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."

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"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. Josian

    Since when did it become extreme for a Christian pastor to preach against sodomy? The globalists are behind the sodomite agenda. They are the ones who want to reduce world population to about 500,000,000. They are the ones who hate humanity (including the gays)....not the Christian pastor!

    June 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Colin

      sooooo, seen any black helicopters lately?

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

      Go bang your bible somewhere else.

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

      No Colin, I haven't seen any spaceships or reptoids........ only the Georgia Guidestones up in N.E. Georgia. It's all there written in stone for the world to see! It's really really funny!!!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • DeTamble


      June 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Ahahhhahhhahah! I love it.

      You must be a plant. No human could be that dumb.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  2. John

    Yes, some kinds of religion can be destructive, such as the religion of atheistic Marxism, which led to the murder of tens of millions of human beings.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
    • Religion Epidemic

      Huh, that's funny. Think about the inquisition, the all but annihilation of the native americans, the holocaust(yes hitler claimed to believe in Jesus and used his name in his speeches), the witch hunts. God himself commits genocide, wipes out the whole planet save 8 people, kills all first born egyptian boys, completely annihilates sodom and gamorrah, the list goes on. You are ignorant, that's all.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
  3. suzibee

    Terry : please don't categorize that way...

    June 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  4. Nathan K

    These rednecks are backwards, just listen to them.. with their uneducated sounding southern twang.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  5. yeap that's right

    'Lay off my pastor'......The young man doesn't know any better. His up bringing is just shining.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  6. Disanitnodicos

    Says Kim Jong LIberal : People who disagree with me are dangerous.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  7. ShawnDH

    These preachers are evil and their followers are pathetically weak people with no conscience and no sense of right and wrong. These people are basically the Taliban in America and we must remain vigilant against their hatred and extremism.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  8. Religion Epidemic

    What's interesting is that this man is truly living by the bible. He's saying we should do what the bible says. He's a true believer.
    Luckily not all christians are true believers, imagine how the world would really be if all christians literally followed the bible. People would be stoned in the streets.Luckily most christians are just delusional psychopaths afraid to face the true nature of reality.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • PhxLuke

      RE: I would have to disagree with your understanding of the preacher who calls for the extermination of any group of people as "living by the Bible". You bring up an interesting topic regarding the stoning of people in the street, and it being the sign of a true believer. I don't know if you are familiar with the Book of John and the story of Jesus and the woman who had been caught in adultery (8:1-11). The religious leaders wanted to test Jesus, so they brought the girl before him and asked how he would handle the situation knowing the Law of Moses commanded she be stoned. Jesus instructed that those without sin could cast the first stone. Interestingly enough the only two people left were Jesus and the girl. All the people gathered had left without a single stone thrown. Hearing these words of Jesus I struggle to believe that a true believers in Christ would be picking of any stones.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
  9. James

    The part I like the best is the assertion that god doesn't exist and that christians should bow down to mother nature. Mother nature is indeed a biatch...ever watch someone die of aids?

    June 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Bet

      The natural world actually exists.

      June 22, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  10. revolting peasant

    The Bible says that eating bacon is a sin. Maybe we shoudl not let bacon eaters marry.

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

      Absolutely wrong.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • PhxLuke

      RP: You are very correct, the dietary laws of the Israelites (and even modern Judaism) prohibit the consumption of what was/is considered unclean food. Christians on the other hand do not follow the ceremonial and civic laws of the Israelites because we believe these laws were fulfilled through Jesus Christ in His life, death, and resurrection. The New Testament book of Hebrews speaks quite openly regarding the purpose of the civic and ceremonial laws and how they relate to Christ. Also, the Book of Acts depicts the struggle between the first century church, which was quickly becoming a mixing pot of Gentiles and Jews, and how they were to understand the Law moving forward as the Church.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
  11. onestarman

    I Believe that some things are IMMORAL just plain WRONG. There are some things that people do that are So Wrong they imperil the very survival of what we hold most DEAR. But just because I am a Vegetarian that is worried about Global warming doesn't mean I BOMB McDonald's or Shoot people driving Hummer's (Really Who HASN'T Wanted to at Least Once)

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

      Posting WITH random words IN capital letters MAKES it TRUE!

      June 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  12. RickBangkok

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
    Joseph Goebbels quote

    What does Christianity mean today? National Socialism is a religion. All we lack is a religious genius capable of uprooting outmoded religious practices and putting new ones in their place. We lack traditions and ritual. One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel.
    Diary entry for October 16, 1928. [1]

    June 21, 2012 at 6:03 pm |
  13. Bob

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

    Oh YES, they DO.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
  14. Gonfis

    What is with CNN. The economy is imploding, politiicians are lying and covering up, everyone is going backward financially and their front page news is two preachers making stupid statements. Geez, how does 2% of the popoulation (according to the 2010 census) get so much attention??????????

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

      There is an algorithm that is responsible for which stories get top billing on CNN. It is based on a combination of date/time posted and how many people are viewing the article.

      So...new articles with lots of viewers go to the top.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      Then dont read it............ M O R O N !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  15. glorydays

    If that's what it means to be "Christian", count intelligent people out.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  16. JustWho

    The evangelical wing nuts are a bunch of nuts. Pied pipers all.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  17. logical

    Religion is the true evil in the world, the world would be a better place without it. Religion has done more harm than good, just look at the crusades, the Inquisition, the settlement of north and south America, 9/11, all of these and more can be attributed to religion. Maybe one day we as a race will realize that we don't need to believe in some made up being who's story is nothing more than the retelling of older stories, all mashed together so that the few can control the many.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Gonfis

      Your faith is astounding. Forgetting the 2nd Law of Thermo Dynamics, Chaos Theory etc. what was you epiphany that everything we have been able to discover through absolutes, speed, light, etc. that all of the absolute order we keep learning about is one big cosmic accident. If that is so, why would you expect there to be any morality or standards from accidental creatures? Good luck with your Logic cowboy...........

      June 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm |
    • Nope

      still nope

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

      It really burns the religious nuts up that people can have a moral compass without having the threat of a punishing god and eternal fire hanging over them.

      June 22, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  18. Loni

    This is news, but what is not news is for the 5th week now the book, Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, is No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Astounding to say the least.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  19. James

    Do not knock the churches or the preachers who are anti-gay...Go bash God! The Bible clearly states its wrong, not just a sin its an abomination...So why do the gays and the liberal media want the church to conform to what they believe...Why is nothing said about the Muslims who give gay people the death penalty...Its wrong in their eyes also...And forming a church and having a gay preacher with a gay congregation does not make it right...I don't hate gays...I did not write the Bible...But understand, if its not of God then it has to be of Satan...Yen and Yang! You cannot compromise Gods word...Its not what we think and want to do that is right...Its following God's law that makes it right...So media, stop condemming the preachers that stand for what they believe...! I mean you think its ok for gays to bash them...But then you say its wrong for the preachers to bash the gays...How about just having one standard instead of two....

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

      Liberals are not trying to make being gay illegal.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • Servant of God

      Good points james nothing but the truth. People bashing the church because of the church bashing sin is clearly the work of satan.

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

      The bible CLEARLY states in Leviticus 20:10 that adulterers should be put to death. Would you advocate preaching that?! If not, you're a hypocrite and quoting the bible for your convenience.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Fearless Freep

      *** ...I did not write the Bible...

      Neither did God.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Kathy

      Alright James, I agree it's what the Bible says, it also says love is the most important of all things. Why aren't we hearing all the hate filled sermons about hetro's screwing everything that moves, or is that a "boys will be boy's" thing?, not to leave out the girls who go looking for a one nighter. The Bible talks about a lot of things, are you fat?, do you lie? are you a back biter? Sin is sin in God's eyes. If your heart has hate in it, then your words are nothing. I can't leave out the complete ignorance of comments made about reproduction, that gays will just die out. Where do they think people come from? I took health class, did anyone else. Better pluck that plank out of your eye! Christ died for all of us, including gays.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      By your reasoning, god also believes in slavery. Are you suggesting that we make slavery legal again?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • Bet

      The people on trial at Nuremburg didn't write Mein Kampf either. Yet they were still guilty of stripping the civil rights and murdering Jews, the elderly, gays, the mentally or physically handicapped, and anyone else who didn't fit into their Party's ideal.

      "I was only following orders". Really, that's the best thing you can come up with?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  20. Terry

    Deep-down inside, these preachers are all closet pedophiles, adulterers, or possibly gay.

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

      Gays are all panty sniffing perverts.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • ThsIsNotReal

      And how you could you possibly know that?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:24 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.