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. Mr Dalloway

    Christians are just freaks of nature.

    May 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Right

      Considering many of them probably do more good in the world than you, I wonder that makes you.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:06 am |
  2. 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 5:22 pm |
  3. Noh8ing

    "Man up..." is the position Pastor Sean likes his boyfriend to assume...

    May 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  4. Alan Sikes

    Not all people from NC are bigots. I hope they will all come out to vote against this hateful amendment next Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, you cannot leave the good reverend an email or a telephone message at his church–the cowards have shut off both. But I'll keep trying. . .

    May 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  5. Moscue

    The only good thing that has come out of religion is the music!

    May 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Mister Jones

      Even that is a stretch ...

      May 3, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  6. kim

    I think North Carolina is full of Bigots. For those who scream marriage is only "valid" if it is between a man and a woman, fine, then only marry your opposite, but don't act as if you have some sort of right to judge everyone else and dictate who they can or cannot marry. And for these same people, this amendment is not just about marriage..take the time to become fully informed instead of reading only one part and start running screaming in the streets with the bible in your hands and act as though you are doing it in the name of christianity. true God following christians know that they should not judge, that they are to love thy neighbor as thyself. you are not the perfect being as you think you are. you may just find out on judgement day(that only God judges)that you don't hold that ticket to heaven as you think you do, that the same people you are judging as unworthy are the ones that will walk through those gates while you watch, because you are not a loving christian you are a bigot, look that one up in the bible

    May 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Like It Is

      Here's the problem. You say it's fine for Christians to believe marriage is between a man and a woman only, but then it also seems like you're saying that Christians should vote FOR something they consider a sin. That's not toleration.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Xtian fundie logic

      If those Christians vote against the supposed 'sin' while wearing poly cotton blends, then they're hypocrites.

      I thought the greatest Christian commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself? What ever happened to that? You'd rather pick on some obscure passage in Leviticus or listen to Paul rather than your savior? Or do some translations contain an addendum to the commandment: 'so long as your neighbor looks like you, talks like you and believes the same way you do.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Like It Is

      logic, if you're going to tell Christians how they should believe, you'd better learn some theology first. No ancient Christian theology says Christians should still follow the entirety of Old Testament law. The problem with the topic in the video is that it is condemned in the New Testament, which is followed by Christians.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Like It Is

      And where do you believe Jesus said "Go and continue sinning." ???

      May 4, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  7. Ryan

    Isn't everything he preaches about a joke? Or are we still believing a random old book over every scientist on the planet?

    May 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  8. Michael J. Van Essen

    Smacks very close to Sharia Law, in my opinion. Soon he'll be urging his congregation to drag us outside the gates of the city and stone us to death. That kind of language also sounds very similar to what the Nazis were saying about Jews in the last days of the Weimar republic. I could go on and on...
    Bottom line: this guy is dangerous and no apology for "offending" anyone will suffice. Humbly begging forgiveness would be the first step toward his redemption in my opinion.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Nothing like Sharia. Sharia is written and practiced Islamic law. These were the pastor's hyperbolic comments to his believing congregation. For those who want to condemn before finding out the whole truth by actually listening to the sermon, note that this pastor later tells his congregation that if they have a gay person in the home to love them with the love of Christ. The pastor and congregation understood hyperbole. Most people here don't seem to know the definition of the word.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • just sayin

      FAIL, please try to come up with another excuse for him

      May 3, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • What?

      You notice that ReasonableChristianity isn't addressing that a supposed man of God is even uttering the words to abuse your children in church. People like this is what has driven me away from any religion and the GOP for that matter. Hate it not a family value and defending anyone who preaches hate will only bring God's judgement on you. I have faith in God, not religion and I know God will judge you on your human prejudice. This preacher has a lot coming his way when he is judged.

      May 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      And you believe you're so much better than people in church that you can judge them? I suspect you're every bit the hypocrite you think they are. You apparently also don't understand the meaning of hyperbole, do you? When you were in church, did you also think that Jesus literally meant to 'pluck your eye out'? Seriously, folks. I have to think people are not so stupid as to think he literally meant that parents should beat their children, especially when he says later in the same sermon that they should love someone g.a.y. in their family with the love of Christ. Some folks are intentionally taking hyperbole literally and fooling the masses who'll never look any deeper into the issue than the surface. Sad that. There are some sick and twisted atheists out there who want to destroy Christianity with their lies.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  9. WOT

    Put him out of the church! He will hit his mother, also!

    May 3, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
  10. rhea3

    I'm guessing he likes these verses too:

    Exodus 21:15, 17– And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.... And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  11. Brehon

    Is this what Jesus would do? I fear and pray for the souls of those who blaspheme by taking unto themselves the claim that they speak for the Lord. Like the hypocritical Pharisees they and THEIR children are at peril of eternal damnation. This self anointed minister is a danger to9 his family and the souls of those who hear him and are polluted by his willfulness and pride. Who dare to offer their judgment of others as if they were the Lord are doing Satan's handiwork. This minister impersonator should have hos children taken away so there souls at least can be saved from the prideful horror he is bringing down on them. May the Lord have mercy on his evil blackened and pride filled soul.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  12. Chris

    > Harris said his comments were meant as a joke

    I'm not laughing.

    "If your child wants anything to do with organized religion, give him a good punch."

    Now I'm laughing.

    May 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Can we get an AMEN brothers & sisters!!!

      May 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  13. Papasan

    Just another member of the American Taliban teaching the bigotry and violence of his religious beliefs. Isn't religion great!

    May 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • lbdukeep

      Yes a Chrstianista – American Taliban – but to abuse a child because you dont' agree with his genderism – that's just plain ABUSE! Fire that pastor, don't give him another job teaching .... anything!

      May 3, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
  14. Hopeful for change

    In my personal opinion, every person who is not contributing to the betterment of society, is contributing to it's demise. If ONE person in his audience took him literally, then he has done an injustice to people he has chosen to lead with his words and his life. If ONE child's life is worse because of what he said, is it okay because he was kidding? Risk vs. Reward... he's not there to tell jokes, he's there to lead people spiritually. It's those people's perceptions of what he says that influence their daily life... just like people's perception of the bible influences their spiritual life. He's in too much of a leadership position to tell his own "jokes" during sermons. How about some "jokes" about acceptance, courage to be yourself, serving the community and others? I lived in North Carolina for 6 years and saw multiple instances of abused power by religious "leaders" that strained my faith in organized religion as a whole. It was certainly not just NC, but the past 10 years worth of arguments in general, to be fair. Everyone should spend more time acting out the lessons in your daily life, rather than ruin other people's lives with their interpretation. What a sad life it would be to be so consumed with contempt for people who simply want to live their life the way they feel they should. They're not asking you to join in... What else could have been done during that time to contribute positively to society?

    What legacy are we leaving for our children? It terrifies me that I might have a child that encounters children that parents have turned into bigots and hateful opressors. How can you teach your children to love and accept others... except ones that are "sinning on purpose?" The only one they will not understand or respect is you... when they grow up and realize that while you were busy filling their heads with hate and intolerance, other people were learning about acceptance, love, tolerance and forgiveness. If I got to this point in my life and was only able to realize that the latter are as important as anything else I've learned, I would consider my parents to have failed in raising a compassionate, complete, happy adult. Children are faced with so much every day, especially these days... it makes me sad that ignorance and bigotry will now be more hurdles they must overcome... I hope for better for my children, and I will continue to live my life in a way that my children will always be proud of. If I could pass anything to future generations it would be that compassion, kindness, love and respect go much farther than the alternatives. My deepest apologies to those who will be affected by the negativeness of others. A little love goes a LONG way, especially when it's needed. Try to make someone's day today... just because you can.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • atheist fred

      Let’s be real here. There is no way that guy was joking. He meant every word he said, and fully expected his sheep to comply.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Samuel Legrand


      May 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Hopeful too

      Hopeful's post gives me hope in the human race. Live....and let live....its as easy as that. Thank you Hopeful.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
  15. Amanda

    This saddens my heart, but I know all make mistakes and fall short of His glory. I just pray he is learning from this and really steps back and examines his heart and relationship with God.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:11 pm |
    • todd in DC

      I just hope he gives up his son for adoption. He just abdicated his rights as a father.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • sam stone

      i hope a speeding bus sends him to an early meeting with jesus

      May 3, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Wow, Sam. Now THAT is hate. Are some of you really so blind to your own hatred? The pastor said nothing so severe as the hate you just wrote.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  16. furreals

    Thats just religulous...

    May 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  17. Horus

    Reasonable wrote: "I'll just point out that just because lots of animals exhibit animalistic behavior doesn't mean it is necessarily ok. The majority of animals also kill one another and steal from each other. Wouldn't you agree that's pretty prevalent in animal societies as well?"

    You must be a Christian Scientist ;-} because you couldn't be more wrong. The "majority" of animals are not predators. Also, most animals of a particular species coexist, and predators typically only fight, or kill similar species over territory and dominance (i.e. Lions don't usually eat lions, bears don't eat bears, etc...). Humans, much in the same way discovered the benefit of communal living to their survival, thus there was a fundamental drive to coexist. We are but animals.

    May 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      How do you so completely miss the point? The point is that violence is quite prevalent in nature and the animal world. In fact, by evolution, violence and unfairness is the rule of the day with survival of the fittest. By you logic of accepting behavior that occurs "naturally", we should just accept, embrace, and even promote violence, after all, it's a "natural" part of evolution. The atheist's world is a bleak one.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  18. larry5

    He's latest remarks do not sound sincere. His first remarks reflect how he thinks. His retraction reflects his willingness to put his morals aside to please the public.

    May 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • just sayin

      Of course he lies..he is a Christian. Most of our violence and problems in America is attributed to Christians.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Whatever

      Oh, that explains all the arrests these past few years of mainstream, church-going Christians planning to blow up buildings and kill large numbers of people in Times Square. Give me a break. Churches all over this nation had out food and clothes to the homeless all over the world. And, if you like statistics, go look up the secular statistics that show people of religion give more to charity than atheists. Hmm... Methinks you got it backwards. Atheists are the ones trying to change the long-standing traditional morality of our society and generally trying to cause mayhem by posting anti-God / anti-Christian billboards at religious holy times. Don't they have a positive message? Oh, they don't, their message is inherently negative.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:00 am |
  19. Brent

    Everyone call his church and complain here is the number and his wife picks up.....910-868-5156

    May 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      That is hateful and sick.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • lbdukeep

      WHile you're at it, ask if they enjoy pork??? Then they are breaking God's laws... Can't just pick and choose one law over another.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Primewonk

      So calling this church to tell them they are wrong is "hateful and sick"

      But a supposed "christian" telling his flock to beat their kids is fine and dandy?


      May 3, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      reasonable: how is that hateful OR sick?

      May 3, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Courtney

      Reasonable how is that hateful and sick? We read it, he said it, we can complain directly to him via the postal service, email or by phone. One cannot encourage violence against others and not expect to be called out on it.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • ReasonableChristianity

      Prime, the pastor didn't say he wanted parents to "beat" their children like you seem to want him to have said.

      Others, why is this hateful and sick, because the pastor and church did not send this to CNN to preach to the world, some hateful person wanted to blow it into a big deal. Yet, the ones who are making their number available are providing information that will be used to harass and intimidate them, basically to bully them in a hypocritical way.

      Sick...just sick providing phone numbers on CNN, because everyone knows they'll get harassed and most likely threatened. It's reprehensible. I've reported this as abuse more than once, but I doubt CNN will do anything about it, because they're probably all for it. Sad that.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • just sayin

      I am going to post the church # on Facebook as well.

      May 3, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • I'm jus' sayin' too

      Jus' sayin' that the ones handing out phone numbers are the evil ones.

      Go look up more on the pastor. He admits his word choice was poor. He stated he was using hyperbole, which most rational people already knew. He also stated in that same service that "if you have someone in your house who is g.a.y., treat them with the love of Christ."

      Come on folks, you guys have blown this way out of proportion, and your hatred for Christians and Christianity is going to backfire on you and your desires by doing things like this. Just sick... Guilty until proven innocent is what the majority says...

      May 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Alan Sikes

      You can't get through. The cowards have either shut off their voicemail or angry callers have filled it up. Their church email is down as well...

      May 3, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • CanadianGirl

      I just tried calling...the mailbox is full. It just makes me sick that this man is having an influence over parents, would-be parents and children. Those poor misguided, naive and hateful people. I hope some day the light goes onfor them and they see this man as a ruthless bigot and nothing else. I am in no way a christian and I hate organized religion. I wish everyone the faith that makes them happy but don't take your hate out on people who don't see things your way. Why can't we just live and let live????

      May 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Whatever

      See, how sick. Thoroughly sick. I am disgusted by people harassing this man when he used hyperbole. I think someone should take a video camera into that church and ask the congregation to raise their hands if they really thought he meant for them to "beat" their children. I suspect not 1 hand would go up in that video. I'm sure that still wouldn't shut up idiotic activists who just want a reason to complain and harass Christians.

      May 4, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • CanadianGirl

      @ those who think it's hateful and sick that someone posted the number for people who to want to complain to the church directly...A: They are a publicly listed church. (don't you think it would be fishy if they weren't?) and B: If you read the posts you will see that it's not just non Christians who have a problem with this. The TRULY good Christian people I know in my life would NEVER think that it would be ok to preach this OR joke about hitting a child.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  20. Penguinlady

    I'm always amused, in a sick sort of way, when people claim to know what God wants, or to speak for him. Isn't it an amazing coincidence that God always wants and supports the speaker/writer's position? And amazingly, it's always a narrow, limiting, ultra-conservative position, full of talk of hell and sin and punishment. If I stood on the corner and said that God had spoken to me and wants everyone to leave each other alone because he loves and supports ALL his children, those people would probably stone me for blasphemy. So much for churches.

    May 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm |
    • Christina

      Well said.

      May 3, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
    • Stephanie

      Exactly, and this is why I am a believer in the CWG (Conversations With God) belief. Read the CWG books and prepare to have your spirit leap and your mind go Ahhhh...

      May 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
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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.