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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.

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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. Peaceful Christian

    What a bunch of gullible and HATEFUL christian rednecks.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  2. HenkV

    Those anti-gay preachers are choosing to be this way, just like those people they accuse of 'choosing' a certain life style.
    I bet they would absolutely refuse to believe they they were born bigots, because that would contradict their preachings.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
  3. Jerry

    Jerry Sandusky is gay.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Bet

      Troll harder.

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

    There is a new movement in the works to end tax exemption for religion. Why should they get a break when other beliefs don't get one. And its time to start denying beliefs of those want to deny others of theirs. There is no place for hypocrisy in this world.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
  5. ja-coffalotte

    Really dumb people love religion. Sorry Joseph, somebody hit that.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • Mike

      More innocent men, women and children have died in the name of religion. Religion is the devil in sheep's skin. It's a fact death is religions most popular accomplishment. So if you love death or love to deny others of their own belief you shall have no mercy.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  6. PBJ

    I want to marry a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We love each other.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • nojinx

      Picture ID required.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      can a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sign a contract stating that they feel the same?

      that strawman didn't stand long.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • nojinx

      Troll, meet strawman. Strawman, meet troll.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  7. Sven

    Religion is dying. The baby boomers will be gone soon. Just have to wait it out. Remember when Reagan pulled the solar panels off the white house? Were dealing with the same kind of ignorant backwards thinking now with this topic.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      and solar panels on any building are still a joke, so what's your point?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Bet

      The problem is religion, not age. I know a lot of older people, 70s and beyond, who support gay rights. I know a lot of 20-30 year old religious hom.oph.obes too.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
  8. Dog

    I want to marry my dog. We love each other.

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

      The concept of consent is beyond you, isn't it.

      Here's a clue, sweetums. ADULTS in a CONSENTING relationship are not comparible to dogs. Simple enough for you?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
    • nojinx

      Your dog may have difficulty with your county clerk.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Jerry

      I did marry my dog. He consented and is 21 in dog years. We love each other and have been a couple for 21 dog years.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • sn0wb0arder

      animals are unable to consent to a contract.

      next silly strawman!

      June 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Your dog can write?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Bet

      Obvious troll is obvious.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Heh, Bet.

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

      When you can show that the dog can and does legally consent, have at it. Until then, you will have to be satisfied just mounting him now and then. And vice versa

      June 22, 2012 at 5:53 am |
  9. Atheism is the natural state of all living things

    To believe in things not evident requires delusion and indoctrination.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Lots of indoctrination at an early and impressionable age.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Rodboy

      You must not know much about evolution and the universe, before you go off and say something dumb , read what you believe as the origin of the stuff the universe is made of and the big bang stuff, it will probably starle you what you think you believe.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Atheism is the natural state of all living things

      Rod: been there, done that. How do you think I got to where I am today?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Sleeping around?

      June 21, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • crazyvermont

      I don't believe in atheism; therefore, it doesn't exist

      June 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
  10. AliMu Mah

    Why doesn't CNN have the balls to run the same story but instead try to find the 'good' Muslim cleric and Mosque that embraces gays. Go for it. Oh that's right....

    June 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • 1nd3p3nd3nt

      they posted a story just the other day about a gay welcoming muslim community.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:07 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Another uninformed commentor with a hidden agend.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
  11. ElmerGantry

    Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things stated the following,
    "Prayer changes things"

    June 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |

    _____________________________________________________________________________

    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 9:04 pm |
    • Rodboy

      Most of them are not in Christian countries, It should be noted that that about half of all mid eastern boys are molested by the uncle, father or grandfather before the age of ten. My wife was a counselor there are what a mess. How about spending 40 billion dollars a year on feeding kids in the world and not DOGS.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Have you succeeded yet? I am waiting for news of that repulsive practice to stop.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      Does not matter in which countries it happens, human abuse is human abuse.

      If "prayer changes things" then this person can stop this repulsive human abuse world over. After all it was Jesus who said nothing is to small to be asked for or granted.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      @self,

      Oooops, should be ...nothing is too large....

      June 21, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  12. Katlick

    If we lived in a healthy society, no one would care what butt diddlers think.

    June 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      If we lived in a heathy society, no one would care what other adults did in their bedrooms

      June 22, 2012 at 5:55 am |
  13. terri

    Religion would have us back in the dark ages so fast if we let people like this have their way. Those who didn't conform would be tortured and killed. Religion is the number one thing wrong in our world today. Afterall...mary had a little lamb, it's fleece was white as snow...just another fairy tale and just a valid.

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

      Religion is man tried to please God. A relationship with Christ is what frees us.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I always thought Mary had a little lamb, with some mint sauce and roasted potatoes, and a nice red wine.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      A pinot, maybe. But a nice rose (no, not white zinfandel) would be good, too.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      Christianity (a "relationship with Christ) IS a religion

      June 22, 2012 at 5:57 am |
  14. Rrp

    All I can thing of is " ignorant" $uck ing idiots..god made me say it....I think I can do it in tongues too..

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

      You watch to much TV not read enough of 240,000 secular references to the Bible and God much of written within 2 generations of Christ, the average historical fact , you place so much faith in has about 5000.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Where is that Idiot Translator Ring??

      June 21, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
  15. Jay

    I'm a gay man. My lover is my biological brother. We would like to marry but are unable and I am offended that so many of my gay brothers find this distasteful. We can't procreate, we just love each other and wish others would accept us. It is time to accept all.

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

      Me thinketh we have a troll.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • Tom101

      Hey to each their own. Don't judge me and I won't judge you. If that's your thing, then yes, you should be able to get married.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • Bet

      Troll harder. Even Evangelical, the troll of trolls, would laugh at this one.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • Catform

      As long as you guys love each other, it's ok!

      June 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Tralalllatroll, troll, troll, troll.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:08 pm |
    • Chras

      I think some desires should be controlled... and this is one of them.

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

      I don't see the harm, it seems gross to me but how I feel means nothing. The thought of the elderly coupling seems pretty gross too.

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

      Be sure and wear protection! Troll!

      June 21, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Jay

      That's my point. Everyone should accept everyone. There is so much bigotry on both sides.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, go take an acting class, Jay. You suck.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • Dorothy

      okay....if you want to pretend that you are serious, let's go at it. Gays are only asking for EQUALITY....not additional rights over straights. Hence, for public health reasons, relatives cannot marry one another. Gays should not (and do not) want any more rights than their straight counterparts......and neither should you.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
  16. Hank

    How this whole issue became the hugest platform and soapbox for our Nation is beyond me. Personally, I believe that the love between a Godly man and woman is a true gift and one that God blesses with an abundance of happiness and protective guidance. Don't have much use for churches these days. The spirit is sorely lacking in most and the vibe amongst the attendees is rather aloof, phoney and cold. I think far too many people are throwing their faith behind men instead of the Creator and are being led down a very dark, confusing and lonely path. Western religions are rather twisted and turning into political houses rather than spritual houses. Far more peace and spritual enlightenment in the Eastern philosophies and religions. Really if one is truly trying to find the way, avoiding too much noise from over zealous men at the pulpits would help tremendously. The journey to spiritual enlightenment, inner peace and the shield of faith does not come from the words of men, it comes from quiet reflection, soul searching and self realization with the help of your guardian angel. The term "Christian" isn't even a word but mentioned less than a half dozen times in the bible.
    I would think it's time to stop throwing that word around as though it's a sword to cut others. One should definitely have their convictions and stand strong and true to those, no need to bellow and scream. All you're doing is showing your insecurities and inability to live as a strong person of faith protected behind the shield of the life of goodness you know is right and virtuous. I will admit I have no gay friends, I know many and am cordial and polite. If you are a believer and love the Creator, then surround yourself with others who shine from within with the light. It's okay to de-link and disassociate from a way of life that you don't believe is virtuous. Just no need to be a soapbox ranter.

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

    The ignorant will follow like sheep anything their good ole pastor says.Even though he probably has a ged and knows only what was shoved down his throat...shame shame

    June 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Bet

      Probably doesn't even have the GED.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Texas

      Yea, and gotta love the camouflage on the seats of the redneck wanting people to lay off his pastor. What a compassionate man he must be. Put these loons in an electrified fence.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  18. Throw your Bible in a Dumpster! It is Total Horse Sh!t!!!!!

    YES!

    June 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • truth

      Throw your brains where they belong: in a dog's vomit.

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

      Ignorant!!! Brains full of filthy air.

      June 21, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
  19. truth

    Hh

    June 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
  20. Terry Brookman

    Because they have not been corrupted.

    June 21, 2012 at 8:57 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.