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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. Ituri

    These members of the church are justifying reprehensible things, people, and concepts. I grew up around people like this, and they would justify ANYTHING quite literally if they could somehow connect it to their bibles. They are the most dangerous of people, because they create a bubble of support for the individuals that WILL take violent action eventually, and in the name of the same religion. Example would be Dr Tillers ki ller, a fundamentalist evangelical, supported by the message of hate in his church, driven to mur der in a house of worship itself. In front of the mans family, wife, friends, and pastor, he blew his head off, and he's sitting in jail today STILL JUSTIFIED IN HIS ACTIONS.

    Having come from a place like this, I don't think most people understand just how dangerous these type of bubble communities can become for us all...

    June 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • GAW

      One can make the Bible say anything one want's want it to say.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  2. Ahmed H.

    The last time I checked, this was United States not Iran or Saudi Arabia. Coming from the Middle East, I cannot believe how similar some pastors are to conservative muslim clerics. It scares me.

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

      Zealots are zealots.....regardless of their religious affiliation. We should have learned how dangerous they were from 9/11, Unfortunately we Christians fail to recognize the dangers of our own.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      It scares us too!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Simon

      Heck yes! These type.of "good people" are the worst. They are extremists who if not for law would start a modern day Final Solution as did the Nazis

      June 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  3. Onikami

    this is why religion is too dangerous to go unchecked. aside from political powers, religion is the number one trainers of future generations. allowing any religion unrestrained within any society allows it to gain to much pressure on the masses. religion is a tool of powermongering just like political parties and states. history and human nature have proven this true countless times. how long must reasonable people(religious or atheist) continue to live in relative peace without this unfeeling monster continuelly breathing down our neck? remember, it was origanally religion that thought of the idea of apocolypse.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  4. rhodes

    What if everyone became "gay" tomorrow... then what?

    June 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      do you really consider that to be a legitimate concern?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • Bet

      Um, you don't "become gay".

      June 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      We know why your last name isn't "Scholar".

      June 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Dorothy

      no real problem.....the world would continue......isn't modern science wonderful.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • GAW

      I hope those special banks are still receiving deposits then.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  5. Rick

    CNN and Yahoo seems to be pushing a pro gay agender

    June 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Casey

      The pastors who say hateful things about people, for whatever reason, are the ones pushing an agenda.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Yes, that terrible, liberal 'lamestream' media is at it again.

      Reporting all kinds of uncomfortable facts you'd rather not hear about hatemongering Christian preachers, forcing you to examine your prejudices and wonder, am I really believing in what is 'right'.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Dee

      Big time

      June 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • pot meet kettle

      Religious zealots and haters of logic seem to be pushing the anti-gay agenda.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • skarphace

      So anti-hate is pro-gay?

      This is the same argument as the argument that says that if you are anti-racist you are anti-White.

      Neither argument makes sense. Just because it is not white does not mean it is black.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Gary

      Rick ... CNN and Yahoo are simply affirming that discrimination is wrong.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • sam stone

      No, Rick, they are just giving inbred Jeebus suckers an opportunity to reveal themselves

      June 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
  6. sn0wb0arder

    the intolerant use religion as a crutch to support their unsupportable bias.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  7. James

    They are digging up one little church in the middle of nowhere. You can find straight haters in any gay bar you dare walk in. Big deal. Move on.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      And you know this because? Do the gay bars have children singing straight-hating hymns, too?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Hate is hate no matter who is doing it.

      "Move on", no!
      To be silent would mean being complicit. No thanks.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • wtnesbitt

      I have been in gay bars and known gays all across the south for over 25 years and have yet to meet a "straight hater," much less a gay person who says all straights should be placed in concentration camps. If I should ever meet this mythical creature, I will be sure to put them in their place.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No kidding. Has there ever been a case of a bunch of gays ganging up on some poor straight man and beating him to a pulp?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • sam stone

      Been in a lot of gay bars, have ya Jimmy?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Dan

      Dont know what gay bars you hang out in, but ours are very excepting of everybody here in Minneapolis.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:40 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Heh.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  8. Kris

    It is WAY PAST time to call Christian Hatemongers exactly what they are! It is time that all of us true Christians stands up to this type of hypocrisy and take our religion back from the current bunch of hateful imposters. Jesus would have embarrassed the Gay, Lesbian & Transgender community not “worked overtime” to make them feel disenfranchised and alone. I’m sure that most Christians would shoot Jesus if he walked up to their door tonight and swear that “Stand Your Ground” laws & JESUS would have wanted them to.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • Mike Blackadder

      You meant to say embraced, not embarrassed? Autocorrect can be annoying.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Kris,

      and thank you for saying so.

      Yes the semitic Jesus from Judea would be unrecognizable to people who think he looks like the European white guy with the long straight hair and short trimmed beard and the praying hands in so many of the pictures.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  9. ElmerGantry

    A question for either Snow or reasonable 40.

    What is the trick to posting the smileys?

    Thanks

    June 21, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      colon parenthesis 🙂
      semicolon parenthesis 😉

      June 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Thanks,
      🙂

      June 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Snow

      Thats simple Elmer.. its a : followed by a ).

      June 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      But how do you do the 'evil smiley'?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Thanks to Snow also!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      hmm... let's see.

      >)

      June 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      nope not that lol

      June 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Thanks, anyway, HG.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  10. art

    Enough already with the endless stories about preachers who are anti gay-why not do a stroy on NAMBLA for a change of pace?

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

      good idea

      June 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Bet

      Nice try, troll.

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

      Haven't you seen all the Catholic stories?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
  11. LE

    Why are there so many pro-gay articles by CNN? I have not read one conservative CNN article that articulates a rational, conservative approach to marriage. Seems as if CNN has an agenda in promoting gay causes.

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

      That would have been like saying a few decades ago, why aren't there so many pro-black or so many pro-women articles. Why don't they print rational articles that explains the value of preventing women from voting and the value of segregation?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      a conservative approach? love someone. commit to them. marry them. stay committed.

      that is very conservative. where does gender come into play?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Casey

      Dorothy – Well said!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • shannon

      there is NOTHING wrong with being gay....with all the issues today being gay is the LEAST of our worries...maybe cnn is trying to smack some sense into some people...

      June 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      What exactly does a "rational conservative approach to marriage" means to you?

      Some might see "rational conservative" as an oxymoron. 😉 but I intend that only as a pun.

      There is nothing irrational about wanting equal rights for all.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • stephen

      Actually, CNN has done a great job of showing both sides of the argument....especially in their religion section. Just because you haven't seen it doesn't mean its not there....

      June 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Lee

      We atheists are going to take over the show. Time to re-educate maybe by intimidation if need be.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Martin

      The old adage comes to mind "if you don't like it, get your news somewhere else".

      So what, CNN has a pro gay stance? There's other networks that have the Conservative traditional marriage stance that you're looking for. Maybe visit them for news instead of trolling about how much you don't like the position of CNN?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
  12. CQM

    It seems that my fellow Christians only read the parts of the Bible that agree with their point of view, then condemn those who disagree. It seems no one has read, or paid any attention to James 4:12 "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?"

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

      Exactly.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  13. pastor warren j smith

    SO IT IS WHAT IT IS UNTIL IT AN'T

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

      Internet law/rule number 10.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
  14. works4me

    What if God was one of us?
    Just a slob like one of us
    Just a stranger on the bus
    Trying to make his way home

    June 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • Dorothy

      Given the gay agenda vs. the religious right agenda, he would probably be the gay guy on the bus.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  15. pastor warren j smith

    I BELIEVE GOD LOVE ALL OF US INSPITE OF WHAT WE DO OR WHAT WE SAY
    SATAN IS BABOSSING A LOT OF PEOPLE
    AND WE AS SAINTS NEED TO BE READY
    FOR WHAT ELSE IS COMMING ,CLOSING CHURCH DOORS
    BUT THE END IS NOT HERE YET
    BUT IT IS GETTING CLOSE

    June 21, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I don't suppose it can come soon enough for you eh?

      Just what is "BABOSSING" supposed to mean.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
    • James Ruston

      People like you have been saying the end is near for over 2000 years and it hasn't happened yet. Doesn't this introduce just a little bit of doubt into your rigid ideology?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Kris

      You sound like a total "NUTBAG"!

      June 21, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Using all caps makes your post soooo forceful, intelligent, and true. Not

      See Internet law/rule number 10, the more one uses all caps or a lot of exclamations in a comment, the less likely there is any validity in the comment.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      that falls into just plain crazy category.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      All caps is rule 39.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Gamorra

      People choose to be gay? What led you to that conclusion? The end is near has been said for the past almost 2000 years now. So exactly how close is soon and near? I'll tell you how the earth will end. It will be consumed by the sun in about a million years or by nuclear fire much sooner.

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

      Thanks HawaiiGuest,

      When I did a search the result was only 10 and caps was listed in 10.

      I will check again to see what the others are.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      if i had a nickel for every time some one has erroneously invoked the "end of days" over the past 2000 years i would be incredibly wealthy.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • Stacy

      God loves those who use correct subject-verb agreement.

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

      What is "BABOSSING" supposed to mean?

      Well, it's like this: B-A Bay, B-E Bee. Babos, sin. gee, I think this guy is fvckin' moron so that's the end of this ditty.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      Just google rules of the internet. There's 47 in all. I think you might have seen the old list.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      There's an app for that, you know.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • JWT

      I have to admit that satan is really alive. And I can prove it. Check the boston bruins roster for 2010

      June 21, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • sam stone

      You're a saint, eh?

      Nothing arrogant about that.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • sam stone

      B-A-Ay, B-A-bee, B-A-Bicky by bay bo boo bicky by bay bo boo bicky by bo boo

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  16. Mike Buck

    Right Wing RepubliCON Agenda is the four G's; God, Gays, Guns and Gynecology. This is the wing that are Religious Zealots that claim to speak for God to support their agenda which is to turn the U.S. into a theocracy. (led by the Santorums of the Party) God Bless America and F%*# the rest of the world. In the 19th Century it was called Manifest Destiny.

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

      that reply qualifies for a stupid post

      June 21, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
  17. steve

    What most people don't consider is motive for this kind of behavior. What truly motivates these conservative Christians to think and act this way is not moderated by whether it is right or wrong by god or the bible, but M-O-N-E-Y. Gays and lesbians do not go forth and prosper, making the next generation of the flock to be brainwashed. The other reason why these conservatives have such a cow about the situation is their deepest fear; they are afraid their children might be gay or lesbian and it would be a negative reflection on them in their community.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      yet apparent gays and lesbians are more financially prosperous than the average american. seems to be a poor business stategy to my.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      They don't have nearly so many of those expensive children to raise.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • Bet

      Spreading lies and inciting fear is the cornerstone of religiosity. Fear of death, fear of hell, fear of pedophiles (churches are the ones who keep falsely associating pedophilia with hom.ose.xuality, even though they are the worst offenders), fear of the unknown. Get the mob mentality going and people open their wallets.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  18. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    If this is what these Preachers call religion then I don't want any, pass the plate to someone else.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  19. Joe

    The most likely explanation is that these hateful people are supressing their own gay feelings. Look at Michelle Bahcman's husband, as gay as they come, but head of a facility to pray the gay away. How sick is that.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  20. apooramerican

    Should not teaching a child hate be considerd child abuse? Then should not these people in the video be rounded up and taken to court and tried. The chid placed into a safe enviroment untill things are cleard up.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:54 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.