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. Stubbs

    Ever notice that the most vehemently anti-gay religious leaders and Republican politicians usually end up being gay themselves? And they almost always end up getting caught in public restrooms and other compromising positions soliciting other men. Just sayin' is all...

    June 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ever notice that most of their consti tuents continue to vote for them anyway?


      June 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      yep, anyone that passionate about h.omophobia is usually a self-loathing closeted h.omos.exual himself. sad, really.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      They believe in "know" your enemy eh?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
  2. Jesus was a hunchback

    These bigots don't even know what the Bible says, just what the head bigot tells them it says. Sad.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the bible says to put g.ays to death. so the ignorant views of these idiots are on par with the ignorant views of the bible.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      @Jesus was a hunchback: You should be more respectful of Mexicans with disabilities......

      June 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Bootyfunk, you and Hay Seuss are WAY too uptight!
      Btw, you post a lot o smack. Time for you to put up or be boring – are you gay? Also, do you get a lot of action? I'm betting the answers are 'yes' and 'no' – hence the irritability of an old spinster.
      You too, need he Kush Blunt therapy!

      June 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  3. JJ

    wow, look at the face of that skinhead driving that car in the picture. utterly possessed by satan. put some horns on his forehead and you've got the quintessential tabernacle a55wipe.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Bet he dont even drink.....
      .....never trust a man who doesn't drink
      ~D. Martin

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  4. sn0wb0arder

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

    June 21, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  5. Rich

    The good ole boys said the same thing about the field hands in the name of good christians

    June 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  6. Larry L

    These religious reports always draw thousands of comments. I try to read them with an open mind but that is quite difficult. The religious zealots continue to quote from the Bible – a book written by men, edited with political compromise, translated many times, and completely contradictory regarding God's approach towards the humans he ostensibly created. The book is a long mythology and the god is no more visible than Horus, Zeus, Apollo, Buddha, Allah, or any of the hundred of others worshiped throughout man's history. At least the Sun is visible every day... maybe the Aztecs were on to something... Anyway, Christianity is certainly one of the very last religions able to preach love, tolerance, charity and kindness toward our fellow humans. Most Christians I see today are simply ignorant hicks, brainwashed by slickie-boys on a pulpit who interpret the Bible, as if the worshipers were unable to read and understand the mythology without their "divine" guidance. Hatred in a cheap suit.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
  7. Bootyfunk

    50 years from now, this h.omophobia will be an embarrassment in the same way segregation is today. shame on christianity for teaching ignorant dark ages morals.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  8. cfg


    Ah, yes. Jesus wouldn't want to belong to the Church He established. Makes sense, I think! Unless you're talking about Protestants. Then you and I agree.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  9. Marco

    Wow...buncha jackbooted rednecks. How is anyone surprised that these ignorant yokels are racist?

    June 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  10. Sandusky

    There is nothing appealng, exciting, wonderful, good, clean, beautiful, natural, normal, or pure about one man inserting his pe nis inside the an us of another man. It is however, wrong, disgusting, abnormal, mentally warped, sick, and dirty.

    Nuff said.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Sir

      I take it you have tried it then right?

      June 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      sounds like a connoisseur of p.enis.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Dorothy

      OMG......shame on you. Your attempt at irony is somewhat humorous in a very sick sort of way!.....and as a good ole southern girl once said, "Honey, you don't believe a word you just said now do ya darlin?"

      June 21, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Bet

      Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Get a grip, princess, there's nothing wrong with being gay.

      BTW, you know that hetero couples do that too, right? No? So sorry your s.ex life is so boring.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:56 pm |
    • wes

      Exactly. Who in the he ll decided one day that it was acceptable to hump your own gender, and at what point were preachers, pastors, rabbis, and bishops expected to "be ok with gay??". It's wrong, plain and simple. And the reason this small percentage of society has successfully pushed this agenda on others is because its fun to be bad...fun to laugh at God, and there's this false sense that God isn't watching, isn't really real at all, and doesn't absolutely despise this behavior. Really?? Have you really gone there world?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      yet as a straight man i have enjoyed that many times. how is that different?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      wes – as a straight man, i do not understand your problem. what is wrong with two adults that have feelings for one another? other than a bias based entirely on ignorance, there is no defense for such statements.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      wes, I'm a straight female. Why is anal s3x "wrong"?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      But that's not the question that really puzzles me. It's this, wes: Why does it matter to you? What possible impact will it have on your life? Will your daily routine be somehow dramatically different if gay marriage becomes legal? How?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Life Is A Banquet


      There s a "G" spot that will drive you crazy when hit.
      My wife and myself enjoy this very much.
      Many straight couples enjoy this.
      You just have a problem that "gay" couples do it.
      You need to get "educated".
      Stop obsessing over gay people.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Grog Says

      Grog bang anything that move.
      Ha ha ha.
      Catch it and you keep it.
      Grog take shower now.
      Tired after dragging woman by hair.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      "It is however, wrong, disgusting, abnormal, mentally warped, sick, and dirty"

      Are we talking about gayness or religion?

      Nuff Said

      June 22, 2012 at 6:00 am |
  11. They Keep Encouraging Anti-Love

    Well, this can only go to show a majority of people around the world the true hate that exists from certain Christian pastors who use inappropriate Scripture to try to convince self and others that being Gay is sinful and wrong. If they only consulted with learned theologians they would soon find that those Scriptures used for condemnation do not condemn Gays and Lesbians as they all speak to something else! Jesus said not one thing about this orientation but He did say to Love One Another and to leave the judgment to God alone! How many will heed His most wise words coming from the only begotten Son of God?

    Let's leave you with this Scripture for better balance and parity.
    ""Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman." - 1 CORINTHIANS 7:1 (KJV)

    June 21, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • Andyoo

      this is not anti-love.
      God didn't tell you to go do evil.
      the preacher is asking you not to sin...
      of course you had sin then you ask god for forgiveness.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
    • Andyoo

      you mother loves you but still can ask you not to be bad.
      same thing.
      asking you not to be bad does not mean not love u.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Did you read the next verse???

      I Cor 7:2 "Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband."

      June 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Rev Foistus Uponyou

      *** Andyoo

      this is not anti-love.
      God didn't tell you to go do evil.
      the preacher is asking you not to sin...

      Yet, every single day millions of so called Christians sin, but it is no big deal.
      You have been diverted to the "gay" sin and hold that up for the world to see.
      Just like Republican politics.
      Make somebody else look bad, to divert attention from the bad that i do.
      All in the name of god.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • But then Again

      Rev Foistus Uponyou, you are of course, correct in what you say! They DO sin all of the time and in the worst ways but think nothing of it until they perceive a Gay person sinning then it is all hell, fire, and damnation for them. How hypocritical of these so-called Christians when it is they who abort, divorce, and have kids only to abandon them! Yes, the CONServatives also like to capitalize on the Gay issue with intrusion into another person's personal life which appears to give them greater power in politics even though they proclaim they are for less government! But that is not the kind of power God would bless them for having! So, how hypocritical of them, once again!

      And Andyoo, the real sin is in listening to these factions of anti-Love who keep preaching hate and destruction and death for Gay people. That cannot by any stretch of the imagination be coming from God! People should already stop listening to these forces of anti-Love who do not have God in their heart but instead have the hate that Satan provides as a weapon to go against those whom God has created.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • And Did You Read

      In regards to Did you read the next verse???, the real question here is did YOU read the subsequent verse, that being 1 CORINTHIANS 7:6 - KJV which very plainly states that your verse 1 Cor. 7:2 is not an actual Commandment!

      I CORINTHIANS 7:6 (KJV): "But I speak this by permission, and not of Commandment." Therefore, it is not commanded for every man to have his wife and a woman her husband! Jesus always knows what He says so don't try to distort His word!

      June 22, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
  12. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Go sit on a rusty tack.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Dorothy

      Most people don't object to prayer.....just bigotry.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      There are an estimated 800,000 forced into sëx trafficking across international borders every year.

      How about praying to stop that instead of curing your zïts for a change.

      Let us know when you succeed.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      when faced with a problem it is better to have one man with a strong back and a sharp mind than one thousand men on their knees in prayer.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Sockness Monster

      Defective program.
      End transmission.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, give him religion and he will starve to death praying for a fish.

      June 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  13. Dominic

    PS....I would love to "PUNCH" this jerk. Anyone shoves my kid or punches him to affirm his manhood will have to deal with me!

    June 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
  14. Atheism is the natural state or all living things

    To believe in things not evident requires indoctrination and delusion.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • Give it time

      Not evident.....yet. Just because science hasn't found something does not mean it is time to abandon the search.
      Things like Doppler shift and Relativity were not evident 100 years ago.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
  15. Bishop Hairy Palms


    They just express the hate and bigotry that most Christians feel but don't talk about.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  16. mike and jennifer laseck

    It is the southern baptist convention. they were against freeing the slaves, against womens right to vote, against unsegregating of schools, against everything progressive and positive. southern baptists will now be on the wrong side of history with gay equality.

    it is not just the crazy little town churches, its first baptist in downtown dallas, and other big city churches, they all are full of venom and hate for others not like them. they are a cancer.

    thankfully, there are strong good christian churchs like the methodists, presbyterians, church of christ deciples, episcopalians and many more who are progressive and see what is right.

    it will also be much better when a lot of the elderly in these churchs are gone. they unfortunately are easily manipulated and scared by these horrible men.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Bishop Hairy Palms


      June 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • mlr

      hmmm... the southern baptists just elected a black president...

      June 21, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Bet

      I agree with most of what you said. But being older doesn't necessarily mean you are against equal rights. My 93 year old friend supports gay rights and most of his friends (in their 70s, 80s, 90s) do too. I'm older, almost 60 and all my friends support gay rights. It's religion, not the age, that is usually the reason people are bigoted.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
  17. American

    All men are created equal and therefore should be treated equally. For some reason Amercia can't get that through their thick skulls....

    June 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  18. Southern Lady

    It's a shame that even from a pulpit, hate and and ignorance can be vomited on not only a congregation, but the public as well. But before you decide that I support a gay lifestyle, let me state that I'm a Christian. I believe what Jesus taught: Hate the sin and love the sinner. Yes, that's hard to do, but so-called /Christian pastors that make statements as this give Chrisitanity a black eye, and break the heart of Jesus. Jesus lived among the ner-do-wells of His time, and remember His statment: " I came to heal the sick..." Ok, I've now started a firestorm by eluding to gays being "sick." I love ALL people, and have gay friends. I love them as they are, and they accept me as I am. So be it.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Dorothy

      That would be a bit like me saying love the bigot, hate the bigotry. Somehow it does not really come off as being any more sincere or open than these hateful pastors.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • nojinx

      Love the believer. Despise their belief.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • mike and jennifer laseck

      jesus said nothing about gay people. nothing. if you are going by the bible, you cannot pick and choose what you want to believe. it's all or nothing. if you thump on about men laying with men as an abomination, it also says the same thing about eating shellfish, wearing cloth made of different fibers, it says its ok to sell your daughter into slavery, lots of really bad and culturally silly stuff.

      June 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • Sockness Monster

      Southern Lady,
      Who decided what sin is ?

      I dont see anything in the ten commandments about gay people.
      The church says that Jesus died for our sins.
      The church also says that we are born with sin.

      I have asked this question over and over and over, but never get an answer.
      When i come out of my mothers body (birth) how am i born with sin ?
      Did i take any sins with me from my past life ?
      If Jesus died for my sins, are not my sins forgiven and i have NONE, until i create my own ?

      Catholic garbage.
      What they are doing is telling you that from the moment you are born,
      you have to "pay" for something, that you do not "owe".
      Major mind PHUCK that people have been suckered into.
      But, hey.....it controls people, and it makes money.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  19. nothing can stop me from love of God

    Wide in your head, most of us whether quran or Bible we are not for gays

    June 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
    • Bet

      "Wide in your head"? Are you even remotely literate?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Parfin Woodell

      God put gay people on this planet to test you.
      You failed that test.
      You have the nerve to judge gods creation ?
      Walk in fear.

      June 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm |
  20. Wade

    The bible DOES NOT condemn 2 men or 2 women in loving committed relationships.


    June 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm |
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About this blog

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.