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June 21st, 2012
09:40 AM ET

Harsh anti-gay preaching alarms gay rights supporters and Christian conservatives alike

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - The little boy with a buzz cut shows no sign of nervousness as he sings in front of the church congregation.

Dressed in a pressed white shirt and blue sweater vest, he holds the microphone and sings that the Bible is right, then lets loose the line that brings whoops from the congregation: "Ain't no homo gonna make it to heaven."

Next to him, an adult beams as worshippers rise to their feet and cheer.

The scene was captured on video and anonymously posted online, receiving hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube since the end of May. It appears to show a service at the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana.

The church quickly posted on its website that its pastor and members "do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason."

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

But the chubby boy with the buzz cut isn't the only one going viral with harshly worded anti-gay pronouncements in church.

In recent weeks, Pastor Charles Worley in North Carolina preached that lesbians and gay men should be fenced in and left to die out, while Pastor Curtis Knapp in Kansas said the government should kill homosexuals.

"They won't, but they should," Knapp said, according to a recording of his sermon posted online. Worley’s sermon was captured on video and also went viral.

The incidents drew outrage and condemnation from gay rights supporters.

But they also left many Christians uncomfortable - even those who call themselves conservative.

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One leading expert on American Protestantism has a simple explanation for why some pastors preach against homosexuality while others go further, encouraging violence against gay people.

"There is a significant percentage who think it's a sin," Ed Stetzer said of homosexuality. "And there are a small minority who are stupid."

Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research, which is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Worley and Knapp both belong to Independent Baptist churches and are not part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is the second largest Christian denomination in the United States.

Many conservative Christians would agree with pastors such as Worley and Knapp that homosexual behavior is fundamentally wrong, Stetzer said.

But that doesn't mean they support them or their sermons, he added.

"If you asked, they would say that's really unhelpful and stupid," he said.

But the Rev. Robin Lunn said these preachers are much worse than that. She calls such pastors "genocidal."

Opinion: Why some Christians focus on gays

"If someone is talking about rounding up me and all my kind in a pen, what is the difference between that and what is happening in Syria and Sudan and what happened in Germany and Poland during World War II?" asked Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.

"We are talking about people who believe somehow that the Second Coming is connected to a Final Solution," said Lunn, a lesbian, using the Nazi term for the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust.

"I think these men expressed something that many Baptist preachers think," Lunn said. "We need to stand up and denounce this powerfully."

Her group campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion across all Baptist churches. It has its origins in the American Baptist Churches movement but is not connected to any one Baptist group or denomination, she said.

"It seems to me that this is an opportunity to show some solidarity around the belief that all people are children of God regardless of what you think about someone's 'lifestyle,' " she said.

Opinion: The Christian case for gay marriage

One of the most respected voices in conservative Christianity agrees with Lunn, up to a point.

"The Gospel does not condemn homosexuals, it condemns homosexuality," said R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The Bible makes clear that homosexuality is a sin, in the context of making clear that every person is a sinner."

What preachers such as Worley and Knapp are doing wrong, he said, is that they are "not merely rendering a moral judgment on homosexuality but extending it to the condemnation of people. They are speaking with a certain venom and hatred."

He called their sermons "reprehensible."

And, he said, "they are doing grave harm to the cause of conservative Christianity by speaking messages of hate that obscure the message of the church."

"What you're seeing here is a very dangerous fringe that does not represent conservative Christianity in America," he said.

About one-third of Protestant pastors talk to their congregations about homosexuality several times a year, while another third do so "rarely," data from LifeWay Research suggests.

The rest do so anywhere from never to several times a month, according to a 2008 telephone survey of 1,002 Protestant pastors across the country and a wide range of denominations.

Half of the pastors who preached about homosexuality several times a year identified themselves as "very conservative," while a quarter of those who did said they were liberal or very liberal.

LifeWay’s Stetzer argued that it was important to remember that many Americans - not just Christian pastors - think homosexuality is wrong.

A Gallup Poll last month found that 54% of Americans saw homosexuality as "morally acceptable," while 42% said it was "morally wrong."

"This is not a small minority," Stetzer said. "Are all of those people going to be tarred by the comments of a few pastors?"

The sermons of Worley, Knapp and those like them do not have a great influence, Stetzer said, calling them "isolated."

"I've never heard of or seen a violent confrontation" that resulted from Christian preaching, he said.

But Ross Murray, director of religion, faith and values at the gay rights group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, said it's not that simple.

"When pastors preach they want people to listen to their words and pay attention to them," he said. "It's an exhortation to believe and think and act in accordance with the Gospel."

And he said he's not worried only about people who might act on violent preaching they hear in church. He said he's also concerned about young churchgoers grappling with being gay or lesbian themselves.

"You get brought to church; you have told nobody about this and you hear your pastor preaching or this child singing. What this tells you is that the church is not a safe place, not a place where you are going to experience love and grace," he said.

Pastors such as Worley and Knapp "give Christianity a bad name," he said.

And more than that, they are dangerous, he said. There were a record number of murders of members of sexual minorities in the United States last year, he said, citing a study out this month by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

He conceded that no link has been proven between preaching and attacks on homosexuals, but he argued that preaching matters.

"To say that people shouldn't take you seriously when you say something violent is disingenuous. Our words have consequences," Murray said. "Our words have real meaning."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality

soundoff (1,795 Responses)
  1. Susan

    This will be a major blow to christianity in the U.S. It's time, I think.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • NativeBornAmerican

      Yea right and your Messiah Obama will win in a landslide........hahahahahaha

      June 21, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
    • pablonatlanta

      This will not be a blow to Christianity. This has been going on for decades. Unfortunaltly most churches call themselves
      Christians. They are far from what Jesus called a diciple. These churchs do not focus on Jesus they focus on
      behavior and issues of the day. The Jewish leadership in Jesus's day did the same thing. Jesus did not fit in there
      either. He loved the unloveable. I dont fit in these nut job churches either. Jesus is for real and he loves me its a shame
      these people go around using his name. He said he is coming back for his church and will take his followers out in a flash.
      I suspect those of you who hate these so called Christians will be stuck with them forever if you dont become
      real followers of Christ. Pay no mind to these people! Jesus said come unto me all that are weary and need rest.
      You are correct in saying these people are haters. Dont confuse them with being associated with Jesus. Dont blame him!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
  2. YBP

    If you look closely, it's rather easy to see that gay-hating church people are usually self-hating gay people in a silly see-through disguise. It's a destructive cycle. Straight people, particularly straight men, usually don't really care that much about it, not enough to go on a crusdae over it. So if someone is shooting his mouth off against gays, he is probably doing so to throw everyone else off his lavender scent.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • NativeBornAmerican

      Congratulations you are the winner of idiot of America award and also the internet proected little freak wimp award.........

      June 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • NativeBornAmerican

      YBP you were not born in God's image he's a lot better looking and not a bigot wimp......

      June 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • YBP

      I like getting under your skin. LMAO

      June 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  3. NativeBornAmerican

    How is anti gay any different than liberals being anti tea party?Chances are tea party members by percentage have fewer arrests.........

    June 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • YBP

      Yeah. I don't see a difference. Gay people are born gay in god's own image and Tea Partiers are born stupid in god's own image. Seems like the same thing to me, too.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • asifyoucould

      Congrats on the dumbest comment so far today!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • NativeBornAmerican

      YBP obviously (and I am not a tea party person simply see the vast difference between them and OWS liberal hate like yours a hypocrisy and true American EVIL!)......as far as ignorance I make double your income and most probably have double your education level......but I also care about people and do community service and have no arrest record yourself? Yea like I said you are the hypocrit and idiot...

      June 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
    • YBP

      Oh, yes. I am always in and out of prison. That's where they "turned me" gay and taught me all about Jesus. Amazing. You know everything about me. You must have "the sight."

      June 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Simon

      LOL youre an idiot!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  4. malcolm

    its hard some people to deal with change...i'm from charlotte, some of these small town churches outside charlotte don't even deal with blacks, hispanics, or asians...to expect them to have progressive views on gays is a bridge too far...?

    June 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • NativeBornAmerican

      Disagreeing with gay lifestyle is far less biggoted than a liberals treatment of the tea party who by and large will never molest your children most probably do not even have arrest records......progressives on the other hand one need only look at the average OWS protest.....

      June 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  5. Todd

    Saying that Atheism is a religion is like saying "OFF" is a television channel. Religion is evil and it's followers are delusional, dangerous people. There is only our natural world, no angels, devils, talking snakes, waiting virgins or a magical place in the sky. Organized Religion is organized HATE.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • GAW

      You mean the little old lady who says God bless you! is just as dangerous as the Taliban?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • YBP

      Not as dangerous, but just as ignorant, misinformed, uneducated...

      June 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Snow

      no.. but the powerhouse standing behind her, that she is representing is just like taliban

      June 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • GAW

      Based on your response I don't know what is better to be yelled at by a street preacher or called a moron by an atheist. I prefer neither myself.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • pablonatlanta

      Todd, if there was only nature and we all came here by chance without meaning, why would you care what other people believe. What ever it is in you that cares or has feelings or an opinion proves there is a creator. Some people worship the creator some don't. If there were just nature as you put it, you would be just a few particles worth about 7 dollars. You would just be nature like a tree or a dog without opinion. You ever wonder who came up with you? You are unique with your own set of values ( and i might ad, it seems that from your post you believe that to be the truth) what a fairy tell you are!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  6. works4me

    Camo seat covers on a Toyota? He loves people? Not all people... like Jesus taught.
    Her accent spells it all!

    June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  7. TruthIsCatholic

    Romans 1:26-27

    For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their woman did change the natural use into that which is against nature.

    And like wise the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another: men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • GAW

      The inquisition look out sin!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Edwardo

      mmmm.... that's hot! Looks like a lot of good times going on in Rome.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Susan

      Natural use of a woman? And this is the thing that you refer to when you have questions about how to live your life? Ok then!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Truthiscatholic...I bet than unless some translated that for you you would have no idea what it meant or what context it is was in...

      June 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Don't you have a second coming to get ready for?

      How you going to feel when Jeebus gets here and you're not dressed yet? He'll be like, "Hey, Yo! Wazzup? Whyn't you ret-to-go-yet, dawg?" And you'll be like, "Hey, dude, I wuz bizee gettin bizee with the gay dudes!" And he'll be like, "Oh, man, dat's not cool at all, dude!"

      Then how silly will you feel?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • apostate

      Luckily Paul doesn't matter at all.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
  8. MalcolmXcrement

    Why are they different? Because they adhere to the word of God, rather than what society tell them to do.

    The Holy Bible. You either accept it, or you reject it. Just be prepared to face the consequences of your actions.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Dan

      I reject it because it is unethical

      June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Yup, it's a divisive, unholy, immoral book of death. And I'm happy to completely discount the bible as mythology.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • MalcolmXcrement

      I hope you like fire...

      June 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Reveling in the thought of someone being tortured eternally because they don't agree with you is about as immoral as I can think.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • Edwardo

      I assume you're ready to sell your daughters into slavery? I'd rather burn than worship your god.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Dan

      I imagine that you get used to it over the course of eternity. Also, your god is an evil sadist. Congrats

      June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I wonder if Malcolm is gonne run away since we aren't afraid of his scare tactics of conversion.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • Susan

      As will you face your consequences. I guess we will all find out someday. But you sound kind of judge-y already.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • GAW

      Malcolm's name says is all. I declare him a troll. Ignore and he might go away.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Malcolm..what gas are they using in the afterlife? is it natural or propane? where does it come from.....who supplies it.. You seem to have pipeline , so to speak, to your satan chappie.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  9. Butch

    This is for Dan, a few posts above. It's not aren't. It's ain't. I'm in the South, but I'm afraid I'll have to agree with you. There's just to many of my southern friends believes Wrestling is real, and their number one show is, "Swamp People."

    June 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  10. clarke

    Well,I can't say much about this article, except it is slow news lately and CNN needs comments. Religion and gays, nothing better for the comment section. I find it all very tiring myself.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Clarke - you think it's boring?

      tell you what – switch places with me and have nutwhack Christians take pot shots at your humanity, morality, patriotism, and intelligence for years on end, and then come back and tell us if you're still bored or not.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  11. Jerry

    CNN's journalistic integrity has gone to the dogs, as they say. What used to be a stellar news organization has become just an arm of the leftist movement. How sad.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • GAW

      Fox News is just down the hall second door to the right.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Eric

      What is the "leftist movement"? How is it any worse than those on the right? Which is better: tolerance of other people's differences, or condemning and hating those that are different from you? Those who are liberal tend to believe that people are free to make their own decisions, while those who are conservative tend to believe that they have a mandate from God to condemn anyone that doesn't believe like they do. How can you defend that in a land founded upon the importance of freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and freedom to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • asifyoucould

      Why is that? People reporting on churches advocating for the death of a minority group? Thats news, it should be covered. On a side note the idiots in that town can hardly form a sentence, pathetic.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • asifyoucould

      I don't align myself politically but if the "leftist movement" is the one that thinks this behavior is outrageous (and taxpayer funded by the way) then sign me up.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  12. Spinoza

    When we outgrow religion and the belief in things we know are not true, humanity will rise above this bronze age mentality.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • YBP

      Actually Christianity and Islam sprang from the Iron Age...followed by the Dark Ages, which is even more appropriate. Deadly, bloody, violent trash.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  13. Alton

    the devil is hard at work trying to make this come like 2nd nature to see a man and a man together, there judgement day is fast approaching god will judge them not u r me

    June 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • kevgr5

      there is no god you bigot!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Your murderous god, who drowns innocent little babies is gonna judge me? Bring it !! I have a few words for him.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • apostate

      Fast approaching like the 2,000 years Jesus never returned?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  14. Eric Patterson, Th.D.

    It's remarkable to see the amount of hatred from the self-righteous "Christians" posting on this board. They are so eager to point out what they perceive to be the failings of others, but don't even think to look at themselves.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  15. A W Messenger

    CNN loves to censor the hatred on the comments so they are mostly pointed in one direction.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  16. zoeyj

    This is NOT an issue of religion........these "religious people" need more mental health treatment than religion. Until these people received treatment and healing, all the religion in the world will not cure the mental illness of HATE, JUDGEMENT, GREED AND CONTROL.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  17. FormerMember

    I was born and brainwashed a supposed Christian. When my church sent me a faded memeographed letter stating that I was being struck from the rolls but should feel free to find another congregation, I finally opened my eyes to the reality of the Church as just another organization on earth controlled by humans. It is really no different than any other organization except that it excels in hypocrisy. I now also have studied on my own and would now consider the Bible to contain a few words of God, but is by no means THE WORD of God. Too many hands have revised, hidden, translated, skewed, changed, and forged parts of the anthology. Now I hear co-workers who could not even recite a single catechism of their supposed church or tell me any part of the history of Christianity (like most of them deny that Jesus was a Jew) tell me that I am not only evil, but some would admitedly have me killed. I found out that one co-worker had a rifle target with my picture on it (I found out from his shooting instructor as a warning). I continue to have beliefs but I will never share them or force them on anyone.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
    • Dan

      Right. A church is kind of like a spiritual insurance company

      June 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Susan

      Good for you, I wish more people were like you.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  18. Ted

    They are on the same path as Hitler. Find someone to blame, get a bunch of people to hate them and follow you.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  19. JustaNormalPerson

    The essence of the problem is the hyprocricy. There are many people who call themselves christian yet completely ignore the teachings of christ. They are pretend christians.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Dan

      How many true christians do you suppose there have been in all of history? Not many, I'd wager

      June 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • CHRISTIAN GOD IS A FAILURE

      More souls – past present & future – are not Christian and therefore by their mythology will go to hell. Not even all Christians will go to heaven. Republicans are fond of saying that a teacher that has students who fail is a failure herself, so how much more appropriate to say that GOD is a failure, as well?

      The Christian god made more damned souls than blessed ones. That means he's a FAILURE. SATAN WINS. HA HA!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • BB

      You're right. Screaming your hatred at people will NEVER get them inside a church, and the whole point of a church is suppose to get people that are sinners inside to help them, not run them off.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      BB, why don't idiots like Evangelical and HeavenSent EVER figure that out?

      They need a course in Marketing 101.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  20. A W Messenger

    Whenever I post a comment and it disappears into the twilight zone, I wonder if anyone in the twilight zone ever gets to read it.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Yupyupy

      It's an act of god.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • BK

      God is trolling you.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 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.