Pastor Worley and the Slippery Slope of “Speaking the Truth in Love”

[Photo By davidz]

Every time I blog about homosexuality and the church, I get at least one email or comment that says that I am either wasting my time or sowing dissent.  As a straight, married, Asian American Presbyterian, I agree . . . this is getting old. I dread the fact that issues of gender, race, economics and sexuality are still issues that the church must struggle with in order to fully be who I hope the church to be.  And I dread that some of us feel the calling to use whatever privilege we may have to keep fighting on behalf of those who are and have been excluded from community and call and subjected to violence in word and action.

I will also receive a comment or email that also says, if I – or the occasional “you people” – would just stop talking about X, then it would go away. This I do not agree with, for silence in the face of oppression is sinful, and while we will all justify times of silence in defense of our own safety and comfort, most of us who enjoy the privileges that our heterosexuality avails, we really do not risk much by speaking up for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

Like many folks, I was appalled by the recent sermon preached by Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church calling for LGBTQ folks to be gathered in an electrified pen until they died off from lack of reproduction. I encourage you to watch the video if for no other reason than to hear the words from the source.

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Of course, Pastor Worley has every right to preach whatever kind of hateful rhetoric that he feels called to preach. Likewise, he must deal with the consequences of those words. As a person of faith, not matter how much I may disdain his theology, he is discerning God’s movement in his life, and as a Reformed Christian who believes in the sovereignty of God, I have to trust that somehow, in some way, God is working in thru all of this.

That said, it would be easy to dismiss him as some radical, fringe person that should be given little attention or thought. After all, no reasonable and faithful person would ever think these things, let alone say them.  Some, like my friend, Eugene Cho in his excellent post chastising Worley and others says,

No matter where you stand on the issue of gay marriage, there are some boundaries of human decency that should never be crossed.

For the most part I agree, most people who think homosexuality is a sin, probably do not think that LGBTQ people should be rounded up until they die off. And then I think back to some meetings/debates among those whom I would consider “thoughtful and faithful” communities in my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA). When it came to homosexuality, the slippery slope argument was always busted out, “homosexuality will lead to . . . [insert perceived sexual "deviance"].” After an awkward moment of “Whoa, did he just say what I think he said?” most of us would simply dismiss these folks as fringe, after all, the slippery slope argument is unwinnable . . . and what does it matter anyway?

And then you hear people like Worley and others who do in fact verbalize what we know already happens, people take anti-LGBTQ thought, theology and rhetoric and walk down that slippery slope to the point of killing people who are gay. I am generally not a slippery slope kind of person, but in this case, I will borrow a page from some of my brothers and sisters in Christ who believe  that the affirmation of of homosexuality, as choice or creation, will lead to the destruction of all that is good and holy and say this:

You can wrap your theological position in all the “speaking the truth in love” or “hate the sin, love the sinner” rhetoric you want, but if you hold the idea that affirming homosexuality will lead to the destruction of societal “norms” then you had better claim the other side: anti-homosexuality rhetoric will lead to the death of human beings because they are gay.

Again, for many of us, we have been able to stand outside of much of this without really risking anything. Sure, some us us get nasty notes and people berate us for being theologically  bankrupt, but that sacrifice pales in comparison to what my LGBTQ friends must deal with every day when simply making choices about how they act, what they say or who they love.

There is no comparison.

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.

And then you hear things like this, from the Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III as he speaks about same-sex marriage.

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Theology like this is the antidote to the Worley’s of the world: those who call for violence as well as to those who stand by and allow this rhetoric to go unchallenged. I for one don’t care how tired we all get talking about this “issue” because, as long as people are being killed because of their sexuality, those of us who have the privilege of thinking about LGBTQ bothers and sisters as “issues” in the first place, must choose to speak out against the violence or risk continuing being part of it.

If you care to be part of a public action in NC this weekend, please see Kimberly Knight’s post, Following Jesus to Maiden, NC.

  • TruMe

    Thank you for your response. You write “If I truly love my neighbour then I would not hurt him in any way.” I don’t see me having the scriptural understanding that homosexuality is wrong is in any way being unkind to gays. If homosexuality is sin, and God judges it as such, then people who live the gay lifestyle are hurting themselves through disobedience to God, and hurting each other with that disobedience.

    To say that I believe it is sin, is not equivalent to righting another’s wrongs, or even trying to convince them it is sin. It is me, saying I believe it dishonours God, and that it is sin. I still have to take ownership for my own sins, not the sins of another, and I don’t have to run after them trying to convince them they are sinning.

  • Mary

    One more note: Jesus never once mentions homosexuality. He does however say alot against the ultra-religious leaders of the day and how their numerous laws were completely non-sensical and had nothing to do with true spirituality. He also said that people should focus on their own errors (or sins) and correcting those rather than try to run other’s lives (I am not saying that you do that but many Christians do). Like it or not, Jesus was totally against the traditional interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures and what I would call “religiousosity”

  • Mary

    I guess the problem would be how we determine what parts of the Bible are in fact “God’s Word’s” I do agree that the Bible does make a firm stand that homosexuality is wrong. Here is the problem: The Bible as a whole does not have a consistent theology and often contradicts itself. It has translation errors and is definitely not scientific. But more importantly it depicts a sometimes loving God and also a hateful God who commands his followers to commit atrocities against others (including gays). We have ancient laws that make no sense such as having a woman marry her rapist.
    Even in the N.T. we have problems. While Paul does not overtly advocate violence he does demonize gays. He reckons them among the worst of society, including murderers. This is hardly consistent with the “love the sinner, hate the sin” theory.
    Paul was influenced by the culture at the time. If we take everything Paul said seriously then we would not have Sunday School taught by women because he said that women could not teach about scripture.
    That is why many Christians believe that the only parts of the Bible worth taking seriously are the commandments “Love God, and Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.” Jesus said these are the sum of the commandments.
    These commandments point to the essence of morality. If I truly love my nieghbor then I would not hurt him in any way.
    So how does this apply to gays? You say you have a gay friend whom you like and respect. Do you see any evidence that he is breaking the commandment of “Love thy neighbor” by hurting others? Has his gay lifestyle led to anyone’s harm?
    Just something to think about.

  • TruMe

    Violence, disrespect and all manner of hateful attacks against LGBT people is not biblical, nor would Jesus engage in it or endorse it. (Just enjoyed a pleasant 5 1/2 hour coffee time with a gay friend.) However, Jesus did endorse the Holy Bible as God’s word. Can people not take a firm, albeit loving, stand on God’s word and agree that homosexuality is sin. Can we not not the LGBT, while still calling sin ‘sin’, rather than adjusting God’s word to accommodate culture, society and science?

  • Mary

    When bigotry and hatred dies, there will still be Jesus, who NEVER advocated violence.

  • Bob Postington

    When your liberal denomination has died, there will still be Baptists.

  • Elysia

    Pastor Worley’s views are honestly a horrible misrepresentation of Christians. Again, as was mentioned in the article, no matter what one’s views are in regards to homosexuality, there are lines of decency that should never be crossed.

    One of the main Christian messages is to love anyway, and Pastor Worley’s message is clearly at odds with that. 

    For me, divorce would be a sin equal to that of homosexuality.

  • louisianaprof

     That is an admirable consistency.  I don’t hear Pastor Worley calling for the rounding up of divorced people.  Perhaps he believes divorce is no longer a sin.

  • Elysia

    I know that every person have different experiences of marriage and married people in their lives.

    But I would just like to say that from my personal experience of my elders (I’m 18, I’m speaking of the married people in my church and in my immediate Christian community), 99.9% of all the married people I know do take it seriously. Marriage, to the Christians I know, is done under God and has a primary role of growing together in Christ, to reflect to way Christ loves his Church. 

    From my personal experience (which I acknowledge may be quite limited), ’till death do us part’ has been true for the married couples I’ve come across in a Christian community.

  • Linda

    Morality is about right and wrong,
    and that’s what laws put into legal form. Everyone in politics — conservatives, libertarians and liberals
    — is trying to legislate morality. The only question is: “Whose morality
    should be legislated?”

  • Linda

    Why should a Christian if they are afforded the right to vote, vote for a person who is for what God hates?

  • Louisianaprof

    I keep waiting for the day when right-wing Christians take Jesus’s many words about divorce as seriously as they take Paul’s few words about homosexuality.  But I suppose I shouldn’t hold my breath for logical consistency.

  • elusis

    Thanks for this post.  I think this is a beautiful example of how one can use one’s privilege for good.  Thanks to John Scalzi’s post on privilege last week, the topic is a hot one, and there has been a lot of “well what do you expect me to do, sit around and feel guilty???” going on.  Thanks for providing such a concrete example of action one person can take that rejects the comfort of a privileged position and tries to leverage privilege for good.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BKZDXRNH2NDDIR43XBSR7YZYVQ Anastasiaw

    I wonder if Mr. Worley realizes that his plan would effectively create two of the largest cities in America?  I couldn’t resist writing him an email to let him know.  It’s fun to extend stupid ideas to their logical conclusions.  You can read what I wrote here:http://rubberchickensociety.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/i-love-you-fellers-rcs-responds-to-charles-worley-minister-architect-gay-rights-pioneer/.  I’m afraid my language may have been a bit advanced for the Worleys of the world. 

  • Guest

    Why are all the crazies Baptists?

  • Erinsk57

    What the Worley’s of the world seem to forget is that 99.999% of LGBT persons were all born of HETEROSEXUAL parents!

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    I think this is a good point and oen of the problems of the whole, “If we do this . . .” argument. I am not sure what we do to change this overall, but we must keep speaking out, raising our children with a different narrative, etc.

  • Jo Staebler

    As mother, sister, and aunt to a total of 5 LGBTQ people, I can’t even bring myself to listen to Worley. Moss, however, is incredibly powerful. As for slippery slopes, we have hard and painful evidence that condemnation slides toward death. Where is the evidence of the sliding of the bar of acceptance?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    I do agree with you and struggled with this stream of thought for this post. I probably try too hard to have it both ways. I really want to challenge the slippery slopes that have been used so much to push on my more conservative colleague as well as convict my more liberal friends who have been silent. 
    It is a dilema and not sure that I can answer it fully. I suppose if we get to choose the slippery slope then it’s fine, but when someone else determines it for us, not so much. That it no ways answers your questions, but in fact I will stipulate that your critique is valid.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/breyeschow/ Bruce Reyes-Chow

    Your welcome.

  • MaryAnn

    I’m thinking hard about this post. I think you know where I stand. I am a supporter of marriage equality and full civil rights and recognition for LGBT people.

    But I’m struggling. I don’t like slippery slope arguments either. In fact I try to be scrupulous in avoiding them. And so if you employ them, as you have done here, doesn’t it also work the other way? If biblical conservatives are being asked to grant that their rhetoric opens the door to the Worleys of the world–if slipper slopes are real–then don’t liberals have to grant that a relaxing of current sexual norms moves the bar on those norms in a way that some might find unacceptable? 

    In other words, if the slippery slope goes one way, doesn’t it go the other way? Which is why I don’t use those arguments if at all possible. 

    I just don’t know where this post gets you rhetorically. Does that make sense?

  • http://marciglass.com/ Marci Glass

    Thank you, Bruce, for this liberating word.


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