Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Book Review: On the Down Low

When I first wrote, ‘You Can’t Keep It On the DL Forever’ and ‘Oprah on the DL’, the feedback that I received spiked a bit higher than normal. After I posted the articles, a lot of the responses from the women was very supportive and encouraging. Along with the ones who had already known about this ‘DL lifestyle’ before, where the people who had NO IDEA that such a thing was going on.

On the other hand, there’s a couple of folks who were completely turned off and agitated by the DL articles and the whole DL issue for that matter..

"Man..the last thing black men need is ANOTHER reason for folks to look down on us in derision, fear and anger."

Those who feel offended or perturbed by the mere MENTION of the Down Low lifestyle are a puzzle to me. Because I’m a heterosexual black man and by becoming more educated about the lifestyle, I feel better equipped with my life as well as the guidance, advice and friendship that I can offer to all the females in my close circle who may have to deal with this issue. When I wrote those first articles, I had yet to actually read the book. But since then, I’ve had the opportunity to meet J.L. King personally as well as read the book.

This was a big step for me, because I am what my wife often refers to as a ‘recovering homophobe’. I have my own levels of uneasiness and uncomfortableness with homosexual men. It’s not that I think they’re contagious or anything, it’s just that I’m wary of them taking my words or actions the wrong way. So instead, I have the tendency to stay reserved and deliberate when I’m around them, because I don’t want any misunderstandings, ya feel me?

The friends and family members that I have that are gay are a different thing, because I know they KNOW me, so there isn’t any fear of a misunderstanding or them trying to recruit me into their world. Most heterosexual men that are approached by or ‘hit on’ by a homosexual man get offended and pissed off and ready to fight. This is because most heterosexual men see homosexuality as a perversion against the natural order. Since I have friends and family members who I’ve known to have had these homosexual tendencies and mannerisms since childhood, I know that this is a fleshly lust that some men are just naturally born with. Just like how some heterosexual men are born with a natural lust for many different women.

So now we’re faced with a group of men, who like to engage in homosexual activity ‘on the cool’ and still reap all the benefits of being a ‘straight’ man and thus we have the Down Low community. Of course, on first glance, my first problem with the book was the title: On the Down Low, A Journey Into the Lives of "Straight" Black Men Who Sleep With Men. Holeupcuz!?? In MY world, ‘straight’ black men don’t sleep with men! After reading the book, I now understand that the point JL was making, is that although these men sleep with other men, they don’t consider themselves gay. That one still kinda baffles me, but I guess the mind is a powerful thing. We can convince ourselves to believe whatever we want to believe if we try hard enough.

Some folks call this denial, but the thing is, truth and time go hand in hand. And as time marches on, the truth is always there, maybe to be exposed today, maybe 10 years from now, but the truth never fades away, it’s always there. All things done in darkness will eventually come to light, just let time keep doing it’s thang. Apart from the hyper-sensitive homophobic black men who complain about the broadcast of the whole DL issue, are those heterosexual men who commit acts of infidelity with women.

"Man..don’t be giving my gal reason to start checking up on me! She might be looking for some punk sh’t and run up on one of my freaks! All those ‘can’t make up their mind’ punks are making it harder on all us true PLAYERS out here!"

I tell all those ’Players’, that the whole Down Low issue and the rising HIV epidemic in the black community isn’t really about homosexuality or bisexuality, this is really an issue of fidelity. People may jump up and start talking about ‘safe’ sex, which is definitely a necessary education, but having ‘safe’ sex does not put you under the shield of God. God honors ‘saved’ sex, that which is from the union of a married man and woman. And now, with so many folks stepping outside their marriage and indulging in illicit sexual acts with people they’re not married to, then that brings the health and well being of a faithful spouse under the target range for STD’s. Some people look in uppity derision on homosexuals, but yet they ignore/overlook this same fornication when it’s a heterosexual act. That’s when the finger pointing starts and the walls built by hypocrisy go up.

There is a church located on the Southside of Houston called The Shrine of the Black Madonna. It was at the Shrine‘s cultural center, that I went to hear J.L. King give his lecture/discussion/signing session for the book and the issues which it addresses. Now first of all, when there’s going to be a book signing by the man who wrote, On the Down Low, what kinda people do you think would come? Overwhelmingly the population throughout the small auditorium was black women. It makes sense, since they are the demographic which is suffering the most from this secret lifestyle. Of the handful of men in the room, there was a questioning aura every time one of the guys looked at each other. Because unless you worked at the Shrine, most folks were trying to figure out if you came because you WERE a man on the Down Low or what?? I realized that if I wasn't out on my hustle trying to get my writing thang down, I wouldn't have came either. True players know how to rise above their hangups and just take care of the business at hand. Whatever feelings of uneasiness I had, were quickly brushed to the background, because I was very eager to see how a fresh new author, hot on the scene, handles himself in front of a live audience.

J.L. gave a very nice overview of his life, his journey, the book as well as some things to look out for on the horizon. He then opened the floor up for questions. Some women vented anger at him and any other man who would put their woman through such a nightmare. Others voiced their support for him having the courage to stand up and educate our community to a lifestyle which had previously been spoken of only in hushed tones. When the time came for questions from the audience, I submitted one question: "Do you think homosexual marriages should be made legal?" His blunt and simple answer was ‘No. I don’t’.

After the lecture and Q&A, he signed books and I stood in line and got my book signed along with everyone else. J.L. was very warm and kind spirited, he spoke directly to everyone, took pictures and he was very cooperative and interested in his audience. We briefly discussed my writing endeavors, publishing company, servinemup.com, etc. I even left him with my website URL and email so that he could check out my style. Since then we’ve emailed back and forth a couple of times and he had a copy of this review before anyone else.I say this, because some of the parts that I’m going to bring up from the book are what I consider constructive criticisms. I think J.L. did a good thing by bringing this issue to the forefront, but there’s a couple of theological points in his book which are directly against the teachings of the Bible. So in that regard, I’ve got to put my boy J.L. ‘on blast’.

This is an excerpt from the ‘Oh God’ Chapter, pg 75 in the book.

"The book Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh has provided me with 100 percent peace of mind about my life. In this publication, God tells the author that He gives all of us free will to live our lives. He, God, doesn’t intervene or make decisions for us. Because God has given us free will, He will not punish us for the decisions we make. That’s comforting."

That’s not comforting, that’s absolutely wrong! I posted Free Will yesterday to get folks to start thinking about it. God DOES give man free will to do as we choose. But this does not mean God is encouraging, inviting or ignoring us when we sin against His Word.

"I question whether having sex with men and women is a sin. I think that abusing people who give you their bodies, minds and souls by not being honest and true is a sin. I am thankful that I now know that. Yes, I was living in sin when I was lying and putting others at risk of death and destruction. Now that I give my sex partners a choice-free will- I feel I am no longer living in sin."

This ain’t right. So for all ya’ll out there (J.L. included) thinking you can get your fornication on and not think God won’t hold it against you because you’re not ‘hurting anyone’?? You’ve got it twisted mane.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21envy murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in the time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-20

Of course, to some extent, we ALL have yielded to at least one of these fleshly lusts and a common tactic to deflect any ‘blame’ for any sinner is to point out Romans 2:1 like J.L. did in his chapter on the Black Church on page 80:

"What most churches won’t do is take the Book of Romans a few more lines down to chapter 2, verse 1: "You therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself"

In other words, ‘You can’t TELL me what I’m doing wrong, only God can judge me mane!!" Actually, the latter part is very true. God is the Eternal Judge of us ALL. But the problem comes in when people try to spread this, ‘Pay your dues and do’s as you please..ERRBODY (who don’t hurt others) is going to Heaven!’ that’s what you call a false teaching. And people who don’t KNOW their Bible and who aren’t rooted in the Word can easily fall prey to this ‘okey doke’ move.

I’m not casting stones at brother J.L. or anyone on the DL lifestyle or whatever. I’m just so afraid for our world, when we get to the point where there is no discernment for what’s right versus what’s wrong. That book that J.L. King used Conversations with God is NOT God’s Word, that’s just a book that Neal Donald Walsh wrote. Those who are searching for God’s essence, need to look in the Bible. I

n that passage from Galatians, the original Greek term for fornication is porneia. From which we get our English word pornography. This word covers all illicit sexual activity, including adultery, premarital sex, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, prostitution, etc. So the homosexual (or Down Low) community is correct in pointing that man is not the judge of man, but brother King is oh so wrong to lead people to believe that God will not punish us for committing sins that don’t ‘hurt’ anybody.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. - I John 1:8-10

We’ve ALL sinned and come short of the glory and for Christians to deny that they are sinners, is denying the very reason WHY Jesus got up on the cross. The key is having a truly REPENTANT heart and striving to leave the fleshly lusts (which wrestle with us EVERY DAY, even the saved folks!) behind and move on toward the glory of the Lord. Those who harden their hearts against God’s Word are going to have to give an account of themselves to God one day and He’s not going to want to hear ANYTHING about what other folks were doing, He’s only talking about YOU.

I encourage everyone to read the book and educate themselves on the lifestyle and the ‘signs’ that can let you know if your mate is a participant in the Down Low lifestyle. I pray that you all educate the people in your lives who you know don’t normally read on this subject. Just don’t forget, God didn’t instruct us to use condoms and practice ‘safe’ sex , His instruction is for faithfulness and monogamy with our marital spouses, which is known as ‘saved‘ sex. There is a difference between the two, but some folks just don’t want to see it.

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