The Church House: Sexuality In The Black Church

Producer D. Channsin Berry Tackles sexuality in the Black church in new film
Producer D. Channsin Berry tackles sexuality in the Black church in new film


The Church House:

Sexuality In The Black Church

by Kai EL’ Zabar

Friday evening graced the people with the Chicago premier of The Church House: Sexuality in the Black Church at the DuSable Museum. The independent film was produced by Urban Winter Entertainment, Inc. Producer D. Channisn Berry also wrote and directed the controversial film.  DuSable CEO Perri Irmer, welcomed the crowd and introduced the film.

D. Channsin Berry on stage with film as backdrop
             D. Channsin Berry on stage with film as backdrop

 The non fictional film takes the viewer on an insightful journey shared through the lens and filter of the director. It opens with a disclaimer that the film is not a witch hunt but rather an exploratory journey seeking to enter the thinking inside the church of those actively involved.

The actual storyline begins with a look at the history of Christianity to provide a context.  From there the film flows  into a series of interviews conducted with ministers both male and female as well as members of the church who reveal much, shedding insight into the thinking behind the women and men in the pulpit as well as that of the people who fill the pews.  The voices heard represent a spectrum of views, each unique and yet each resonated with the audience driving home the conclusion, that all is not well in the sanctuary of Christianity. 

D. Channisn Berry engages the audience in dialog after film.
D. Channisn Berry engages the audience in dialog after film.

Some interesting thoughts to walk away with as shared by the voices  . . . 

 The old testament talks about how to control  women’s sexuality . . .

Women’s sexuality is mysterious, powerful, seductive, and turn us (men)into mush. . . 

         . . . .Men can’t control a woman’s sexuality and that bother’s them. . .

Women are either categorized as Eve or Mary . . . that’s oppressive. . .

 . . .We are not Biblical literalists we are selective literalists . . .

Jesus gave us one Commandment: to love our neighbor, if we  love others we accept them as they are, we don’t love, we tolerate, that’s not love . . .

In the Black church we know that the music director is homosexual but we overlook it if he’s gifted . . .

 Back in the day if an unmarried  woman got pregnant in the church, she had to stand before the congregation and repent. But nothing was said about the  Deacon who got her pregnant. . . .

  I preach that homosexuality is a sin.  Even though I know I have gay members. I want them to . . . .

The worse thing we could have done is to put a cover on the back of the Bible. It should have been left open to continue the story. . .

The voices that the audience heard speak, spoke what many have thought and had no place for it to land.

As the credits rolled, applause filled the auditorium as the producer/director D. Channsin Berry walked to the stage to join and engage the audience in dialog. He opened the floor by addressing the cloud that hovers over Chicago and offered his empathy  for the shared  pain.

When asked, What he’d like the audience to walk away with, Chan answered, “I produce films that confront issues that can possibly begin the process of healing for our community. So I want  people to walk away with recognition that there is an issue, allowing them to come to their own conclusions.”

Professor JoAnne Terrell with D.Channisn Berry on stage at Chicago Du Sable Museum
Professor JoAnne Terrell with D.Channisn Berry on stage at Chicago Du Sable Museum

Then he invited Joanne Marie Terrell, Associate Professor of Ethics and Arts  at the Chicago Theological Seminary, who appeared in the film to join him on stage.

As the  questions  were asked the duo interchangeably answered those appropriate to either of them.  One of the more interesting questions begged Chan to share his film making journey.

“Before I actually began the process two prominent  preachers contacted me to warn me that if  I did the film, it could hurt some ministers. They commented, They’re only men. My response was, “If they’re only men then why the hell did they take the job?”

He continued speaking openly and very candidly to the audience, “I’m not a minister, preacher, bishop, apostle, or priest; but I think that in order  to be a representative of God, it takes an extraordinary human being.”

And when a member of the audience asked him about his own healing process resulting from the film journey, Chan replied, ” It led  me to believe that there is hope. I could have gone an entirely different route. See, I had information on  ministers that could have exposed them, ruined their careers. Instead, I chose to pray and consult with God to guide me so that I’d present a film that expressed balance, and not my point of view, but rather give you food for thought and reflection.”

A young woman asked a question from her perspective offering her understanding of God’s desire of people. Professor Terrell, addressed her, “Doctrine is not truth. In fact, the etymology of the word  evolves from Latin to mean, ‘teaching that glorifies God’. . .The Bible is not the final word. The truth is what helps us live. A doctrine emerges to secure the purpose of the church.”

The questions  kept coming but perhaps the most poignant  answer, came from the professor.

“The  politics of respectability is in full force (in the Black church). And the double standard is in full affect. We pretend  that we are perfect middle class, two parent families, rather than focus or give attention to the poor and the poverty that exist amongst our members. We like to dress up and pretend,” said the  professor.

“Finally,”she said in closing, “Scripture is suppose to give more meaning to your life but instead people read it looking for the one meaning. It is not meant to be a list of to do’s.”

If  Channisn, Berry intended to rattle your brain, he accomplished his goal blowing the roof off the church leaving each viewer to contemplate the issues Blacks face within their religious realm.

No matter what side of the fence you sit on, it’s a must see; The Church House: Sexuality In The Black Church

Look for it, then go see it. You want to be in on this dialog.

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