When North Carolina voters head to the polls on May 8, they will be asked to decide on a constitutional amendment – known as “Amendment One” – that prohibits marriages between same-sex couples. Same-sex marriage is already illegal by statute, but N.C. is the only state left in the Southeast without a constitutional ban.
So this is quite a showdown. There’s much talk of liberty, lifestyle and family — and a whole lot of talk about God. As opponents and supporters target churches all the way from Appalachia to the Outer Banks, religious leaders are flooding the airwaves to share their views on a hot button issue that throws core values into stark relief.
Growing up, I attended a church in Raleigh that is deeply involved in the current debate. And I can tell you that the fault lines are deep – and often surprising – to folks in other parts of the country.
A Tale of Two Churches
The Upper Room Church of God in Christ, located in south Raleigh, is presided over by the Rev. Patrick Wooden, who describes homosexuality a “deathstyle” and presents himself as a zealous defender of traditional marriage. Rev. Wooden, an African American, launched his ministry career with a tent revival in a small rural town. Bringing a message infused with miracles and warnings of the devil’s influence, the pastor came to Raleigh to lead the Upper Room in 1987, where his congregation, by the reckoning of the church website, today numbers 3,000. Proudly describing himself as a businessman and his church as one of the largest employers of blacks in Raleigh, Rev. Wooden’s teachings carry a whiff of prosperity gospel that appeals to those striving for economic salvation as well as spiritual. And he champions social views that have made him a rising right-wing media star, complete with spots on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
A passage in Genesis forms the basis for Rev. Wooden’s view that God’s definition of marriage is strictly a male-and-female union. He rattled it off in a recent TV appearance: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and
This article originally appeared on: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/28/a_holy_war_over_gay_marriage/singleton/