May only God’s words be spoken, and may only God’s words be heard.
Living in North Carolina and growing up in the place I’m from in Western North Carolina, I was able to just ignore the lunacy being preached from the pulpit of Providence Road Baptist Church, in Maiden, North Carolina by the pastor there, Mr. Charles Worley. I cannot use the word “Reverend” as there was absolutely nothing “Reverent” in the spewing words of un-Christian hate he spoke from his pulpit.
I thought it would be possible to let this one just slide over me like a shiny oil slick on the surface of the water. Even though the man spoke of me in his hateful sermon, he did not speak for me.
And then I got a text message from a friend, which I paraphrase here to keep things Under the Seal of confidentiality:
An acquaintance who lives out there heard those hateful words and it caused her to stop and examine where she was in the relationships in her life, and question the decisions made to get there. The gist of the conversation being that once such hatred is given marching orders from the pulpit, these decisions - and by them how she defines her life – must somehow be wrong.
That feeling of grief and that sensation of helplessness that this pastor caused in even one Christian soul (or any other soul, as it goes) requires discipline (correction) by other Christians who realize the great error of his speech. And it requires help from all of us who know better to be of any assistance we can be to those who feel harmed by his words. And so, realizing that my saying nothing to this sermon of hate was wrong, here I am.
I would have this same attitude for any preacher on any topic that brought harm to others from the pulpit, and do not limit my reaction to his hate speech against Lesbian and Gay People, aka Our People. To be a purist in the realm of spiritual speech, one must stand up for the protection of all people from such hateful, sinning people and the poisonous words they spread.
Without giving further recognition to his exact words, in summary, he said:
- The President of the United States is wrong for standing in favor of gay marriage, that he (the preacher) will not vote for him, and that “if you have any sense” then neither should you. He says the Bible and God are both “agin’ it” with no clear citations, because he is arguing the obvious to folks who are also “agin’ it.”
- The preacher’s solution to “getting rid” of GLBT people is to fence them off, drop in food to keep them alive, and wait for them to become extinct because of their inability to procreate.
- He will not vote for “a baby killer,” and(/or?) “a homosexual lover.” He then reiterates the point to make sure there is no plausible deniability for his making this statement. To say this should put his congregation’s tax-exempt status at risk as he has, in this statement, become a political spokesman instead of a religious leader. Churches may not have a public political opinion that goes so far as to tell people how to vote. This is a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution stating that the state shall not be connected with an organized religion (aka no Church of England for us, thank you.)
- It makes him physically ill to think of two men kissing. “Can you just imagine…” etc.
The last point is actually the easiest to address because yes I can very well imagine kissing “some man,” because why? BECAUSE JESUS DID IT!
See: the kiss is mentioned in all three of the Synoptic Gospels as Judas identifies Jesus by means of a kiss.
Both references in Matthew and Mark use the Greek verb Kataphilein, which means to kiss passionately, not just a simple peck on the cheek, not a “makeup kiss.” Not an “air kiss.” In the Gospel of Luke, this same act is followed by the last pre-crucifixion miracle performed by Jesus: the healing of the servant’s ear. Jesus says, “No more of this!” (bickering and fighting and aggrandizing,) and heals the servant’s ear when one of the disciples cuts it off with a sword.
Jesus (physically) moves in the Luke story from that moment of pressing passion from one of his closest friends (the kiss) to a moment of serenity and divinity by announcing that all the shouting and acting like “guys” must stop. Even as these men come to take Jesus away, and even as one of the followers of Jesus draws iron in defense, Jesus shows us the way of tenderness that can be found even in the midst of despair and accusation.
But those are just the actions of Christ, actions on which the CHRISTian religion should be based.
Looking back in Jesus’ heritage, taking an example from his family line, consider the story from the life of David, who would grow up to be one of the most revered kings of the Hebrew Bible and who must have had a true “inside connection” with God, because God (is written to have) liked him so much. Before he was king, though, he became friends with the son of another king (Saul) and we have the famous story of David and Jonathan.
Hardcore Biblical conservatives argue until they are blue in the face that the relationship between the young David and Jonathan was a non-sexual friendship. Perhaps so. What David and Jonathan did in their tent at night is of no concern to me. The author of the books of Samuel says:
“…the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1 KJV)
Have you heard words like this before… in church? How about the scriptural foundation of “marriage” in which “the two shall become one.” (Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:8) The conservative folks who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God are quick to pounce on how there is no “Adam and Steve” in the creation-love-marriage story of Genesis, yet there is a David and Jonathan just a few books down the road. The important question here is: do we count something as God being “agin’ it” simply because it is not mentioned in the Bible?
Liberal readers argue the point that “there was no understanding of the word ‘gay‘ at the time the scriptures were written because such a (socio-political) concept did not exist.” This argument while having a nice sentiment leaves out many other things that exist “nowadays” that weren’t around when the Hebrew Bible was put together. Top of the list is the idea of “no-fault divorce,” which, while legal in many US states is nonetheless an abomination by Levitical law and was considered adultery in the New Covenant (between God and Man) pronounced by Jesus.
Even though Jesus was silent on the “gay marriage” issue, he was quite adamant on the sinfulness of divorce in Mark 10:7-9, coming nearly verbatim from the Christian Marriage ceremony, saying that whatever GOD has put together (in marriage) no MAN can break apart. In this public rite of Marriage within the church, the celebrant has announced that the marriage between these two people is God-Created, a lifetime bond, and there is no room for the error of divorce since only God can un-bind what is bound by God.
Coming Together as One
Continuing with the David and Jonathan story, the verse after the one above says that “From that day, Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house.” (NIV)
Here again, an important line we hear in wedding ceremonies about how the man and woman leave the homes that raised them and strike out in a new life of their own. See: Genesis 2:4, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and cleave unto his wife for they shall become one flesh.” How does this idea of “coming together as one” match with the story of young David and Jonathan above? The word “identical” comes swiftly to mind.
Kissing a man returns again at the end of the David and Jonathan story in 1 Samuel 20:41 in which – as they are about to part ways, they “…kissed one another and wept with one another until David exceeded.” (KJV) the word “exceeded” here means “got control of himself.” And as they are leaving and the story ends, we get one more bit of wedding lore: the Mizpah:
And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace for as much as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be with thee and me, and between thy seed and my seed forever.” (1 Samuel 20:42 KJV)
You’ve seen them before I’m sure, the Mizpa Coin necklaces which have this verse on them, and the coin is cut in two so that the loved and the beloved each wear a half, that spell out the whole verse when they join them together. No matter where the two travel, they (and their love) are always together. (By the way, the word Mizpah has a few different meanings, the most prescient of which is that it is the name of the town to which David went at the end of this story, to hide from Saul who was trying to kill him.)
Yes, this cute piece of heterosexual fluff was brought to you by way of a story of two young men who loved each other, lived together, and kissed (a lot,) and wept together.
Could you just imagine kissing a man? Yes, after READING THE BIBLE, I believe I could.
So if “God is agin’ it” (it being Gay Marriage in the context of this sermon), where do we find that? God never speaks from the cloud or the burning bush telling some trembling, unbelieving prophet “that shalt not marry a guy.” God does not “personally” speak out against this in the Bible. I will leave the argument of the conservatives about Levitical laws of purity for another day. Also we should not consider the writings of Paul which speak of men and women leaving behind their natural desires and instead doing that which is un-natural.
The language of this scripture does indeed talk about the wrong-ness of lying with a man: when that is not one’s natural desire. The same is true (sin-wise) for a gay man who would “lie down with a woman” thus giving up his natural ldesires for being with men. Which brings us to:
Lying about Lying
In his second point (The Final Solution) the preacher brings us all back to the days of Auschwitz and the rest of the concentration camps in his argument that makes me wonder if he has even a passing knowledge of human biology. He says that LGBT people cannot have children. And despite his facile joke about a man (praise God!) having a baby, Queer people have been procreating all the way back, and will continue to do so all the way into the future.
My initial reaction was to wonder where this man thought “gay babies” came from, if they can “only” be produced by Queer people (according to his Final Solution theory of driving them to extinction) but if they cannot procreate, where do they get new gay babies?
In spite of the idiocy of his remarks that stink of Nazism, good, well-meaning, God-fearing, paying-all-their-bills-on-time and going to church every Sunday people will continue to have children (in some small percentage) who turn out Queer. That’s just the way it works. I can count the number of Queer people in my life who were created and raised by two gay parents on less than two fingers.
And the number of Queer people I know who had every other combination of parenting under heaven… those people number more than the stars in the sky.
We cannot “kill off” gay people by rounding them up and putting them in a paddock to expire through lack of creating new children. The real “Praise God!” moment here is that if such an abominable idea were to happen, on the outside of that gate would be generation upon generation of new “gay babies” who could surround the place and make that fence fall easier than the walls of Jericho. As Hitler’s boys found out: killing off Queer People by simply making them disappear is not possible.
So what do we believe?
You’re asking me? Ask God.
In my own life (the only one for which I can speak clearly) this is very simple and it speaks to the black rotting core of this preacher’s words, and the blind ignorance of every single person in that congregation who dared to speak the “Amen.” And even more to those who came back to the following week’s services for even more.
Jesus told us very simply to love all people even as we love God, and even as we love ourselves. The fine print on that one Great Commandment is that if we cannot love God, and if we cannot love ourselves, then how in the Heck can we expect to love anyone else? (Yes, children, RuPaul has it right on that count!) By the simple logic of what Jesus has taught us to do, this preacher has spoken against everything that the Christ and being a Christian teaches us. These words he speaks bring pain to those who can stand on the streets and say “NO!” to his face. NO! This is not at all what Jesus taught. And worse, it brings fear to those around us (gay, straight, whatever) who – for whatever reason or understanding – cannot stand up and speak for themselves.
- “Oh my God, I must be the only person in this church-house who feels this way about who I love. Listen to them all saying ‘Amen.’”
- “Dear God! I cannot disagree with these people on this issue because I will lose my standing in this church and this community.”
- “Heavenly Father: if I don’t see anything wrong with these folks who aren’t bothering me, then am I, too, a Queer Lover?”
- “Jesus. Does this mean that I am not even good enough to live?”
His words have brought undue harm on all these people, and he has left behind his calling to be a spiritual leader in order to speak of Votes and Killing and Starvation. And he speaks against everything the Bible teaches us about love.
What do do?
This is another point on which the Bible is quite clear. The 18th chapter of Matthew gives us the points of discipline when we know of those around us who have done wrong:
- Go to him in private and speak to him about his faults so that you may help him get back on track. If he listens to you, then you have won your brother back.
- If he does not listen to you, go back and take one or two more with you so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES every fact may be confirmed.
- If he still refuses to listen to you, TELL IT TO THE CHURCH and if he refuses even to listen to the Church, then let him be to you (the worst possible thing you could be at that time) like a tax collector or a gentile. In other words, if you totally mess up so bad that the whole church tells you what you did and you still don’t take heed, then you – my friend – are lower than the lowest. Please note: there is no mention in this section on the loss of salvation or loss of God’s forgiveness. This section is about how we are each one of us to treat each other as disciplined leaders who are on the correct track to help others.
The passage finishes by reminding us of another version of The Golden Rule that Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge can tell you a lot about:
“…whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(The word there is “loosed” not “lost.” In other words: that which you turn loose of (abandon) here, shall be abandoned to you in heaven.)
My challenge to this man: you know where you have sinned, and you must listen to the voices of the Christian church around you who have reminded you in many ways how you have sinned and fallen short of the eye of God. Now is your opportunity to listen and to make right, as much as you can. Realize that some wrongs you have committed with just a few sentences can never be made right and it is within you – and your conversation with God – as to how you are to live with that, moving forward as a better, redeemed person. To put this in the parlance that Baptist people can clearly understand:
You need to GET RIGHT with the LORD.
My challenge to the folks sitting in that room shouting “Amen.” Search your heart and your conscience. Believe for yourself and don’t just Amen along with some unread preacher who tries to pull you away from your communion with God. Just as the man who spoke these wrongs, it is now your opportunity to live an upright life by recognizing what you have done wrong. And by searching in your moments of prayer about finding ways to make amends.
You need to GET RIGHT with the LORD.
My challenge to the people who heard these words of hate and death and were injured by them: as I have said before, never let a preacher tell you that you are a worthless sinner.
Never stand by and allow someone to say (in the name of God) that the best solution for you is to be locked away where you and yours can die.
Do NOT add your Amens to such anti-Jesus rhetoric. Stand up and shout back: HELL no! That is not what Jesus taught us and that is not how God would expect us to behave.
My challenge to those who heard the words and in the secret places of their hearts feel fear for their own lives, for the lives of someone they love, or for how others will judge them if they stand up for JESUS on this issue. Follow the words of the song you learned as a child:
“Red and yellow black and white, they are PRECIOUS in his sight. JESUS loves the little children of the world!”
And then, when you are so tired of that song that you cannot sit by quietly, listen to another one:
“JESUS loves me, THIS I know. For the BIBLE tells me so. …
Yes, JESUS loves me – the Bible tells me so!”
Stop arguing arcane points of what you think God believes on a certain topic because chances are quite large that you are wrong. So am I. So is the guy down the street. So was Mother Teressa. We do not know the exact mind of God, yet within us is the chance to see – and live out – God’s intentions.
According to Christian faith teachings, we regular guys are all sinners, and we have all at one time or another come up short in living for God. The redemption to be found in that idea is:
what do you do the next day?
Do you recognize what you have done that is wrong and make changes to ensure that you don’t go that way again? Or do you turn a blind eye on those around you and justify hatred and death-wishing on other people by some chopped to death mis-quote of something in the Hebrew Bible? In order to get to the path of the growing, more-enlightened spiritual person, that choice will be yours to make, and, if all else fails, just as JESUS taught us:
fail on the side of love.
There’s a message in this for non-religious people too and I hope you’ve stuck with me long enough to read this part. Do not hate all religious – Christian – Baptist – etc. people based on the words and actions of one bad preacher and one hateful congregation. Setting aside the politics of this church over here and that denomination over there, I know that not all Baptists believe the shuck-and-jive lies of this sinful man, or act in this abominable manner.
Don’t use this as your opportunity to fuel up the hate against all people of faith because “an eye for an eye” only leads us to blindness.
Use this as an opportunity to learn and understand these teachings (even if you do not agree) and even if you find yourself “immune” from the preachers’ words of rank hatred, be aware that there are some around you who are not. It is then up to us to show – by example – the actual meaning of Christian love and acceptance.
Yes, JESUS loves me…
the Bible tells me so.
Keep the faith!