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. Chaos

    What a POS that guy is.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • pervert alert

      That was a qu eer thing to say

      May 2, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  2. Ufia

    Christianity is a hate group.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • ThinkinForMe

      Many churches preach love. You are the one hate mongering right now.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  3. Lost n Thought

    Anything can be taken as a hate crime. Its a 20th century word created that didn't need to exist. A majority of cultures have had some form of "hate crimes," and always have. A crime is a crime to me. I think most rational Americans would agree it was a joke and a bad one at that but i find very few thought out responses to this article and few people i would expect to get a mature diologue in a debate with. One thing i learned in college writing is that you immediately lose credibility when you use foul language in portraying your beliefs.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Ho mo se xuality is itself a crime.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
    • Robairdo

      hate is itself a crime.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Truth is not hate.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Andrew

      If that's what you picked up from college, you apparently didn't learn very much. Sure, in a formal essay, swearing is typically inappropriate, there's no reason for me to say 'f–k' in a paper about parity violation, but not all writing is academic and formal. If you mandate that you eliminate all 'foul language', you are doing nothing but limiting your vocabulary to avoid words with strong emotional connotations, and in doing so, limit both the breadth of your writing style as well as artificially impose restrictions on the apparent sincerity of the message.

      I suggest you go back to college, because you've gained a very rigged understanding of English and writing.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Lost n Thought

      Andrew you clearly understand what im saying. So obviously in order to articulate a point i need "strong emotional connotations, i.e. swearing. Thank you for displaying how little imagination you have and once again how most of these comments have nothing to do with the issue and more to do with how easily it is to verbally bash someone who you dont know.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Andrew

      It's a pet peeve of mine to read 'swearing renders an argument meaningless'. That's simply not true. There is no justifiable reason for swearing to limit credibility. You can choose not to use it, but like I said, if that's one of the major things you picked up in college, you seemed to miss the point of writing.

      Writing styles are inherently context based. As I said, if you have a formal paper concerning parity violation in the cobalt 60 atom, then there's never a reason to swear, it is simply a factual reporting of an observed phenomenon.

      However if you're writing a paper on the cultural impact of gonzo journalism in the 1970s, swearing itself could enhance the point.

      And in a written rebuttal, swearing adds strong emphasis, for example it could indicate specifically what areas are so vexing for your opponent to keep reading. If the person arguing with you, for example, writes a swear indicating exasperation, then it is likely you have missed something in your opponent's argument. It indicates that the point you are making isn't new, and that you still seem to miss what is annoying your opponent, meaning it's very likely you still need to continue to re-evaluate your own position before arguing.

      For example, if you were, say, a young earth creationist, me saying "The laws of thermodynamics don't f– king work that way" whenever you make the tired old argument "entropy proves evolution can't happen". I could then detail how the claim is assuming that the earth is an isolated system, which it clearly is not, or I could go into statistical mechanics to illustrate how 'more chaos' is not the true description of entropy', but my 'the laws of thermodynamics don't f- king work that way' does not change the strength of my point, it adds emphasis to what is irking me.

      Just because writing is impassioned doesn't mean it is less credible. You could have a WMAP scientist arguing with someone who denies the big bang utter quite a few swears, but that doesn't mean the big bang denier is somehow more credible than the expert in the field who worked on one of the most impressive cosmological experiments we as a species have undertaken just because the expert uses more colourful language.

      So yeah, I tend to get annoyed when I read about people saying 'if you swear, you lose credibility'. That isn't true from a logical sense, nor does it give proper credence to the use of swearing in the English language. They're sounds, they have no intrinsic meaning outside of what we as English speakers give them, and swears tend to change with time... so your choice to limit them is fine, but don't impose your own standards on other people's writing because it's "what you learned in college". That is a simplistic view of the English language.

      Oh, and yeah, that may have nothing to do with this article, but typically it seems only Christians are overly puritanical about swearing, just like they're the only ones who are overly puritanical about gay s-x. And as I said, it's a pet peeve of mine in any case.

      May 2, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  4. brother mack

    so, sean harris, what physical means DO you apply to the fleshy part of a boy's buttocks. You're a filthy little man. Your god is too.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
  5. cathy

    HOW is that either A. An apology or B. a retraction?

    May 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • pervert alert

      It should not be.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • danielwalldammit

      It isn't.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
  6. brother mack

    preacher boy, you're a filthy little human. Your ilk are the reason I reject Jesus and gods and all that trash. Good witness.

    May 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Better to slap the little f aggot around than to see it degrade itself, its nation and spend an eternity in torment, dragging innocents with it.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Robairdo

      you shouldn't reject Christ for the Anti-Christ Religious Right is very much mis-quoting him.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Andrew

      Sadly, poe's law applies to all posts like these. I can't tell if you're trolling, or are actually an incredible idiot.

      So should we stone atheists too? What about buddhists? Hindus? Shintos? Should the entire world be cleansed of everyone who doesn't believe in your deity because all of us sinners are doomed to hell?

      Or do you realise that just because you believe something to be true, doesn't mean it is. You might believe in hell, but there's the possibility your faith is entirely wrong, and that you're beating children for a lie.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  7. ThinkinForMe

    Seriously, he's preaching hate. His "apology" to the LGBT community is a joke. He's already made it quite clear how he feels about them.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Them is the disgusting underworld of crimes and perversion. The type of crime that make honest criminals want to puke.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  8. I'm sorry...

    ...if I offended anyone in the LGBT community when I said that dads should eviscerate their gay sons. I meant merely that they should seppuku them. I'm truly sorry for the misunderstanding.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Gay does not exist. Criminal perverse behavior is not gay, ho mo se xuality is a blight on any nation .

      May 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • brother mack

      hey pervert alert- you sure have a pretty mouth there on ya!

      May 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  9. Mike

    Who did Jesus ever hit? If you want to be a pastor, you could start by being a Christian.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Hitchens

      The money changers in the temple.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Gods not in charge of judging us for our sins anymore, it's the pastors and their religious followers, so whose going to judge them.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
    • Hitchens

      You just did

      May 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  11. sadie456

    I really don't know why sane, rational people would want to go to church on Sundays and listen to this 'man of God' (laugh) encouraging his 'flock' of sheep to treat their children in a manner which is cruel, harmful, and UNLOVING. Shame on Harris, and shame on his congregation for allowing this bigot to talk down to them.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:56 pm |
  12. Voice of Reason

    I applaud CNN for continuing to peel back the ugly mask of religion. This is a prime example of what should be exposed to everyone. The more the masses can see this disgusting religion for its lack of humanity the better chance we will have to eliminate it.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • ThinkinForMe

      This man is a bad seed. There's no argument here that is telling of religion one way or the other.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  13. T Gonzalez

    What a horrible thing for the preacher to do. My father preached from the pulpit the same ignorance to me for years. He is a loving father but grossly uninformed and unwilling to accept that God made me this way. Out of respect for him I have never openly announced that I am gay but he knows. He has done so many other wonderful things for me. Unfortunately, and I know it is my problem, I have been hesitant to get in a committed relationship but this really messed me up for years. It is okay to be uninformed; it is dangerous to speak as if you know the truth when you do not.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      You need to let go and live for yourself not your father. It is apparent that the two of you are struggling. For what? Life is way too short to keep yourself from the joys of this life and existence. Be proud of who you are, you have the right and no one, no one has the right to deny you that freedom.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • ThinkinForMe

      People speak as if they know the truth everyday. I do it, you do it. Everyone does it. If anyone is ignorant enough to go home and "crack that wrist" just because this guy said to do it, and given they haven't already been wanting to do something like that, then its IGNORANCE coupled with POWER (in this case, being a parent) that is dangerous.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
  14. Thatguy371

    'Spiritual leaders' like this have no place in the pulpit spreading their hate and biased view of reality. He said what he meant, got caught in the media for it, and was forced to apologize against his will. Anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  15. Robairdo

    churche should be burned to the ground and all should have their tax exempt status removed.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
  16. Sean

    Comments like this can not be explained away as a "joke" nor should anyone excuse this man for what he said. Aside from the obvious moral/ethical issues raised around hitting a child, the notion that a parent should beat a child out of expressing themselves is abhorrent. IMHO, the congregation should simply stop attending this church: let the pastor spew his points of view to rows of empty pews!

    May 2, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  17. Mopery

    I bet that preacher wants to punch a gay boy and knock him to the ground. I bet he wants to kneel down and grab that gay boy and paddle his bare bottom so hard! Why, I bet that preacher would mount that boy and give him a whole lot of sermon. That'll teach him to be gay!

    May 2, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  18. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Mopery

      Belief does not dictate reality.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • robairdo

      opening your mind changes everything.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • Mopery

      If you open your mind too much, your brain will fall out.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • steve-o

      You need to wake up to reality. Religion is the #1 threat to morality and decency in the world. Religion breeds fanatics and hatred in all its forms.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

      What do people of faith always say? "Oh no, think of the CHILDREN!" Don't make me laugh. Who are you talking to? when you pray to the air?? Not 'god' that's for sure. Atheism is growing. Our time has come. Although I am sick of gays using their lifestyle as a platform, I am also sick of Christian and Muslim lunatics...

      May 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
    • Ken Margo

      Prayer doesn't do a damn thing for anybody. If prayer solved issues, we wouldn't be having problems in the world. Those that believe in Islam pray 5X a day. How has it worked out for them?

      May 2, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Doc

      First of all...BULL-LONEY!
      Secondly, what does this story have to do with atheism?

      May 2, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • brother mack

      yes it does. it makes you crazy. do you still believe in santa? Zeus? The easter Bunny?

      May 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
  19. Skeptimist

    My wife was watching Smash the other night and when I glanced at the screen, I saw a guy kissing a guy. I asked my wife why they did that. She said she thinks the white guy wants to go steady and so far they're the only two on the show who aren't promiscuous. Well, OK then – good to see young people with principles.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Thatguy371

      C'mon, we know you did more than 'glance' at the screen. Details! We need details!

      May 2, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Skeptimist

      It's true that I "did more than 'glance' at the screen". A subsequent scene with a female lead provoked a lingering laser gaze from which I can happily report the predominant detail: 36 D-cup. Of course, I told my wife I liked the music. So shame on me.

      May 3, 2012 at 8:51 am |
  20. newz4i

    Crack that wrist is not a joke. It's a criminal act. Local child protective services caseworkers need to investigate this congregation. Is CPS there yet? Are plans to investigate child abuse in the making?

    May 2, 2012 at 6:41 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.