Last week, I interacted with theologian Preston Sprinkle, Vice President of Eternity Bible College's Boise, ID, on Twitter over his announcement of not one, but two books on homosexuality. Sprinkle has made himself known in the LGBT conversation for being a compassionate voice while still holding traditional views of sexual ethics. He’s blogged a lot on LGBT topics even inviting those who don't agree with him to have debates on his platform.
I’ve enjoyed Sprinkle’s intentionality in being loving while holding non affirming views of same-sex relationships. Still, I’ve questioned why he’s written extensively on the LGBT topics. He’s told me he’s tried to write on other topics but they don’t “attract as much attention.”
So, his blog posts don’t receive as many clicks with other topics.
When he announced the release dates for two books on homosexuality, I found it to be excessive. I told him that we didn’t need more white, straight, men weighing in on this conversation. Sprinkle did not respond well to that notion at all.
The fact is the majority of books from decent publishers on the LGBT Christian conversation come from white people—both LGBT and straight white people. That isn’t to say queer people of color haven’t written things on this subject. We have, but books that come from queer people of color just don’t land the same book deals and don’t get the same promotion as white individuals do.
I’ve said the criticism to books that are affirming of same-sex relationships and those that aren’t. It’s not about Sprinkle’s theology; it’s about the lack of diversity.
David Gushee, Justin Lee, Ken Wilson, Matthew Vines, Wesley Hill, Eve Tushnet, Tim Otto, James Brownson, Kevin DeYoung, Jonathan Dudley, Margaret Farley, Jenell Williams Paris, Gene Robinson, Andrew Marin, Wendy VanderWal-Gritter, Mark Achtemeier, David Myers and Letha Scanzoni, Glenn Stanton, Robert Gagnon, and soon Sprinkle, have have published books on this niche subject in recent years. Their voices are both straight and LGBT, affirming and non-affirming of same-sex relationships but they all have one thing in common: they’re all white.
Their prominence in the conversation has been aided by their whiteness.
The LGBT Christian conversation is overwhelmingly whitewashed. This is a conversation about privilege and access – something people of color lack systemically.
My criticisms weren’t to Preston personally but to the imbalance of white voices in a conversation that desperately needs an intersectional lens. Sprinkle fails to understand the intersectionality of systemic oppression.
Intersectionality, as coined by black feminist Kimberlé Crenshaw, is the study of the intersections different forms of oppression and discrimination. Crenshaw stressed that we cannot have conversations about LGBT, or race, or gender independently because these identities intersect.
As queer feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde, said: “We do not live single-issue lives.” Yet, in response to our twitter interaction, Sprinkle treats oppression independently.
In a blog post, Sprinkle says he doesn’t think the LGBT question (to which he sexualizes saying it’s is “about whether a particular sexual practice is moral and not”) is linked to a race. Ultimately, denying the experience of millions of queer people of color. He ignores the historical civil rights movement that was aided by LGBT black individuals, Dr. Martin Luther King’s advisor was an openly gay black man. He’s ignorant to the fact that Stonewall Riots, what started the LGBT rights movement, was started by black and latino, queer and trans, individuals. He’s also tone deaf to today’s black struggle in which the three founders of the national movement #BlackLivesMatter are black queer women.
Sprinkle’s response is exactly why we don’t need more white, straight, men adding their voices to this dialogue -- at least not until we get some diversity into the conversation. They lack the experience, and education, to approach the LGBT Christian conversation with depth and nuance that looks at how our oppressions overlap. That isn’t to say that people from his demographic can’t be involved in this conversation. Allies are certainly welcome. But good allies are always willing to learn. They’re students in this conversation not the teachers.
What Sprinkle did is center his voice in this LGBT Christian conversation. Meaning, he prioritized his voice over the voices of LGBT persons and those of color. We need to be doing the opposite. We must decenter the voices of privilege in the LGBT Christian conversation and center actual LGBT voices. Because no matter how much time Sprinkle, or any other white straight individual, spends reading on our stories they will never experience it firsthand.
Queer people of color have stories to tell. We have voices. Our stories are our own and not for anyone else to tell. This conversation affects us more than anyone else. We need to have people who claim to care about LGBT people, like Sprinkle, listen to our stories first hand instead of through the mouths of privileged writers who land book deals.
We need more from bisexual women of color. We need to listen to Latino transgender men. We need to tune our ears to gender non-conforming Asian people. We need to listen to queer voices of color.
We need to uplift the voices in the margins. We need diversity because the Kingdom of God is not comprised by whiteness.