I must not remain silent

Our lives begin to end on the day we remain silent about things that matter. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you’ve been on the interwebs at all this week, you’ve probably heard of Charles Worley, Pastor at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, NC. There are at least two words in that clause that I take exception to, but more on that in a moment. Worley delivered quite the sermon, not long after President Obama announced his support of marriage equality.

Worley’s words are hard to listen to, and because I value you and your sanity I don’t really want you to hear this. But when one has the opportunity to view source material rather than second-hand discourse about that material, it is better to go to the source. So, here it is:

Yes, you heard that correctly. Worley advocates for concentration camps for gay and lesbian people. (H/t to Slacktivist for calling this what it is: concentration camps.) He openly calls for the systematic, state-sponsored death of millions of people. And he does so from the pulpit during a sermon. Read that again.

He. calls. for. the death. of millions. from. the. pulpit. during. a. sermon.

My mouth keeps open and then closing again, but no words emerge. Yet I know that I cannot and must not remain silent about this. And neither can you.

Fortunately, many others have already reacted with much more eloquence than I can muster. My favorite, no surprise, comes from Fred Clark at Slacktivisit:

I’m sure Worley will try to say he was only “joking” — that he wasn’t seriously suggesting rounding up millions of Americans and locking them away until they die. But he isn’t joking in that video. The only playfulness in his comments is the smirking “I couldn’t get it past the Congress,” and that, for Worley, is the joke here — that concentration camps are what we ought to do, if only, alas, we could. Read the rest.

Kimberly Knight has two excellent posts here and here.

Am I wary of thrusting this tiny, hateful man and congregation further into the spotlight? Do they deserve the attention? Yeah, very worried that every character I type is pointing to the festering evil mind of an otherwise small, small man. But (yeah, you knew there was one more) if Christians who follow Compassionate One don’t speak up – over and over again – then voices like his, so easily tossing around the heresy of a hateful God, are allowed to speak without counter. We must raise our voices and join a chorus of love that crescendos over the cacophony of fear and hate. Silence is consent. Read the rest.

Bruce Reyes-Chow on slippery slopes:

Likewise, those of you who continue to give life and validation to anti-homosexuality thinking must know that you have been given the privilege of being thought of as reasonable and faithful. This protection has given you a false security that your words, no matter how diametrically different they may sound from Worley’s, do not lead to violence.

They do. Read the rest.

Eugene Cho says, Repent!:

Wow, this takes the prize for the most idiotic, insane, stupid, asinine, cruel, ungodly, foul, inexcusable, heinous, and disgusting comments by any person – let alone someone that calls himself a pastor and shepherd. Read the rest.

Finally, Clark has a fuller roundup here.

Again, Dr. King reminds us why it is so important not to remain silent in response to such evil:

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

Because I know, love and strive to follow Jesus, I believe LGBT folks should have full civil rights, including marriage. I believe in full-inclusion of LGBT folks in the church – both as members and as clergy. Obviously, church and society have a long way to go before such full inclusion is reality. People like Worley and places like Providence Road make it that much harder.

I hate that “pastor” and “Baptist” are words that connect Worley and me. It is attitudes like his – and the apparent support of his congregation – that give pastors and Baptists a bad name. It’s speech like his that forces me to very clearly say that my heritage is with the American Baptist Churches, USA, one of the historic mainline denominations. ABC/USA hasn’t found its way to full inclusion yet either, but we will get there. Finding our way onto the side of justice is part of who we are.

Worley and his words are so hateful that I need the whole Thesaurus.com entry on despicable to even begin to describe him and them: hateful, beyond contempt, abject, awful, base, beastly, cheap, contemptible, degrading, detestable, dirty, disgraceful, disreputable, down, ignominious, infamous, insignificant, loathsome, low, low-life, mean, no-good, pitiful, reprehensible, shameful, slimy, sordid, vile, worthless, wretched.

Yeah, I’d say that about covers it.

5 thoughts on “I must not remain silent

  1. Nearly every person who acknowledges an aversion to homosexuality does so on the basis of what he or she believes the Bible has to say. In their mind, there is no doubt whatsoever about what the Bible says and what the Bible means. Their general argument goes something like this: Homosexuality is an abomination and the homosexual is a sinner. Homosexuality is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, if we are to be faithful to the clear teachings of Scripture we too must condemn homosexuality. Needless to say, this premise is being widely debated among evangelicals today and seriously challenged by biblical scholars, theologians and religious leaders everywhere.

    It rarely occurs to any of us that our reading of Scripture is profoundly colored by our own cultural context and worldview. In light of the post above and since I happen to speak and write on this topic, I thought you might find some of these posts of particular interest and relevance. I would particularly recommend the following:

    “Genesis 19: What Were the Real Sins of Sodom?”
    “Leviticus 18: What Was the Abomination?”
    “Romans 1: What Was Paul Ranting About?”
    “Romans 2: Paul’s Bait and Switch”
    “Genesis 1: Turning the Creation Story into an Anti-Gay Treatise”
    “Why No One in the Biblical World Had a Word for Homosexuality”
    “Exegesis: Not For the Faint in Heart”

    (Links to these and more posts may be found by simply clicking the link below and then selecting the “Archives” page.)

    -Alex Haiken

    1. Hey Alex, thanks for engaging here.
      You’re right, we all tend to have trouble recognizing just how influenced by culture are our readings of scripture. Though I dare say those who espouse the literalist view of scripture often seem to take that a step further and won’t even acknowledge that cultural context influenced the biblical authors and every reading of it ever.

      I look forward to checking our your blog.

      1. Pastor Dave,
        I comply with your sharing on these issues, and also contest any hateful messages about ANY PEOPLE anywhere.
        However, I hold to a Biblical standard of a marriage as between a man and a woman. I agree with the requests for fair/egual rights, BUT TO CALL SUCH A UNION a marriage a marriage I DO NOT. We must move toward a blessed way of declaring these unions =unions of beloveds!
        J Krohn.

        1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Judy. You know I’m fond of saying ‘language matters’, so I understand your concern about the use of the word ‘marriage’, even though I’m not similarly bothered by it. I also know that plenty of people feel as you do, so this is an angle worth exploring.

          It’s probably worth its own post, but let me offer a couple thoughts here.
          This particular part of the issue is complicated by the way we’ve allowed the separation between church and state to become lax in regards to marriage. As my friend Tony Jones writes, there really are two marriages: the official one for which you get a license from the county, and the blessing that happens in/from a church if you want it. From a civil standpoint, everyone has to go through the county so this marriage needs to be available to everyone.
          Then we can call what happens in/from a church sacred blessing or whatever.

          Here’s the other quick thing: we’ve tried ‘separate but equal’ before and learned the hard way that it just doesn’t work. We’re already seeing that in states like IL that have unions but not marriage. Partners are still being denied hospital access, the right to make life saving decision, etc.

          In order to, as the song says, “guard each one’s dignity” we need marriage equality.

          1. Welcomed your reply. I feel informed as to civil standpoint and the church sacred blessing. To honor my marriage I hold to it between a man and a woman. Still there must be a way to honor other beloveds with equal rights. benefits, and privileges BUT OTHER NAMED!

            However, I recall from many years in a cosmic fellowship [yes the TRINITY and
            SCRiPTURE fellowship honored] – cosmically- “:a marriage consumates with any physical intercourse’.
            j k

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