Broken World, Current Events — May 23, 2012 at 1:39 am

Young Evangelical Responds to Charles R. Worley

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In the past few days several concerned friends have sent me a clip of the following video with commentary like, “More bad news from North Carolina,” or “How can a loving God hate so much?” It’s a clip from a recent sermon by Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina. It has gone viral in the past 24 hours.

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Following President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage, pastor Worley took to the pulpit to rage against “queers and homosexuals”. However, it is his proposed “solution” to the “problem” (eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s Final Solution) that rightfully has people in arms. In his own words:

I figured a way out to get rid of all the lesbians and queers, but I couldn’t get it past the Congress: build a great big, large fence, hundred–fifty or a hundred–mile long. Put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexual. And have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed them. And you know what? In a few years they’ll die out. Do you know why? They can’t reproduce.

Sadly, this explosive video is just the most recent in a long stream of gay-marriage-related stories making headlines from my home state of North Carolina.

Most recently, my state amended its constitution—through a ballot initiative commonly known as Amendment One—to officially ban same-sex marriage and all domestic and civil unions.

Nevermind that same-sex marriage is already illegal in our state. It seems that not a day goes by where I don’t hear a quote or read an article where another pastor has taken to the pulpit to remind his congregation that “homosexuality is wrong and against the Bible!”

This breaks my heart.

It’s difficult to watch the state I love to call home portrayed on the national stage as a bastion of bigotry. It’s even more painful is to listen to the disappointment in the voices of my friends—both gay and straight—as they talk about the role of the church in perpetuating prejudice by advancing a theology of hateful exclusion.

Time after time I have tried to explain to anyone who would listen that Christianity, in its purest form, is founded on the principles of compassion, inclusivity and limitless love for one another. I have pleaded with friends to understand that the church, as an institution, is made up of imperfect individuals who are trying to imitate the perfect life of Christ, and often falling very short.

The church has been an incredibly positive and formative institution in my life. My father is a Baptist pastor, as was his father before him. However, unlike the Baptist pastors who tend to make headlines, my father and grandfather spent their careers tirelessly advocating for those who were marginalized—those whom Jesus called, “the least of these”. Growing up, the gospel I heard from the pulpit every Sunday was one that demanded Christians take seriously the example of Jesus who lived a life of unbridled and indiscriminate compassion.

This is why it has been so difficult to watch my peers write off the church as a backwards, archaic institution; one that is long on condemnation and short on compassion. According to a recent study, sixty-four percent of my fellow Millennials describe Christianity as “anti-gay” and more than sixty-two percent of Millennials view Christians as judgmental.

With pastors like Charles L. Worley, who can blame them for seeing Christians this way?

Even a first-year divinity school student could dismantle Worley’s theologically tenuous arguments, but a better use of time is to pose some questions to the broader community of faith–questions like:

  • How have we allowed those who abuse scripture to substantiate their own prejudices to become our spokespeople on the national stage?
  • How many times must we relearn the lessons of history whereby the Church let itself be defined by anti-Semites, sexists, and racists and suffered the devastating consequences?

Good-hearted people can and will disagree about issues of human sexuality. If we are honest, none of us can claim to have solved the great mysteries of gender, attraction or love. The religious community itself is heavily divided on the issue of same-sex marriage.

Rather, as Robin Meyers poses in his book, Saving Jesus from the Church, “Until we have homosexuality all figured out, shouldn’t we practice radical hospitality? As long as we ‘see through a glass darkly’ isn’t it wise to err on the side of inclusion and compassion, rather than condemnation?”  Surely, the same Jesus who invited the outcasts and marginalized to sit at the head of the banquet table of the kingdom would be the one to call upon his church to broaden the circles of inclusion, not narrow them.

To my fellow Christians in North Carolina and across the country, I have one earnest plea. We cannot stand idly by and refuse to speak out for the rights of all God’s children to be treated equally with love and dignity. If we fail to act in defense of our homosexual brothers and sisters then we are just as culpable for maintaining the status quo as Pastor Worley.

And to all my friends in the LGBTQ community, please forgive us. Please forgive the church and Christians (myself included), for being severely flawed. We ask that you do not judge Christ by those who bear his name but discard his call to love unconditionally. We pray that you will give us another chance to extend the grace and compassion that God so clearly requires of us.

And finally, to all those who have been hurt, angered and disappointed by the hateful words of people like Pastor Charles L. Worley, I pray that we can heed these words of wisdom from the early 20th century American poet, Edwin Markham:

He drew a circle that shut me out-

Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But Love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle that took him in.

18 Comments

  • Theology

    Regardless of what
    the Pracher says

    the theology
    must work

    for me
    too

    I’m a practicing
    Christian who is gay

    These realities
    which are at war

    with each other
    to some

    are brought
    to peace

    in me
    by a loving God

    who took
    the form

    of a servant
    when he

    stepped into
    the dressing room

    of a girl
    named Mary

    wrapped himself
    in human flesh

    and came out
    Emmanuel

    so that he could
    understand

    what it’s like
    to be nailed

    hand and foot
    on the crosses of life

  • Thank you so much for your words of compassion. I am often so disheartened by the dialogue of hatred that seems to come from so many places. I really appreciate your perspective and thoughtful response.

  • Reply to N.C.
    There is no such thing as a practicing
    Christian who is gay.
    The two cannot be bed partners.
    You are wholly one or the other.
    There is no mixture.Show me one
    Scripture to support your claim
    and I will show you many to refute
    your claim.

    • Should I take a look at your shortcomings and deny you your claimed allegiance? Jesus would advise me to lay down that stone.

  • Mr. Simpson,
    This is a clip from your article above. I direct
    your attention to Gen.chap.19; Lev.18:22; I Cor.6:9-11;
    Gal.5:19-21; Eph.:3-5; I Tim.1:9-10.

    “Nevermind that same-sex marriage is already illegal in our state. It seems that not a day goes by where I don’t hear a quote or read an article where another pastor has taken to the pulpit to remind his congregation that “homosexuality is wrong and against the Bible!”

  • I hate these kinds of Christians!

  • Christian people are heartless!

    • Unfortunately, some who go by the Christian label are heartless.  But it’s not helpful to meet their over-generalized condemnation with an equally over-generalized counter-condemnation like, “(all) Christian people are heartless.”  Most Christian’s are not heartless, but genuinely accepting.

      The issue of homosexuality isn’t one-dimensional along the acceptance versus hate continuum.  A person can authentically pursue the truest well-being of another, whom they believe to be separated from God, with a well-indended rebuke.  It happens all the time with addiction, marital unfaithfulness, promiscuity.  Sometimes the rebuke is misguided.  Sometime it’s effective.  Sometimes it completely blows up.  It’s never easy to know weather being gentle will work better than being bold, or what the ideal approach might be.

      Whether or not a person is born gay isn’t particularly meaningful to most Christians, since they generally believe humans are all born sinners regardless.  That’s seen as precisely our problem.  Christians don’t assume anyone choses to work up their appetites for, say, lying, using drugs, having multiple sexual partners, etc.  Such urges and desires simply present themselves.  It’s always been a matter of how we choose to respond to those desires, not the fact that we have them.  Christians see a person’s identity as emerging more out of the decisions we make than out of the innate desires or urges we have.

      Homosexuality is problematic in ways other than just the hateful responses of bigoted religious people, as real as that is.  There is the matter of biological congruence.  At it’s most basic level, sex is a function of reproduction, no matter what’s going on with the hypothalamus or pheromone receptors.   Even though sexual arousal is pleasurable on its own, weather or not a sperm meets up with an egg, the overall design is clear.  There are also significant health issues related to practices of active homosexuality.  There are reasons homosexual men are not allowed to donate blood.  It’s not that same-sex coupling gives God the heebie jeebies.  Being gay doesn’t give God the creeps.  It’s a matter of whether it falls outside our intended design and whether we have any choice in how to respond to what our bodies seem to demand. 

      It doesn’t seem terribly plausible, with all the recognized sexual dysfunctions–like incest, rape, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, bestiality, certain fetishes–that homosexuality is an extra special case, always a pure reflection of a person’s absolute sexual identity.  Certainly there must be some instances where same-sex attraction stems from a developmental error of some sort, with the potential for it to be corrected or managed in a way other than celebrating it.

      Just as Evangelicals need to make room for those with differing beliefs regarding healthy sexuality, the GLBT community and its advocates, in their demand for tolerance, will also need to make room for those who may want to consider the options for people not to be gay in spite of an apparent predisposition for it. Not out of shame, but out of a genuine desire to thrive. 

      • Excuse me could you enlighten me a little bit? What options were you saying for people not to be gay? Are you saying there’s a cure for homosexuality? If yes, then.. bahahahahahaa…

        Now Christians are not only heartless they are also BRAINLESS!

        If I am wrong feel free to tell me. Maybe I am brainless then. But if I am right let me tell you…

        Being a homosexual isn’t a health issue, it isn’t a choice either. If this is just a health issue, there would have been a treatment for it way too long ago. If homosexuality is a choice also we would have chosen to be straight instead before we have experience un-acceptance of this world. Who wants to be rejected all the time by the people around you? Nobody!

        I always laugh at people every time they try to explain homosexuality. Thinking they really know what were going through. But the truth of the matter is, they are clueless morons pretending to be genus that they can explain even the most complicated situation in the world.

        There is no way, a person can change the way I perceive a lot of Christians. I have my reason why I say Christians are heartless. And I do I’m offending the Lord Almighty. I have completely taken myself out as part of this religion. But I kept my relationship with Jesus. I just don’t go to Christian activities anymore, such us going to Church every Sunday. I am afraid to experience discrimination and I know people will look at me like a freak if I go to a church.

        I am so sorry, but all I got with me are my own experiences and pain that I’ve had for years of dealing with discrimination and un-acceptance of the society. I hope Jesus would understand.

        And I agree to you, those who make the labels about something being heartless are the true heartless.

        I guess I am now heartless too, because my heart has been broken into many pieces.

        • Linda– I have no doubt that you’ve suffered maltreatment at the hands of the Christian establishment and individuals caught up in it.  I’m genuinely impressed that in spite of that, you’ve been able to focus on Jesus himself as your Rock.  I have my own problems with the Church and have needed to bypass the “system” for the real person at the supposed center. 

          I see there’s no point in me trying to convince you that not all Christians are heartless (or brainless) as you see them.  That’s not even important at this point.

          Blessings on your partnership with Jesus and the path you forge together. 

          • Thank you for understanding. I know what I said earlier is pretty stereotypical. But my reasons give me the right to say such things.

            I’m pretty sure, you’re don’t belong what I call the Christians. But I still believe that on the count of 10 Christians you see outside your house, there’s only 1 Christian who’s really a Christian.

  • Tom Lancaster.

    By definition, what is a Christian?

  • And Tom Lancaster…

    Jesus said, we’re supposed to love each other. I love you.

  • I don’t understand why some Christians still follow what was written in the Old Testament?

    I mean it’s not like they can’t but there’s a New Testament easier to understand.

    • “I don’t understand why some Christians still follow what was written in the Old Testament?”

      I suspect that they missed the boat. Since they are not on the boat they can only speculate about what the boat really is. God willing there will be another one tomorrow. And, If they have an earnest heart, and are not blinded by their ideas about the boat; they can get on it then.

  • I Love You Andrew!

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