From this past Sunday’s sermon, one would think the Rev. Donald Q. Fozard Sr. likes saying the word faggot. The pastor of Durham’s Mount Zion Christian Church hollers the word’s last syllable as if he were exorcising a demon, or as if he were a movie star who understands that notoriety rises when you do something incendiary.
“Faggots across the nation, heading churches. Homos on the pianos. Faggots in the choir. What kind of spirit is leading that church?” he asked his 150 worshippers.
The 26-year veteran of Mount Zion, who is known in Durham for preaching through a loud speaker mounted on a white van, has a boxer’s build, bloodshot eyes and wears a white smock adorned with 13 gold buttons. He speaks in an intimidating tone, which is amplified by a microphone and echo machine.
This Sunday, Fozard’s sermon interpreted the week’s two big events in the fundamentalist Christian world–Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and the marriages now occurring between same-sex partners. The Passion, he said, is like scripture. “This is stirring up the world. Whenever the gospel is preached, it will stir up the world. I saw people come out of the theater; it looked like they saw a ghost,” he said, smiling. “God is using Hollywood to preach the gospel.”
Fozard invited a girl onto the stage who saw the movie. She reported that she and her friends sat, stunned, while the credits rolled. “That’s what happens when people see that movie, they walk out shaken,” he said. “It gripped them. It put that graphicness on them. Isaiah said you could not recognize that Christ, on the cross, was a man. And Mel said he had to hold back.”
Then Fozard continued with his own spectacular show. “And now? Men with men, women with women? Let me remind you of Sodom and Gomorrah. That sin will bring fire from heaven. I tell the homosexual man: repent, turn and get a woman. I tell the woman who wants to get married: get yourself a man.”
(If Fozard stresses the last syllable of “faggot,” he sounds out each vowel and consonant of “homosexual”.) “The Reverend Al Sharpton says it doesn’t matter who you sleep with?” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing: the Reverend ain’t no Reverend. All of them are running around saying it doesn’t matter who you sleep with! They want that little 1 percent of faggots that go to vote.”
And so on. More violence and stigmatization. In the same room in which, moments before, the congregation lifted palms and prayed for rain. Moments before, strangers paired up and tenderly anointed one another. Moments before, worshippers read from their own worn Bibles. Moments before, a child eagerly sought and placed a grandmother’s hands on his forehead.
“If the Reverend Donald Q. Fozard, Sr. is not preaching the word of God,” the pastor rhetorically warned his congregation, “he needs to be judged by the elders of the church. “