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. steve

    hopefully one day soon, religion will be seen by the masses for what it really is...mythical man made beliefs startebelid by "prophets" which has led to death and destruction for more than 4,000 years. the only winners in "religion" are the leaders and the organizations that financially benefit from the contributions from their flocks (read sheep here). believe what you want but leave the rest of world alone and do not push your misguided sad views of reality on others.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity


      George Washington:
      "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 10:47 am |
    • C. Smith

      Steve, be careful when you call someone crazy. Normality is determined by the majority. That means we all decide 'we're' sane and 'they're' crazy because there are a lot more of us than there are of them. If 'they' outnumbered 'us', they'd be sane and we'd be crazy.
      Applied to religion, realize that the vast majority of the world believes in some form of religion or another. Thus, if any belief is a mental disorder, its atheism.
      Oh, and by the way, agnosticism (the refusal to come to any firm belief for or against religion, aka the 'I don't know' position) is the only one that can be AT ALL supported by logic.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Stephen

      C Smith: "Normality is determined by the majority."

      That is absolutely NOT true! If the majority believed that the world is flat, they'd still be crazy. What is "normal" anyway? It can't mean "natural" because all kinds of differences appear "naturally" in "nature". You're just arguing for conformity and submission to authority, not adherence to TRUTH.

      May 3, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  2. keeth

    "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. ~ M. Gandhi.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Ghandi was a passive aggressive luddite who is inexplicably revered by the left worldwide.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • C. Smith

      Keeth, a quote I hope we all remember. Unfortunately, it tends to be the vocal extremist few that get the most media attention, and the majority of Christians that struggle every day to be more like Christ get overlooked. After all, how much money would CNN get from a headline like 'Church Service Results in No Hateful Comments' or 'Religious Group Doesn't Attack Gay Rights March'?

      May 3, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • Stephen

      C Smith: "the majority of Christians that struggle every day to be more like Christ get overlooked."

      If they were really Christians, they would speak out against this crap LOUDLY and would, therefor, not be overlooked. If they're overlooked, it's because they're keeping their mouths shut when they should be screaming from the rooftops!

      May 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  3. JerseyGeorge

    Christianity in its finest hour endorsing violence against innocent children. Why doesn't this faux pastor and his dumb down, jesus freak followers do us all a favor and pull off a Jim Jones.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      It's truly no wonder some don't go to church, because it seems they would take hyperbole literal unlike the vast majority of the church.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  4. CJ Hardin

    They deleted their contact us page on their website. Too bad their god book never said anything about how web pages are regularly cached. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:upOtX0ImVRgJ:www.bbcfnc.org/contactus.php+berean+baptist+church+contact+us+fayetteville&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    May 3, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Who exactly is doing the hating here? It seems to me the people that want to phone them up and send them hatemail are the ones doing the hating. The pastor didn't put this on CNN, someone who wanted to make a big deal over this pastor's poor and controversial hyperbole did. You people talk a big game of "live and let live", but you don't see how hypocritical you are.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  5. Horus

    I'd like to invite this guy to the Dojo, have him step on the mat with my daughter, and tell her what she's going to wear, how she's going to act, and what she should smell like. Bully Beatdown Mayhem-style....

    He's a coward; and when faced with national criticism issues an empty false apology.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  6. Mitt Romney

    He's not sorry for saying it. In the video you can tell he meant every single word. He's sorry because he got caught. He's a coward. He said it and now that he's caught he wont stick up for what he said.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  7. Vern

    One's first words are usually a true reflection of what they really thing. We've had so many examples of mostly right-wingers in the past 3 years, doing or saying things that show them to be intolerant, mindless people. And it's only because of justified outrage from others that they "apologize". We know, despite his apology, what this alleged "Christan" thinks of those who are gay. It stands on the record for all recorded time. His apologies cannot cover up his ignorance and hatred.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:41 am |
  8. n8263

    This is why we need a separation of church and state. NC voters will get a chance do the right thing next week. Early voting has already started.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  9. Ray

    R E D N E C K..... plain and simple, just like his followers!

    May 3, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • StevenR

      This guy is FAT. The Bible calls GLUTTONY a sin TEN TIMES MORE OFTEN than it calls being GAY a sin.

      What a horrible, HYPOCRITE.

      I suggest we get someone to punch him for being so FAT. Like Mike Tyson.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Are people who call others hypocrites usually the biggest hypocrites of all?

      May 3, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  10. ShawnDH

    It's pretty amazing how much the wacko religious right in this country is exactly like the Taliban. Why don't you freaks move to Afghanistan and stop embarrassing our country and dragging us backwards? You are a national disgrace.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • C. Smith

      Yes, because demanding the permanent exile of an entire demographic based only on the most extreme of their members is SO much more civilized.
      Thanks for showing us all what tolerance looks like.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  11. Hear Ye

    “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.”

    YEAH. ...... but we know what you meant, despite you trying to lay the blame on the bible. Funny part is I agree with you.
    They are Mother Nature's Little Mistakes, not natural, not normal, not condusive to procreation and defective. That's why they knew the closet was their place to be ......... self-imposed. Fitting.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • ShawnDH

      You are a defective human being. Shame on you.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:39 am |
    • Steve Barr

      you're as ignorant as he is

      May 3, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  12. red-eye

    Very Typical thinking from the masses of Phony Hate-Filled Christains....

    May 3, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • n8263

      Sean Harris has no idea what he is talking about and is not a true Christian. A true Christian knows it is never acceptable to punch your child or break his wrists. True Christans know parents are supposed to stone their disobedient children to death as in Deuteronomy 21:18-21.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • C. Smith

      Phony hate-filled Christians, yes. Thankfully, there are still some genuine love-filled Christians around here. Remember, kids, hate the sin, love the sinner.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:44 am |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      The word "hate" is thrown around too much these days as a way to dismiss views people don't like. It's done on both sides, and it's wrong. This pastor said nothing hateful. He used hyperbole, and I suspect that if anyone at all took him literally, it was in the sense of one buddy punching another buddy in the shoulder. He said nothing about hating the child. He said nothing about hating other people. In fact, I'm positive that he would say love is why he would not want a child to sin.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  13. gull akbar khan

    Angels are beings created by God, from light. They carry out the duties prescribed for them without flinching or hesitating. Muslims gain their understanding of angels from the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad. In part one we established that angels are beautiful winged creatures, which come in various sizes and by the permission of God, are able to change their form. The angels have names and duties they are required to perform.

    The name most familiar to Muslims and non-Muslims alike is Gabriel (Jibreel). The angel Gabriel is referred to in both Jewish and Christian traditions as an archangel and messenger of God, and he[1] holds great status in all three monotheistic religions.

    “Verily, this is the Word (this Quran brought by) an honourable messenger (Gabriel), from God to the Prophet Muhammad. Owner of power, and high rank with (God, the Lord of the Throne). Obeyed (by the angels), trustworthy there in the heavens.” (Quran 81:19-21)

    Gabriel brought down the words of God – the Quran – to Prophet Muhammad.

    “...Jibreel – for he brings down the (revelation) to your heart by God’s will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings to those who believe”. (Quran 2:87)

    Michael (Mikaeel) is the angel responsible for rain and Israfeel is the angel who will blow the trumpet on the Day of Judgement. These three are from the greatest of the angels due to the great importance of their duties. Each of their duties deals with an aspect of life. Angel Gabriel brought the Quran from God to Prophet Muhammad, and the Quran nourishes the heart and the soul. Angel Michael is responsible for the rain, and it nourishes the earth and thus our physical bodies, Angel Israfeel is responsible for the blowing of the trumpet and it signals the beginning of life everlasting, either in Paradise or in Hell.

    When Prophet Muhammad rose in the night to pray he would begin his prayer with the words, “O God, Lord of Jibreel, Mikaeel and Israfeel, Creator of heaven and earth, Knower of the unseen and the seen. You are the Judge of the matters in which Your slaves differ. Guide me with regard to disputed matters of Truth by Your permission, for You guide whomever You will to the Straight Path.”[2]

    We also know the names of several other angels.` Malik, is the angel known as the gatekeeper of Hell. “They [the people in Hell] will cry: ‘O Malik! Would that your Lord put an end to us!’. . .” (Quran 43:77) Munkar and Nakeer are the angels responsible for questioning people in their graves. We know these names and understand that we will be questioned by angels in the grave as is mentioned in the traditions of Prophet Muhammad.

    “When the deceased is buried, there come to him two blue-black angels, one of whom is called Munkar and the other Nakeer. They ask him, ‘What did you used to say about this man?’ and he says what he used to say: ‘He is the slave and Messenger of God: I bear witness that there is no god except God and that Muhammad is the slave and Messenger of God. They say, ‘We knew beforehand that you used to say this.’ Then his grave will be widened for him to a size of seventy cubits by seventy cubits and it will be illuminated for him. Then they tell him, ‘Sleep.’ He says, ‘Go back to my family and tell them.’ They tell him, ‘Sleep like a bridegroom whom no-one will wake up except his most beloved,’ until God raises him up...”[3]

    In Quran we find the story of two angels named Haroot and Maroot, who were sent to Babylon to teach the people magic. The use of magic is forbidden in Islam but these angels were sent as a test for the people. Before revealing or teaching magic Haroot and Maroot clearly warned the inhabitants of Babylon that they were sent as a trial, and that the buyers of magic would have no share in the hereafter, i.e. they would go to hell. (Quran 2:102)

    Although it is sometimes assumed that the Angel of Death is named Azraeel, there is nothing in Quran or the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad that indicates this. We do not know the name of the Angel of Death but we do know his duty and that he has assistants.

    “Say: “The Angel of Death, who is set over you, will take your souls. Then you shall be brought to your Lord.” (Quran 32:11)

    Until when death approaches one of you, Our messengers (i.e. the Angel of Death and his assistants) take his soul, and they never neglect their duty. Then they are returned to God, their Master, the Just Lord.” (Quran 6:61-62)

    There are a group of Angels who travel throughout the world, seeking out people remembering God. From the traditions of Prophet Muhammad we know that, “God has angels who travel the highways seeking out the people of remembrance. When they find people remembering God, they call out to one another, “Come to what you hunger for!” and they enfold them with their wings, stretching up to the lowest heaven. Their Lord asked then, and He knows better than them, “What are My slaves saying?” They say: “They are glorifying, magnifying, praising and extolling You.” He asks, “Have they seen Me?” They say, “No, by God, they have not seen You.” He asks, “And how would it be if they saw Me?” They say, “They would be even more fervent and devoted in their praise and worship.” He asks, “What are they asking me for?” They say, “They ask You for Paradise.” He asks, “And have they seen it?” They say, “No, by God, O Lord, they have not seen it.” He asks, “And how would it be if they saw it?” They say: “They would be even more eager for it and they would beseech You even more earnestly.” He asks, “And what do they seek My protection from?” They say, “From the Fire of Hell.” He asks, “Have they seen it?” They say, “No, by God, they have not seen it.” He asks, “And how would it be if they saw it?” They say: “They would be even more afraid and anxious to escape it.” God says: “You are My witnesses that I have forgiven them.” One of the angels says: “So-and-so is not really one of them; he came (to the gathering) for some other reason.” Allah says, “They were all in the gathering, and one of them will not be excluded (from forgiveness).”[4]

    Muslims believe that angels have special duties to perform pertaining to human beings. They guard and protect them, and two angels write down good and bad deeds. They witness prayers and one is even responsible for the foetuses in wombs. In part three we will go into more detail and describe the associations between angels and human beings.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:37 am |
    • Dr. Puffy

      And you point is?

      May 3, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Ray

      your prophet was a pedophile. He had numerous wives and one of them was NINE years old!

      May 3, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • JDH33

      Make your post a little longer next time.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:46 am |
    • sam stone

      ray: and how old was mary when god knocked her up?

      May 3, 2012 at 10:56 am |
  14. MikeTexoma

    The theological basis for Reverend Harris exhortion to his members to break the boy's wrist is at least very doubtful. But, be that as it may, it is unlawfull in our society. He and his members have the right to practice their religeon up to the point but not beyoond the point of conduct that violates criminal laws.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  15. PraiseTheLard

    I think that if you see anyone walking into this quack's "church" you should "Man up. Give him a good punch."

    May 3, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  16. Keeto

    Gay and Lesbian people will never be given a break by the Right. Like radical muslims killing those with views not shared as blessed by God, Christens will use God to prevent any change. They will see their views as heavenly.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  17. derp

    Dumb fundie pastor – "I'm sorry, you shouldn't punch your gay kids............you should KICK them!!!!"

    May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • StevenR

      Being GLUTTONOUS is a sin too.

      Punch this JERK in the FACE until he whines like a LITTLE GIRL. THEN punch him for whining. Punch him for being a FAT GLUTTON that the BIBLE calls a SIN. Then punch him for being a HYPOCRITE.

      Then just punch him for FUN.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  18. Kwesoe

    America is being transformed into a postmodern society and many, especially religious conservatives are still stuck in the ancient worldview to accept that transformation. As they say: Lead, follow or get out of the way.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am |
  19. Ray

    VERY Christian! These right wing FREAKS are as bad as the taliban!

    May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • StevenR

      Worse. The Taliban admit they want to create a theocracy. The miserable christian right LIE about it.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:44 am |
  20. Congito

    Christianity is the biggest joke of a religion, it is nothing more than a buisness.

    May 3, 2012 at 10:35 am |
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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.