This issue fits into the field of sociology as an example of conflict in society caused by the existence of different paradigms which evolve out of community experiences over many centuries. The so-called “Thomas theorem” holds that individuals construct their own reality out of what they believe, which, in turn, means that their beliefs have a strong influence on their actions. In the context of homosexuality and the African American Churches, the dominant teachings of the Church may make it easier for individuals to view homosexual people in a negative light, which in turn causes them to be hostile and negative towards this section of the community. Homosexuals themselves may have feelings of shame or guilt because of these judgemental views, and may not be able to discuss or express themselves in their church context,
Ward (2005) traces a connection between “theologically-driven homophobia” and “the anti-homosexual rhetoric of black nationalism” which have arisen together in resistance to larger American structures including racism, patriarchy and capitalism. According to this line of thinking, the pressures of the civil rights struggle contributed to the development of an ideal of “hypermasculinity” in African American communities which includes rejection of homosexuality as a valid or proper way of life.
From another perspective, modern sociological approaches, like the social-interaction approach, interpret some of the issues as arising out of the symbolic meaning that people attach to things, rather than their actual attributes. In this instance, homosexuality interpreted as weakness and moral depravity - two features which African American men were desperate to avoid in a racist society which already challenged their masculinity through imposed servitude and discrimination. The legacy of this struggle lives on in a tendency amongst African American males towards an exaggerated distancing from anything with connotations of femininity or weakness. The sociological point here is that homosexual people are not any weaker or necessarily more feminine than non-homosexual people, and in any case femininity can be construed as being just as strong as masculinity. Negative connotations have simply become attached to the stereotypical labels that people use and these negative connotations are hard to eradicate, even when the threat to masculinity has reduced, and social behavior in American society at large has changed. It is well known that hard-line, fundamentalist church groups are anti-homosexual, but the question of how widespread these attitudes are in African American Churches as a whole is less well understood. Sociological inquiry into this would first of all provide updated information on the prevalence of homophobic attitudes in these Churches, and then also explore what the effects of it are, and the trends that are emerging. Possible interventions could be made to lessen areas of conflict, and support African American homosexuals and their Church communities in finding healthy, supportive ways of dealing with different sexual orientations. There is evidence in the media generally and in a small number of academic studies that the amount and scale of active intolerance on the