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June 21st, 2012
09:40 AM ET

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

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incidents drew outrage and condemnation from gay rights supporters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion: Why some Christians focus on gays

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion: The Christian case for gay marriage

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

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

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

He called their sermons "reprehensible."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Christianity • Homosexuality

soundoff (1,795 Responses)
  1. disgustedvet

    Christianity and Socialism are not compatible. Thus those who desire Socialism must denigrate and marginalize ALL Religion and Christianity is the largest branch in this Nation. They merely "pretend " to support other Religions,but ALL will be banned in the end.It's the way they roll.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Samuel

      Jesus had some pretty socialist ideas.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @vet,

      thank you for your service.

      Is Christianity that different to socialism? Didn't Jesus say the following: (Luke 18:)
      22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
      23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Yeah, the Bible failed to mention that Jesus formed a corporation to charge those people for the loaves and fishes, but fortunately YOU know better.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  2. 2tor

    It's not "Why are antigay preachers different", it's Why don't progay preachers follow the word they preach?

    June 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  3. spooledup

    CNN is garbage. People don't have to embrace the gay lifestyle, matter of fact most people do NOT. CNN needs to stop projecting gays morals on people.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • leonid7

      So, you equate "Please stop calling for my death" to "Embrace my lifestyle?"

      June 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      And in what why is CNN asking you to embrace a gay lifestyle?

      Hate speech is hate speech, whether or not it is protected by first amendment rights. What these preachers did might not have been illegal, but it was immoral.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • DeTamble

      I wont force my lifestye on you,
      when you stop forcing yours on me......deal ?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  4. Hypatia

    They can all go play in Uganda.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • jjaz

      Why don't you go to Uganda. These people are American citizens. Just because you don't like someone, that does not mean you get to run them out of their own country.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • tempo36

      Excellently put jjaz. We can't run people out of the country just because we don't like them. But according to these preachers perhaps they can be put in fenced camps or just killed. Eh?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  5. cyg

    These priests are as gay (or worse, molesters as well) as the people they preach against.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Bet

      What's your point? Do you have a cogent argument or just ad hominems?

      BTW, using "gay" as an insult is something middle school boys do.

      June 22, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  6. kerrye

    ........And people wonder why I'm an atheist and believe that religion is not only illogical, but divisive as well. I wonder what Pastors Worley and Knapp would do if they didn't have a definitive 'Good Book' to refer to to support their almost unbelievable stupidity.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • meedily

      Addiction is also divisive. Am I correct in assuming that you also have no addictions. You're perfectly ideal.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "The Good Book" - one of the most remarkable euphemisms ever coined.
      —Ashley Montagu

      June 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • Bet

      @ Meedily

      A tu quoque argument isn't proof of your position.

      June 22, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  7. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Now it's evening on the east coast, why is this on the front page all of a sudden after languishing on the Living page all day?

    Does the Belief Blog want to bump up the post count of the tiresome 'bait and bite' circular debate that goes on here between equally dismissive theists and atheists?

    June 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  8. Biblical

    Just because they dont follow the PC edicts and call a spade a spade..

    June 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Melissa

    Hate from Christians isnt exactly unusual.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • kerrye

      Right,-–"my way or the highway...."

      June 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  10. disgustedvet

    CNN and their rabid fans are such sad little people for being ignorant enough to believe this is "normal " Christian thinking. Cannot you see that there is an anti-Christian agenda in this Nation ?

    June 21, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
    • Tom

      If penguins do it then it is natural.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Todd

      There's an anti-religious freak sentiment in this nation for a reason. Religion is not needed in modern society. Read a book.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • sigmundfreud

      Remember what Abe Lincoln said: the skunk carries its own bad publicity. Or in other words, when large numbers of preachers screech hatred against gays, it is not "anti-Christian" to report it.

      But nice try anyway, disgustedved.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • leonid7

      Well let's hope that Christians can finally get some elected officials into government after all these decades of discrimination.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Yup, and the "anti-Christian agenda" has been SO successful that it has actually succeeded in shrinking the portion of the population that calls itself Christian from 86% to 84% in this century alone! What a crisis! No wonder you feel so persecuted, you p00r, sad minority, you.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • tempo36

      So, because it's not "normal" christian thinking we should ignore it? How many congregations have to say it before it's a problem? How often?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • DeTamble

      Christians keep screaming from the soapbox for attention.
      When they get it they scream persecution.
      Your god is between you and him.
      The rest of us dont need to hear it.
      The nicest way i can say this is.......S T F U !

      June 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
    • Scott

      disgustedvet, CNN and their rabid fans are such sad little people for being ignorant enough to believe this is "normal " Christian thinking.

      I grew up in the Christian world and I can assure everyone this is very normal Christian thinking and has been for decades. It’s just that their self-righteous veneer of brotherly love has been eroding lately. Scratch most any Christian and you will find an evil core of hatred and bigotry

      June 21, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  11. Martin

    I wonder what this "men of God" think about Jews?

    June 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
  12. Robert

    Why are anti-gay preachers different? Maybe because they're gay.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • onceacpa

      You could be right. ..It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
    • cyg

      usually are. American Beauty isn't far off.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Bet

      What's your point?

      June 22, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  13. Haskeli

    "If someone is talking about rounding up me and all my kind in a pen, what is the difference between that ...what happened in Germany and Poland during World War II?"
    Rev. Lunn - I understand your point but your use of hyperbole is insensitive. Quite simply the difference is that in Germany and Poland there was not someone talking but someone doing (and not just rounding people up). Yes I get your point - but the wording of that point is important.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • Samuel

      The Nazis also did the same thing to gay people. Not really a stretch of the imagination.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • leo

      Yes but didn't Mathew say "blessed is he who is persecuted in the name of the lord for his shall be the kingdom of heaven"? In other words God said do not persecute anyone in my name so aren't preachers themselves sinning by encouraging genocide and murder of gays and lesbians? I wonder what God thinks about that....I doubt he'd approve of such talk, especially in his name.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • onceacpa

      It doesn't take much of a leap for a church to be encouraging others to conduct "round-ups" and "killings"...To some of their unbalanced followers trying to do just that. Through-out history, hate killings have started just with "talk". You have to convince everyone first, that it is an OK thing to do. .It truly wasn't much of a leap on the writer's part.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • meedily

      In a society filled with such litigation at the smallest infractions.....this would never happen.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
    • Alysandir

      Except that the Nazis talked openly about doing it long before they did it. Should America wait around to see if history repeats itself?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • tempo36

      As has been said Haskeli...only someone who is wholly ignorant of the fact that the Nazi's Final Solution began with talk and ended with action could excuse this sort of behavior because it's "only talk" and not action.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  14. bvilleyellowdog

    Another hate church. Not novel at all. Using religion to justify hate is an old old story.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
    • onceacpa

      you got that right. Its easy to hide behind a religious facade when all you are doing is preaching hate.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • meedily

      Being outwardly anti-religion is a way of touting your moral superiority without the burden of theology. In other words, just because you dislike organized religion doesn't mean you're exempt from being a talking point-spewing pseudointellectual who harbors feelings of inadequacy. It just means you're a moving target when people are throwing baseless accusations your way.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Bet

      @ meedily

      Do you look through your word-a-day calendar before you post? That was a lot of blah, blah, blah "insert ad hominem argument" blah, blah, blah.

      June 22, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  15. Jhon Jaques

    I did NOT read the article. I wish there is a data base – where it keep track of CNN – daily attack on Christianity... Why is Left media so worried about?

    June 21, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • Graham

      I don't think your problem is going to be solved with a database.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • Graham

      I'm guessing you don't read much of anything.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • DeTamble

      Seems to me, you are the one who is worried.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • Bet

      Lol. "I didn't read the article, but I know what it says."

      Christians do that with the bible too. Many of them can only regurgitate what they've heard, they don't really read it with the intent to learn what it actually says.

      June 22, 2012 at 11:52 am |
  16. RichardSRussell

    "Why are anti-gay preachers different?" asks the teaser for this story on CNN's front page.
     
    Well, in one very important way, they AREN'T different. They think that you can bypass science and reality and arrive at useful conclusions because they feel good — in short, because of faith (belief without evidence). Kind of ironic, really, that they think that seeking out things that make you feel good is the only thing that motivates gay people.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • Josh

      YOU CANT CONDONE SOMETHING BECAUSE IT HAS AGENETIC PREDISPOSITION. DIABETES, SCHIZOPHRENIA ETC HAVE GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS BUT WE TREAT THEM. WE HAVE TO TREAT GAYS RATHER THAN CONDONE WHAT THEY DO. REHABILITATION IS TREATMENT. I WANNA ASK IF A GENE FOR PAEDOPHILIA WAS DISCOVERED TODAY, HOW MANY OF YOU WOULD LET YOUR CHILDREN TO BE DEFILED?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • DeTamble

      HEY JOSH,
      THEY CANT HEAR YOU IN THE BACK ROW......
      SCREAM LOUDER........
      m o r o n......

      June 21, 2012 at 6:55 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "BUT WE TREAT THEM. WE HAVE TO TREAT GAYS RATHER THAN CONDONE WHAT THEY DO. REHABILITATION IS TREATMEN"

      Because of the aggressive promotion of efforts to change sexual orientation through therapy, a number of medical, health, and mental health professional organizations have issued public statements about the dangers of this approach. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  17. Andrew

    Power-driven hate group cultists. Jesus would harshly reprove them for misusing his commandments.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Who gives a rip what Jesus would think? You say he'd come down on one side of the issue, other people claim he'd come down on the exact opposite side. Unless and until he appears on CNN and demonstrates some basic background knowledge of the issues and human beings involved, I don't think ANYBODY is qualified to speak on his behalf.
       
      If Jesus disagrees, let him show up in person and say so. To repeat, let HIM say so, not you putting words in his mouth.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  18. jameslabvile

    Preachers who preach against the advancement of the gay lifestyle are following what the Bible explicitly says. It is an abomination to God to practice the Gay Lifestyle. He didn't say it was a sin to have gay feelings, he just said not to act on them. Pray to God to help you overcome these feelings by providing other, more constructive activities that are helpful to all people. You may have to live a celibate life but you can use your life to glorify God in helpful ways to humanity.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Arch

      please save us from religious scolds.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • alpeaston

      If more Christians like you would practice celebacy the problem of irrational hatred would disappear! Great suggestion – now story breeding with your sister!

      June 21, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The “gay lifestyle” is so terribly radical and dangerous that we need to fret about it day and night. But what IS it, exactly? Wonder no more. Here’s their complete plan, in hours per week:
      56 – sleep
      40 – work
      20 – family, friends
      10 – eat
      10 – recreation, hobbies
      9 – bathroom
      8 – travel
      7 – reading, news
      5 – shopping
      2 – puttering
      1 – s¢x

      June 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      There's no reason why a preacher can't preach to his community that hom-s-xuality is a sin. (Many here will argue this point, but religious freedom is important.)

      It is hate speech to suggest that people who live law-abiding lives should be rounded up and exterminated because of who they are attracted to. This is the point of the article.

      The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Mr. Mohler) agrees. Why don't you?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • Marcelino

      James I bet you didn't even graduate High School.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
    • Jeannine

      "It is an abomination to God to practice the Gay Lifestyle. He didn't say it was a sin to have gay feelings, he just said not to act on them."

      The Scriptures were written approximately 2000 or more years ago when there was no knowledge of constitutional homosexuality. The Scripture writers believed that all people were naturally heterosexual so that they viewed homosexuality activity as unnatural. Women today are pointing out that the inferiority of women expressed in the scriptures was a product of culture and the times in which the Bible was written; it should not be followed today, now that we are beginning to appreciate the natural and God-given equality of men and women.

      Similarly, as we know that homosexuality is just as natural and God-given as heterosexuality, we realize that the Biblical injunctions against homosexuality were conditioned by the attitudes and beliefs about this form of sexual expression which were held by people without benefit of centuries of scientific knowledge and understanding.

      It is unfair of us to expect or impose a twentieth century mentality and understanding about equality of genders, races and sexual orientations on the Biblical writers. We must be able to distinguish the eternal truths the Bible is meant to convey from the cultural forms and attitudes expressed there.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • DeTamble

      Richard, you forgot yard work.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  19. sftommy

    Anti-Gay is anti-God.
    Have a little more faith in His works and purposes for each of us.

    and preacher, "Go forth and sin no more."

    June 21, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • Carole

      Good Christians do not judge.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  20. RevJim

    Whoever is without sin in their life go ahead and throw the stones.
    Anybody?? Didn't think so.

    June 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Chris

      Ned flanders : Homer, did you steal my air conditioner?
      Homer : I know it looks bad flanders, but he who is without sin casts the first stone
      (homer gets hit with a rock)
      Rodd Flanders : I got him, Dad.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • Nope

      well, since there's no such thing as "sin", you totally fail.
      idiot.

      June 21, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
    • onceacpa

      agree!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • onceacpa

      Sorry RevJim, I meant to agree with you. Someone else posted some strange stuff and it looks like i was agreeing with them :((>

      June 21, 2012 at 6:03 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.