and then return to their world of towering churches, white picket fences and shiny SUVs. They don’t reappear again until another election. All the while, the world around us is crumbling.

When I drive through my non-Evangelical neighborhood in Ensley, the reality of this nation’s brokenness slaps me in the face. I am pained to see men and women wandering the streets after losing their homes. I tear up when I see bright-eyed kids unsuspectingly march into local schools that are near the bottom in national ranking. And, I get weak when I look into the eyes of person after person so consumed by poverty that they can’t even muster up enough hope of something better.

I am beginning to question how I can continue to vote with a block of people who narrow the problems of this nation down to two or three issues. Why aren’t Evangelical Christians protesting in the streets on behalf of America’s poor and disenfranchised? Why aren’t they just as verbal about issues affecting the lives of babies who weren’t aborted?

So, after much contemplation and deep prayer, I won’t be voting with the Evangelicals this election. I won’t be voting as a “black woman” either. I am shedding all my labels. I’m still a Christian and no doubt, I’m still black. But, as an American, I am going to the polls and voting for issues that will bring about what’s best for the children, the elderly, and all people of this nation whether they are black, white, Christian, Buddhist or none of the above.

Now, I’m not signing up to be a lifelong member of the Democratic Party and I don’t believe Barack Obama is America’s Messiah. I do believe, however, the issues he and his party are trumpeting have ignited a hope in people all across this country.

So, on that great day — the election, not the Second Coming — I am going to walk into my local poll place, say a prayer and make a change. I pray I’m making the right decision.

Somebody say amen

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Published in The Birmingham News

MARIE SUTTON 

Nowadays, if you say the name “the Rev. Jeremiah Wright,” you are likely to get a few eyes to rolling or a couple heads to shaking. Some people believe the fiery Chicago pastor, who called for the damnation of America, has given the “black church” a bad rap.

He’s got folks wondering what exactly goes on inside the walls of the black church. Is it a bunch of disgruntled African-Americans plotting an attack on white folks, all in the name of Jesus? Hardly.

In actuality, the black church is, and has long been, a haven for the African-American community. It has been a sacred place, where blacks who had lacked a voice in mainstream society could be accepted and given an identity like teacher, nurse, preacher, deacon and singer.

The black church began to sprout up secretly on slave plantations, as African-Americans weren’t allowed inside white churches. It continued to take form after slavery ended, but when segregation and dehumanization had not. Although free, African-Americans felt as if their country did not love them and retreated to church, where they knew, at least, Jesus cared.

Inside, they were able to relish in and preserve the heritage of their music, style of dress, speech, worship, food, politics and more. Where a mature African-American male could shed the title “boy” and take on the label “distinguished deacon.” Where a woman, who had to keep her mouth shut during the day while cleaning toilets and making beds, could stand before a packed church and belt out a heavenly tune that left the hearers covered with goose bumps.

Like a miracle from heaven, the black church has had the power to transform a person. It takes those who are considered invisible and gives them the confidence and freedom to make an indelible mark on their community.

I’ve seen a man who sweeps floors for a living transform his daily humble slouch into a CEO-type swagger when he walks inside the doors of his church. There, he is a leader, the head of the men’s ministry and a Bible scholar.

I know a woman who works at a dry cleaner during the week, standing on her feet until they ache and swell. On Sundays, however, she proudly slips into a pair of apple-green snakeskin heels that perfectly match her dress and hat of the same color. Her duty is to give the church announcements, and when she speaks, her eloquence is on the same caliber as a head of state.

Growing up, Donald Stoves of Trussville loved to read, and aspired to one day be a teacher. Life, however, with its twists and turns, led the 58-year-old along another path. He found himself working as a shipping and receiving clerk instead.

Once he joined Rebirth Christian Fellowship in Roebuck seven years ago, however, he became just that: reborn. In church, he found his purpose, he says. Now, as the Sunday school superintendent, he’s the head teacher. He coordinates classes and makes sure Sunday school runs like a well-oiled machine.

Each Sunday, he gets up at 5 a.m. to joyfully prepare for his work in the church. He prides himself in wearing dapper suits, especially the blue, four-button one with gold pinstripes. He is usually one of the first to arrive and makes sure everything is in place. Then he prepares his heart for praise and worship, thanking God for allowing him to use his gifts.

For many African-Americans, Sunday is their time to use their gifts.

Inside the black church, the pastors are treated like rock stars. Many use rhymes and catchphrases to make Bible stories come alive. Their members hang on to every word, signifying by saying, “Amen” and “Preach! Preacher!” The older women, or “mothers of the church,” reward the “Man of God” handsomely with a Sunday dinner fit for a king, usually piled high and consisting of two meats, hot cornbread and greens of some sort.

Inside the black church, the pastor and minister wives are considered royalty. They don the latest fashions and sit pretty on the front pew while others admire them for their grace and beauty.

Inside the black church, fashion shows parade beauties who sashay and strut instead of prance. It’s where unconventional beauty – rounded hips and Coca-Cola-bottle-shaped silhouettes – are appreciated.

The black church is where gospel songs stretch out for several minutes, seasoned with jazzy repetitions and musical acrobatics. It’s where people clap loud, rock their hips, shout out “hallelujah” and cry like babies.

The black church is also a place that embraces people of all races and cultures. I’ve seen African-Americans clap, stand up and welcome with open arms their white, Asian or Hispanic “sisters” and “brothers.”

The beauty of the black church is that it is not a monolith. There are those who are afrocentric, conservative evangelicals, prudes, radicals and the like. There are churches that are run so well it would make even the largest corporation envious. Many in Birmingham have multimillion-dollar budgets, award-winning television ministries and well-financed mission trips to Third World countries.

Also, let’s not forget that nearly 50 years ago, it was inside the black church where Birmingham’s civil rights movement was born. People would fill the edifices to get their marching orders and hear stories about Moses and the Children of Israel to give them the courage to face a Bull Connor.

The black church is much more than what has been portrayed in recent 60-second TV sound bites. It’s where blacks – and anyone for that matter – can go be refilled, refreshed and reminded that, although there are times when you feel forgotten or forsaken, you’re still a treasured child of God.

Can I get a witness?

 

Marie A. Sutton, a former reporter at The News, is a free-lance writer in Birmingham.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.