An Open Letter to Kim Burrell: Preaching Hate Puts Lives at Risk

Kim Burrell
Nick Wass/AP

Dear Ms. Burrell, 

As a deeply spiritual, self-identified church sissy who grew up in the Pentecostal church, I cannot stay silent when church folk like you, however well intentioned, think that it’s God’s will to use the Bible to demean and erase the LGBTQ community.

I spent the first 16 years of my life in church being condemned by agents of God such as yourself simply for being born. The fiery pits of hell were my fate before I even had the capacity to comprehend what my alleged sin was. I walked out on religion at 16 to save myself. Religion is manmade. Spirituality is divine. I understood on a fundamental level that the religious doctrine being shoved down my throat was killing me. Words have power, and your words are murderous.

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The Bible is a book that was written by men over 2,000 years ago. While I believe the Bible is the single most successful creative accomplishment in human history, the words were written by men, creative and artistic men, human beings not unlike you or I who were called or chosen by divine energy to contribute to humanity through a creative life force. And not unlike creative folk today, we use the world around us to tell stories through parable and metaphor that are meant to entertain, enlighten, and inspire.

We humans have managed to turn the Bible, this wonderful piece of inspired art, into a weapon to justify hate and fear. Want to oppress a group of people you don’t like? The Bible says you can. Want to declare a war against “them”? The Bible says you should. Slavery? The Bible made me do it. I could go on, but you get the point. You want to cherry-pick the rules from the Bible that coincide with whatever makes you feel superior.

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I waited for 47 years for somebody to have the courage to speak our collective gay truth to your theoretical power. Now I realize it is I who must give voice to the voiceless. So here we are. And so we say to you Ms. Burrell: We’re done allowing the pious and self-righteous such as yourself to wield your battle axe of religiously sanctioned homophobia and spew your murderous rhetoric without consequence.

Gay people are not delusional. Gay people are not perverted. I pray that all sides can believe in different things on this planet and still coexist. The success of our shared humanity demands that. We do not have to agree on any issue, but what we’re not going to do is allow our differences to empower you to think that you may create legislation that discriminates against us. There will be blood in the streets over that.

My prayer for you, Ms. Burrell, is that you will find the courage to embrace unconditional love, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so and add that to your sermons in the future. It will do the earth a world of good. 

Billy Porter is a Tony and Grammy Award winner for creating the role of Lola in the Broadway hit “Kinky Boots.” Some film & television credits include: “The Broken Hearts Club,” "The Humbling," “The Get Down,” “Law & Order,” “Billy Porter: Broadway & Soul - (Concert for PBS).” He has also released three solo albums: “Untitled” (A&M Records ’96), “At The Corner Of Broadway & Soul,” and “Billy’s Back On Broadway,” (Concord Records). He will be releasing "Edelweiss: #blessourhomeland" from his forthcoming album “Billy Porter Presents: The Soul Of Rodgers” on Inauguration Day. 

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