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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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. Corey

    I don't know how anyone could follow the teachings that condone slavery.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • J

      Where is slavery condoned?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Well in fairness, they don't ... anymore.

      They believe that every word of the bible is true, except for the ones that they don't like (adultery, bacon, shellfish) and the ones that are really embarrassing (slavery). Trying to figure out exactly which words in the bible are the literal utterance of God and which words are anathema is quite a trick.

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

      Leviticus 25:44-46, Exodus 21:2-6, Exodus 21:7-11, Exodus 21:20-21, Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2, and Luke 12:47-48. Now open up your bible and tell me I'm wrong.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      it's all through Leviticus. In context the commandments also refer to slaves:

      "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

      In context here, the manservants and maidservants are slaves that belong to the neighbor.

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

      The bible's version of slavery made the person free from debt, left them with the skills and tools of a trade or gave them a new family to live with where they were considered brothers. How is America's debt laden, landless, minimum wage earner better off than that concept of a slave???

      June 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • J

      How is this question relevant to the truth of the Bible?

      You find something in it you "don't like", so it can't be true?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:58 pm |
    • Corey

      However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way

      June 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • NeonKnight

      @ J

      Old Testament

      (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)
      (Exodus 21:2-6 NLT)
      (Exodus 21:7-11 NLT)
      (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)

      New Testament
      (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)
      (1 Timothy 6:1-2 NLT)
      (Luke 12:47-48 NLT)

      June 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
    • Corey

      J are you saying you condone slavery?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm |
    • Dan

      J, why did god give you a moral sense if he didn't want you to use it? Slavery is wrong. Not everything in the bible is true or even ethical

      June 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • Corey

      J would you sell your daughter?

      When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. And if the slave girl's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave girl, but he must treat her as his daughter. If he himself marries her and then takes another wife, he may not reduce her food or clothing or fail to sleep with her as his wife. If he fails in any of these three ways, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Corey

      Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:11 pm |
    • Corey

      J Could you imagine if our justice system worked like this?

      When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  2. Doobie Doobie Doo

    People who preach this way are more like Al-Qaeda than Christian. Protestant fundamentalists are sad people.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  3. 0rangeW3dge

    The Sons and Daughters of "Christ"? Not the Christ that I know

    This is not "on the same page", it's not even the same book...

    June 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  4. Moses

    Proof that God has a sense of humor. He created both gays and anti-gay-preachers.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Dan

      yeah, almost as funny as the holocaust. Good one, god

      June 21, 2012 at 6:49 pm |
  5. LouAZ

    Hey , Bidness has been kinda slow at Michael Bachman's Pray Away the Gay store, so she got some of her Real American friends from Oral Roberts U Law School to sic a bunch of mongrel "preachers" on the Media. As usual, they went for it . . . hook, line, and sinker. Hallejulia Jeebus !

    June 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  6. The shoe's on the wrong foot

    It's not the anti-gay preachers who are different. It's the gays who are different.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
    • Dan

      The gays didn't chose to be gay. The preachers, on the other hand, did choose to be evil bigoted a holes

      June 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • Paul


      June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "It's the gays who are different."

      Being gay is normal. 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. 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."

      June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • sam

      Your shoe is in the wrong orifice.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Just like people with blond hair are different from people with red hair. Lefties are different from righties. Tall people are different from short people. Old people are different from young people. Gays are different from straights. So what!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm |
  7. Dan

    Carl – or God just smokes a lot of pot

    June 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Dan

      wrong thread

      June 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
  8. Servant of God

    I love how popular Jesus is till this day. This man lived more than 2000 years ago and look at the impact He still has on this sick lost world. People can deny Him and His words all they want, but there is one thing that is a fact. We all will perish along with this world, but His words will last forever. Its funny how people try to silence christianity by accepting and promoting sin. Im glad to see that year after year that scheme has been proven impossible. Jesus name will live through out the ages along with His saints. Im not too sure about those who deny the Son of God and embrace death.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Dan

      I agree that jesus made a huge impact, but I don't know if he would be too proud of his own legacy, ironically

      June 21, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
    • Bazoing

      Jesus would be a lot more popular if the churches were not so full of predators and crooks. Please do not blame Christians on Jesus!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • steve-o

      So will mohammeds words. Where ever their is hate, where ever there are people longing to make others outcasts, where ever their is irrational fear.
      By the way Jesus loved everyone-try to live like he did(he also hated rich people and felt they could not get into heaven)

      June 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Moses

      Consider him Denied. Move along free-thinking citizens, nothing to see here.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
    • Servant of God

      Dan He died in the name of Love. What greater love story is there than the story of Jesus? What fairytale is greater than the story of Jesus? None. He died on the cross for everyones sin, and today millions of songs and writings are about Him. Millions of His followers would happily die for Him. I think He is pretty happy with His legacy brother.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • John

      "Its funny how people try to silence christianity by accepting and promoting sin."

      Some argue that since homosexual behavior is "unnatural" it is contrary to the order of creation. Behind this pronouncement are stereotypical definitions of masculinity and femininity that reflect rigid gender categories of patriarchal society. There is nothing unnatural about any shared love, even between two of the same gender, if that experience calls both partners to a fuller state of being. Contemporary research is uncovering new facts that are producing a rising conviction that homosexuality, far from being a sickness, sin, perversion or unnatural act, is a healthy, natural and affirming form of human sexuality for some people. Findings indicate that homosexuality is a given fact in the nature of a significant portion of people, and that it is unchangeable.

      Our prejudice rejects people or things outside our understanding. But the God of creation speaks and declares, "I have looked out on everything I have made and `behold it (is) very good'." . The word (Genesis 1:31) of God in Christ says that we are loved, valued, redeemed, and counted as precious no matter how we might be valued by a prejudiced world.

      There are few biblical references to homosexuality. The first, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, is often quoted to prove that the Bible condemns homosexuality. But the real sin of Sodom was the unwillingness of the city's men to observe the laws of hospitality. The intention was to insult the stranger by forcing him to take the female role in the sex act. The biblical narrative approves Lot's offer of his virgin daughters to satisfy the sexual demands of the mob. How many would say, "This is the word of the Lord"? When the Bible is quoted literally, it might be well for the one quoting to read the text in its entirety.

      Leviticus, in the Hebrew Scriptures, condemns homosexual behaviour, at least for males. Yet, "abomination", the word Leviticus uses to describe homosexuality, is the same word used to describe a menstruating woman. Paul is the most quoted source in the battle to condemn homosexuality ( 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and Romans 1: 26-27). But homosexual activity was regarded by Paul as a punishment visited upon idolaters by God because of their unfaithfulness. Homosexuality was not the sin but the punishment.

      1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul gave a list of those who would not inherit the Kingdom of God. That list included the immoral, idolaters, adulterers, sexual perverts, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, and robbers. Sexual perverts is a translation of two words; it is possible that the juxtaposition of malakos, the soft, effeminate word, with arsenokoitus, or male prostitute, was meant to refer to the passive and active males in a homosexual liaison.

      Thus, it appears that Paul would not approve of homosexual behavior. But was Paul's opinion about homosexuality accurate, or was it limited by the lack of scientific knowledge in his day and infected by prejudice born of ignorance? An examination of some of Paul's other assumptions and conclusions will help answer this question. Who today would share Paul's anti-Semitic attitude, his belief that the authority of the state was not to be challenged, or that all women ought to be veiled? In these attitudes Paul's thinking has been challenged and transcended even by the church! Is Paul's commentary on homosexuality more absolute than some of his other antiquated, culturally conditioned ideas?

      Three other references in the New Testament (in Timothy, Jude and 2 Peter) appear to be limited to condemnation of male sex slaves in the first instance, and to showing examples (Sodom and Gomorrah) of God's destruction of unbelievers and heretics (in Jude and 2 Peter respectively).

      That is all that Scripture has to say about homosexuality. Even if one is a biblical literalist, these references do not build an ironclad case for condemnation. If one is not a biblical literalist there is no case at all, nothing but prejudice born of ignorance, that attacks people whose only crime is to be born with an unchangeable sexual predisposition toward those of their own sex.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • untaimed18

      And how exactly can you demonstrate that your opinion about the world perishing is fact and not just merely opinion?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • yourlogicisflawed

      Jesus is awesome, but his fan clubs SUCK!!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Servent of Magic Dad, you are so full of crap, you stink!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  9. steve-o

    Very few conservatives are outraged by this. Gays. Mexicans and Muslims will be the 'Jews' to these Nazis. When they take over(at any cost) their final solution will begin. Obama was a nazi because he wanted heath care for everyone(like every civilized nation). These people are nazis because they want to wipe out those they deem inferior.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • caralee2010

      Do not believe everything you read on the internet.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
  10. dave

    Please, PLEASE, don't think all people who claim to be Christians act this way. It's really embarrassing for those of us who believe this is wrong.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Have you ever donated to a church who condemns gay people? THen you are for it, too

      June 21, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Lizzy10

    One of the most profound things I've ever heard was this: "You can't fix stupid". It's unfortunate but true, as these idiots prove time after time with their rants and raves.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • Dan

      You actually can; it's called education. Unfortunately, many of our leaders do not find it to be a worthwhile investment

      June 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Dave

      not to mention that the stupid people also want to set the curriculum to bring the rest of the people down to there level...

      June 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • The shoe's on the wrong foot

      It's not "education" at all, Danny boy. It's brainwashing.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Dan

      Call it what you want, but fortunately this country will soon be rid of mor0ns like you

      June 21, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  12. grantcv1

    Everyone is a bigot is some ay or another. Some people just believe that the bible can be used as a shield to protect them against the backlash that comes from expressing their inner bigot to the world. The irony is that, if there is a God, their use of the bible as a shield only ensures them an eternitty of condemnation. So feel sorry for their miserable souls for they know not what they will have to suffer.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
  13. SugarCube

    Preachers need to preach the Bible or get another job.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Inglourious

      Which part of the Bible? The part that says you cannot eat pork or shrimp?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • steve-o

      The part that condones slavery or subjugate women??

      June 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • atheists reject only one religion, the one they grew up with

      OT law does not apply to Christians as we arent Jews...Its not that hard

      June 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • Dave

      They are, that's the problem with the bible....

      June 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Bet

      The one that tells women that they are inferior to men?

      June 22, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  14. Jerry Pelletier

    Why do democrats have funny shaped heads!

    June 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • Todd in DC

      Because unlike yours, ours aren't flat.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  15. Paul

    You can love the sinner but hate the sin. That's what my Bible speaks to. I didn't write the rules. "He" did. If you follow the teachings of Jesus Christ then you are a Christian. If you don't then you are not a Christian. The Bible is very clear with respect to the issue at hand. Again, people like me didn't write the rules. I would never preach a sermon that would belittle this group of people but my responsibility is to preach what "He" gave to us as the guidebook.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
    • grantcv1

      I hope you also treat women as prescribed by the bible. Go ahead, do it. After all, you didn't write the rules so you can feel absolved of any sins there too. Should we bring up slavery?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
    • midwest rail

      " Love the sinner, but hate the sin ". Just another cop out by those who require a shield to protect themselves against the justifiable backlash against their hatred, bigotry, and ignorance.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Dan

      Then why did god make people gay?

      June 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • JustaNormalPerson

      Paul, Jesus never said anything like that. The christians that I know who say that also seem to hate the sinners, they just won't admit it. To truely follow the teachings of christ, one should not hate in any form. Hate is still hate.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Debra

      "You can love the sinner but hate the sin."

      That's actually a Hindu saying and isn't in your bible.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • WAKEUP

      How convienient for you, you don't have to think at all, just do what your "good" book tells you. TOOL!

      June 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  16. jmsbois

    Tax churches.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • J

      As if that would solve this problem...

      June 21, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  17. AW

    The most Dangerous people in America today are the extreme left and right. They are really no different. If Christians really believe that sinners are not going to heaven, then everyone who is overweight is not going to heaven. Gluttony is clearly mentioned so if you cont to be overweight then you are no better any other sinner that cont's to sin.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
  18. bpsf

    They do it the anti-gay bit, because it brings in the MONEY

    June 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  19. therentistoodamnhigh

    There has been quite a lot of violence against gays and even some that ended in a gay person beaten to death. It's not a bunch of atheist hippies that are involved, its usually the far righter ultra-Christian types.

    So when he says "there's no connection between preaching and violence against gays" that rings extremely hollow.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • joe

      Every christian is directed by the Gospel to try to turn any sinner from sin. If that is not possible, we are told not to associate with them, thus giving tacit approval of their choices. We are to avoid the appearence of evil.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  20. history major

    If god is so powerful, why does he need the help of puny little bigots to do his work?

    If god is so loving, why does he allow all the hate spewed by these people. Where is his "anti-bullying" campaign?

    If there truly was a god, she would destroy all organized religions.

    June 21, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • grantcv1

      I love the way God seems to have a preference for hitting the bible belt with tornados.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Carl

      The answer becomes obvious when you look at the platypus: because God is lazy as hell.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • Dan

      Not to mention poverty, illiteracy, high rate of unwanted pregnancy, etc.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • joe

      If God hadn't granted you free will, you would not be able to make those erroneous statements.

      June 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • DxDark

      "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" – Epicurus

      June 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
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.