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Hillbilly Preachers, Homosexuals and Speaking Grace

A video of a North Carolina pastor was making the rounds of the internet recently. Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church begins a diatribe on placing “lesbins, q-u-weers, and hom-o-sessuals” (that’s how he pronounces the words) in what amounts to concentration camps so they will die out.

The video has over a million hits on Youtube and has generated so much traffic that it crashed the congregation’s website. Needless to say, every Christian blogger has jumped in and linked to it, so I feel that I must cave to the peer pressure and post it here. (Wait, is that considered cyber-pressure?)

Now, you might be asking me how I feel about the things that Pastor Worley had to say. First, I need to say that this kind of rhetoric is nothing new to me. I grew up going to revival meetings where the “Sodomites” we’re ruining our nation. I remember one memorable preacher who said, “The flamers will be flaming alright – when they’re burning in HHHEEEEEEELLLL!!!!!” (It is hard to get the flavor of the rebel yell that was that last bit, but you get the idea.)

Others like Erik Raymond have written effectively about the warning flags and cautions for us, and I don’t need to repeat it. And I have written before on the subject of the Church and homosexuality, so I won’t retread that road either.

Rather than going over things already addressed, I want to contemplate what I think may be the hidden source of rhetoric like this – and that is fear.

Fear? Yeah. When I watch this guy railing, I cannot help but think that he is harboring a hidden, probably even subconscious fear that he might be “one of them.” He is so busy condemning and diatribing (and where exactly in the Scriptures are we told that building electrified fences to keep undesirables contained?) that he never stops to think about what he is saying. I cannot help but think that his fear drives this craziness.

How does that work? Think about it. If you were to admit that despite knowing the sin in which a homosexual is living you are called to love that homosexual, that would make you a homosexual lover, wouldn’t it? Who loves homosexuals? OTHER HOMOSEXUALS. Do you see? You have to run the opposite direction as fast as you can to prove that you are not a homosexual.

I call this the Gays-Are-Gross Factor.

This is craziness. I cannot tell you how many gay, lesbian and “other” acquaintances and friends I have had over the years. I remember one young man telling me over AOL Instant Messenger (remember that?) that he was gay, and when I acknowledged it without any kind of anger, he was genuinely surprised. Recently, someone I know decided that they were homosexual. (I say “decided” because the person in question is in a “am I?” kind of stage.)

Do I agree with their lifestyle? No, I do not.

And just to be clear, I believe someone can actually be born homosexual. We are all sinners by nature – born into sin. It is written into our DNA, and if you can be born a liar then you can also be born gay. The choice is not to be gay or straight, but rather is whether we will live in what God calls sin or we will accept his righteousness as our own and seek his grace to be conformed to Christ’s image.

We, as followers of Christ need to overcome our fear. We need to find renewed confidence in the grace of Christ, just as the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians, “such were some of you.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

Fear says that I could be like “one of them” so run away.

Faith says I am reborn in God’s grace and his grace overcomes all sin.

Instead of fear, we should acknowledge sin while extending grace. Not a one of my gay or lesbian friends is unclear about my position on the subject. But then again, none of my friends living in adultery, fornication, substance abuse, complacency (read sloth) or gluttony are any less aware of my view on those sins as well. I don’t need to be violent or outrageously vocal to make my position any clearer.

Jesus spent his life surrounded by those who did not embrace his teachings. He made his position clear, but he still extended grace. He still loved, even the unlovable and reprehensible. And at the point of repeating myself from other posts, the ones he found most reprehensible were the religious elites – not the whores or lepers or Gentile sinners.

If I have one prayer for the Church in the coming age, it is that we will recognize our own fears and the extremes they take us to. I pray that we would find the voice of gracious strength and that we would become the manifestation of Christ’s truth and grace, held in tension for the world to see.

Not everyone will agree with me, and that’s ok. There are some readers who might even take this article as defending homosexuality – so be it.

I believe God’s grace is greater than man’s outrage. I would rather entrust my gay/lesbian friends to God’s grace than to rely on my own railing and rhetoric.

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