If you'll remember, back in May--just a few days before North Carolina voters approved the blatantly discriminatory Amendment One--Pastor Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville preached a sermon urging a "Yes" vote. Nothing out of the ordinary, since Berean Baptist is an independent fundamentalist Baptist church. But then Harris went several miles off the deep end by encouraging the parents in his flock to give their kids "a good punch" if they display gay tendencies. The video went viral, and in the face of almost universal criticism, Harris took to his blog to claim his words were taken out of context. But apparently someone must have told Harris that he would have been in deep legal doo-doo had any of the parents in his congregation actually taken him up on his advice, because the next day he issued a retraction. There's just one problem. It wasn't sincere.
Three months later, the video of that sermon is still available on the church's YouTube channel. See for yourself (the screed begins at the 45:46 mark):
The only thing that appears to have been added is raw video of Harris walking the aisle while preaching. If you'll notice, there's scarcely any sign of apprehension from the congregation--indeed, more than a few "amens." Maybe it's just me, but if Harris were a bit sorry about this, you'd have thought the first thing he'd have done was to delete that video. But it's been three months now--well beyond any good-faith explanation for why it's still up. The only plausible conclusion one can draw is that Harris still believes it's OK to beat the gay out of children.
Now here's the really disturbing part--this church operates a full-fledged Christian school, Berean Baptist Academy. Is this the kind of environment that is at all appropriate for a school? I should say not!
Even without the video still being up, there is pretty good reason to question the environment in that church. After all, Harris told The Fayetteville Observer that the majority of his flock knew that he was only joking.
Harris said he polled his pastoral staff and members of the congregation Tuesday after he started getting telephone calls and abusive emails once his comments went viral.During my freshman year at Carolina, I was suckered into joining a hypercharismatic campus ministry that found it perfectly acceptable to out-and-out lie about its true nature so as not to scare anyone away. So I'm used to seeing disconnect between what the fundie world and the normal world finds acceptable. But even if you allow for the nature of a church like Berean, there is something fundamentally wrong (the pun was intended) with a church where a pastor can even think joking about child abuse is acceptable. To my mind, that's about the only plausible explanation for why that video is still there--the congregation "knows" it's a joke. I find it hard to believe any fair-minded person would agree.
From within the church, Harris said, "the response was, 'Pastor, we know you didn't mean that.' "
"We know when you're saying something seriously and when were supposed to just understand the intent and not the application,' " Harris said.