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May 2nd, 2012
04:18 PM ET

North Carolina pastor retracts sermon remarks about punching gay kids

By Stephen Walsh, CNN

(CNN) – A Fayetteville, North Carolina, pastor has retracted controversial language used during a weekend sermon in which he instructed parents to hit children who exhibited behavior associated with homosexuality.

“I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended,” Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church wrote in a statement on his church’s website. “I did not say anything to intentionally offend anyone in the LGBT community.

“My intent was to communicate the truth of the Word of God concerning marriage,” the statement continued. “My words were not scripted. It is unfortunate I was not more careful and deliberate.”

Harris’s remarks at his church came a week before the state’s voters consider an amendment to North Carolina’s constitution limiting legal unions to marriage between a man and a woman.

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"The second you see your son dropping that limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist," Harris said in the Sunday sermon. "Man up. Give him a good punch."

"You’re not going to act like that," the pastor advised parents to tell their children. "You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male.”

In an interview with the Fayetteville Observer, Harris said his comments were meant as a joke. In a video of the sermon posted online, laughter can be heard from some members of the congregation, as well as cries, of “Amen!” as the pastor spoke about responding to seemingly gay kids.

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Berean Baptist explains its stance on discipline of children on its website:

“Remembering the love and forgiveness that God has shown them, parents in turn should train their children with the purpose of reflecting the Heavenly Father to their children. Parents should consider their responsibility to be the instrument of discipline in their child’s life (Prov. 19:18). At times this may include appropriate and reasonable physical means (Prov. 10:13) employed upon the fleshy portion of the child’s buttocks (Prov. 22:15; 23:13); that this method is to be viewed as correction rather than punishment (Prov. 23:13); and that this correction will result in the child’s physical and spiritual betterment.”

Harris told the Observer that from within his church, "the response was, 'Pastor, we know you didn't mean that.'"

What do you think? Watch the above video to hear Harris’s remark and leave your comments below.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality

soundoff (2,325 Responses)
  1. Name*Chedar

    Is this the kind of respectable pastor you got in the pulpit? I would have walk away and never go back to support that church. The guy teaches violence instead of loving kindness and compassion.

    May 3, 2012 at 6:33 am |
  2. John Bottom

    I know a dozen gay women who look and sound like men. They were born this way. If you can't understand that then you are just under a spell cast by your pastor and parents.
    How can people be so stupid? They should teach gay tolerance in schools. These religious wackos need to be re- educated.
    We look so dumb to the international community...led by these shmoes who will hopefully get discriminated in some way during their lives so they know how it feels!

    May 3, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • Genie

      You tell 'em, JB.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:27 am |
    • LadyChristian

      So true. It is biological and mostly nature vs. nurture. A very small percentage is because of abuse, but most of it is biological.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • jackvigdor

      I know gay women who are very feminine. They just were created by God to love women and be attracted to other women.

      May 3, 2012 at 7:13 am |
  3. Chip

    Fred: Gay is inborn; Stupid is a choice. You of all people should understand that but wait...that's going to be a little too much for you to grasp. Think about it Fred; why would anyone choose to be gay? Maybe because it's so much fun being hated, persecuted and denied civil rights, just to name a few reasons? That woul be a choice only a stupid person would make isn't it Fred?

    May 3, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  4. Mark from Middle River

    I am absolutely blown away by how ignorant people are. Have you liberals all gone mad? Have the democrats really pulled the wool over the eyes of so many Christians and destroyed moral values? The LGBT community is IMMORAL and its acts are IMMORAL. You all need to wake up and get with the program.

    May 3, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • Steve

      The PROGRAM is one sided.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:23 am |
    • Name*Dave

      Tell me...how is life in the trailer park?

      May 3, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      What is immoral are the people who discriminate like you. Morality only exist in a discriminating mind. You owed yourself to learn about the "truth" and not rely on some demonic book like the Bible. The Bible was written by Satan under the disguise if God. A loving God should have emphaty and compassion and none of them exist from the so called the "Creator"

      May 3, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Genie

      The program? As in bigoted? Closed-minded? Intolerant? Here's a worthy program, you seem to have a lot of energy–focus it on people who do harm in the world like rapists and child molesters and leave people who are loving and kind alone. If they are immoral, won't your god sort it out? In fact, isn't it your god's job to do that and not yours?

      May 3, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • sam stone

      mark: speaking for god is blasphemy. the fact that you tie your blasphemy in with a political tirade just shows you are dumb.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • John Bottom

      I went to a Bar Mitzvah with a gay female pregnant Rabbi. She was amazing.
      She was awesome and the congregation loved her! If there is a God, she let this woman live her dream! She is very happy, and would stomp on these religious maniacs who are fortunately a dying breed in this country! Obama will crush Romney and gay rights will increase. Even Gingrich supports that!

      May 3, 2012 at 6:33 am |
    • sf

      Actually, it is our job. The bible directs that the people of Christ are the body of Christ, here to spread God's word. Christians should not hate LGBT people, but we should hate the sin - like all sin. This pastor's sermon was about parental responsibility to raise kids according to the bible. His language went too far in this snippet of video, but the message of raising boys to be men and fathers, and girls to be ladies and mothers is correct, and that marriage is between one man and one woman, is correct.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:39 am |
  5. Nathan

    It seems like he was more of referencing the "buddy" kind of punch you would do with your best friend(which is quite gentle though not saying it is appropriate) and not actually punching them. The idea of cracking the wrist not exactly sure but I highly doubt he meant it in a violent manner but more of issue see the effeminate gesture to correct by straightening the wrist. Though he definitely used very poor choice of words and a bad time to film the sermon I don't think he preaching child abuse. When people get lots of energy on something and just start going off on that point they can easily slip up on their word usage. In their heads they are thinking something but are not communicating it. I am going to chalk this up as BAD choice of words and needed to be more thought out when tackling a sensitive situation. If a preacher is to address it more tact is needed, because though he might be meaning well and it might be based on a good idea poor word usage can create bad responses and offense from the receivers.

    May 3, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Genie

      Yeah, right, he meant buddy punch. Cuz everybody knows that a buddy punch is the universal signal to change your behavior. Buddy punches have been gently knocking the gay out of kids since time began. And everybody knows you straighten something by cracking it.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:09 am |
      • Nathan

        Oh I'm sorry I did not know you were a mind reader and could read his mind and know what he was thinking. My sincerest apologies!

        By the way why are you guys so bitter? I don't agree with how he put it or even how he addressed the topic, but who are you to judge the man? Not like you have never done a thing wrong. Instead of ranting and raving like children why not do something that helps the situation. Or sit there complaining and bashing other people like little children.

        May 6, 2012 at 4:17 am |
    • sam stone

      yeah, a buddy punch.....that's what it is. and jerry sandusky was just showing the little boys how to shower

      May 3, 2012 at 6:32 am |
      • Nathan

        And keep in mind if he did mean abuse and not just "buddy punching" or "rough housing" with your kids then he is going to answer before God one day. In reality no matter what he meant he still has to stand before God one day, though God judges the heart and knows what his intentions were whether innocent (buddy punch) or bad (abuse) there will be those that hear and respond with choosing to abuse even if not what the preacher meant. And in that day the preacher will be held accountable for poor choice of words. So don't worry about him, but worry about yourself and those that you may influence whether good or bad, and I will do the same.

        May 6, 2012 at 4:41 am |
  6. SaintA

    Harris' comments are a shameful distortion of true Christianity and do not reflect God's great love for all persons.

    I also am shocked that Harris would espouse violence towards any person other than in self-defense. As to his claim to be joking, violence towards children is never an appropriate topic of humor on the part of clergy.

    I ask that Harris be a "real man" about this issue, be accountable for his actions, and publicly state that violence towards children is not appropriate, particularly as "humor" from the pulpit.

    May 3, 2012 at 6:02 am |
    • martog

      I guess violence towards Adults is OK? Or did you just 'miss-speak'?

      May 3, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • SaintA

      @Martog:

      Note that I said, "I also am shocked that Harris would espouse violence towards any person other than in self-defense."

      I did, however, focus on Harris' primary argument, which was to advocate vioence towards children whose children believe that they do not reflect appropriate gender-based traits.

      May 9, 2012 at 7:27 am |
  7. pervert alert

    Ho mo se xuals are not straight, they are a twisted, sick perversion of what life should be.

    May 3, 2012 at 6:00 am |
    • Genie

      There's the crux of the matter. Who decides what life should be? Christians? Muslims? Buddhists?

      Focus your energy on people who harm one another and leave the people who love one another alone.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • pervert alert

      Qu eers hurt everyone and undermine a nation. Ignore the horrible cancer gnawing at the heart of the country? What a crock you qu eers are.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:10 am |
    • Dan

      There is no sin, but that which is common to mankind. God is not more impressed with you because you sin with the opposite gender. Pull the beam out of your own eye, Pharisee.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • NIck

      Thou dost protest too much - there is no need to lash out at those who are able to come to terms with themselves and live life as they were meant to just because you can't come out of the closet....

      May 3, 2012 at 6:27 am |
  8. martog

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    May 3, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • bill

      You said what needed to be said. Good for you.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • Louis

      i agree 110%

      May 3, 2012 at 5:59 am |
    • religion is the wound and not the bandage

      that is perfect!!

      May 3, 2012 at 6:16 am |
    • beacher

      Martog, is bashing people fun for you? Does it make you feel better about yourself?

      May 3, 2012 at 6:20 am |
    • martog

      Beacher, when you can refute WITH FACTS one thing I posted please do....Until than it is NOT bashing, it is truth, and it obviously found at least one mark....YOU!

      May 3, 2012 at 6:41 am |
    • Larry

      Very well said!

      May 3, 2012 at 6:42 am |
  9. mb2010a

    I fully expect this man to be struck by lightning at any moment...

    May 3, 2012 at 5:52 am |
  10. B

    Does that mean we can also punch someone who starts saying Praise Jesus in public or in your home?

    May 3, 2012 at 5:48 am |
  11. Professor

    DO remember come November that the GOP presidential candidate subscribes to the same anti-gay philosophy as these trolls.

    May 3, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      November, time to slap the qu eer out of America !

      May 3, 2012 at 5:46 am |
  12. Mi Poo

    Revelations that this pastor is a closet gay in 3....2....1...

    May 3, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      nail on the head.

      BOOOOM!

      self-loathing is so sad...

      May 3, 2012 at 5:48 am |
    • nope

      nope!

      May 3, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • pervert alert

      It is interesting that qu eers always whine "hate" when truth is presented.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • WASP

      @alert/ ho mo phobe: if you don't like the fact of equal rights that me and my fellow americans fought for then feel free to leave the country. i don't want your hate in my country.......and take this sorry excuse for a preacher with you. i truly doubt you understand anything as far as genetics or bothered to educate yourself on the process of gestation of an embryo, but hold on real tight to the bigoted book of yours; i imagine it is the only thing keeping you warm at night.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  13. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    May 3, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Annikai

      Yeah, because, you know, a religion that preaches beating you child is the healthiest thing in the world.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • pervert alert

      @anniki
      If corporal punishment keeps a child from harming itself and others with a twisted perverse life it is worth the effort.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Genie

      All living things are naturally atheist. Even humans. Humans learn religion. Other living things are naturally incapable of believing in a god. Other living things are also incapable of prayer.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • Hitchens

      @genie
      Not true. All children are given life by God and come directly from the throne of God with an inner knowledge of God. Given life with the opportunity to choose God in love and return to God to enjoy the eternity God has prepared for them. Only the foolish "learn" the other way.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:04 am |
    • Genie

      No one is born with inner knowledge of god. If we were, then we'd all share the same religion. If we were born with knowledge of god, we wouldn't need faith. We wouldn't need scripture.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:37 am |
  14. Mike Cook

    How would Sri Lanka law handle gay children?

    May 3, 2012 at 5:29 am |
    • Ronald Reganzo

      Lets send all the American qu eers to Sri Lanka and find out.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:47 am |
    • sam stone

      sorry, ronnie boy, straights keep on making them

      May 3, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  15. Salad Spinner

    he is a c0ck sucker

    May 3, 2012 at 5:28 am |
  16. Spangler

    Gays were obviously around in Biblical times, American Indians called them 'Two Spirits' and WW2 Germans placed them in camps. A diety which (suposedly) dislikes gays so much still prescribes inborn gayness to millions and millions of people in every generation.

    May 3, 2012 at 5:15 am |
    • Fred

      Sorry, but it's a choice. People aren't born with it.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:17 am |
    • Anthro

      Sorry Fred, but it isn't a choice. People are born that way.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:42 am |
    • nope

      @anthro
      nope

      May 3, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • Anthro

      @nope,

      Yes.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      @nope
      yep, they are born that way.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:46 am |
    • Dee G

      Sorry, but I disagree, they are born with it. You can deny it all you want, but it won't change the fact that it is not a choice. Deal with it.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:49 am |
    • Spangler

      Fred: So all gay people are really straight people acting gay for kicks. Does that sound correct to you?

      May 3, 2012 at 5:53 am |
    • pervert alert

      Willie Sutton was born a bank robber? Qu eers are criminally perverse by CHOICE, not by birth.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • pervert alert

      There are no "gay" people. Gay is a legitimate word stolen by ho mo se xuals to try to hide their dirty disgusting habits.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:58 am |
    • NIck

      Gee, thanks Fred – for clearing that up for the rest of us......

      Don't be such a moron in public, eh?

      May 3, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • sam stone

      Sorry, but it's a choice. People aren't born with it.-Fred

      Well, Freddie Boy, support your claim, or go home and get your shinebox

      May 3, 2012 at 6:35 am |
    • Genie

      Born-with or choose-to, what difference does it make? Focus your energy on people who do harm in the world and leave those who love one another alone.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Patricia

      Gosh pervert alert – we get it – you hate your inner gay, you can't come to terms with it, so you lash out at those who can. The words you speak are TEXTBOOK cases of self-loathing and I can guarantee you that the exact same words were spoken by many gay men before they came to terms with their feelings.

      It's very sad for you that you are struggling to deal with your feelings, but it's so very obvious to the rest of us reading your words.

      You see, because those who are not threatened by gayness don't have such vitriolic feelings – if you really don't want people to know you're struggling to accept your gay tendencies, it's best to keep quiet, than hatefully cream denounciations.

      Good luck and Godspeed in your journey to better mental health.

      May 3, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  17. ZombieFrogHorde

    religious authorities threatening violence towards gays? i am absolutely shocked. religion has never said do what i want or i will hurt you.....

    note the sarcasm.

    May 3, 2012 at 4:51 am |
  18. togo

    Blown out of proportion, and another way the LBGT community is harping up and around every facet of life in our country. This is a church! Except for the few liberal, progressive "churches" out there that openly accept gays, this is the point of view of christians, etc... Who knows how well it works, but there is no doubt that if a kid is at least told that acting a certain way isn't proper for his or her gender, then the parents at least have fulfilled their roles as guiders and disciplinarians.

    May 3, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • Gaunt

      So his instructing parents (or, as he later claimed, joking about) to engage in child abuse and gay bashing is 'blown out of proportion'?

      What exactly do you think the correct proportion is? Had a community leader made public comments about punching opr beating any child who shows any sign of being religious or following god, would you be as quick to apologize for them?

      May 3, 2012 at 5:01 am |
    • Barbara Byler

      I'm sure that the christian community can explain this pastor's comments were christ-like. Jesus said, spread my message of hate and intolerance and I'll show you my father.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • lv

      Gender roles are a cultural construct.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • Ken Kissinger

      Sorry Togo, but the Evangelical Lutheran Church, among many others, accept that LGBT people are also God's Children and are accepted without stigma. Some people are born different than others, and it's not for me (or you) to judge. Years ago people were punished for being left handed, because it was "the devils hand". Your point of veiw makes about as much sense.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • Genie

      This is hardly being blow out of proportion. This goes beyond the LGBT issue. This is about a man who tells his parishioners to beat their children if they show undesirable behavior. And he was CHEERED for his comments.

      May 3, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  19. Mark from Middle River

    This pastor was correct in his original statement. I'm tired of lukewarm, back-peddling religious "leaders" that are too impotent to stand their ground on serious issues like this. It is against God's wishes for people to CHOOSE unnatural relations. Children need to be taught at an early age that homosexuality is wrong even if it is socially acceptable in places like San Fransisco or New Orleans. It's a well-known fact that cities like these are cesspools of crime and filth. It can only be surmised that the sole cause is the LBGT community. Hurricane Katrina anyone? It was God sending His answer to the problem. Obviously, sinners aren't very bright or else they'd have straightened up. Instead, they continue sinning in front of our children. It's disgusting. I don't believe children should be beaten for acting feminine, but they need to be corrected as it is not acceptable. Boys should act like boys and girls need to act like girls, period.

    May 3, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • bananaspy

      Sounds like you have closeted a lot of issues yourself.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • James

      This has got to be one of the dumbest post i have ever read. I bet Mark has never had kids but thinks he knows how people should raise thiers. I am not gay but i do not believe that being gay is a choice that you make it is something you are born with. If you think that beating your kids are going to make them not gay your crazy. It will only make them hate you forever.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:52 am |
    • SSBC32

      Mark from Middle River, really?? How ignorant are you to think that LGBT is a cause for crime and filth and Hurricane Katrina was sent to punish the LGBT community. By that same logic God sent tornadoes to the bible belt to clean out idiots like you. Go back to Westboro. It's religious maniacs like you and this pastor (and i use that term loosely) that give Christians everywhere a bad name. The majority of us in a civilized and tolerant society just laugh at your ignorance and bigotry.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • wyrn

      *cheers at SSBC32* I could not have said it better!

      May 3, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • Anthro

      Mark,

      Gender roles are a cultural construct. Boy and girls (and their parents) should both act as kind and caring individuals.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:36 am |
    • Gaunt

      mark, do you own a mirror? Go look in it.

      What you see is everything that is wrong with America you hatemongering, jesus-hating traitorous bigot.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • aspiepoet

      God is LOVE the bible says...so if God is love, then hate must be the devil....right? Jesus partied with the sinners and those despised by the religious nuts of his time, he wore a dress, and had rather socialist views (remember fish and loaves story).
      If Jesus came back today, ppl like you would crucify him all over again.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • sam stone

      marky-mark: passing your bigotry on to your kids is child abuse. and, you have no authority to speak for god. so, go know yourself biblically

      May 3, 2012 at 6:52 am |
  20. pft

    Well that's one way to "pray the gay out". A good ole' smack. Better than kicking the kid out of the house – you'll have to pay their rent and for their visits to the bath house, less they sue you for child support.

    May 3, 2012 at 4:36 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.