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. across12

    I didn't really get it with "dropping that limb wrist, and crack that wrist", what the heck is that? What's the meaning of it? Does anyone is as confused as I am?

    May 3, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Stereotypically, gay men limp their wrists in a feminine manner. My brother is gay and he does it frequently, although I know plenty of other gay people who are very masculine.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Sphincterellla Belmont

      I know plenty of "straight" men who occasionally slip and display a less-than-ridgid wrist.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Very true, we all have some femininity.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      By asserting "Christ didn't exist, certainly not as a deity, probably not as a man," you have special knowledge that I am not privy to. I understand if these are merely your beliefs, but you make the statements as fact. I would ask you to prove them, but I know you can't, so it would be mere rhetoric. You do not *believe* Christ existed, and I personally believe you base this of a faulty understanding.

      I doubt anyone who knows me would consider me a "liberal Christian". You ask why the Old Testament isn't relevant? It is, but one has to learn a bit of theology to know its place. Perhaps a lack of depth in theology is why some leave the church. The Old Testament is still relevant as a record of God's interaction with his people (much more good than bad, though atheists would have you believe that isn't the case) and a record of prophecies leading to Christ. The New Testament, especially Jesus' teachings, are the foundations of Christianity and the base of so-called conservative, or even evangelical, Christianity.

      I can see love espoused in the teachings of certain religions and not in others. People can judge. I have my own belief. You say that you think it is absurd to believe in something so old, but I think it is irrational not to believe in long-standing moral traditions. Why are we so arrogant as to believe moral teachings with centuries of experience don't apply to us and that our notions based on a few decades are somehow better? In fact, I challenge someone without a moral system based on religion to provide me with a coherent, comprehensive, and overarching set of moral values that everyone will abide by, especially with no God and no punishment to keep people on your "straight and narrow way".

      May 3, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Do you think if all religions and their codes of conduct were declared void tomorrow that the world would suddenly descend into anarchy?

      May 3, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Rational, yes, I do believe the world would devolve into anarchy.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      And I believe I am in good and rational company in thinking so:

      George Washington's Farewell Address:

      "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. "

      May 3, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Well, you can go ahead and continue following the archaic teachings of some desert shephards, I'll base my behavior on personal and social responsibility, and base my beliefs on scientific progression.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:52 am |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    Obviously the first step is to try and pray away the gay.
    Only if there's no miraculous swishectomy should parents begin to beat their children mercilessly.
    If that doesn't work, time to brush up on Old Testament disciplinary methods and see about organizing your neighbours into a stoning mob.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Yes. Right. Christians all over the nation do this every day. They also get together in their churches every Sunday to plan horrific acts of terrorism and blow up buildings around the world and do their best to eradicate the Jews from the world. Sigh... Yes, Christians are evil alright.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Christians do get together everyday and plan horrific deeds (and often carry them out). Christians in Northern Ireland have been killing each other for years. What about the Lord's Resistance Army?Don't forget those guys who kill abortion doctors and blow up family planning clinics.

      It mightn't be as prevalent or publicized as Islamic extremism, but Christian extremism exists.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      How about the Manmasi National Christian Army and the National Liberation Front of Tripura, who force Hindus to convert at gun point and are known to encourage the murder of Hindu children?
      Those people are simply following Saint Augustine's doctrine of 'cognite intrare' – or 'lead them in' which justifies and encourages torture, vandalism, forced conversions and using violence to convert others in the name of Christianity.
      How about The Army of God and other groups who kill doctors in the U.S. ?
      What about white supremacist Christian terrorist groups like the Aryan Nations, Aryan Republican Army, Phineas Priesthood, and The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord?

      I was being flippant in the first post – I sincerely hope there aren't any parents out there who would take the OT rules about stoning disobedient children to death seriously!
      And I think it's pretty obvious that you cannot pray away somebody se/xual orientation.
      I'm afraid Ted Haggard is still gay, even after a few weeks in straight camp.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Rational, it is dangerous rhetoric like yours and Doc's that will lead to the dehumanizing of Christians. You both talk about Christianity as if it is evil and as if all Christians sit around planning how they can destroy other people. The limited instances you bring up are nothing more than cases of poor thinking (poor theology) or mental instability (and examples can be pointed out in absolutely any group). In complete contradiction to your portrayals, Christians all across the world get together every day and plan acts of kindness toward others. Here is the difference I see in Christianity: Jesus said to love your neighbors (even your enemies!). However, love does not mean acceptance of sin. Jesus made that plain. While he forgave people, he told them to "Go and sin no more."

      May 3, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      So merely pointing out the fact that Christian extremism exists is dangerous rhetoric?

      That is so hypocritical, when you clearly made a veiled reference to Islamic extremism. Is pointing out that Islamic extrmism exists also dangerous rhetoric? It should be by your logic.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:54 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      "Christian extremism", as you put it, in reference to acts that obviously violate Jesus' teachings to love even your enemies, are an aberration. Islam's Koran (have you read it?) repeatedly encourages revenge and "killing them where ever they are" mentality. That is merely pointing out theological differences that lead to real life actions.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      First of all, Christ didn't exist, certainly not as a deity, probably not as a man (although that is certainly debatable).

      Secondly, why does the Old Testament always get forgotten by these New Age, liberal Christians? If it is not relevant, why include it in the Bible?

      Thirdly, I haven't completely read the Koran, although I've read fairly large sections of it. I prefer the King James Bible, although Arabic speakers always say that the beauty of the Koran doesn't translate. Both the Bible and the Koran have their positives and negatives, but the idea of using books written 1800-2000 years ago and 1400-1700 years ago as any sort of moral guideline is ridiculous.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      If one uses this story as an example, it seems that some Christians sit around in Church on Sunday and plan how to use violence to alter fundamental aspects of their children's identi/ties.
      That isn't "dangerous rhetoric", that is merely an observation.
      Christ's message should be interpreted as one of compassion, charity and humility – but a number of the faithful do not adhere to those tenets, or do so only selectively.
      When it comes to gays, atheists, abortion doctors, or any other kind of heathen/heretic, dismissal, derision and sometimes violence is their first recourse.
      This is not exlusive to Christianity. Most religions have at their core a message of peace and love – but faith can easily be misguided to whatever ends the Shaman wants – and the history of religion is replete with crooked shamans, divinely ordained Kings and prophets commanding the slaughter of those who are different based on what their Holy Book says.
      It doesn't matter if the book is the New Testament, the Koran, the Torah, Book or Mormon – whatever.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Primewonk

      ReasonableChristianity wrote, " Rational, it is dangerous rhetoric like yours and Doc's that will lead to the dehumanizing of Christians. You both talk about Christianity as if it is evil and as if all Christians sit around planning how they can destroy other people. The limited instances you bring up..."

      Limited? Tell us, how many states have enacted laws expressly prohibiting gays from getting married? How many states have enacted consti.tutional amendments prohibiting gay marriage? How many states have gone even further making laws and amendments to prohibit civil unions for gay folks?

      Do you think it was us evil, vile, heathen atheists who made these laws and voted for them? No. It was ignorant theists. Just like it was ignorant theists who fought to keep interracial marriage legal and Jim Crow laws in effect.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:19 am |
  3. pilgrm

    seems like every time a person says something stupid, irrational, or just plain mean, "it was just a joke". i, for one, have run out of laughter for these morons. it wasn't "a joke". it was real, inflammatory, and cruel. this man is a poor representative for his chosen God.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  4. Mike

    a lot of Evangelical "Christians" seem to have very similar beliefs to radical Islam... funny how that works.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Very angry people live in deserts. I say it has something to do with all the sand. I'd be angry too if I woke up every morning with sand in my crack.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      @Rational Libertarian

      I hope that comment is not the height of you intellect. It it is you are in sad shape.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:27 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'm sorry, I didn't realise I was being criticized for my humor. Next time, I'll be witty and quote Wilde and Coward. Would that be acceptable?

      May 3, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Those used guys.


      Many have to see the LOL or they don't get the humour. Same thing happens in Barstow, CA and check for scorpians before putting on your boots. LOL

      May 3, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I'd cut off my own gentleman's area before I start using anacronyms like LOL. If that means humorless oiks like Elmer don't get my jokes then that's tough for them.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  5. JHL

    This is simply a backwwoods tyrant seeking to impose his soulless, nasty venom couched as the Word of God on his congregation. His non-apology underscores that he thinks he has done nothing wrong.

    His selective use of the Bible to support what he wants done is unsettling. At least he didn't pick out the "it's ok to stone" parts.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Give him some time.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  6. ganamede

    Why are there no laws to stop these religious nutjobs from constantly spewing hate and ignorance. 90% of the worlds problems would be solved if we would abolish religion

    May 3, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Montre


      May 3, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • ElmerGantry


      May 3, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  7. PFGF

    "that this method is to be viewed as correction rather than punishment" – how about this man of God gets a correction.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:18 am |
  8. GodIzForLosers

    Why is he yelling? Are christians hard of hearing as well as stupid?

    May 3, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • MikeH

      The louder you are, the more passionate you are. The more passionate you are, the more correct you must be. Right? While not true, psychologically it works, especially if people are needing answers emotionally.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:21 am |
  9. MikeH

    This isn't just a gay issue. Telling parents to beat their kids to make them "man up" is a horrible message. There seem to be a lot more people in society who worry about how a boy holds his wrist (wonder what he thinks of girls playing softball) than the kids grades in school and what they might actually accomplish when they grow up. How about focusing more on education and becoming productive members of society and less on some senseless image? How many of this guys sermons preach about cracking kids for using poor grammar or not being able to process a cognitive thought? Being a Neanderthal is not what is ultimately best for our future generations.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  10. crabman

    he ment to say hit ON them-- oops

    May 3, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  11. scott

    another 2 faced liar

    May 3, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  12. n8263

    NC voters, remember this pastor next week when you vote on the amendment.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • I'm The Best!

      We're voting now. Early voting is going on. I don't think there's any way it will pass. There can't be any way our state is that bigoted. I've seen tons of sign that say vote against the amendment but none for it. So that's a good sign

      May 3, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • MD

      II live in Charlotte, but work in a rural county. On my way in to work every morning, yards are FILLED with signs in favor of the amendment. Ugghhh..........

      May 3, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  13. JD

    Really nice message. Doesn't seem very Christain. I'm glad I'm not a Christian with examples like this idiot out there.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:12 am |
  14. Silver

    Perfect example of why I left the Christian religion.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:12 am |
    • n8263

      No wonder Mother Teresa lost her faith.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  15. Primewonk

    “I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended,”

    What about the tens of millions he intentionally offended?

    May 3, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Rodney

      Good point!

      May 3, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • MikeH

      Forget offended, what about the kids he set up to be abused?

      May 3, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Sphincterellla Belmont

      What about the very God that he claims to serve...wonder about his level of offendedness?

      May 3, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  16. Tank


    The belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman derived from a dust-man was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

    Makes perfect sense

    May 3, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Tank

      If you preach hate and non-acceptance, you need to call yourself something other than a Christian. Bill Maher "nailed it".

      May 3, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • Sid Airfoil

      LMFAO! I"m sending that one around. I'll give you the credit.


      May 3, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • PlayNice

      Hilarious and true – thanks for the morning smile.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • across12

      That's your own version of Christianity pal, don't try to force it on someone else. Enjoy it yourself.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Derby

      Classic!! Perfectly stated!!

      May 3, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  17. JT

    Another frustrated secretly gay pastor who hates himself. This is starting to become a cliche.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • Tank

      Well put ... it's always the closeted ones who wail the most ... Me, as a straight male, don't even think about it ....

      May 3, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  18. cregis

    The preacher is sorry because of the criticism not because of his comments. How these bigots can call themselves Christian is a mystery to me.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:08 am |
  19. Jesus Christ

    It is amazing what one can believe when one shuts off the brain. Do you believe in talking donkeys? See Numbers 22:26

    May 3, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  20. Dan

    I hope that I am still around when religion finally goes away.

    May 3, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • N&W 1000

      Seek eternal life, and you will be.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:04 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.