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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."

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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. andrew

    The long nosy nosed Christians with loud mouths and personal opinions and condemnations for all but themselves, have as much effect as a gnat on a leaf on a tree in some giant forest – ZILCH! Jesus warned these 'fake Christians' they'd fry if they acted this way. But they don't care what Jesus said, just like we don't care what they say. These people aren't Christians, they're luke-warm hypocrites, and that's why everyone totally ignores them.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  2. GAW

    Sadly the extremists are the ones with the loudest voices and the ones that receive the most media attention.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  3. Yupyupy

    When your paster tells you it's okay to round people up and kill them that is wrong and has nothing to do with religion. It's like the wack nuts killing abortion doctors.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • Dyllis

      If only that were true. 2 of the most popular religions in the world both present policies of killing for 'sins' such as non-belief , "blasphemy", and natural se.xual behavior.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • Snow

      which is why the third is best.. Hinduism .. 🙂 you want to be a hindu and believe stuff, go ahead.. if you don't want to be one, go right ahead too.. whatever!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:35 pm |
    • ElmerGantry

      @Snow,

      What's the trick to getting the smiley in the post? I know about posting bold, italics, and strike through text, but not emoticons.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  4. bob

    TAX THE CHURCHES PAY OFF THE DEFICIT

    June 21, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
  5. Amen

    Hard to believe that in the 21st Century that we're still arguing based on a book written centuries ago because its contents were dictated by an invisible man in the sky.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  6. b4bigbang

    HeavnSent: "Why, are you looking for some company tonight? Can I bring a friend?"

    Yeah, i wanna sniff ya.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
  7. WhackyWaco

    The Catholic church has become a haven for gay pedofile priests. Charges should be filed against them just as any ordinary citizen.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      The govt dis-allows straight polygamy (Mormon) but allows 'celibate' [ga y-pe do] Catholic priesthood.
      Amazing.....

      June 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Eric

      Gay and pedophile are not the same thing. If you think they are, then you very misinformed.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  8. Jack

    People pick the religion that affirms their own prejudices. Haven't you noticed that god hates all the same people that you do?

    June 21, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • WhackyWaco

      All, but God hates you.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
  9. JJ

    Welcome to the Tabernacles of Satan, to the purveyors of hatred, to the a55wipes who are stupid enough to not realize that God prefers moral atheists to hateful khristians. Burn in hell, punks.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      JJ are you dyn o mite?
      Been drinkin the Champipple?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:27 pm |
  10. Kelcy

    Why are they different? Because they are secretly gay and hate themselves and take it out on everyone else.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  11. George Miller

    Why is it that it's always a conservative Christian that they catch taking "a wide stance" in public bathrooms. The ones that protest the most are usually the ones deep throating behind closed doors.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • George Miller

      Pretty sure this kid has had a penis in his mouth. Move to a bigger city kid, it will be a lot easier to accept yourself.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:23 pm |
    • George Miller

      Don't be too hard on him, he obviously has down's syndrome.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
  12. Mark

    If you believe in God and heaven then why wouldn't you believe that God will make the decision about whose going where, not some preacher who suggests that his followers murder other human beings....oh I'm sorry, he wants the government to do it for him. Pathetic!

    June 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
  13. Rey

    Should we kill children because they talk back to their parents Leviticus 18-9 “‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.

    Will the pastor go after Newt Gingrich Liviticsu 18-10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife —with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

    This is just another antichrist trying to turn Jesus into the God of hate....

    June 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  14. reasonable 40

    We have freedom of speech last time I checked in the United States.
    We don't have to like what they say or agree with it. But if they can't speak their mind than neither can we.

    ONLY God knows who will go to heaven and who will not. I believe in God. If I am wrong I will die like evry one else and take a dirt nap. If Atheists are wrong then when they die...well, you get the picture. I will stick with my beliefs thank you. 🙂 Not hating...I am just sayin....

    June 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Dan

      So you are sayign that god encourages spiritual gambling?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • michael

      I don't have a problem with freedom of speech.
      I have a problem with No taxation for church property and income.
      They should be fully taxed and then they can say whatever they want. I don't want to subsidize them with taxpayer money.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • David

      No one is suggesting to abridge freedom of speech. We're merely exercising our own freedom of speech to say that the people who are saying the evil are staying evil things.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Luzbelle

      Ah yes, freedom of speech. I have to agree with you there I guess. So let me exercise my right: Anyone who believes in "god" is mentally ill and should be treated as such... These people don't deserve the same civil rights as normal people do

      June 21, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • sam

      'Freedom of speech' means your government will not come and drag you away for speaking up. It does not mean you can say any careless, idiot thing and not find yourself answering for it via the people who disagree with it.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • Snow

      pascal's wager.. sad to see that your conviction in your own god is only self-serving and hoping to achieve something after you die. There is nothing good about that, except selfishness..

      June 21, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @reasonable 40.

      Free speech is not the issue. What they said is protected under the first amendment. The issue is how many Christians are prepared to stand up and call it what it is – hate speech that perverts Jesus' message of love.

      To your second point. Is your belief predicated by "Pascal's wager"? Being: "I might as well believe in God, just in case there really is an afterlife", instead of confronting the reality that this existence is all we can possibly *know* that we have.

      Sure I own some life insurance, but 'afterlife insurance' seems no way to justify a belief in the unknowable.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  15. Holly

    Wow, there are sure a lot of lost people on here. It is really sad. I really cannot relate. It can anger me too see those who reject God (the God of the Bible) but at the same time I feel very sorry for them and pray that they will find the true God and his Word.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Me Me Me

      The only being I find worthy of being called God is myself. Worship me, fool!

      June 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • JWT

      Kind of like hw we hope you will find your brain and understand that your god has nothing to do with us.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
    • Snow

      I agree with everythign you said Holly, but sadly, you are wrong in one thing.. the real god is actually Zeus.. and you still have time to renounce the other charlatans and accept the one true god, Zeus and attain salvation..

      All you have to do is to pray to the right god and you will be safe from burning in hell for eternity.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
    • Eric Patterson, Th.D.

      The reason they are "lost" is because they find people like you repugnant. What do I mean? I mean people who claim to follow Christ, but who are quicker to judge others before judging themselves. Evangelicals are their own worst enemy, and do more to push people away from Christianity than any other group, yet they are unable to see it. Do you honestly believe that anyone – ANYONE – would reject God if they knew he was a God of love, patience, forgiveness and mercy? Of course not! They are in fact rejecting the hypocrisy of modern Evangelical Christianity, and nothing more.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • sam

      Yeah, Zeus is an awesome god. I'm glad we picked the right one.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
  16. Ran

    I ain a gin it.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • sam

      LOL

      June 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  17. Holly

    AW, you do not understand salvation of the Bible and what you said is not what Christians believe. Those who are not His will not "hear" (which means understand in the Bible)..this is scriptural . You have to read and seek for understanding and not seek only for what you want it to be or what you want God to be. God is not only the God of love but he is a jealous God and a God of wrath. No one will come to the Father without saving faith through Christ. I don't care how good the person is. No one matches up or is good enough.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
    • Me Me Me

      Sounds like a real jerk. Why should I "come" to him?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • Snow

      so.. close your eyes, have absolute and unwavering belief that god is talking to you, concentrate with all your mind and you will hear god? sounds more like auditory hallucination than anything else.. have you even given thought to what you are saying?

      June 21, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  18. Eric

    Mohler is dead *WRONG* when he claims that these people are on the fringe. Quite to the contrary, they are on the leading edge of the Christian theocracy movement that is seeking to turn America into an Evangelical church/state. True, not all Christians are filled with this kind of hatred and vitriol, but those who are pushing to control America are that way, and that is what is particularly dangerous. We should be more than perturbed by such "Christians", we should be outraged and perhaps even afraid.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm |
  19. Mike Blackadder

    Christians who boast unrepentantly that they are going to heaven and someone else is not, are probably not going to heaven.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • Dan

      It they are going to heaven then I sure as f*** don't want to be there with them

      June 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Despite all the wishful thinking in the world, NOBODY is going to heaven. Don't believe me? Then have someone who's already made the trip send back a picture postcard.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm |
    • bubbles

      atheists got nothing to worry about..oh wait! They get "offended" or complain about hell.

      sad

      June 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
    • Dan

      Atheists don't get offended by hell because they know it is nonsense

      June 21, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I don't "complain about hell," I just think that any being who would make one and sustain it is the most sadistic torturer and terrorist ever. If you want to worship a being who behaves that way, then go for it.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
  20. jimbo, st. louis mo

    There is no god. You can now go back to enjoying life.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Al, Ft. Rucker, AL

      Sorry jimbo but the Bible clearly states that only a fool says there is no God.

      June 21, 2012 at 7:26 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.