Exposing an Anti-Gay Pastor’s Ministry

A couple weeks ago, a 21-year-old student named Ashton Pittman posted an incredible story on his blog about the first time he went to hear anti-gay Christian pastor Damon Thompson.

It’s not simply that he was the first preacher I ever heard use anti-gay slurs in a sermon or make the suggestion that it was possible to change one’s sexuality; it’s that he was the first preacher I ever heard sell homophobia and self-hatred so effectively.

At the time, Ashton still considered himself a Baptist, but that was about to change. He went down to Alabama in the summer of 2008 to hear Thompson preach in person. What he heard appalled him and he made sure to get a DVD of the event so he could look back on it.

Damon called upon those who were struggling with homosexual demons to come to the front and be “set free from sin.”…

Over a period of forty minutes, kids approached the altar one-by-one — some admitting to same-sex attraction for the first time in their lives. Some fell to their knees in brokeness, rocking back and forth as they prayed for absolution; others stood with their arms spread out as tears spilled from their eyes. By the end of the morning, dozens had approached the altar hoping to lay their burden down.

Every person in the room was spellbound by the spectacle. Every single one of them seemed to believe that these kids had truly been ‘delivered from homosexuality.’ Every person but me. As I stood by watching as if from a distant land, I knew in my heart that these kids would only hate themselves even more a week later when they caught themselves still averting their glance from a member of the same-sex. I knew then that my days of giving any credence to the world of charismania (as I like to call the Christian charismatic movement) were long over.

Ashton uploaded video of that service to YouTube. It’s one of those videos that ought to make any decent Christian ashamed to be part of the faith.

The video made the rounds in the gay blogosphere (though not so much the atheist one) and it’s worth sharing now. It’s just more proof that Christianity can do real damage to a lot of young people.

Thompson caught wind that video of his bigotry was being passed around and he responded to it. He says the clip was taken out of context… but then explains how everything Ashton said was completely accurate:

The video clips most viewed are very short and depict strong statements about homosexuality. I wish to clarify my purpose behind making them. The brevity of the video clips do not allow a viewer the opportunity to hear the entirety of my message and heart.

Any statements I make concerning homosexuality are in the hopes of turning the homosexual to the path of eternal life. I talk about homosexuality as I would adultery, alcoholism, pornography, drug addiction, etc. As with all sin, I recognize its destructive nature and out of love call people away from it.

Ministries at which I frequently preach have volumes upon volumes of my messages presenting love, forgiveness, and mercy. I do not hate homosexuals, but I do recognize that the wages of sin is death. Therefore, I preach in such a way as to offer an opportunity for change because change is a possibility.

Isn’t that what all Christians say? All sins are equal; some are just more equal than others. They love gay people so much that they want to deny them equal rights. Sickening, right?

And this is a church geared to kids and young adults. It’s brainwashing at best, emotional and psychological abuse at worst.

Why more Christians don’t take a stand against people like Thompson, I don’t know. They know damn well that this type of service goes on all across the country. But instead of publicly denouncing it, most Christians who know he’s wrong just sit back, patting themselves on the back because their churches aren’t as openly hateful as Thompson is — when they bash homosexuals, they don’t do it in front of a camera… but their pastors still preach that homosexuality is immoral, that they disagree with the “gay lifestyle,” that the love two gay people share is somehow worth less than the love between a man and a woman.

Thompson is no more homophobic than most moderate Christians. He’s just open about it and he doesn’t care if you know it.

What we need are the liberal Christians who know he’s wrong to come out in full force against people like him and the churches they lead.

(Thanks to Bentley for the link!)

  • Rob

    This is what evil looks like. :’(

  • MammaG

    He sure has a lot of gay children in his church…

  • Jonni

    It’s this sort of crap that caused me to leave evangelicalism, and eventually christianity. For 22 years I accepted all that was dished out to me, but slowly, my eyes opened to how evil it all was. It made me sick, I had to get out.
    My blood boils at how the GLBTQ community is treated, ridiculed. In defending them, I might as well have come out of the closet myself, the fire and brimstone that was hurled at me. And that’s nothing compared to the rejection GLBTQ people actually experience – sometimes every day.

    Keep up the good work Hermant!

  • http://pinkydead.com David McNerney

    Any statements I make concerning homosexuality are in the hopes of turning the homosexual to the path of eternal life. I talk about homosexuality as I would adultery, alcoholism, pornography, drug addiction, etc. As with all sin, I recognize its destructive nature and out of love call people away from it.

    At first, I thought “whew! I don’t like the sound of that.”

    Indirectly, though, he’s come to a very important point – you can see with, say, an alcoholic the devastating effect that it has on their lives and on their family etc. But that once they reject their alcoholism, they can discover a much happier fulfilled lives – and you can visibly see them transformed

    And it’s same in the case of every gay person I know – except that it’s the other way around: as soon as they accepted their homosexuality that’s when their lives turned around and they found contentment.

    So by aligning homosexuality with alcoholism – he’s actually shining a light on how important it is for people to accept who they are. And if he put his bigotry to one side for a short time, he’d see that.

  • http://www.muSASHA.org Dave Muscato

    Hello, Dave Muscato, Vice President of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics (MU SASHA) here. I just posted a blog post in response to this here:

    http://www.muSASHA.org

    Thought you might be interested. Please keep up the great work. I agree wholeheartedly with this part especially:

    “Thompson is no more homophobic than most moderate Christians. He’s just open about it and he doesn’t care if you know it. What we need are the liberal Christians who know he’s wrong to come out in full force against people like him and the churches they lead.”

    Best,

    Dave Muscato
    mail@davemuscato.com

  • Claudia

    I totally understand where he’s coming from.

    I mean, I’m the same way. I talk about being a Christian the same way I talk about any problem; alchoholism, drug-addiction, pedophilia etc. I don’t hate Christians, I love them! But just like pedophiles I want them to understand that they’ve made some wrong choices and they need to step away from this destructive path.

    /snark

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    He should have brought in a herd of pigs so that the gay demons would have some place to go.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    “Thompson is no more homophobic than most moderate Christians. He’s just open about it and he doesn’t care if you know it. “

    Bingo.

  • Benoit

    Never underestimate the power of cheesy music to pull at the heartstrings… Gosh, he even tells the band to play at one point, and the crowd doesn’t even realize that’s how 75% of the emotion is generated.

  • Siobhan

    I was upset about something like this the other day and posted something snarky about how I expected not to hear any out cry from the moderate christians against whatever gay bigotry I was ranting about.

    A christian friend of mine responded with a question that’s got me a little bit stumped (though fortunately a smaller example of what I meant showed up on CNN’s blog space the next day). He asked me “what would it look like for christians to stand up to this stuff? how do you know they aren’t? maybe they’re doing it where you can’t see it, or they’re busy doing OTHER really good stuff in the world so they don’t have time to respond to every nut job out there?”

    He’s not particularly happy with my attitude about christians, and feels persecuted a bit by me sometimes (he’s a gay catholic, for crying out loud, and *I* am persecuting him??) though usually he feels more so by some of the other folks who post on my facebook wall.

    But it did get me wondering about details. What WOULD it look like for moderate christians (or muslims) to stand up to the whackadoodles who claim they represent the true faith? The blog by the christian on the CNN site (a mainstream media outlet) that called out christians for cherry picking verses in the bible to support their attitudes about gays was one example. Can you think of others?

  • Josh

    You know, might part of the reason liberal christians don’t criticize guys like this is because they tend to become atheists in the process of getting information to criticize? I’m sure not all do, but that may be a contributing factor to the overall trend of apathy about this issue.

  • Steve

    A good number of those kids coming forward are probably shills and in on the scam.

    He’s just a typical Christian hypocrite. Preaching about homosexuality and quoting Leviticus while having very visible tattoos, long hair and allowing women to preach and having their head uncovered.

  • Josh

    To Siobhan:

    A march through DC organized by a church in support of gay marriage would be a pretty good start. Also calling/mailing/visiting congressmen to get discriminatory laws repealed, perhaps some TV commercials from respected christians asking people not to hate gays, not referring to homosexuality as a sin, and lobbying the pope to tell Africans that gays aren’t witches who should be killed would also probably be helpful.

  • Claudia

    @Siobhan your friend will probably claim that nice, non-bigoted Christians are actually the majority. He probably thinks that it’s just the bigots that get the attention.

    If they are in fact a majority and if in fact they are not being represented, then they have a problem and more than enough muscle to solve it.

    How would you know? You would know because every time one of these assholes spouts off they would be positively buried under the weight of furious coreligionists proclaiming just as loudly as the bigots that they’re wrong and that furthermore they are misusing the scripture for their own prejudiced ends. There are enormous, well monied religious groups working day and night to ensure GLBT people are never given equal standing in society. If it’s true that most people oppose that sort of thing, where are the even larger, even more well funded groups tirelessly fighting on the pro-equality side? The United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalists have made a point of advertising that they stand with equality. If there are so many tolerant Christians as your friend says, where are there angry letters to the paper saying that there support of marriage is not represented? Where are the outraged press releases from large organizations blasting CNN for representing the religious with people from the Family Research Council? In short, why aren’t they as loud as the bigots?

  • GregFromCos

    I do always find it interesting that the Christian response is always think that its a “devil” inside of you causing you to not be well. You’d think that advent of “germ theory” would have made them a bit more leery to always fall back on the “It’s a devil” theory of sickness.

    I guess that’s the problem when you are in such denial of your past.

  • Chuck

    Christians won’t ever oppose this because it is anathema to their religion. I was an Evangelical for the better part of the last 10 years and once one gets past the “nice” facade of Christian churches one finds institutions committed to ideas that are anti-science, anti- gay, and for the subjugation of women. I’m ashamed to admit that the homophobic rants didn’t cause me to question the validity of my religion but, the sickening arrogance and lies of Intelligent Design “theory” did. Once I pulled that string, the entire superstition of religion came apart. I stand in critical opposition to all religious assertion because of my complicity to the in-group hatred I once empowered, when I never questioned the kind of regressive ideas these pastors held. The point of your piece also makes me convinced that while I might be able to enjoy isolated friendships with some believers of religious ideas, I will never be a friend to any religion. The only way for any Christian to challenge the kind of passive-aggressive hatred described here is to state that homosexuality is NOT a sin and, the Bible does not endorse that opinion. One either has to give up the foundation of their faith or, compromise their sense of equality. I chose the latter and am now an atheist.

  • Melody

    When I was a teen, I went to a church like this with big powerful alter calls asking us to “be courageous” and lay our sins at the alter. I and many of my friends were good kids who wanted nothing more than to be right in the eyes of God. I poured my heart out on the alter on numerous occasions crying and asking God to forgive various “sins” that I was told were afflictions that I could purge – if I was really sincere. I now see that this is manipulation and abuse of power masked as loving guidance. In what other situation would it be appropriate to “out” children in front of their family and peers while being video taped?

    These kids are heartbroken, tormented, self-hating, and earnestly seeking to be healed. The problem is that the cure they are seeking is actually the disease. Once you remove religion, all the shame of “secret sins” disappears. All the torment of begging and pleading for God’s forgiveness is gone because they don’t need forgiveness. They haven’t done anything wrong, but have been severely wronged by adults who should know better.

  • http://nogodz.wordpress.com/ Mark Pogue

    This guy is telling these younger people that homosexuality is evil, but you cannot erase the reality of being gay. You can only suppress the act, not the natural urge.

  • http://nogodz.wordpress.com/ Mark Pogue

    I find it strange that Christ never addressed homosexuality, but his biggest fans are homophobic.

  • http://www.summerseale.com Summer Seale

    Such a Christian display of utter dramatic vapid bullshit.

    And they believe this crap. It’s amazing. I bet you could have sold that room anything you wanted, including the Brooklyn bridge. That is what complete and utter fucking ignorance looks like; mindless followers of hate-spewing assholes leading them over the cliff into the complete oblivion of robotic stupidity.

    They’re welcome to keep their filthy religion away from me.

  • S

    I am an atheist, but until I started subscribing to some Christian News online I didn’t realize the hatred people have for gays and or atheists. The Christian Post will put articles in it about Pastors who think homosexuality is a sin. However, it is the people who comment on them who are really scary! I didn’t realize how many and how strongly some Christians hate gay people (using bible verses to back up their thinly veiled hatred). And many don’t even understand the basics of the bible. Trying to have an intelligent debate with them is almost impossible. This is why people should read all types of information and not just news they agree with, that way we know what we are really up against.

  • Deepsix

    If you thought that video was bad, check out the other http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcYQSX6bUi0&feature=related

  • Charles Black

    Such blantant bigotry like this is one reason why I have no respect for religion whatsoever.

  • http://shadesthamatter.blogspot.com Amanda

    I think the fact that he almost throws a bitch-fit to get the music to start playing faux-Explosions-in-the-Sky at fever pitch is really telling as to how much emotion is tied up into these religious experiences. The emotions those kids are showing are REAL, but it’s not coming from where they think it is.

    My husband and I are relatively recent de-converts, and just recently, we talked about how powerful those “religious” experiences felt for us at the time. (We both had experience that we would have called, oh, something like “the power of God moving in us”.) What we now realize is how emotional all the situations we described were (church camp, rally, altar call, stuff like this video).

    There is ENORMOUS pressure for these kids to go up to do the altar call; if you don’t, you’re essentially saying that your life is ok, and you don’t need Jesus/to recommit your life/to absolve your sins/etc. It’s scary peer pressuring going on. :(

  • Mihangel apYrs

    “What we need are the liberal Christians who know he’s wrong to come out in full force against people like him and the churches they lead.”

    Hemant:
    I’m sorry but this is a tenet of Xianity – homosexuality is contrary to god’s will and thus a sin to be abjured. Putting aside OT gibberish, Paul made it clear, despite what revisionists try to make him say.

    I’m afraid we can’t give good Xians a pass on this.

  • keystothekid

    This sort of reminds me of the special that Derren Brown did. He took a normal everyday guy and taught him to become a crazy evangelical preacher and tried fooling people. Eventually letting the victims know that they were always being had by this jerks who were just out for their money.

    It reminds me of that because there’s about 10 minutes of the show devoted to Derren Brown discussing how important the music is. The tempos have to change at certain times, etc. to get people overly excited and then to make them feel some spiritual connection. Music has always been powerful this way.

  • justme

    It seems odd to me that someone would want to reject their homosexuality. I can understand what it’s like to be a little embarrassed when someone catches you staring at what they feel is the wrong gender and get all shocked at you, but there’s no reason to want to be someone different. Being gay or bi or straight is written in your genes. It’s not something you can change. If you’re bi I suppose you could try to ignore that you like both genders (which I cannot imagine working out for me) and a lesbian could very well marry a man and have lots of children and try to convince herself she’s not miserable, but it doesn’t change who someone is and it would be ridiculous for someone to do so.

  • http://aratina.blogspot.com Aratina Cage

    He sure has a lot of gay children in his church…

    Sure does. I was thinking that one explanation could be that very few of them really are gay or bi. The preacher (and his other stage cronies) doesn’t spend any time talking about what sexual orientation is and I doubt he even knows what it is. Instead, he is making bisexuality and homosexuality out to be some kind of “sin” that anyone can “do”, so we could be seeing a bunch of ignorant straight people wanting so badly to join in on the ritual that they’ll chalk up any old perverted thought to “being gay”, no matter how small, just to be the center of the preacher’s attention for a few extremely emotional moments.

    It looks like the aftermath of this ritual could be very destructive. Nearly everyone who is straight along with some bi and gay attendees comes away from that ritual thinking that being “gay” or “bi” is a solitary sexual thought or a one-off behavior, maybe even some of them think that self-touching is being “gay”. Real bi and gay people in that church will then be seen as cowards (perhaps even by themselves) who are just sinning and unwilling to repent to God unlike those other “gay” straight people who were brave enough to partake in the ritual.

  • Lady Copper

    Wow, that was such a sad video. I’m straight and during my Christian years I toed the party line re: homosexuality being a choice and a bad choice, though I often had to suppress feelings that it did seem unfair to keep gay people from marrying. I didn’t really care what other people did in their own lives, but I believed the whole “gay agenda” thing and was scared about it getting pushed onto kids. Part of my deconversion involved learning a lot more about gay people and basically revamping all my opinions.

    Then, one of the first people I told about my deconversion said as the FIRST response, “How long have you been struggling with homosexuality?” This is a person who has watched me go through numerous very strong crushes/infatuations with men, BTW. She then tried to do an exorcism. It was incredibly hurtful, not to be accused of being lesbian, but the way she obviously conflated atheism and homosexuality with each other and with demons, i.e., WORST POSSIBLE THING EVER, and looked at me as now WORST POSSIBLE THING EVER. Since then I have been strongly sympathetic to gay rights and the suffering gay people have to go through.

  • bible belt atheist

    I have told christians for years that they need to speak out against this crap.

    Yet, they have largely remained silent.

    Why?

    “Respect” that only gives shelter to extremists of all stripes?

    Or maybe they have a hidden agenda?

    Or maybe they believe this crap deep down and don’t want to admit it?

    Whatever the reason, I read this post and I’m proud to be an atheist today.

    Happy 4th of July to all, and Shout Out to all Atheists in Foxholes around the world and at home.

  • Dubliner

    @ Siobhán

    Moderate Christians can be fine about LGBT and moderate Muslims regularly protest against violence in the name of their religion. It’s just not sexy for the media to report on this. I’m surrounded by a la carte Catholics who are pretty non judgmental about many issues their church condemns.

  • http://biblecomix.com Plug Nickel

    I think it’s awesome that he displays the shocker at 1:46 in.

  • Meyekael

    All the while I was watching this video I kept hoping someone would run on stage and point out to these kids that the people who are promising to “free” them from their guilt and shame are the same people who are making them feel guilty and ashamed in the first place.

    Freedom through repression. A clear conscience through guilt. Very Orwellian. Or more to the point – very Christian.

  • Dawn

    First, as a christian and a lesbian, I watch these videos with great sadness knowing what they have gone through and I hope that these guys and gals see the light that they are loved no matter who they love. Unfortunately it took me 7 years, 2 trips to the hospital and eventual break away from my parents religion to understand.

    Second, I do speak out where I know my voice counts. But even you all know that you can’t argue with some as it just makes them dig in deeper. So I try to choose wisely where I speak out, I’m not always heard but you never know what seeds it will sew.

    Happy 4th

  • beckster

    The pain on the faces of those young people answering his altar call break my heart.

  • Matto the Hun

    This is where you have to appreciate WBC in a funny kind of way. At least they are honest with their ugliness and hate. They don’t cover it up with this “Hate the sin, love the sinner” garbage.

    In fact, these types of Christians are worse. They are just as ugly and hateful as WBC, but they were a “loving” mask and get a free pass.

  • ckitching

    What we need are the liberal Christians who know he’s wrong to come out in full force against people like him and the churches they lead.

    They won’t. You know why they won’t? Because they don’t believe for a moment that it’s their problem.

    I think Siobhan’s post about his friend captures it pretty well. His friend doesn’t come out and say that it’s not his problem, but just that he’s too busy doing other good. This is one of the many guises, “not my problem” comes in.

    Now obviously they will be some exceptions, but sadly they only prove the rule.

  • Siobhan

    Just a note, I’m a woman. ;) Siobhan is a girl’s name. ;) Gaelic for Johanna. :)

    Also, thanks everyone for all the thoughts about “what it would look like”. :)

  • Slider33

    Something I didn’t realize until I became an atheist, was how skillful churches use music to heighten emotion during these “services”.

    Dan Barker does a good job explaining this in his book Godless

  • Jonathan Duran

    Frightening flashbacks from childhood…this is mental torture for those poor kids :(


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