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NC Pastor Advocates Punching Possibly Gay Children, Church Laughs

Thomas Whitley

By now many of you have heard at least a snippet of the sermon preached last Sunday by Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC. As part of an initiative by voteformarriagenc.com, pastors were encouraged to preach marriage-related sermons and to specifically tell their congregations to vote for Amendment One. Harris did that, preaching a sermon titled "Vote For Marriage: One Man. One Woman." But Harris did not stop there, he went on to say that parents who perceive "effeminate" behavior in their sons should "punch" them, tell them to "man up," and should "crack" their limp wrists (You can see the full hour-long sermon here). Harris has now come out and said that he "misspoke" and that it was a "joke." To be fair, you can hear the congregation laughing in the audio of the sermon, but that says more to me about their lack of moral standing than it does that the pastor was joking.

Aside from the fact that I could detect no element of joking in this section of his sermon, the mere idea that one would joke about abusing a child because they do not fit rigid, socially-constructed gender roles is absolutely despicable. And, as far as I am concerned, every member of his congregation that laughed at his suggestion of child abuse is just as complicit in bigotry and supporting child abuse as is Sean Harris. Moreover, while Harris certainly does not represent everyone who is supporting Amendment One in NC (Billy Graham, for instance, and to my dismay, has come out in support of the amendment), his attitude does reflect an attitude and a worldview that must be pushed back against.

I am no longer a resident of NC, but I know that many of my followers and readers still are. I am urging you to vote against Amendment One and to shine the light on the likes of Sean Harris. It is people like Sean Harris that make me ashamed to have ever identified myself as a baptist. Now, I fully understand that there are plenty of baptist groups that would condemn (and have) Harris' statements including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists. There voice has remained on the sidelines for far to long and voices like Harris', Richard Land's, and Al Mohler's have been allowed to dominate the discussion when it comes to "baptist" perspectives.

Aside from my conviction that the rights of a minority should absolutely never be put to a majority vote and that our country should have equality for all, including marriage equality, the proposed Amendment to the NC constitution does not make gay marriage illegal in NC (it already is). Instead, it only serves to try to make it more difficult to overturn in the future - something I am confident WILL happen - and by many accounts will have many adverse effects, from hurting NC's ability to attract businesses (something it desperately needs help in right now) to possibly affecting the hospital visitation rights of state-recognized civil unions and even making it nearly impossible for unmarried people (especially women) to bring domestic violence charges against another.

I am quite passionate about equality, but I am even more passionate about helping people see the bigotry and harm that certain conservative Christians are espousing. If anything, instead of trying to amend the NC constitution to take away rights, North Carolinians should be fighting to increase the protection of everyone - men, women, and children - in their state.

Note: Here is an unbiased site with information about Amendment One with arguments for and against the measure.