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The complicity of silence

Timothy Kincaid

May 22nd, 2012

It isn’t reasonable to hold one pastor responsible for what another one preaches. There is a great deal of diversity of thought and theology within Christendom and there is no presumption that what is said from the pulpit at First Baptist Church in any way mirrors the beliefs of All Saints Episcopal Church. We don’t hold one church accountable.

Usually.

But sometimes something so outlandish is said in the name of faith that it requires a denunciation. A rejection. A refutation.

And the words of North Carolina pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church calling for placing gays and lesbians behind electric fences is beyond the pale. This is not a casual suggestion, this is not a theological position, this is not a difference of perspective, this is not an idea with which we are unfamiliar and about which reasonable people could differ. This is advocacy for evil.

So now we will see whether The Church responds.

Certainly there will be those who are asked and who will, naturally, say that they do not support such a notion. But will they be willing to call such a sermon evil or ungodly? Will they be willing to publicly refute Worley and chastise him? Are they brave enough to declare that such a proposition is anti-Christ and that it reflects a heart that is not right with God? Will whatever Baptist organization with which he is affiliated pull his license?

These are not just reasonable responses, they are required responses. When a sermon calls for an act that is of such a level of evil, godly persons cannot stand by and claim that they have no responsibility.

To say nothing is to condone Worley’s position. So be silent is to be complicit.

Church, take notice. It is your response by which today’s youth will judge you. If you say nothing, those who are unchurched will assume that Worley speaks for you.

It is a reasonable assumption.

Comments

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Becky
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

My little hometown is the unfortunate location of a mean-spirited, loud-mouthed pastor who often drags the national spotlight onto us in the worst way.

Whenever the press arrives to ask for reactions, the response is almost unanimously: please just ignore that man. Don’t give him any more attention than he already has. After you leave town, his self-made pedestal will be even higher and the rest of us will have to live with him.

So there aren’t usually direct responses, but it’s not out of apathy – quite the opposite. The rest of the faith community (or most of it, anyway) does use his outbursts to come together visibly to celebrate diversity and love, and reaffirm their commitment to them – usually without mentioning the name of the hatemonger. It would be nice to see that sort of reaction instead.

Eric
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Can I point out that the NC pastor also called President Obama a “homosexual lover” in the same way that people used to be called “n***** lovers”. I wonder what his intention was there.

elaygee
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Take people like him at their word. 70 years ago, a similar madman and his followers rounded up all 4 of my grandparents behind electrified barbed wire fences and themn gassed them to death and cremated their remains, just as he said he would do.

Dante
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Of course, homophobes insist that homosexuals have to denounce NAMBLA, or else be complicit in promoting pedophilia.

Timothy Kincaid
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Yes, Dante, that actually is a reasonable demand. Or, I suppose, would be a reasonable demand if NAMBLA still exists and made some statement or other.

Which is why virtually every gay organization in existence in the United States has publicly denounced NAMBLA.

(I’m not certain that they even exist anymore outside of a website so denouncing NAMBLA may be a bit like denouncing the underpants gnomes)

TampaZeke
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Dante, way to play into the lie that homosexuality and pedophilia are related and that the gay community should take some responsibility for a pedophile organization. You should be very careful who you carry water, intentionally or unintentionally, for.

I might point out that in both recent instances of rabid homophobia spewed from pulpits in North Carolina, the congregations were yelling “AMEN!”, “PREACH ON!”. There were no reports of ANYONE walking out of the sermons and as far as I know NO members of either church made public comments in condemnation of the pastors’ hateful rants. Out of HUNDREDS of members, NONE found the sermon offensive? NONE of the members have gay family members, children, neighbors or friends who they were willing to take a stand for? NONE?

In my opinion, the reaction, and lack of reaction, of the congregations is even more disturbing than the psychotic rantings of hateful, disturbed, bigoted pastors. If their were ANY Christ-like members in either of those churches the sanctuaries would have cleared half way through those sermons and people would have rushed to denounce the pastors.

TampaZeke
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Dante, I apologize for my comment. I see that you were speaking of what homophobes would say. Even still such a comment, even if speaking of what homophobes might say, needs to include why such a claim is faulty and offensive.

Ben In Oakland
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy– I didn’t think of this, and I wish I had. Bravo.

but if you don’t mind, i’m gonig to toss this out abnd see what bites. Imitation is the sincerest form of plagiarism.

Steve
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Most of these radical churches are spiritually abusive. If anyone of the sheeple there spoke out against the pastor, they’d be punished. It’s a threat to the pastor’s control and power that needs to be dealt with. Those pastors have an inner circle of sycophants to defend them. Offenders will be lectured, shamed in public and ostracized, up to shunning and excommunication.

Donny D.
May 22nd, 2012 | LINK

In his article, Timothy wrote

Church, take notice. It is your response by which today’s youth will judge you. If you say nothing, those who are unchurched will assume that Worley speaks for you.

It is a reasonable assumption.

Timothy is absolutely right. Young “unchurched” people are amazingly ignorant about Christianity and Christians. I don’t think most middle aged and older people really understand this, including non-bigoted middle aged and older Christians. These young people really don’t know the difference between theologically liberal Christians and the Christian Right. The only way that will change is if theologically liberal Christians step up and communicate out beyond their own co-believers, and beyond the Christian world as a whole. Keeping it “within the faith” will only let the loudmouthed haters continue to define Christianity to the secular world.

Ben in Oakland
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

I posted this over at huffpost.

“I read some 15 pages of comments. “Plenty of outrage from decent people, some of them Christians. Here and there applause from his fellow travelers, though the implied/proposed genocide was clear.

But you know what’s missing, what’s REALLY sad and telling?

Where is the condemnation from religious leaders? Where is the minister, the priest, the rabbi, the DENOMINATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE? Do you agree with this reprobate, Or is it merely that your lamb isn’t being sacrificed?

You’re not saying much, and your silence is deafening.

Just because something is a claimed as “sincere religious belief” doesn’t mean that it is. And what-the-hell kind of an excuse is that? What about outright failures in decency, compassion, morality, respect, and if nothing else, good manners?

Worley and his ilk aren’t merely a few aberrations. There is a lot of ilk there. They are a loud, organized, and wellfunded plurality that is allowed to flourish rather than be flushed in large part, I believe, due to the silence (at worst), obtuseness (at middle), and moral wishy-washiness (at best) of well-intentioned but silent religious moderates, who enable the sordid behavior of antigay religious bigots by either obtusely failing to see them for whom they obviously are, or obtusely preferring to excuse them rather than offend them.

The second failure, the source of this obtuseness, lies here: the failure to reconcile and resolve what their religion says, what their own issues on this durable prejudice might be, and what basic humanity, common sense, compassion and morality say.

Christians, I’m talking to YOU!”

Ivan
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

“….this is not a theological position….”

Correct. Rounding up gay people into concentration camps and organising food drops is not a theological position. The theological position is that gay people should simply be put to death.

MJC
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

I seem to be remember this country fighting a war against people who called for the destruction of others that they, in their delusions, thought evil.

Yet, some on the right accuse our President of being a Fascist. The level of historical and political ignorance in our country is appalling; some states are worse than others. But in 1920s-30s Germany, that was also the case (the Nazi party arose in Munich, amid terrible post-war economic conditions). The ground is fertile for demagogues. A truly great people would recognize this and speak out, but all I hear are the crickets.

Jay Jonson
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

See the blog at glbtq.com by Claude Summers called “More Nonsense from GetReligion.org.” It was about the homophobic Mollie Hemingway’s post about the Manny Pacquiao kerfuffle when he allegedly quoted the Leviticus passage. (Turns out he may have been misquoted). But Hemingway turned the controversy on its heels. She had no concern about calling for the death of homosexuals, but she wept crocodile tears because Pacquiao was being persecuted for his faith. That is what good Christians are going to do for Worley. He is being persecuted for speaking God’s word.

CPT_Doom
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

To Timothy’s point, Anderson Cooper did have at least one minister on his show that denounced Worley completely – said his statements were immoral, unChristian and unAmerican. In addition, there is another Baptist church in the are of Worley’s with a similar name. They are, understandably, ticked off because they are getting phone calls and emails, so they posted a message on their website both indicating they were a different church and they had a much different interpretation of how ministers should act. They didn’t express pro-gay sentiments, but they sure did make it clear they denounced Worley.

Those are the only two I’ve heard of, however.

revchicocucc
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, I must challenge you on one aspect.

In America, there is no “The Church” to denounce this man. America does not have an official religion with an official religious spokesperson to say anything about it. If you are waiting for “The Church” to speak, you will have to keep waiting. There is no “The Church” in this country.

I denounce such comments regularly at the United Church of Christ congregation I pastor. My denunciations, no matter how frequent or how forceful, will never get the attention this man has gotten.

I have been on local radio talk shows and interviewed in local newspapers and spoken to LGBT groups denouncing exactly this kind of preaching. LGBT young adults in my community know there is a Christian pastor who not only will not condemn them, but is gay himself and affirms them.

But I don’t get national publicity. Why? I suppose it’s because I’m not saying anything stupid or hateful.

Every time another one of these preachers is publicized, there is a demand that pro-gay churches “take a stand.” We are well aware of how damaging these voices are in all sorts of ways.

Damn it, people, my church ordained an openly gay man 40 years ago, has been on the record supporting equality for GLBT people since at least April, 1969 (before Stonewall please note), and has been on the record supporting marriage equality since 2005. One of our national officers is an openly gay man.

We ARE taking a stand against this kind of preaching and theology. Some of us have been doing it for decades.

james
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

He and his church are not affiliated with any Baptist organization. They are “independent” Baptists. Even if they were part of a larger Baptist organization, it is extremely rare that a Baptist minister loses his right to preach for anything he says in the pulpit. Maybe for some kind of sexual or financial misconduct, but not for the content of his preaching. Baptists do not have that kind of disciplinary system or centralized theology.

Blake
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

james — except Southern Baptists. They have been expelling churches for anything remotely pro-gay. But you’re right about traditional Baptist theology; the autonomy of the congregation is not to be questioned.

see here:
http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/tag/southern-baptist

Timothy, I think your expectations are a little high. It’s nice to see them not rallying to his support. Not long ago we would’ve heard “well his heart was in the right place.” Baby-steps… but ultimately, you’re right.

Priya Lynn
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy said “To say nothing is to condone Worley’s position. So be silent is to be complicit.”.

I don’t agree. That may be the case if a person is asked directly if they agree with Worley and says nothing but otherwise not necessarily.

I debated about whether or not to make this comment, if I hadn’t and no one asked me about this I would have been silent on the issue and to say that would have meant I condone Worley’s position is absurd. I’m all for encouraging Christians to speak out against Worley but to claim if they don’t they support him is the wrong way to do it.

revchicoucc
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Maiden, North Carolina had 3300 residents in the 2010 census. It is a rural town south of Hickory, northwest of Charlotte, not even a county seat. This church is in “open country” outside of Maiden. Based on the Google maps view, it looks like it has around 225 parking spaces, which probably means a worship space seating 500 – 600 people. While that’s pretty big for an “open country” church, that’s not very big in the context of American religion.

His reprehensible views have gotten more attention due to the indignation of GLBT bloggers than they would have gotten if he’d been ignored.

Priya Lynn
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

revchicoucc said “His reprehensible views have gotten more attention due to the indignation of GLBT bloggers than they would have gotten if he’d been ignored.”.

I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

chiMaxx
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

I think your stand here is kinda silly. As others noted, there is no “The Church” to take a unified stand. And I’d rather pastors work on improving the climate for their gay parishioners in their own communities. Better they keep their powder dry: There is plenty of time to speak out were this pastor to take any active steps toward accomplishing his whacked-out notion: If he starts having parishioners a ballot initiative to get a law to this effect on the ballot in the next election, then organized opposition is called for. But pastors aren’t obligated to rise up en masse every time some idiot with a collar says something outrageous and dumb.

james
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

@blake. Yes. I am personally aware of SBC churches disfellowshipped because of pro-gay positions, even as minimal as having openly gay members.

revchicoucc
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

@priya lynn. I do not think we should spend lots of energy distributing the messages of our opponents. It’s no secret we have them.

StraightGrandmother
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy I printed your entire article as a comment over at

http://www.baptiststoday.org/

(Near the top look for the Link to Blogs)

I posted it in-

John D Pierce’s Blog
Tony Cartledges’s Blog
Younger Voices Blog

I have been regularly posting over there ever since the story on Pastor Punch (aka Sean Harris). Rarely does anyone respond to my comments, rarely.

Maybe some readers of BTB can add to my lonely voice over there.

StraightGrandmother
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Priya Lynn with all do respect, no. Timothy is right. What is being advocated IS the Holocaust. Remember, “and then they came for me”

Priya Lynn please reconsider your position on silence.

StraightGrandmother
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

You know what we should all do? We should contact all the churches within driving distance and personally call them and ask them to join the Sunday Protest. That is what we should do.

Dale
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

This behavior is nothing new and is exactly the reason there is a preponderance of targeted hate laws endorsed by and lobbied for those who worship a non-existent zombie and sky monster.

But there will always be those who try to make excuses for their mythology, its called faith.

Priya Lynn
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Revchicoucc said “@priya lynn. I do not think we should spend lots of energy distributing the messages of our opponents. It’s no secret we have them.”.

I don’t see it that way. Too often the bigots say gays aren’t mistreated or hated in anyway, that they’re complaining about nothing. Exposing these comments shows that is not the case, there is discrimination and hate that needs to be dealt with. Exposing such comments demonstrates that people are denying gays equal rights out of animus, not out of genuine concern for heterosexuals.

Straightgrandmother said “Priya Lynn with all do respect, no. Timothy is right. What is being advocated IS the Holocaust. Remember, “and then they came for me” Priya Lynn please reconsider your position on silence.”.

I think you misunderstand me. I fully support encouraging people in general and christians in particular to condemn comments such as Worley’s. What I have a problem with is using the dishonest idea that “to be silent is to condone” in order to provide that encouragement. It would be better if Timothy said “Don’t let people falsely believe you condone Worley’s position – speak up against him.”.

StraightGrandmother
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Priya Lynn-
It would be better if Timothy said “Don’t let people falsely believe you condone Worley’s position – speak up against him.”.

I am not one to get all wrapped up in discussions where we pick apart word by word what is being said, but go for the greater meaning. I am going to say this and then *not* respond back because it simply takes away from the discussion, and I don’t want to do that. Your comment seems *to me* to be nit picking. Let’s just move on.

Priya Lynn
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Straightgrandmother, I think its an important distinction.

jamesnimmo
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is filing a complaint with the IRS.

http://www.au.org

http://okcamericansunited.blogspot.com/2012/05/au-to-file-complaint-on-worley.html

Edwin in Colorado
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

This isn’t much of a supposedly good christian.
He is just another bigoted liar
and who belives what he said are also Very Bogoted people too.
(Wonder how he would like to be put behind an Electric fence with all of the rest of the preachers like him)
“Going to church on Sunday does not
make you a Christian anymore than
going into a garage makes you an
Automobile”
“Billy Sunday”

Timothy Kincaid
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, I must challenge you on one aspect.

In America, there is no “The Church” to denounce this man. America does not have an official religion with an official religious spokesperson to say anything about it. If you are waiting for “The Church” to speak, you will have to keep waiting. There is no “The Church” in this country.

I denounce such comments regularly at the United Church of Christ congregation I pastor. My denunciations, no matter how frequent or how forceful, will never get the attention this man has gotten.

Rev Chico,

In referring to “The Church”, I am using the vernacular of faith. The Church is not a denominational reference but rather a reference to the Epistles in which The Church refers to all believers. In churchspeak, The Church’s voice is the collective voice that comes from the body of believers – sort of who screams the loudest.

And frankly, pastors like you have not been screaming loudly enough. I love that you refute such statements… in your church. But do you refute them to the local paper? Do you call on your members to show up at city council to demand that your local community go on record as opposing such matters?

Do you do so every time that the issue comes up? Wild crazy wacky anti-gay extremists do. Do you?

(Perhaps you do, I don’t know your personal efforts, but I’m speaking here in a larger sense. I love the UCC, I truly do.)

I believe that the biggest detriment to Christianity has been the willingness of liberal or moderate Christians to allow the far right extremists to hold the mic and speak for all of Christianity.

At the risk of being offensive (and I know this can come off that way) it’s your fault. “Your” as in all of Mainline Christianity.

Here’s what you could do: Call the local Methodist, Lutheran, American Baptist, Episcopal and other sane ministers. Stop being “ecumenical”. Stop including the homophobes. Stop pretending that they too speak for Christ. Form a coalition of faiths that advocate for what Christ advocated for and don’t be afraid to stand for justice, mercy, kindness, and loving your neighbor as yourself. (Or take the Council of Churches and make it worth something)

And if some congregation just isn’t sure about it and ya know we have different views and we must all respect everyone and we have to love the homophobes too and its a matter of personal belief and on and on and on, don’t include them.

Once you have your coalition, start speaking. Loudly. And don’t pull punches.

It is okay to tell the press that Rev. Worley speaks the words of Satan. He does, after all. His message is anti-Christ and there’s no reason not to describe it as such.

Be willing to say it and I guarantee that the press will be willing to print it. If you don’t, then there is NO REASON why the unchurched should think that you believe anything other than what Worley believes.

Timothy Kincaid
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Priya Lynn,

“I don’t agree.”

Of course you don’t.

Priya Lynn
May 23rd, 2012 | LINK

Timothy, I accept your concession of defeat on the topic I raised.

Jerry Sloan
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

Worley is just copying the Reverend Louis P. Sheldon, Chair of the Traditional Values Coalition, who in 1986? while holding a press conference in the California Capitol Building called for all AIDS patients and potential AIDS patients, which at that time meant all gay men, to be rounded up and put in “places of refuge” better known as consentration camps.

Blake
May 24th, 2012 | LINK

Ah, your cries in the wilderness did not go totally unheeded: http://wthrockmorton.com/2012/05/23/southern-baptist-leader-condemns-north-carolina-preacher-who-called-for-gay-concentration-camps/

Well done. Although it is not the grand coalition you envisioned.

The enemies of my enemies are my friends…

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