this week’s example of bigoted child abuse in the church: child sings ‘ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven’ in church

Some people ask me why I spend so much time debating the issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Apart from the academic side of the intellectual argument, and the textual/theological argument, we often forget that the outcome of this debate and the charges and claims made during the debate itself hurt real people and adversely affects their lives. And I’m not just speaking about those gay individuals who are discriminated against on a daily basis, but I’m also referring to the children who are taught to mock and even hate by their parents from a very young age in church!

For example, watch this latest video taken from the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, the same town where a gay high school student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg IN, Billy (William) Lucas, recently took his own life apparently due to the anti-gay bullying he was receiving from his peers.

Listen to the lyrics of the song sung by the child, and watch the reaction of the adults in the audience.

The child sings the following lyrics:

I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one and twenty-seven (Rom 1:27)
Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.

Watch the room full of white adults stand and cheer and laugh in approval. The pastor nods and laughs. They are celebrating bigotry. They are celebrating their belief that gay Americans are going to burn in hell. One person is even heard to yell proudly, “That’s my boy!” And toward the end of the video, they have the child sing it again. Note that in the first performance, there is another child standing with the boy, and they boy ends after one verse, but in the second performance (see the 1:07 mark in the video), there is no second child, and the little boy sings the verse multiple times. This was no accident or lapse in judgment, it was an encore performance!!!

And what’s worse, from this point on, this child knows that every time he calls a gay individual a “homo,” he’ll have the cheering support of his church behind him. Remember, he’s a child: someone taught him this song! Every time he condemns a gay individual to hell, his parents will applaud. They might even invite him up in front of the church to sing of the gay individual’s condemnation to the church, who will shower him with applause and laughter.

This is child abuse. It is hateful indoctrination at its worst.

The pastor in the video is Jeff Sangl of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle at 1114 Westridge Parkway W in Greensburg, IN 47240. You can email Pastor Sangl at jsangl@tds.net or call him at the church office at (812) 662-8224. You can also contact him at his family business (I kid you not), the Flatrock Whitetail Deer Farm, where they raise whitetail deer to hunt them at (765) 525-9488.

Apparently, shortly after this video was posted online, and the public outrage began, the pastor abruptly left on vacation. The church immediately posted a statement on its website, stating among other things:

The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives.

We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.

So once again, while the church simply denies that they teach hate, the video shows otherwise. AND, we see that the church is quick to excuse and dismiss its abhorrent behavior by invoking religious freedom stating that “we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.” Once again, even in their non-apology, “religious freedom” is used to excuse hatred taught to children.

THIS is why I take this issue so seriously. What “thoughtful conservatives” see as the simple upholding of “traditional marriage” is all too often manifest as teaching children to mock and hate their neighbor…in church. It has to end, and I for one as a scholar of religious studies, will stand with the oppressed on this one.

through the looking glass

MacLaren is learning to pull himself up. He’ll be walking soon. For now, he’s happy to stand and view the front yard through the front door.

Cherry Picking: The Fallacy of an Inconsistent Hermeneutic

Man tattoos Lev. 18:22 to his arm.

Man tattoos Lev. 18:22 to his arm.

A 2009 story ran in the Advocate (later picked up by other outlets) of a man named Marcel Gelmi who SO homophobic, and SO ready to use a passage from the Bible to defend his hatred of homosexuality, that he (I kid you not) TATTOOED LEVITICUS 18:22 ON HIS ARM in a highly visible area to remind all who look his direction that:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22

Furthermore, Gelmi is a friend of a suspect in a brutal hate crime in Queens, N.Y. He insists that the assault was, in fact, not a hate crime, but that the openly gay victim deserved what he calls a “beat down” explaining:

“I mean, I don’t want no man blowing me a kiss either. I mean, things happen,” he said. “I’ve been beat up like that too, but you don’t see me on the news and my family crying and this and that. Wounds heal.”

So, he tattooed the NRSV text of Lev. 18:22 on his arm, thereby justifying his stance on homosexuality.

However, this act of TATTOOING a particular verse to one’s arm (or on one’s mind and constantly repeating it like a mantra in debates) demonstrates perfectly one of the problems I have with the opponents of same-sex marriage (beyond the fundamentalist/literal reading of Iron Age social religious regulations and insisting that they become the modern law of a secular government supposedly separate from the rules of any specific religion like the Christian equivalent of Islamic Sharia law).

The problem is with “cherry picking,” or more specifically, the inconsistent use of a biblical hermeneutic (way of reading the Bible) to promote one particular verse in the Bible over, and at times, to the complete neglect, of another verse. (Of course, you can do this if you concede that the Bible contains numerous errors, is not infallible, and was written by a number of different people over a great period of time and was later edited and redacted by a host of anonymous others, and therefore some verses are more applicable and relevant than others. BUT since there is a very high correlation between people arguing against same-sex marriage and a belief in biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is the inspired and infallible “Word of God,” and that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) and therefore every command is apodictic and applicable for all time, I’m guessing many will succumb to the temptation of cherry picking.)

One argument I make consistently to those who would seek to use the Bible to suppress the civil rights of modern Americans is, “Choose a hermeneutic and stick to it. However you choose to read the Bible and interpret this verse, use that same interpretative hermeneutic to interpret all of its verses.” Put simply, you can’t read one verse in the Bible and say, “This is binding for all time,” and then read the very next verse in the same chapter of the same book and declare, “Well, that was just part of that particular cultural context. We don’t need to obey that command today.”

Choose a hermeneutic and stick to it.

(Again, we’re not talking about mixing genres here, where one verse is obviously poetry and the other verse is a list of apodictic legal commands. I’m speaking of two verses in the same literary genre and context.)

For instance, if you’re going to argue that “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Col. 3:18) is still binding, as it is a command from the inspired apostle pseudo-Paul, then you probably should be prepared to defend the command that appears only a few verses later that says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” (Col 3:22) That is, it’s very difficult to argue that one verse is still binding and the other is not, and still maintain any semblance of credibility.

If you use one hermeneutic (e.g., “This is absolutely binding apodictic law for all time because that is the way God made it”) to interpret one verse, and use a completely different hermeneutic to interpret the very next verse (e.g., “Well, this is obviously terrible and was simply a part of the ancient context and therefore we don’t need to follow the teachings of this verse”), then you betray the glaring inconsistency of the way in which you read the Bible. You pick and choose (cherry pick) the verses you feel should still be binding upon modern civil society, while dismissing the verses you don’t agree with as dated and oppressive.

The point is that the Bible didn’t stop saying “Slaves, obey your masters” during the Civil War. It’s always been there. We simply learned to “read around” that verse. Most have learned and agreed to read the verse calling slaves to obey their masters as a product of an oppressive cultural context that endorsed slavery. But, here’s the good news: we changed! While the Bible still says “Slaves, obey your masters,” we took it upon ourselves to agree that slavery is evil (despite the fact that God himself gives instructions on how to make a slave in Exod. 21:2 and Exod 21:7) and to fundamentally ignore the verses that dictate how we should make slaves and that slaves should continue to obey their masters. We moved away from a literalist “God said it, that settles it” mentality and moved toward a progressive reading of the text that concedes that portions of the Bible may have captured some less than ideal elements of the ancient world, such as slavery or the victimless act of two consensual adults loving one another.

Because if you’re going to claim that there should be a law against same-sex marriage because God explicitly prohibited it a couple of thousand years ago, then it’s probably not a good idea to TATTOO a prohibition onto your arm that is only a few verses before this one:

You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Lev. 19:28)

I know of no New Testament command countermanding or otherwise “trumping” this law against tattoos. And yet, this particular tattooed “cherry picker” violates one outright command so that he can advertise his endorsement of another.

This individual is SO consumed with hate for homosexuals, that he violates the latter command against tattoos to express his disgust of the violation of the former.

Sheer and utter hypocrisy.

But that’s what we’ve come to expect from many who want to use the Bible to legislate against the single issue of same-sex marriage, while they completely ignore commands against other equally “abominable” practices, and do not seek to legislate against them.

And THAT is cherry picking and the fallacy of an inconsistent hermeneutic.

imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now: YOU ARE ‘THOSE PEOPLE’

Imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now, with your Bibles and your flags and your signs:

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed Marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed-race marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

In 2008, I wrote:

“I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice?”

An artist sums up what I wrote in one picture.

If you are campaigning AGAINST same-sex marriage, that’s you. In the picture. That’s you. You ARE that person. You are the person in the picture that we look back on in disgust, shaking our heads, and asking, “How on earth were people EVER that mean? Why did they EVER believe that? How could those people discriminate against others that way? And use the BIBLE to do so?”

YOU ARE “those people.” And in an age of social media, where EVERYTHING is written down, captured, and remembered, it will be that much easier for us to show our children and grandchildren the faces and the names of those people who argued AGAINST the civil rights of others. And our children will look back in disgust at the images of people protesting same-sex marriage the SAME way we look back and shake our heads at the bigots protesting mixed-race marriage 40 years ago, or desegregation before that, or women’s right to vote before that, or slavery before that, and using the Bible to do so!

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE!

(HT: Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill via FB)

the irony of african-american support for banning same-sex marriage

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (Photo: Travis Long for NewsObserver.com)

OK, I’ll say it:

The sheer irony of many African-Americans, especially Christians, celebrating what they believe to be the biblically ordained suppression and discrimination of another group’s civil rights betrays the short memory of those who were once themselves oppressed for being nothing more than who they are.

This irony is not new; it has been discussed in the past regarding California’s Prop 8 here and here. Is the same true in North Carolina?

I am not an African-American, so one could argue that I’m not permitted to discuss this topic. But I must say that as one who is neither gay nor black, but who has written extensively about this topic for years now, to me this political demographic anomaly ranks among the grand ironies of our era.

I do believe one can make a case that the African-American community has once again been ignored as a voting block. It is not enough to argue simply that black churches are socially more conservative than their white counterparts. The fact is that much of the time and money spent on educating the public – especially Christians – about the problems of attempting to ban same-sex marriage upon biblical or ‘traditional’ grounds in a secular state has been spent on persuading the much larger white voting block, while comparatively little time and money has been spent on educating and entering into dialogue with the African-American community. Thus, the African-American community has once again been overlooked in favor of focusing attention, time, and money upon white groups for political advocacy efforts.

Whatever the underlying reason, the irony still remains: many African-Americans like Pastor Patrick Wooden (pictured) are actually celebrating the suppression of civil liberties (note: not religious liberties, but civil, secular, state liberties) of an otherwise oppressed group, who only want the same civil rights as those in the majority.

To me, the use of religion to suppress the civil liberties of a minority group of any race, religion, gender, color, or sexual orientation is shameful. For one underrepresented group to suppress another only increases the burden.

Repost and respond away!

UPDATE: Half-Hearted “Retraction” Issued by Berean Baptist Church Pastor Sean Harris

Sean E. Harris, Pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC

Sean E. Harris, Pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC

Sean E. Harris, Pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, who recently called on parents to hit their children for demonstrating any semblance of what he interpreted as “effeminate” behavior, has issued an audio “retraction” for advocating that parents beat their children, but not for his bigotry.

I can’t tell what’s more stomach-churning: his initial comments, or his self-justifying, holier-than-thou attempt at righteous indignation and his claim that his words ‘were taken out of context’ by those involved in the political process of legalizing same-sex marriage.

If you want a lesson in how NOT to apologize, listen to the audio “retraction.” Bill Clinton apologizes better than this guy.

Would Billy Graham Encourage You To Vote For Slavery?**

**Could you imagine the poster below? (Full disclaimer: I, Robert R. Cargill, marked-up the ad below to illustrate my point. I changed “marriage” to “slavery.” The ad is REAL, the red additions and the “Could you Imagine” text at the top are my own addition.)

VOTE FOR SLAVERY! (A marked-up Billy Graham marriage ad).

VOTE FOR SLAVERY! (A marked-up Billy Graham marriage ad).

The argument in Dr. Billy Graham’s newspaper ad above is based upon the biblical definition of a social practice articulated approximately 2000 years ago. I’ve switched ONE WORD to show the sheer absurdity of the argument toward another biblical definition of a social practice articulated approximately 2000 years ago.

No one would ever believe an elderly white preacher from the south would advocate for SLAVERY from the pulpit, would they?? Then why should we think any differently if that same preacher argues for a different 2000-year old biblical social definition, and an amendment to a modern state’s constitution banning gay marriage?

It’s the same argument, only with this generation’s civil rights issue.

Reject “Sharia Christianity.” Don’t let a 2000-year old religious book’s definition of social contracts like slavery, divorce, and marriage dictate modern law.


For more by Dr. Cargill on this subject, see:

It’s OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8

Full Text of Dr. Cargill’s Remarks at the Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion on Racism and Homophobia

A Note to Christians Opposing Gay Marriage: Get Over It

The Day After: Thoughts on the Response to the Overturn of Prop 8

i am very, very proud of the fact i am moving to iowa

Well Done: Iowa’s Zach Wahls Featured on the Daily Show about Being a Child Raised by Gay Parents

See also:

“michigan republican anti-bullying law provides exception for religious bullying

a study in masculinity: comparing michael irvin and mark driscoll

absolutely sickening homophobia from the pulpit

See also the classic West Wing segment on YouTube.

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