FAYETTEVILLE — A North Carolina pastor said he was using hyperbole and regrets his choice of words when he told parents during a sermon on marriage to punch any sons who make gestures that might indicate they are gay.
Berean Baptist Church pastor Sean Harris preached Sunday about marriage before next week’s vote on a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, The Fayetteville Observer reports.
In an online video of the sermon, Harris said: “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?”
The Fayetteville pastor said he does not advocate hitting children and wishes he could take back his remark, but says parents should reinforce traditional gender roles in children.
“Those weren’t planned words, but what I do stand by is that the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behavior is ungodly. I’m not going to compromise on that,” Harris said.
The pro-amendment group Vote For Marriage NC urged church leaders to preach a marriage-themed sermon last Sunday and encourage church members to cast early ballots this week in favor of the constitutional change. North Carolina’s primary election is Tuesday.
North Carolina already outlaws gay marriage, but adding that ban to the state constitution would make it much harder to change in the future. Supporters are waging a campaign in churches and conservative networks to pass the amendment.
Harris’ comments began drawing sharp reaction as a snippet of his animated 55-minute sermon was posted on the Internet this week. Harris said during his sermon that parents shouldn’t laugh off moments like a pre-school boy imitating girls.
Likewise, parents should encourage girls to play sports, but instruct them to be feminine, Harris said.
“When your daughter starts acting too butch, you rein her in,” the preacher said. “Sometimes you are going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl and that means you are going to be beautiful. You are going to be attractive. You’re going to dress yourself up.”
Berean Baptist has a child discipline code on its website, supported by biblical references, that endorses spanking but adds that bruising should never be the objective, shouldn’t be applied while adults are angry, and civil laws should be honored.
The church operates a kindergarten through 12th-grade school, Berean Baptist Academy, which graduated 18 seniors last year. Harris said the school’s discipline policy bans corporal punishment.
Harris’ remarks were criticized by children’s advocates and an Old Testament scholar at a Baptist-affiliated local university.
“Unfortunately, this pastor is telling his congregation to harm their children,” said Rosie Allen Ryan, president of the nonprofit Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. “We know that when children are fearful and feel unsafe, that they’re far more likely to suffer emotionally, socially and physically.”
Tony Cartledge, a divinity professor at Campbell University, called Harris’ sermon “one of the most disappointing and un-Christ-like diatribes I have ever heard.”
Cartledge said while Harris’ position represents a distorted view of Christian scripture outside of Jesus’s teachings, that doesn’t mean his views are widely shared.
“We must be careful not to assume that every Baptist, or even everyone who believes homosexual behavior to be sinful, would endorse Harris’ over-the-top promotion of beating gay tendencies out of their children,” Cartledge wrote in an email to the newspaper.