Sending Flowers to Homophobic Pastors

The following post was written by Kevin Harris, Director of Community Relations at The Marin Foundation.

 

You have probably heard of North Carolina pastor, Charles Worley, and his hateful talk about eliminating gay and lesbian individuals by rounding them up with an electric fence until they die.

Well, you should think about buying him some flowers……no, seriously. I would particularly encourage you to do so if you identify as a part of the broader LGBT community.

The pastor’s comments were without a doubt disgusting and completely unacceptable. They have been rightly condemned by Christian leaders like Euguene Cho and many others all over the internet. But many of the responses have ranged from hateful responses that are saddening to others that may not be filled with hatred but are not particularly helpful when it comes to overcoming the hatred they are addressing.

I won’t spend much time addressing the problem of responding to hatred with hatred, since it seems fairly clear to me that as Christians we are commanded to love our enemies and those that seek to malign and hurt us (Matthew 5:43-48). Beyond the ethical component, while hateful and violent actions may be able to force change they do not inherently possess the potential to bring about a transformation of the heart and lasting voluntary change. Like MLK Jr. stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that” and “Means and ends must cohere because the end is preexistent in the means”.

Beyond the hateful responses, there also seem to be many well-intentioned responses that I can only imagine will serve to cause the pastor and his congregation to become defensive and further entrenched in their ideology since they may feel attacked or put off. While I would defend their right to protest, there are the same tired one or two-day protests with signs being staged at the church to communicate the disapproval that the congregation is already well aware of. Beyond the fact that protest is not going to bring about change if it is not continued over a longer period of time in a way that is non-violent in nature and not condescending, too many recycled mediums have become stale and are in dire need of some imagination. Then there are the responses that protest with a smile on like letting the pastor know that a donation was made to an organization promoting equality for the LGBT community on their behalf (with a sarcastic smile and thank you implied).

In whatever way we stand up to hatred, we have to make sure that the means that we use match the ends that we are seeking. While urging others that are being hurtful to treat people with dignity and respect, we cannot forget that they have inherent worth and fail to treat them in a way that acknowledges that fact.

Pastor Worley is a beloved child of God who is fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God……even if he is not acting like it.

Acknowledging that fact does not mean that we should not stand up to the destructive messages he is communicating, but it needs to influence the way we conduct ourselves and view him in the process. And if someone like Pastor Worley is going to have a change of heart, it is likely going to be from people showing him the love that his actions do not deserve that point in tangible ways to the call to love God and others. Love that may not be fair or befitting of the insidious words spoken, but is informed by the self-giving love of Christ who loved and sacrificed for us so that we may in turn take steps into emulating and more fully embodying his example by loving others without an agenda. Not because of their actions, but because it acknowledges their true worth given to them by God and it is our purpose as Christians.

Like our good friend Jimmy Spencer Jr. said in his book Love Without Agenda, When we begin to love others because that is our deep purpose and not because of how they will react – everything changes. We are led to loving the person in front of us because that is simply who we are becoming – without some underlying agenda.

So if you feel the need to respond to Pastor Worley and his congregation, I would encourage you to send him some flowers or come up with another way to tangibly show him love that communicates God’s love for him. I was encouraged to pass along the flowers by Helen Ryde, a Christian woman who identified as a lesbian that called our office the other day to ask if we had any ideas because she was trying to figure out what she could do to tangibly love the pastor. I hope this post will encourage you to reach out to someone who has done something hateful or hurt you like Helen inspired me to do. You can send him the same flowers pictured above that I passed along his way by following the link Here and I’ve listed below what I wrote in the personalized message for the card to give an example of what I’ve been trying to get at:

Dear Pastor Worley,

As a Christian and a gay man, though I disagree with you I wanted to say that I love you, God loves you, and I do not support the hateful responses you have received.

God Bless, Kevin Harris

I’m going to withhold on posting the mailing address for his church, but you can find it in about a minute via Google if you would like to send a card or gift his way. In other words, please think if you’re a pastor before making strong statements in a public sermon. Besides the hurt that you will cause, individuals can easily get your contact info in a matter of minutes today with the internet.

Much love.

www.themarinfoundation.org

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About Andrew Marin

Andrew Marin is President and Founder of The Marin Foundation (www.themarinfoundation.org). He is author of the award winning book Love Is an Orientation (2009), its interactive DVD curriculum (2011), and recently an academic ebook titled Our Last Option: How a New Approach to Civility can Save the Public Square (2013). Andrew is a regular contributor to a variety of media outlets and frequently lectures at universities around the world. Since 2010 Andrew has been asked by the United Nations to advise their various agencies on issues of bridging opposing worldviews, civic engagement, and theological aspects of reconciliation. For twelve years he lived in the LGBT Boystown neighborhood of Chicago, and is currently based St. Andrews, Scotland, where he is teaching and researching at the University of St. Andrews earning his PhD in Constructive Theology with a focus on the Theology of Culture. Andrew's research centers on the cultural, political, and religious dynamics of reconciliation. Andrew is married to Brenda, and you can find him elsewhere on Twitter (@Andrew_Marin), Facebook (AndrewMarin01), and Instagram (@andrewmarin1).

  • Dave

    Love the idea and am grateful that you are encouraging a non-hateful response. It saddens me when I see hate-filled to responses to things we don’t agree with. This challenge is more in line with the greater teaching of the gospel.

  • Tina

    Thank you for your wise & thoughtful post. When hateful speech is met with hateful speech the cycle becomes endless & fruitless. Tough situations like this are when we are reminded, yet again, how hard & radical it is to pattern ourselves after Jesus. Flowers may be beyond the pocketbook of many people but a flood of cards going to this pastor would be quite something, wouldn’t it? Thanks for the suggestion. I’m mailing mine tomorrow.

    • Kevin Harris

      Yeah, for similar situations in the future I think I’ll probably go with cards as well as my pocketbook probably wouldn’t be able to keep up with it, but flowers are what came to mind this time when I was thinking about it so I just decided to go with it.

      Thanks for taking the time to send a card!

  • http://jontrouten.blogspot.com/ Jon Trouten

    Sorry. I’m not wasting a cent on that pastor or his church.

    • aaron

      completely understandable. it’s definitely not logical. unfortunately for us Christians (assuming you love Jesus and all that stuff) logic was never really put into the equation. We’re told to go beyond tolerance. We’re told to go into Love. a Love that defies logic and reasoning. something that goes beyond economic, political, and societal boundaries. i’m not trying to convince you that buying the dude flowers or anything like that. just consider them in your prayers. they are loved with an infinite love that you and i will never understand.

      just something to think about. peace and blessings to you, brother.
      -aaron

  • http://kolembo.wordpress.com kenny

    I believe completely, that you are right.

    I am a Gay, Kenyan Christian and the first time I read that pastors message I was so livid, I went to the site immediately.

    I could tell by his subsequent posts that man people must have made things very hard for him and his family.

    Although, somewhere inside, a thought occurs that he may have done this on purpose just to entice the ‘left’ to come out in hate, and give fuel to the ‘right’ who need a justification to demonise.

    I really don’t submit to ‘left’ and ‘right’ politics but it is so intense and I am so involved that I’ve seen it all.

    Anyway, I tried to get on his message board to deliver exactely the kind of message you sent, but his board had been removed.

    Finding this today, has eased my heart.

    As a Christian, I could not just stand by and watch a man of God so severly attacked.

    Certainly his attack on homosexuality was of the most severe kind, and perhaps he’ll learn from this, but this is not tit ‘n’ tat.

    God has a purpose for this mans life, as he does for mine.

    Well done.

  • http://www.mjkimpan.wordpress.com michael j. kimpan

    this post seems to me to answer the question :: what *would* jesus do in this situation? thank you, kevin, for such a thoughtful, gracious post flowing with the love of christ. your example is one we can all follow, no matter what our our orientation. love. your. enemies. thank you for showing us what that means in this specific circumstance.

  • Tina

    Card is in the mail. Just to make things easy…..if you want to add to the (hopefully) flood of cards, here is the address:
    Pastor Charles Worley
    Providence Road Baptist Church
    3283 Providence Mill Road
    Maiden, NC 28650

  • JLynne

    I want to buy flowers for all the women I love, I want women to be the center of this act of love. I would never think of spending one dime of my hard earned lesbian money in such a way. Give all that flower money to lesbians you know, maybe you know a lesbian couple that might need extra funds for a marriage ceremony, maybe you know an unemployeed lesbian that could use support. These homophobic pastors are ridiculous, and probably extreme closet cases themselves. It’s all so predictable isn’t it.

    • Kevin Harris

      That’s part of the point of this post. In trying to tangibly love our enemies as the Bible instructs us to do, it will entail trying to actively love those that we have absolutely no desire to love and those whom we care for the least. I shared your sentiments when I decided to send some flowers his way and felt kind of sad because I realized there were so many other people (i.e. just about anyone) that I care for and would enjoy brightening their day as opposed to some pastor that I don’t know that is speaking in a way that is demeaning and hateful. Granted, I typically don’t reach out to individuals that I don’t know and trying to love others that I don’t necessarily like usually takes place in relationships that I already have (whether I fail or succeed at it).

      Do you know of any heterosexual men (maybe someone you work with or encounter on a regular basis) that you could think about trying to love in a tangible way? Maybe something that does not require money like saying a prayer or speaking a kind word to them.

  • Kingson

    Would Jesus have purchased flowers for this man?

    He didn’t purchase flowers for the money changers or the Pharisees.

    Was He really the lovey-dovey gallant gentleman you’re making Him out to be or was His character rather more robust?

    • Kevin Harris

      It’s just one simple example of a way to tangibly love the pastor. I’m really not sure what Jesus would have done when it comes to responding to the pastor, but just because Jesus did not do something is not a sufficient reason to abstain from doing something in love for others. If that principle guided our lives, there would be millions of actions and tangible ways of loving that would be taken off the table for us as Christians. Jesus’ life gives us an example to follow, but I don’t imagine using our imaginations to seek to love others in specific contexts in ways that were not specifically found in the life and ministry of Jesus are ruled out of bounds.

      Like you mentioned, since Jesus did seem to reserve his harshest words for the Pharisees and the self-righteous religious teachers, I imagine he might have some strong words for Pastor Worley and others whose words actively exclude individuals on the margins along with being hateful. Like I mentioned in the piece, I believe his words were wrong and I agreed with the words of Eugene Cho and other Christian leaders that spoke out against them to say that the love of Christ was not embodied in them.

      With that being said, how much do you think Pastor Worley would care if I, as someone who is gay and Christian, tried to call him out and condemn his words? How much would he care if you or others that do not have a relationship with him tried to do the same?

      Regardless of what Jesus would have said even if he would have spoken bluntly and condemned the pastor, I can rest fairly sure in believing that he would have stood for trying to actively love our enemies in some way and for seeking to humanize and reaffirm God’s love for people.

  • JLynne

    Love a heterosexual man? The closest I can get is to feel not much of anything; a kind of cautious live and let live. I don’t know if a hetero man has ever beaten a woman, ever raped a woman or ever viewed horrifying online porn. I try to stay clear of them, because hetersoexual men are a danger to me. I don’t trust them, and given what hetero men do to women, I think all women have a perfect right to this lack of trust. Men are always telling women to trust or love them, and this is the height of arrogance.

    Any time hetero men even talk about love, I am suspicious.


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