Response to Pastor Sean's Non-Apology

In case you managed to miss the viral video, a pastor in North Carolina named Sean Harris amused his congregation by advocating that they beat their children if they suspect the children of being gay. “Dads, the second you see that son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give them a good punch. OK?" I was one of the folks who sent Sean Harris a letter demanding an apology. To his credit, he responded. He didn’t apologize. Not really. But he replied. He sent me a link to his blogpost on Pastor Sean’s Blog in which he made his non-apology apology. There, he claimed that when he had said, “Can I make it any clearer?” and then proceeded to advocate breaking your child’s wrist and punching him, he was not making it very clear, because, “Clearly, I would like to have been more careful with exactly what I said, but sometimes I say things without enough clarity.” Pastor Sean sure talks a lot about clarity, doesn’t he? He now claims that, immediately after asking if he could make it any clearer, he “misspoke.” He doesn’t want people to do the thing he clearly told them to do. He just “was speaking in a forceful manner to emphasize the degree to which gender distinctions matter to God.” I guess that means these distinctions matter so much to God that He inspires people to misspeak to the degree that, “Parents should not punch babies or children,” becomes “Give them a good punch,” when stated forcefully. It’s so important that God caused Pastor Sean to say the opposite of what he believes? And yet, Pastor Sean continues his apology by writing “Either Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are true and we should communicate the truth in love for fear of not entering the Kingdom of God or the entire Bible cannot be trusted to be the Word of God.” I would guess that’s pretty important to Pastor Sean. I would think it’s pretty important to his God, too. Is it so important that God might cause Pastor Sean to say the exact opposite when speaking forcefully? Would Pastor Sean misspeak and communicate something other than the truth in love for fear of not entering the Kingdom of God? Would that misspeaking include some hatred instead of love?

Pastor Sean ends his non-apology apology by whining about how he’s been called mean names by the LGTB community, “using ungodly and profane words.” It’s a good thing none of the men of his congregation are around to act on his advice, “Man up,” and whoop Pastor Sean for his whining. It’s also a huge relief to know that, now that his congregation has been made aware that they shouldn’t hit their children, when they abuse their gay kids verbally they will do so using godly and holy words instead of the ungodly and profane ones that have so wounded their pastor. He closes by criticizing the LGTB community for being intolerant. Yeah. Seriously. 

But I’m not in Pastor Sean’s congregation, nor am I a Baptist, nor am I a Christian anymore. When I posted the video, I made some crack about how I refuse to be associated with any religion that included Pastor Sean or his congregation. One of my Christian relatives accused me of dismissing an entire religion because of a “fanatical nut job.” But I hadn’t written that I lost my faith because of people like Pastor Sean. In fact, as a Christian, I tolerated them, even though I resented the association, precisely because I felt it was my obligation as a Christian to look beyond our disagreements and focus on what we agreed upon. I lost my faith for more fundamental, epistemological reasons. This is just a bonus. Now, from the outside, I'm very glad to not be wrestling to justify my belief in any religion which would associate me with people like Pastor Sean.

It’s too easy to point out how obtuse, cowardly, hypocritical, and heartless Pastor Sean is. Plus, it hurts his tender feelings. I'm more upset that his congregation laughed at their pastor telling them to beat their children, and that none of them had the courage to stand up for their own sons and daughters and the sons and daughters of their fellow congregants when he made those “jokes.” I wasn’t raised Baptist, but in our Presbyterian churches, when a child was baptized, we all stood up and made a very solemn promise to that infant and to his parents, saying that we would help raise them in the love of God. As I’m no longer a Christian, I won’t tell those congregants what that should mean to them, but I’ll bet the Baptists, no matter how homophobic, don’t interpret the love of God to include child abuse, and I doubt their rejection of infant baptism is a loophole for allowing it. So if they ever made a similar promise to the children of their congregation, someone (someone more qualified than Pastor Sean) might want to remind them of what that means.