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« Accidental exposure | Main | What I meant to say ... »

Read it and weep ... or worse

If you have a weak stomach, you may not wish to read what lies below. It's hard to be in the same cyberspace with the kind of overweening arrogance that seems designed to provoke a visceral response.

Sean HarrisBut not the response Sean Harris wanted, except for the faithful few who cheered his anti-gay diatribe this past Sunday as he joined other arch-conservative pastors involved in a statewide effort April 29 to get out the vote for a so-called "Marriage Amendment" to the state's constitution. The amendment purports to protect the institution of marriage, but is clearly designed to prohibit same-sex marriage, and would have the effect of reducing domestic abuse protection to any who don't fit the definition of a "domestic legal union" -- a term that has no legal definition in North Carolina: hence, the potential problems. Here's a website that supports the amendment, and one that opposes it, if you wish to read the opposing views.

But back to Harris' Sunday morning rant, which has spread quickly across the web, and will no doubt draw many responses.

Harris is a former paratrooper-turned-preacher who presides over the pulpit at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C. The church lists no affiliations on its website, so I presume it is independent. In a 55-minute harangue to his church (available on video from the church website), Harris twisted logic and prooftexted his way through a definition of marriage as he understands it. Along the way he misidentified Jimmy Carter (with whom he disagrees) as a Southern Baptist, blames America's dependence on imported manufactured goods to a low birthrate that doesn't produce enough American workers, and warns Christians to have more babies lest they be outnumbered by Muslims.

That's child's play, however, compared to the child abuse Harris hands out when he gets to the subject of homosexual behavior or perceived homosexual tendencies. Denying that homosexuality could have any possible roots other than wanton sin, Harris warns parents that they should "squash" any perceived homosexual tendencies in their children "like a cockroach."

Harris says that parents should watch boys as young as four to see if they display "girlish" behavior such as a "limp wrist" and if so, they should "crack that wrist," "Man up," and "Give them a good punch" as a means of teaching them to act in line with the parents' expectations of males. He doesn't come out and say parents should likewise hit young girls if they start "acting too butch," but insists they should "rein her in," which could mean most anything.

Harris goes on to presume Pope-like jurisdiction to "authorize" parents in his church to smack their small children by giving them "a special dispensation" to "take charge" of such matters.  

This notion would be laughable (members of the congregation laughed) if it were not so barbarous and alien to the gospel. (Here's a short audio clip from that part of the tirade.)

It is truly frightening to believe that such vitriol is being heard -- and welcomed -- among people who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, the one who summed up his message in a call to love God and love one another.

It's important, I think, to pause and point out that not every Baptist (certainly!), not every person who supports Amendment One, nor all who believe homosexual behavior to be sinful would endorse Harris' over-the-top advice to beat perceived gay tendencies out of their children. Likewise, we can't assume that Harris' gung-ho military background suggests that such views are typical of ex-GIs.

At the same time, we must state unequivocally that Harris' admonitions present a distorted view of scripture that is completely out of keeping with the teachings of Jesus. Harris clearly thinks of himself as an advocate for God, but his pompous and poisonous words are an affront to Christ and the people Christ loves.

Fulminations like this, parading as gospel sermons, are largely responsible for driving millions of Americans from church, people who simply have been hurt too much by the verbal whipping of ideologues who spread a dogma of intolerance beneath a veneer of Christianity.

Harris' extremist views can't be considered typical of those who support Amendment One, but their vehemence is a startling reminder of how dangerous a garbled gospel can become.

References (6)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (57)

Thank you.

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGinny

He is preaching Gods word and we all know this is the Gods truth. God loves sinners but more importantly HATES sin! NC will do the right thing and vote to stop the malicious evil gay freaks from spreading their diseases and sickness to other children.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLamar

You could put me down as a curious liberal-agnositic troll, but the response of "Lamar", who supports Sean Harris in arguing that physically battering children is "God's truth" indicates that you, Mr. Cartledge, are a lone contrarian voice among your own people, very few of whom will find anything wrong with what Sean Harris is preaching. The curious thing is that Harris goes against what is stated by many religious "ex-gay" ministries, that the root of homosexual impulses in boys results not from a lack of adequate verbal and physical abuse from the boy's father, but from a lack of paternal love and affection, driving the boy to overly identify with his mother. My own suspicion is such compassionate talk is all public relations window dressing for the evangelical community, and Mr. Harris has simply verbalized what most conservative Christians really believe, deep down inside. Just ask "Lamar". And may God have mercy on children raised in the protestant evangelical community.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRick

Thanks for courageously putting this out there, Tony. To be honest, it just breaks my heart for the church

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

Unfortunately, Dr. Cartledge, some of these comments are just as heartbreaking as the message of this pastor. I pray that God's grace and love will abound in the hearts of all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or creed. Be sure that this Protestant-evangelical will be voting against Amendment One and any other legislation that restricts rights based on bigotry and hatred veiled by religious conviction.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLydia

Such "pastors" remind me of this from Jude 1: "These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm—shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame...".
Thank you for exposing this sad blemish, this dark stain, on the love feast we are supposed to be all about as followers of Jesus.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChip Watts

"Harris' extremist views can't be considered typical of those who support Amendment One, but their vehemence is a startling reminder of how dangerous a garbled gospel can become."

So he takes it a step further & therefore you can distance yourself? If you support Amendment 1 than you are opposed to another persons' civil rights. If you justify your opposition to another's civil rights based on your religion you're not as far away from Harris as you suppose.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBlake

This is the only rebuttal to Harris I've found on a Baptist website. In fact, it's the only rebuttal I've found on a Christian website.

That's too bad.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAilin

Well, Lamar. The problem with that statement is that it is completely irrelevant as long as you can't prove the existence of god.
There is also no evidence that homosexiality is wrong. You simply can't prove that and yet you portrait your opinions as facts. However, facts are meaningless without evidence to support them.

I do respect the beliefs of every person but what this preacher said was pure bigotry. Homosexuality is not wrong or evil and gay people are not freaks.
Gay marriage needs to happen. Every human being needs to have equal rights and that includes the right to marry the person who you love.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMathias

Lamar, if you can show me ANYWHERE in the Bible where we instructed to beat our children, I will retract my words. Rick, I could not disagree with you more. Just because this man claims we are to treat others in such a cruel, vicious manner does not mean all conservative believers hold the same truths, nor more importantly does the Bible teach this. Rather we are instructed to beware of the wolf in sheep's cloth, and test for ourselves what is right and good. Teachers of the Gospel will be held accountable for their wrongdoings, more severely so than those that follow. It deeply saddens me as a follower of Jesus Christ that His teachings could be so horribly misapplied and his congregation follow him down such a crooked path. But to assume all believers hold the same beliefs as this misguided pastor is simply ignorant.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDan

Thank you for posting this. I truly ache for the current state of the Church. Perhaps homosexuality in our society can be paralleled to racism and segregation in the past. We prayerfully and lovingly must press forward.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris

And Christians wonder why so many people are atheists? You have Christian preachers advocating punching children and breaking their bones, and the congregation laughs and applauds. This is not an isolated event. You have the Catholic Church forcing their priests to read anti-gay diatribe to their congregation, and donating $50,000 to the anti-gay ballot measure in North Carolina.

Gays and lesbians are not going to go away and hide just because of a handful of phrases written 2,000-years-ago. The American public is increasingly on our side. And people who support Rev. Harris are the real evil in our society.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterhomer

I am a young Baptist minister who supports amendment one. I believe my goal in life is to love God and to love others. I believe that God designed marriage to be between a man and a woman. For that reason, I am voting for the amendment. I also want the opportunity for the general public to be given the opportunity to decide for themselves about marriage rather than to leave it to the judicial branch (which would occur without the amendment). At the same time, I am deeply saddened by many of my colleagues who have gone to extreme unbiblical ways to try to push for the amendment. The second part of my goal in life was to love others. True love for others should allow me to disagree with someone without attacking, belittling, or otherwise intentionally hurting them. I have a brother-in-law and an uncle who are gay. I love them dearly and have close personal relationships with them. They both know I disagree with their choice, but neither doubt how much I love them. As Christians, I believe we should be striving to show that our choice to vote for the amendment is not an attack against any individuals but our desire to stand up for what we believe. Unfortunately, the extremes on both sides of this issue seem to get the most attention from the media. I pray that this amendment is not a tool of division the devil can use to separate us. Instead, I pray that God can find a way to use the discussion about the amendment to help Christians to get back to the cornerstone of who Christ was, “love”. Let’s love each other not to stereotype homosexuals as evil or conservatives as filled with hatred. Our God is bigger than that and we need to be to!

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

Look up the symptoms of "antisocial personality disorder", otherwise known as sociopathy. It describes Sean Harris and a great many other pastors perfectly. They don't show any empathy and love because they are incapable of feeling it. And organized religion by its very nature, rewards that kind of behavior like almost nothing else.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

If you want to "decide for yourself" you can decide by choosing to marry a man or a woman. If you don't like gay marriage, don't get gay married. There. Problem solved. But (unlike the judiciary) you have absolutely no right to make that decision for anyone else.

The rest of the drivel is just a weak rationalization to dress up your anti-human bigotry as "love". Like so many Christians you really have no idea how to treat other people well

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve


I respect your opinion. I do find some irony in your attack of me as you attempt to correct my definition of love. I seriously doubt you know enough about me to judge who I am or do I know enough about you to do the same. My argument is simple, I can stand up for what I believe and others can stand up for what they believe. My prayer is that Christians would do that in a loving manner. Unfortunately, some are not. They are too many attacks and acts of anger on both sides. I belief your comment reflects this fact.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStephen


the Bible does indeed instruct christians to not only beat their children, but to actually stone them. It's in Deuteronomy 21:18-21

anti-gay Christians have no qualms ignoring OT scriptures prohibiting the eating of shellfish, or wearing poly-cotton blends, or even divorce. However they still hold on to the verses about same sex activity. Why should I not believe them when they encourage beating seemingly gay children? Indeed. why would I not expect Christians to not only beat their children, but to continue, as directed in scripture, to stone them, and eventually be so zealous in their desire to please God that they would cast their stones at gays and lesbians?

and yes, I used to be a christian. no more, the church is too dangerous of a place to be for a gay man like me.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkeltic

If this is "God's truth" as "Lamar" puts it, then your god is a sadistic a-hole who deserves worship and praise from no one. And the silence from the "good christians" says almost as much as this man's insane rant.

Way to bring people to the Lord. I'm sure He is very, very proud.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Milkman

"As Christians, I believe we should be striving to show that our choice to vote for the amendment is not an attack against any individuals but our desire to stand up for what we believe."

If what you believe is that I don't deserve equal treatment under the CIVIL, SECULAR law, then you're nothing more than a bigot. Being well-spoken and gentle about it doesn't change what it is... like my grandma said, you can put kittens in the oven but that don't make 'em biscuits. Calling what you're doing "Christian love" doesn't make it any less hateful or wrong. Don't like gay marriage? Then don't perform them in your church. Fine. But gay people should be able to get married under the civil law... and we WILL be able to in due time. Mark my words.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Milkman

So Tony you attacking this pastor is ok, but him attacking gay rights is not. Thats rich even from someone at Campbell Div. School.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

I feel terribly for his congregation that he is now playing off his comments as a joke. I also feel extremely sorry for his son! Minute 30.53 of Harris' tirade, "I tell my son all the time the only reason you're still alive is cause your mom's here.". For his son's sake, I hope he was joking or better yet, i hope his mom never leaves!

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

"I have a brother-in-law and an uncle who are gay. I love them dearly and have close personal relationships with them. They both know I disagree with their choice,"

Stephen, I really am a Straight Grandmother and since you are young I am going to allow you some slack. Here is what I want to ask you. Why do you think being gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender is a "choice"? Why do you think that? Is being left handed a choice? Is having red hair a choice? Or are these traits of just who you are?

Secondly IF it is a choice then can people change? Do you think people can change from gay to straight if they try hard enough? What would happen to your beliefs if being gay were NOT a choice? We used to burn left handed people as witches with left handedness. being a sign for being a witch.

1) Why do you think being gay is a choice?
2) Do you think all people are heterosexual and then something happened to some people, which turned them gay?
3) Do you think some people can make a choice and try real hard and turn from gay to straight?
4) Do you think all people can make a choice and try real hard and turn from gay to straight?
5) If you tried real real real hard, and went in for psychological consultations to help you, and prayed on your knees 3 hours a day, is it ever conceivable that you could make yourself change from straight to gay and from then on be always naturally romantically attracted to men?
6) Have you ever heard of Dr. Warren Throckmorton?

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStraightGrandmother

There are many sad parts to thiis, but the worse, in my opinion, is that someone will hurt an innocent child -break a wrist!! Don't we have enough child abuse without it being suggested in the pulpit. Child abuse vs. homosexuality? Hmmmmm! This man has a lot of anger...can't you hear it in his voice?

Someone once said that if you are not ready to die on a cross for someone, then do not judge. I choose to try not to judge anyone! I have enough to keep me busy without taking on the work of God. I did not hear anything about judging in his sermon!

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercreationlover

Thank you StraightGrandmother. I run into you at all the best blogs.

Dear Rev. Steven,

Please understand that our side seeks the right of CIVIL MARRIAGE only. We are not going to force your church or any other to solemnize a matrimony with which it disagrees. You don't have to solemnize the union of divorced people, people of the mixed faiths, or same sex couples, if it goes against your beliefs.

Remember, there are religions and denominations that do believe the blessing of same-sex marriage is desirable and holy. What about their First Amendment rights? Please do not take the low road and call them "fake Christians."

We LGBT people are here, and we will always be here. I hope in your Christian love you would understand that all people deserve legal rights and protections for their families. Gay and lesbian families really do exist. Why deny them and their children the coverage and respect of CIVIL MARRIAGE? God has very little to do with this, other than his admonition to love others as you love yourself. For the love of your gay relatives, please vote against the amendment, because it is not a religious issue, it is a civil issue.

You really can believe that true marriage is between only a man and woman, but you can also support the rights of same-sex people to have Civil Marriage at the same time.

PS. My partner and I have been together for 23 years. Do you really think we deserve less than anyone else in this country?

Torger Cobus

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTor

Either stars are lamps set on a firmament to keep the waters above out, as the Bible says - or they are not.
Either the Earth is flat, as the Bible says - or it is not.
Either thunderbolts are signs of Divine Wrath, as the Bible says - or they are not.
Either snow and hail come from storehouses above the Firmament, as the Bible says - or they do not.

We've had these arguments before. Few now believe that what the Bible explicitly says is true, is true.

Now we face other Biblical Facts - that Adam was a historical figure, that humans are divinely ordained to be men or women, with no ambiguity.

According to the Bible, such people as these cannot exist. This whole sermon, with its uncompromising malice and cruelty, is based on that "Biblical Fact".

A sex difference in the human brain and its relation to transsexuality. by Zhou et al Nature (1995) 378:68–70.

Our study is the first to show a female brain structure in genetically male transsexuals and supports the hypothesis that gender identity develops as a result of an interaction between the developing brain and sex hormones
Such as thing cannot be true if God considers Transgender an abomination, as this pastor insists. It is as false as the doctrine that the Earth is round. Either you believe what the Bible says, all of it, or you don't.

Eppur si muove.

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZoe Brain

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