Get ready. This is going to be a long one.
The ongoing debate over North Carolina’s Amendment 1 has taken a most interesting turn. A pastor in the state, Reverend Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church, has argued that he has a very simple solution to homosexuality.
“Build a great, big, large fence — 150 or 100 mile long — put all the lesbians in there,” Worley suggests. “Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out…and you know what, in a few years, they’ll die out…do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”
This is not the first time that the Reverend has suggested violence as a way to deal with sin. A 1978 sermon revealed that he felt lynching would be a reasonable response to homosexuality: http://www.advocate.com/society/religion/2012/05/22/antigay-pastor-charles-worley-spewed-hate-1978.
It would be interesting to hear his take on other uses of lynching in the deep south.
The debate over homosexuality is not the issue here. It is the latest and most vitriolic “trunk” of the giant elephant in the sanctuary. And that elephant is the question: How does the church in the 21st century deal with sin?
Let’s be clear on one point. There is nothing of Christ in the suggestion that Reverend Worley made. No matter what Old Testament scripture he might use to justify his stance, the God of grace that is revealed in Christ does not condone the elimination of sin by killing sinners.
There will be a lot of empty pews on Sunday if the church goes that route. We will all be herded into whatever electric fence fits: Gossips, slanderers, adulterers, fornicators, greedy, liars, materialists, idolaters, or whatever other “sin box” we would have to create.
So…If Reverend Worley is wrong, then how do we respond to him?
Many are planning protests. There is a huge one occurring this Sunday at the Catawba County courthouse. There is an online petition on change.org demanding the pastor’s resignation.
I will participate in none of these.
First off, the man and his church have the right to say/believe/do whatever they want, so long as it does not turn into actual violence. Second, it is not my position to tell another church what they should or should not believe. It is my responsibility to seek Christ in my life and in the life of my church. (If someone says this at Augusta Heights Baptist, I would be more direct!).
Finally, the uproar over this is giving Reverend Worley and his congregation is exactly what they want. He is looking for the attention, and looking to create a “standoff” with the heathens and the infidels—groups that would include anyone who dares to disagree with him, Christian or otherwise.
Something this horrific that is said in opposition to the Gospel of Christ deserves SOME response, doesn’t it?
The problem is that extreme responses to extremism simply produces…well, more extremism. Protests result in responses, which result in more protests, and on and on it goes. At some point, someone has to stop the merry-go-round before we all get dizzy and fall off.
The worst response that Christians can give to this is to say/do nothing. This deserves a response, and too often Christians sit idly by and say, “Well, not ALL Christians believe that,” without ever doing a thing to prove that they don’t believe such un-Christlike nonsense.
May I suggest a more subdued, but effective, response? We can show love and compassion to others that we deem to be “in sin” because Christ showed that to us. We can respond by making sure that our repulsion and outrage over any sin never rise to such a violent level.
We can respond by making sure that our church or churches never support the idea that killing sinners is an adequate response to sin. Even better, we can actively seek avenues to show grace, love, and compassion to all people.
Through his words, Reverend Worley has pronounced himself judge/jury/executioner for the sinful nature of the world. He is saying that Jesus cannot help certain people, that he cannot save people engaged in certain types of sin. In fact, he is saying that homosexuals are not worth saving and cannot even be saved by the grace of God.
That is a sinful nature that none of us can afford. May God have mercy on us if we ever adopt that theology. Or if God ever decides to let us live in such an unimaginable reality.