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. danielwalldammit

    It's odd that he didn't intend to insult anyone. He had to know that his comments were insulting. He may well have been focused on other things, but I think it's awfully clear that he knew what he said exactly what he meant to, insulting implications and all, but of course the real problem here isn't insults at all. the man advocated child abuse, nothing less.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  2. Busted

    This is crazy. I can't believe after Bin Laden exploited his prophet to hurt others, exploiting the prophet is still so commonly practiced and accepted by Christians here in this country.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  3. TE

    He is just back pedaling to cover his a**. Would be great if no one attended that church next week. Everyone has a right to agree or disagree with people being gay. No one has a right to judge them. They should be treated just like anyone else. If God feels it is wrong then let him deal with it. If God doesn't have a problem with it then he will accept them. It is his choice not ours so let them live their lives in peace.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  4. Bob

    I hope this guy burns in Hell along with all the other bigots in the world! This kind of bullpoop does not belong in a church or anywhere in the civilized world!

    May 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  5. jnorris

    Another Christian preaching hate.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • just sayin

      They can always say God told me to do it.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  6. jqent

    Oh yeah. Whenever some bigot says something totally crazy or outrageous and the general public hears of it, the immediate defense is "I was joking!" Or "I was taken out of context!" Or "I'm not really a narrow-minded, intolerant, hateful bigot, it just looks that way!" Sheesh... the kooks people choose to be their spiritual leaders...

    May 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  7. sativa619

    Looked pretty damn intentional to me.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
  8. Food for thought

    As a Christian...I don't agree with his remarks but I understand where it comes from. It is noteably funny to point out that those of the LGBT community and preach tollerance are some of the most intollerant. It will be impossible to drum up support or sympathy for the LGBT community if it comes from a place of hate. Another Christian phrase that many would benifit from is "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

    May 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • sativa619

      I can tell you firsthand you are wrong about that. The people I know in California are more tolerant than anyone else I know. Making statements like you just did is bigoted.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Busted

      Um can you give an example, especially one where gay people are telling each other to beat the christianity out of their children? Your comment is odd.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Laura

      Can you cite some examples of LGBT intolerance?

      As a Christian myself, I find the pastors remarks to be
      1. NOT FUNNY
      2. NOT A JOKE

      Not sure where your Lord comes from, but mine doesn't like ugliness, especially when it comes from so called clergy. In this day and age of computers and social media, if you don't think divisive comments like his will appear on CNN, you're not smart enough to lead a congregation.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
  9. christine

    Another reason why I am not religous.....too much violence!

    May 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  10. jannajoy

    I am concerned for this man's ability to operate safety scissors, much less lead a congregation in faith. I'm a Christian who has and continues to study and question the Bible, and I don't think i've yet run across that verse saying "Men shalt not have a bend of the wrist more than 12 degrees and women shalt always smell like flowers." I confess, in my experience as a female athlete (a soccer goalkeeper – oh the horrid propensity for butch behavior!) I haven't always smelled pretty, talked softly or refrained from hitting harder than the boys if I could. This did not make me a lesbian. I'm not a lesbian because I was born straight. Simple as that. My boyfriend is ok with hugging me when I'm sweaty and my God is cool with my skinned knees. He'd also love me if I was a lesbian on the pep squad.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Anna1953

      SHAME on you "reverend" (what a joke) Harris. SHAME.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Laura

      Nice post!

      May 2, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  11. lazurite

    God makes gay people, too, Pastor. Don't believe He wants you encouraging violence against his children.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  12. Hunter

    Someone ought to slap the Christian right out of him!

    May 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • TheMovieFan

      He did that to himself already.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  13. jasoncdanforth

    This guy is putting words in god's mouth...

    May 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • NSP

      All men put words into God's mouth.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Busted

      @NSP – except for those who don't reference god. Odd comment!!!!

      May 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  14. asdf

    This so wrong but really CNN another article about some hick in hillbillyland to get everyone all wound up? How long and hard did you look for this. So much for covering the real news. CNN has become unreadable.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • Hunter

      To all those who say "this is news?" or CNN is crap, or anything of the kind...you are reading this and commenting, so if you don't like it, don't read it and stay off CNN if you think it's crap. Isn't that pretty much a no-brainer?

      May 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  15. taste the rainbow

    "I am sorry you were offended by my hateful comments"

    The above is not an apology.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  16. aysablue

    yet another bible-pounding hypocritical IDIOT. oh and a liar. you weren't joking ya POS.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  17. Shon Gale

    Just makes me sad. We need to be telling and showing our kids that we will love them no matter who are and what they want to be. The church should be preaching love and acceptance. Breaks my heart that some LGBT kids have to grow up in such hostile environments. IT GETS BETTER.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  18. Margaret

    While "punching" the kid for "looking" gay don't forget to say you are doing it only because you love him and you want him to love Jesus.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  19. asdf

    Wow in North Carolina you say? The American South showing off its culture of tolerance.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  20. j williamson

    Does ANYONE actually think you can "save" a child from being gay by beating him/her up? Sheer stupidity.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      Well apparently a whole church full of people did when he was talking, because they were cheering him on the whole time.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:47 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.