home
RSS
June 21st, 2012
09:40 AM ET

Harsh anti-gay preaching alarms gay rights supporters and Christian conservatives alike

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) The little boy with a buzz cut shows no sign of nervousness as he sings in front of the church congregation.

Dressed in a pressed white shirt and blue sweater vest, he holds the microphone and sings that the Bible is right, then lets loose the line that brings whoops from the congregation: "Ain't no homo gonna make it to heaven."

Next to him, an adult beams as worshippers rise to their feet and cheer.

The scene was captured on video and anonymously posted online, receiving hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube since the end of May. It appears to show a service at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana.

The church quickly posted on its website that its pastor and members "do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

But the chubby boy with the buzz cut isn't the only one going viral with harshly worded anti-gay pronouncements in church.

In recent weeks, Pastor Charles Worley in North Carolina preached that lesbians and gay men should be fenced in and left to die out, while Pastor Curtis Knapp in Kansas said the government should kill homosexuals.

"They won't, but they should," Knapp said, according to a recording of his sermon posted online. Worley’s sermon was captured on video and also went viral.

The incidents drew outrage and condemnation from gay rights supporters.

But they also left many Christians uncomfortable even those who call themselves conservative.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

One leading expert on American Protestantism has a simple explanation for why some pastors preach against homosexuality while others go further, encouraging violence against gay people.

"There is a significant percentage who think it's a sin," Ed Stetzer said of homosexuality. "And there are a small minority who are stupid."

Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Worley and Knapp both belong to Independent Baptist churches and are not part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the second largest Christian denomination in the United States.

Many conservative Christians would agree with pastors such as Worley and Knapp that homosexual behavior is fundamentally wrong, Stetzer said.

But that doesn't mean they support them or their sermons, he added.

"If you asked, they would say that's really unhelpful and stupid," he said.

But the Rev. Robin Lunn said these preachers are much worse than that. She calls such pastors "genocidal."

Opinion: Why some Christians focus on gays

"If someone is talking about rounding up me and all my kind in a pen, what is the difference between that and what is happening in Syria and Sudan and what happened in Germany and Poland during World War II?" asked Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

"We are talking about people who believe somehow that the Second Coming is connected to a Final Solution," said Lunn, a lesbian, using the Nazi term for the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust.

"I think these men expressed something that many Baptist preachers think," Lunn said. "We need to stand up and denounce this powerfully."

Her group campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion across all Baptist churches. It has its origins in the American Baptist Churches movement but is not connected to any one Baptist group or denomination, she said.

"It seems to me that this is an opportunity to show some solidarity around the belief that all people are children of God regardless of what you think about someone's 'lifestyle,' " she said.

Opinion: The Christian case for gay marriage

One of the most respected voices in conservative Christianity agrees with Lunn, up to a point.

"The Gospel does not condemn homosexuals, it condemns homosexuality," said R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The Bible makes clear that homosexuality is a sin, in the context of making clear that every person is a sinner."

What preachers such as Worley and Knapp are doing wrong, he said, is that they are "not merely rendering a moral judgment on homosexuality but extending it to the condemnation of people. They are speaking with a certain venom and hatred."

He called their sermons "reprehensible."

And, he said, "they are doing grave harm to the cause of conservative Christianity by speaking messages of hate that obscure the message of the church."

"What you're seeing here is a very dangerous fringe that does not represent conservative Christianity in America," he said.

About one-third of Protestant pastors talk to their congregations about homosexuality several times a year, while another third do so "rarely," data from LifeWay Research suggests.

The rest do so anywhere from never to several times a month, according to a 2008 telephone survey of 1,002 Protestant pastors across the country and a wide range of denominations.

Half of the pastors who preached about homosexuality several times a year identified themselves as "very conservative," while a quarter of those who did said they were liberal or very liberal.

LifeWay’s Stetzer argued that it was important to remember that many Americans not just Christian pastors think homosexuality is wrong.

A Gallup Poll last month found that 54% of Americans saw homosexuality as "morally acceptable," while 42% said it was "morally wrong."

"This is not a small minority," Stetzer said. "Are all of those people going to be tarred by the comments of a few pastors?"

The sermons of Worley, Knapp and those like them do not have a great influence, Stetzer said, calling them "isolated."

"I've never heard of or seen a violent confrontation" that resulted from Christian preaching, he said.

But Ross Murray, director of religion, faith and values at the gay rights group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, said it's not that simple.

"When pastors preach they want people to listen to their words and pay attention to them," he said. "It's an exhortation to believe and think and act in accordance with the Gospel."

And he said he's not worried only about people who might act on violent preaching they hear in church. He said he's also concerned about young churchgoers grappling with being gay or lesbian themselves.

"You get brought to church; you have told nobody about this and you hear your pastor preaching or this child singing. What this tells you is that the church is not a safe place, not a place where you are going to experience love and grace," he said.

Pastors such as Worley and Knapp "give Christianity a bad name," he said.

And more than that, they are dangerous, he said. There were a record number of murders of members of sexual minorities in the United States last year, he said, citing a study out this month by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

He conceded that no link has been proven between preaching and attacks on homosexuals, but he argued that preaching matters.

"To say that people shouldn't take you seriously when you say something violent is disingenuous. Our words have consequences," Murray said. "Our words have real meaning."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality

soundoff (1,795 Responses)
  1. christian

    I believe jesus died for all our sins. but he also stated a laws to replace all other laws. love thy neighbor. Anyone who defies that is a sinner. those with harts filled with hate should be ashamed to call themselves a christian.

    November 3, 2012 at 1:54 pm |
  2. Cadencel Hellbergq

    My brother suggested I may like this web site. He used to be totally right. This publish truly made my day. You can not consider simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

    July 24, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  3. sarah

    Good for that preacher!
    Gays & lesbians are sick, unnatural, subhuman beings. They are disgusting, make me want to vomit. I wish they would die

    July 20, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • Preacher's Kid

      How very Christian of you....

      August 20, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Sarah

      Wow... doesn't the Bible also say to treat everyone with respect, love, and kindness? Whoops, I forgot- Christianity is full of hate and one of the most hateful religions. I am embarrassed to even share a name with the likes of you. You will burn in hell for wishing death upon someone..... YOU make me sick!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  4. preacher's kid

    It will never cease to amaze me that some people instinctually condemn others for their "sins" in order to deflect the attention from their own...what's more disturbing is the amount of people who REALLY care what others do in their bedrooms.
    I was raised by a Methodist minister...and I guarantee if I had PRESUMED to know God's will or condemned another for their sins, my father would have been the first one lighting my tail up for JUDGING others...that's just not our place. WORRY ABOUT YOUR OWN SOUL...feed the hungry, adopt a child, give to a charity, work in a soup kitchen, but STOP BREEDING HATE AND INTOLERANCE!!!!!!!!

    July 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  5. Joe

    Here is the truth!

    No religion has done more to advance the cause of peace, justice, and prosperity than Christianity.

    Atheists have tortured and slaughtered more people than all religions combined. Should we outlaw and undermine the efforts of those who hold to this worldview in light of that?

    Mao, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, Khmer Rouge, Kim Jung Il, etc.

    Someone please tell me why we are persecuting the soundest worldview that this planet has ever offered?

    Godlessness is the most dangerous religion in the world.

    Communist atheists make Islamist appear sheepish and saintly.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:39 am |
    • sdg66

      This is not persecuting Christianity, far from it. It is exposing those who would pretend to be Christians in order to further their own agendas of hate. These ignorant monsters are absolutely anti-Christian.

      July 11, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Communist leaders like Pol Pot and Stalin would not have been charismatic enough to gain converts had they not learned the discourse of dogmatic persuasion from religious inst/itutions.
      Pol Pot spent 8 years at a Catholic school in Phnom Penh and Stalin 5 years at a Russian orthodox seminary. Historians have noted their speaking and writing styles ape those of the Church in being 'declamatory and repet.itive, with liturgical overtones”.
      While they both sought to eliminate traditional religions from their kingdoms, they did so in order to divert the common man’s fervour to their own cults of personality.
      As Karl Marx himself noted “Atheism as a denial of this unreality; has no longer any meaning, for atheism is a denial of God and tries to assert through this negation the existence of man; but socialism as such no longer needs this mediation...”
      Hitler’s Third Reich, on the other hand, was no friend to atheists and encouraged religion in Germany. Having been exposed to religious methods of persuasion in school at a Benedictine cloister, Hitler recognized religion’s power to keep the people compliant.
      Instead of purging faith like the Communist regimes, he purged atheism:
      "We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out".
      The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, Oxford University Press, 1942
      While Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot put themselves into the Godhead position, Hitler publically professed his Christianity until his dying day and used Christian arguments to whip his people into a frenzy. This is why Nazi uniform belt buckles were emblazoned with the slogan “Gott mit uns” (God is with us).
      Each of these leaders wielded their people’s predilection for faith like a weapon. Atheism is not the prime cause for these tragic regimes – the misdirection of faith is.
      Like religion, they demanded blind obedience and obsequious submission from their followers. They tolerated no free-thinkers and enforced dogmatism – a trick they learned from their religious educations.

      July 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Doesn't it just suck when TRUTH is offensive

      Damn – if your religion is SO GREAT – why do you have to lie to represent it?

      Hitler was Catholic. He professed his Christian belief on many occasions.

      Really – if you have to lie to represent your faith – what's the point?

      July 16, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  6. Brad

    Jesus hung out with sinners.

    July 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Advertisement
About this blog

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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.