Hate the Sin, Beat Up the Sinners

Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend Dustin Lee recently visited Grace Fellowship Church in Fruitland, Tennessee — the church Pittman’s father leads — and they had greeters waiting for them:

“I went over to take the keys out of the ignition and all the sudden I hear someone say ‘sick’em,” the younger Pittman explained.

“My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request. My uncle smash me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back.”

Pittman added that even after officers arrived, the deacons continued yelling anti-gay slurs.

Charges were filed and I don’t know how Pittman (Sr.) could possibly get away with this. But even if he slips through the cracks, it turns out he’s being charged with theft, too:

Police in the nearby town of Trenton said Pittman’s wife asked them to investigate reports that someone had been stealing from her business, and they believe Pittman and another man took hundreds of pounds of copper, valued at more than $1,000. There were at least three incidents of theft, police said.

A real winner…

What’s the worst part about this story? That he’s a pastor? That he commanded others to do the assaulting on his behalf? That the uncle and deacons listened to him? Or that he’s the victim’s father?

And where are the members of the church speaking out against the pastor? Or are they just going to sit their in silence and hope this whole thing just goes away fast?

More evidence that Christianity is not synonymous with morality or kindness.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Tim D.

    War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength. More wisdom from the Christian right….

  • http://www.suburbansweetheart.com/ Suburban Sweetheart

    This is terrible. Really, really terrible. I hope justice is served. “Men of God,” my ass.

    (A reminder to all: NOT ALL CHRISTIANS TREAT GAYS THIS WAY. And even the ones who don’t “condone homosexuality” don’t usually beat up gay people. This IS an anomaly.)

    • Ben

      Frankly, it’s not anomalous enough. When something is not surprising it’s not anomalous, it’s just a bit uncommon. And the moderates, who don’t speak out against this shit, are just as much to blame. They foster the environment where people feel like they can get away with crap like this.

      If it wasn’t the deacons, it could have been a parishioner, and if it wasn’t in the church parking lot it could have been in a dark alley, and if they weren’t just severely injured they could be dead. It doesn’t matter which of them did it, their church constantly tells them that the way to treat gays is with contempt, and unfortunately assaulting them is the natural extension of that contempt for many people, especially redneck men.Christians don’t get to distance themselves from these deacons by saying “we don’t all act like that.” The way the church treats gays makes the worst members of their cult act like this. If Christians want to distance themselves from these men, they should distance themselves from the church that tells them to hate other human beings.

      • Bill

        Although you make a good point about the actions being a result of the ideas that those churches give their congregations, you’ve still said that all churches teach their members to treat gay people that way, which is a terribly false statement.

      • http://www.suburbansweetheart.com/ Suburban Sweetheart

        Plenty of Christians do – as Bill said, implying otherwise is simply false. The United Church of Christ, the Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America, the Friends General Conference (Quakers), the Unitarian Universalists, the Episcopal Church… all welcome gay members & will ordain them as clergy. Not every Christian denomination is a hateful one – but the ones who are seem to ruin it for all of them. All I’m saying is that if we’re purporting to be open-minded ourselves, it’s important that we recognize the facts, even about religions we don’t care for.

        • Rieux

          Unitarian Universalism is not a Christian denomination.

          Indeed, given any ordinary definition of “religious,” it’s not even a religious organization.

          And as a result, you can’t use UUism to demonstrate that liberal Christian denominations do laudable things.

          • Erp

            What is the ordinary definition of ‘religious’?  I’ll note the UU Association is considered a religion for tax purposes (barring Texas a few years ago trying to say no).

            Also though members of the UUA don’t have to be Christian it is derived from Christianity and members may be Christian (and some UU churches may be quite Christian though of a very liberal variety).

            BTW the United Methodist Church does not ordain ‘Self-avowed practicing homosexual’ though feelings are divided within the church (a local Methodist church has rainbow banners hung outside). 

            • Rieux

              Oy. Perhaps you’ve heard of a book called a dictionary, which exists to provide “ordinary definition[s]” (I note I never referenced “the” ordinary definition, though you misrepresented me that way) of several words?

              I’ll also suggest to you the novel concept of “looking up” a word in a dictionary, which might lead you to a definition such as this one:

              religion NOUN

              a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.

              b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

              By this definition, which is a notably ordinary definition of “religion,” Unitarian Universalism is indisputably not a religion. It’s not a very complicated string of logic.

              Now. You are correct that UUism is treated as a religion for (USA) legal purposes. This is, indeed, mandated by the First Amendment; giving religions (as defined above) benefits that one does not give analogous irreligious groups would be blatantly unconstitutional. So yes, you’re correct about the legal angle–but by the same token, undeniably secular entities like the North Texas Church of Freethought are treated as religious of legal purposes, even though they are aggressively irreligious. As a result, the legal issue has no relevance to what I cited, which is “any ordinary definition of ‘religious.’”

              Also though members of the UUA don’t have to be Christian it is derived from Christianity….

              That’s a misleading description. UUism has historical connections with Christianity (it grew out of two now-defunct liberal Christian denominations), but it is not philosophically “derived” from it. UUism, at least according to its PR, affirms and promotes “the free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” even if that search leads folks to conclude, say, that Christianity is deeply pernicious and humanity should abandon it. That’s hard to reconcile with being “derived from Christianity.”

              Finally, of course, there are other (far less widely understood or accepted) ways to define “religion.” And many UUs avail themselves of these conceptions, under which UUism is religious (though of course by those standards so are things such as baseball, World of Warcraft, larping, blogging, and representative democracy). But that’s precisely why I included the adjective “ordinary” in my assertion. UUism is not religious according to the vastly widespread and widely accepted conceptions of what “religion” is. Resort to minor niche conceptions of the concept that a tiny proportion of the English-speaking world is familiar with, and the semantic question can turn out differently–but (1) those conceptions are clearly not “ordinary” and (2) the point of playing word games involving obscure definitions of words remains a little obscure.

              • Erp

                I believe your original words were ‘any ordinary definition’ and ‘religious’ though as most definitions of religious (except in regards to monastic orders and the like) refer back to ‘religion’, I’ll allow the latter change.   First  the legal definition is an ordinary definition (just not the only ordinary definition much like your definition is not the only ordinary definition). Second the OED also has

                A particular system of faith and worship.

                with no reference to the supernatural.   Your definition also makes some forms of Buddhism not a religion as well as some forms of Judaism.

                BTW most of the local churches in my area accept the local UUA church as a religious group.  Perhaps your area is less accepting.

                Unitarianism in Britain which is similar in many ways to UU in the US is also treated as a religion.  Among other things they are not legally allowed to perform legal same-sex unions with the usual Unitarian ritual used for opposite-sex unions (aka weddings) because in England legal same-sex union ceremonies must be without any religious trappings (the Quakers and Unitarians are working to change this law).

                I would be interested to know when, historically, you considered Unitarians and Universalists to have had the special creation that started a new philosophical stream cut off from their previous Christian derived stream and what were the roots (if any) of this new stream?    I agree that as a denomination the UUA is not Christian, but ,it is a bit like Christianity is to Judaism (derived from and with strands from other philosophies but not Judaism). 

                I would agree that Surburban Sweetheart was wrong to use the UUA as an example of a Christian denomination though you can use UU Christians as examples of liberal Christians (individuals not denominations).

          • Drew M.

            Did you really just use the “not real Christians” argument? That’s a new twist on it.

            • Rieux

              Oy. If you read my other comment(s) in this thread, you’ll see that I’m an outspoken atheist and critic of Christianity. I’m hardly in the business of using the No True Scotsman fallacy (or indeed any other means, whether legit or not) to defend religion.

              Unitarian Universalists and their national associations themselves do not consider UUism to be a Christian denomination. Some individual UUs do identify as Christian, but they are a fairly small minority. An approximately equivalent number of UUs are self-identified atheists (I was one of the latter for several years).

              As a result, it is at best inaccurate and at worst dishonest for Suburban Sweetheart to use Unitarian Universalism as an example of a non-”hateful” “Christian denomination.” UUism is indeed not homophobic (very much the contrary); it just doesn’t actually happen to be Christian. According to its own self-definition.

              Does this clarify the point?

              • Drew M.

                Point taken!

            • Anonymous

              Sorry, but UU is really not Christian in the strictest sense. By its own definition its universalist, which pretty much means that they worship god in many different forms. They incorporate rites and beliefs from all kinds of different sources

              • Anonymous

                No. Unitarian means they did not subscribe to the trinitarian doctrine (i.e. God is not three persons; Jesus is not divine, but a prophet) and Universalist means they believed everyone’s soul would be saved eventually. Whatever they propose to believe now, they started out as a merger of two extremely heterodox denominations. 

                Heterodox enough to no longer qualify for the “Christian” label? It’s hard to say. I usually like to go with the Nicene creed as a baseline definition of Christianity–and even the early UUs dispensed with much of that doctrine–but still there is a sense that what they were doing was a reinterpretation of Christianity rather than a rejection of it.

                To me, it seems to fall in that category between heresy and novel religion, kind of like Catharism or some of the syncretic Afro-Christian mashups like Vodun or Santeria. Except this was a mashup of Christianity with enlightenment strains of humanism and romantic transcendentalism. In many ways, it’s also similar to neo-Paganism, but without the resurrection of pre-Christian mythologies.

        • TheBlackCat

          The problem isn’t only how churches treat gays, it is how they treat other churches liike this.  Sure they will say it is a horrible crime and they don’t condone such behavior, but you rarely, if ever, see them rejecting the church for the teachings that lead to and condone such behavior.  They are always willing to reject the crime, but rarely seem willing to reject the church or beliefs that directly led to the crime.  That is what people mean when they say that liberal Christianity provides protection for the more extreme versions.  

          • edgar ayala

            TBC, that is an excellent point, and until “The United Church of Christ, the Methodist Church, the Evangelical
            Lutheran Churches of America, the Friends General Conference (Quakers),
            the Unitarian Universalists, the Episcopal Church” and other similar churches start speaking out against homophobia in the christian ideology , they are passively accepting this sort of behavior from other christian groups.

            • Anonymous

              Clearly you don’t know anything about these churches. They do speak out about these things; you’d just have to be a member to witness it or take the time to visit their website. I’m an atheist and two of the most welcoming churches I’ve been into were United Church of Christ and Unitarian.
              I like to judge all people on an individual basis and I hope to be judged on an individual basis as well instead of the different groups I happen to belong to: female, black, gay, and atheist.

        • Anonymous

          And nearly all of them are relatively small sects that are hardly mainstream. Even the Episcopal had schisms over their gay friendly stance, with the hardliners splitting away.

          Mainstream Christianity is indifferent or passive aggressive at best

      • http://www.suburbansweetheart.com/ Suburban Sweetheart

        Plenty of Christians do – as Bill said, implying otherwise is simply false. The United Church of Christ, the Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America, the Friends General Conference (Quakers), the Unitarian Universalists, the Episcopal Church… all welcome gay members & will ordain them as clergy. Not every Christian denomination is a hateful one – but the ones who are seem to ruin it for all of them. All I’m saying is that if we’re purporting to be open-minded ourselves, it’s important that we recognize the facts, even about religions we don’t care for.

    • Rieux

      Of course, the Biblical God does far worse than this all the time. And even Jesus, in the Gospels, condones both slavery and the beating of slaves, commands his disciples to hate their families, promises to order the robbery and genocide of anyone who opposes his reign… and, more than he delivers any other message whatsoever, shrieks that his enemies will be subjected to brutal torture that’s far worse than what Pittman Jr. and Lee suffered (except that the torture the Gospels’ Jesus threatens is fictional, which is admittedly no small caveat).

      That said, you’re clearly correct that few Christians, even among the ones who take the Bible’s many (and uniform) admonitions against the “abomination” of gay sex seriously, engage in the level of physical violence described here. On one hand, that’s clearly a good thing, because if Christians instead took to heart all of the word-and-deed advocacy of violence and brutality that God and Jesus engage in in the Bible, this would be a vastly more dangerous world than it already is.

      On the other hand, though, the disparity between (1) the morally outrageous practices continually exemplified and/or advocated by the central “spotless” characters in the Bible and (2) the ethical notions that apologists for Christianity declare are what the religion “really” supports… makes said apologists’ gloss on their tradition ring awfully hollow. Sure, the Christianity you construct in your head doesn’t support this brutality, but the one described in the Bible (very much both Testaments) condones that and much worse.

      Again, it’s probably for the best, for all of humanity, that modern Christians so continually disregard the reprobate ideals that suffuse their canonical myths, substituting instead modern humanistic ethics (and then pretending they haven’t performed any substitution at all). I’m not sure that the human species could survive a modern Christendom that actually put into practice what its scripture teaches. But it gets a bit tiring to continually be told that the same belief system that keeps such poisonous mythology alive and salient within human society should be absolved of responsibility for the crimes of the minority of Christians who simply turn less of a blind eye to the potent ugliness of the Bible and the tradition it spawned than their self-satisfied, cherry-picking brethren do.

    • T-Rex

      “(A reminder to all: NOT ALL CHRISTIANS TREAT GAYS THIS WAY. And even the ones who don’t “condone homosexuality” don’t usually beat up gay people. This IS an anomaly.)”

      WRONG!

      Christians are bigots, all of them. In one way or another every theist is a bigot. All because of their choices in imaginary friends. If they’re not picking on the LGBT community, they’re railing against someone else with different views than themselves. Religion is disgusting and inmy experiences its followers are mostly hypocrits and hateful individuals. If Jesus was real I doubt he’d recognize Christianity as what he was teaching. Fuck religion.

      • Trina

        T-Rex, I’m no fan of Christianity or any other religion, but I do know a number of people who are Christians and are among the good people, in churches that are ‘cherry-picking’ the better qualities of the religion.   I don’t think mass condemnation serves any good purpose.   Even atheism has its jerks, bigots and haters, and I wouldn’t want to be lumped-in with them.

      • Nordog

        T-Rex, your post is fraught with both non sequitur and bigotry.

        Project much?

      • Guest

        This story is upsetting, but not all Christians are bigots. Some Christians fully accept LGBT people, and some Christians are universalists who believe that everyone gets to go to a shiny-happy afterlife. It’s a minority, sure, but not all theists think that their belief system is the only right one.

  • Fritzy

    I guess when “praying away the gay” doesn’t work, the next logical step is to try to beat it out of ‘em…

  • Renshia

    Now, there’s a shinning example of what is meant by christian love.

  • Erp

    Trawling turns up some interesting stuff.   The pastor and his wife are getting divorced and not amicably so people seem to have split with accusations flying back and forth (and almost none of the writers can spell, capitalize, or compose a complete sentence).   The wife seems to have been considerably richer than her husband (he was arrested for stealing from her company).   The son may have sided with his step-mother (speculation on my part) and that might have prompted the attack (with the son  being gay used to justify it, get others to join in, and prevent the authorities taking it seriously [fairly successfully it seems]) or perhaps the son made a convenient scapegoat for his anger.

    Some additional goings on
    http://www.wbbjtv.com/news/local/Deacon-Stabbed-In-Bradford-130888923.html
    one of the deacons involved in the attack has since been attacked by ‘two masked men’ and another had his house set afire (conveniently he had just moved out).   (Accusations of faked attack and arson fraud have also been made.)  The one who had his house set afire is also charging that Jerry Jr., and his boyfriend attacked him in the parking lot instead of vice versa.

  • Erp

    Trawling turns up some interesting stuff.   The pastor and his wife are getting divorced and not amicably so people seem to have split with accusations flying back and forth (and almost none of the writers can spell, capitalize, or compose a complete sentence).   The wife seems to have been considerably richer than her husband (he was arrested for stealing from her company).   The son may have sided with his step-mother (speculation on my part) and that might have prompted the attack (with the son  being gay used to justify it, get others to join in, and prevent the authorities taking it seriously [fairly successfully it seems]) or perhaps the son made a convenient scapegoat for his anger.

    Some additional goings on
    http://www.wbbjtv.com/news/local/Deacon-Stabbed-In-Bradford-130888923.html
    one of the deacons involved in the attack has since been attacked by ‘two masked men’ and another had his house set afire (conveniently he had just moved out).   (Accusations of faked attack and arson fraud have also been made.)  The one who had his house set afire is also charging that Jerry Jr., and his boyfriend attacked him in the parking lot instead of vice versa.

    • Trina

      Thanks for the additional information!  A fuller picture is always a good thing.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    And where are the members of the church speaking out against the pastor? Or are they just going to sit their in silence and hope this whole thing just goes away fast?

    Remember they’re sheep, right? They’re a “flock,” and “pastor” means sheepherder, and there are plenty of approving comparisons to sheep in the Bible. So they stand there watching, or they turn away pretending they don’t see it, tense but quiet, cowed by the gang of thugs who run the church and probably run the town. All over the U.S., on less dramatic, less bloody levels than this one,  this situation is not rare. It is very common.

    But if their consciences bother them for not standing up against the bullies and stopping the innocent from being beaten, it’s okay.  Even if they painfully remember that Jesus warned them that how they treat the least of us is how they treat him, it’s okay. 

    Because relief is close at hand. All they have to do is take another dose of  guilt morphine , “the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.”  The problem is that like the opiates, amount and frequency of the usage escalates, and increasingly the users deal only with their feelings about problems, rather than dealing with the problems themselves.

    So we hear a lot of sheepish apologies and excuses from Christians who are shocked or embarrassed by the goons and hoodlums in their midst, but they rarely stand up in their own congregations and denounce the tyrants in mid-sermon.

    Once you have another dose of morphine, you’re not much good for anything.

    • http://www.facebook.com/DocMonkey Mick Wright

      Is it wrong of me to have read that in awesome tones of righteous fury?

  • GentleGiant

    The newsclip from the first link mentions that they were due in court on October 4th, anyone knows what came of that?

  • Skeletal Dropkick

    well, technically, Biblically speaking, the Pastor was in the right, except his mom really should have been there to help, maybe bring the dad some rocks or something :

    Deuteronomy 21:18-21
    King James Version (KJV)
    18If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:

    19Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;

    20And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.

    21And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

    If you are going to follow a 2000 year old social code, go all the way and show how freaking messed up it really is, I always say…

    I would totally welcome these boys into my Christianity-hatred-fuelled free home, sorry his dad is a jerk…

  • A Portlander

    Just because somebody has to highlight the absurdity–an egregious gay-bashing in Fruitland?  Really?  You couldn’t make that up.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4VYQXMYJ3MGO74VD6Q7VZIYOQA Bonnie

    Slightly off-topic, but was anyone else touched by the photo of Jerry and Dustin? These are obviously two people who care about each other and care for one another.  It doesn’t matter if they are male or female or a combination therein.

    Love is love. THAT is what Christians need to understand, but never will. The world could use more love and less bashing. Ergo, more atheists and fewer theists.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      I was touched by it too. The tenderness is obvious.

      They’re not big, muscular bruisers. They’re typically thin teenage boys, and the thought of three full-grown men beating them is sickening and infuriating.

    • Marcie

      I agree completely: love is love.  

  • Flkm1911

    I am a Christian. Full blown Bible thumper Jesus Freak. And guess what? This sickens me too. This is not what we are about. Christ’s love is what we should be showing everybody, regardless of their sexual orientation. If I was there I would have stood up for these people against those bullies. Not kidding. 

    To those who see this and hate Christianity: you need to know that this is not what we are about. Be angry at these sicko bullies who beat up kids in the name of their religion – but don’t hate Christianity. These guys are doing an awful job of showing it. Nobody ever said that we would stop sinning when we became Christians. Hate their actions…fine, I do too. Hate them…fine, if you must. Hate their faith that they hide behind? Don’t do it…it has nothing to do with their actions. 


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