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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."

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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. @edd06

    When church becomes mute and no longer important in the average person's life, the church can only blame itself.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
  2. BROFIST

    RELIGION: For those who are too stupid to understand science.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Simon

      There was a nail and u hit it right on the head!!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  3. sn0wb0arder

    religion is the bastion of communal control. christianity, much like islam, indoctrinates youth from a tender age into the belief that all non-believers will suffer eternal torment. anyone challenging the communal thought is ostracized from the commune and labeled an outsider.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
    • web06010

      It does not have to be like that. God, she loves all. We need to be like God, love one another, help one another, be kind to one another.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      web – but the religious force it to be that way.

      religion is a refuge for the intolerant. a justification of unreasonable beliefs.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
  4. adamthefirst

    Yet another Hate article by cnn against all reiligions.

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

      LOL hateful CNN when its the "good" people condemning everyone BUT themselves. Religion is whack

      June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • web06010

      Seems to me that it's these "Christians", that are into the hate.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Timothy

      Just giving the religious reich a taste of their own medicine.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      awwwww.....adam.....feeling a bit put upon, little fella? when your religion stops condemning people, get back to us.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
  5. hmm

    Ever see those anti-christian people they call atheists? Those guys are the worst – completely intolerable and disrespectful of religious folks – the worst of the worst are these atheists.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • Edwardo

      Let's see... when Xtians gang up, vote against my rights, publicly announce they'd like to put me behind a fence, nazi style, I tend to get just a bit testy. Go figure Mowron!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      they call for the detention and persecution of those different from themselves.

      oh wait, that was the religious. what was it that the atheists were doing again?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • web06010

      Or the "christians" who promote hate, and bigotry

      June 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • sam stone

      Why should people be respectful to religious folk?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  6. Wiley Thruster

    Different than what? What people who are different then them think they ought to be? I thought this was America? Where you could be anything that you wanted to be regardless of what others think? It's that only fair? Isn't "fairness" the #1 priority for this President?

    June 21, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
  7. donnjuan1

    HELLO, ALL? GENESIS STATES IN ANY & ALL BIBLES + ADAM & EVE! YOU ALL ARE AFRAID TO DO GOD'S WELL & SAY ADAM & STEVE! Now go find a Bible that says Adam & Steve! Eve or Eva/ HELLO! I just don't get it all will follow SATAN rule! All is right GOD IS 100% LOVING GOD not a GAY GOD! SAD!

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

      RANDOM words in all CAPITALS MAKES WHAT I'M saying more relevant. EVERYONE LOOK at me!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Snow

      alright don.. back in the bed.. and you forgot to take your medication again, didn't you..

      June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      the mythical creation of adam and eve does not in any way negate any other consentual relationship. that is the oldest and most tired fallacy in the bunch.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • I have your bible right here and I can't find where it says...

      anything, because I used every page as toilet paper.

      And boy, did I have to take a BIG DUMP.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Check out the 10 Internet laws/rules.
      In particular rule number 10 regarding over use of exclamation marks and the caps key.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Timothy

      First the earth is more then 6000 years old more like 4 billion and modern man has been roaming this earth for 200 to 300 thousands years.
      Second Christ NEVER condemned Hom ose xua1ity, but actually blessed at least one Gay Union.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Mike

      All churchs worship Satan.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      @Elmer

      THe internet rule of caps is 39.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  8. MalcolmXcrement

    Pray the gay away!!!

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

      Running away from your other thread? Can't stand that people aren't affected by your scare tactics bullsh.it?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:52 pm |
    • web06010

      Do you belive that God creates each and every one of us? Well she does not make mistakes, we are here for a reason. To test your Christian beliefs. Your belief in being kind and loving.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Timothy

      Gays pray the right way, just like all good Christians. KKKristians only HATE.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Simon

      You should spend your energy hoping that your ignorance goes away. Take a few science courses numbnut!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • bama

      ha. That was good, keep it up!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  9. Bgfvhu

    CNN why not report on the positive side about God?

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

      There is no positive side to bronze age thinking.

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

      What positive side?

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

      CNN is not reporting on the negative side of God.....they are reporting on the negative side of religion. In this day and age (particularly with congregations that are featured in this article) the two have very little (if anything) to do with one another.

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

      I see Christians working in homeless shelters and soup kitchens all the time.

      I have yet to see atheists doing so. Must be their selfish religion from helping others less fortunate...

      June 21, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Dorothy

      Actually an atheist is the medical director at our homeless clinic.

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

      @malcolm, I would you know they are Christians vs. Atheist? Do they have a sign on them. I know many Atheist that do charitable work all the time.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      Xcrement – you must walk around with your eyes closed. atheists, like eveyone else, offer compassion, assistance and charity. if you don't see them at the food bank, you simply don't realize that they are atheists because they are not preaching.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Simon

      Ill tell you why. When a group basis their beliefs on goodness, yet that same group is preaching hate in its purest form, it overshadows the good because it has done the very thing they claim to be opposite of.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  10. derek

    I'm sorry, but ALL religion is idiotic, baseless, childish, reprehensible, and a relic of the past

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

      Amen brother! ROFLMFAO i had to only cuz I know it ruffles their feathers

      June 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  11. redwiggler

    Why would any gay person want the blessing of a religion(s) - Christian, Jew, or Muslim - whose main theses include so much hatred, fear and xenophobia? From killing all the people in a city because god commanded it to killing your first born son, to killing infidels? These religions are hideous examples of how NOT to live in peace and love.

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

      I don't want their blessings.. I just want to marry the person I've loved and lived with for the last 14 years. I don't want or need their approval. I just need my rights.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Of course western civilization has learned to live in peace and love (and individual freedom) through the influence of Christianity. Also brought us public education, organized health care, widespread literacy, the big bang theory.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Edwardo

      @Mike – you're making that up. Xtians do not get credit for any of that. You are full of it.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Snow

      soooo Mike.. countries where christianity is not dominant.. say India, Sweden, Japan, etc .. does not have public education or peace or literacy? way to put your foot deeeeeep in your mouth, man!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Where did you think these things came from? Our atheist ancestors? And yes, the big bang theory was first proposed by a Catholic priest. We love our science as well as our theology.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      Snow, smarten up. Think a little bit before making a reply. Sheesh.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
  12. Tom

    Anti-gay preachers are unAmerican bigots. Their congregations should frog march them off the pulpit and run them out of town.

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

      ARe you kidding? These sheep pay him, give him a free house, the government gives him a free tax ride.. These thugs are revered, and richly rewarded by their fellow henchmen.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  13. Dorothy

    These dudes are actually doing the gays a favor. More and more people are listening to them and recalling that the rhetoric of these so-called preachers sounds a lot like the hate rhetoric towards blacks and are saying, "oh, oh.....now I get it."

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

      you know, I think you actually have a point. Except this kid of article would never make on to Foxx news ... which is exactly where the hatred spreads from

      June 21, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  14. Edwardo

    I make sure I commit sins every day. That way, that ensures the Xtian god didn't die for nothing.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
  15. Jehovah's Witnesses ban blood transfusions

    Jehovah's Witnesses ban blood transfusions, saying that the Bible condemns the practice as "eating blood" which is not allowed.

    So if you or a loved one is in an accident and needs a transfusion – will you allow it even though it means you'll be relegated to HELL for eternity, burning forever in a lake of fire?

    Wait – you're saying you would GET the transfusion? Because you don't believe what the Jehovah's Witnesses believe?

    Hmmm. Can it penetrate your impervious skull that gays need not believe in the horse crap that YOU believe in, either?

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

      Lol.. I truly wonder how many fundies actually understand the awesome analogy you just made..

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

      Jehovah Witnesses dont believe in hell either. Do your research.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
    • pastor warren j smith

      all i know is i believe that the king james version bible is the one i am going to rely on because i know that i was once lost but now i am found
      it works for me and if it says it is wrong than it is wrong
      now thats me and what i believe
      ' and you and know boby else will chang my mind

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

      But does it give you a right to try and change my mind, pastor? or tell others how to live their lives?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • Simon

      Jehovah Witness is not a religion its a cult! A cult whom I have witnessed the utmost disrespect. At a funeral they will walk out when any other pastor other than one of their own walks in to speak. Yet they have 0 problems bothering everyone with their ridiculous pamplets

      June 21, 2012 at 8:35 pm |
  16. Samuel

    The crazy thing about atheist is how they fight against God that doesn't exist. lol

    June 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
    • No samuel - we fight against the imaginary god's followers

      It's not surprising, though, that an idiot who'd believe in an imaginary person wouldn't be able to distinguish that salient point.

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

      My fight isn't with God. He/she doesn't exist. My fight is with humans who would try to legislate against me.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, Sammy, they are ridiculing the pompous freaks who claim to know the mind of god. LOL indeed

      June 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  17. Jim

    A lighted cigarette on the window ledge? I thought Christians believe that their bodies are the Temples of the Lord. Hmmm...I guess some people just want to feel superior without being so.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  18. M1

    Gay Coupling is NOT Marriage.

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

      Yeh... marriage should be left for people like Andrea Yates, Brittney Spears, Kim Kardashian.. your statement is so beyond stupid !!

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

      it may not be, but it sure is fun!

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

      M1, is straight coupling marriage?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
    • Simon

      It sure is and there is NOTHING you can do to stop people from loving whom they wish. I just for the life of me cannot understand why it matters to one person what another is doing in their private lives. Im straight however I fully support equal rights for ALL people who call the USA home. Live and let live

      June 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • sam stone

      Given the it is not marriage without a state license, marriage is whatever the state says it is. Religion not necessary

      June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
  19. Mike

    Christ preached love.
    These preachers preach hate and anger.
    They are a distraction to God's real message of love.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      They are worse than a distraction. They are evil men.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:44 pm |
  20. Todd

    The bible says that in the end times, christians will be asked to renounce God or die. In that case I wish the bible was right. What a beautiful world we would have without those degenerate hatemongers.

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

      I just hope that they take the Phelp's with them when the rapture comes.

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

      Are you not saying the same thing that those you condem do? Isn't your statement also hate mongering? What a beautiful world we would have without those degenerate hatemongers including you.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:50 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.