Exposing the shameful secrets of Charles Worley’s fundamentalism

Fundamentalism thrives on isolation from and opposition to the world — isolation from and opposition to the rest of society, to other people, to The Other, to everyone else.

The despicable Charles Worley and his Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina illustrates this opposition. But the fact that we know about Worley, that we’ve heard his vile words through a viral video that has been viewed by more than half a million people, shows that isolation is becoming increasingly difficult even for the most rabid fundies.

And just to be clear, that’s what we’re dealing with here. Warren Throckmorton traced the affiliations of Worley’s congregation — it’s an independent, KJV-only church connected with something called “The Only Hope” network. Not Southern Baptist, then, but nondenominational fundamentalist (think Bob Jones University, Bill Gothard, etc.). I’ve never heard of this “Only Hope” group — they seem to be hard-core fundie and desperately in need of a Web designer.

These small, nondenominational, KJV-only fundamentalist churches endure, in part, by keeping their members in the dark. Like all abusers, they need to keep their families dependent on them — ensuring that they’re the sole source of authority by ensuring that they’re the sole source of information. That’s getting harder to do in a world shaped by the subversive possibility of Google. Such churches have a long history of keeping their members out of the library, but now they have to keep them off of the Web as well.

And just as the Web undermines these churches’ ability to control the information their members can access, it also undermines these churches’ ability to keep their own shameful secrets. Worley’s “sermon” was an effective bit of propaganda within the closed-off world of his own sanctuary, but outside of that controlled environment it is quickly exposed as shameful, hateful ignorance of the very worst kind. When the rest of the world — the rest of America, the rest of the church — hears such things, the rest of the world responds and people like Worley can’t wholly prevent their followers from hearing that response.

He can inoculate them against it — misquoting Matthew 5:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 1:27 and John 15:18 to reassure them that any and all criticism amounts to “persecution” and therefore confirms the rightness and righteousness of his lies. You’ll see that argument parroted by drive-by trolls in the comments of sites like Stuff Fundies Like, often in ALL CAPS. But I often get the sense that these folks are shouting so loudly just to try to drown out the questions they’re desperate not to answer.

Providence Road Baptist Church requires isolation to function — isolation to keep its members ignorant and to keep its shameful secrets from being exposed to a wider world in which they cannot be defended. The good news this week is that it has lost that isolation.

Below the jump, a sampling of others’ insights, rants, lamentations and jeremiads w/r/t Worley and his awful church.

Bruce Reyes-Chow: “Pastor Worley and the Slippery Slope of ‘Speaking the Truth in Love’

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.

… 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.

Kimberly Knight: “Following Jesus to Maiden, N.C.

Do I believe there are different ways to live into being Christian – you betcha – but hatred is never, never, never an aspect of following Christ. Am I wary of thrusting this tiny, hateful man and congregation further into the spotlight? Do they deserve the attention? Yeah, very worried that every character I type is pointing to the festering evil mind of an otherwise small, small man. But (yeah, you knew there was one more) if Christians who follow Compassionate One don’t speak up – over and over again – then voices like his, so easily tossing around the heresy of a hateful God, are allowed to speak without counter. We must raise our voices and join a chorus of love to that crescendos over the cacophony of fear and hate. Silence is consent.

Andrew Simpson: “Young Evangelical Responds to Charles Worley

This breaks my heart. It’s difficult to watch the state I love to call home portrayed on the national stage as a bastion of bigotry. It’s even more painful is to listen to the disappointment in the voices of my friends — both gay and straight — as they talk about the role of the church in perpetuating prejudice by advancing a theology of hateful exclusion.

… The church has been an incredibly positive and formative institution in my life. My father is a Baptist pastor, as was his father before him. However, unlike the Baptist pastors who tend to make headlines, my father and grandfather spent their careers tirelessly advocating for those who were marginalized—those who Jesus called, “the least of these”. Growing up, the gospel I heard from the pulpit every Sunday was one that demanded Christians take seriously the example of Jesus who lived a life of unbridled and indiscriminate compassion.

… As Robin Meyers poses in his book, Saving Jesus from the Church, “Until we have homosexuality all figured out, shouldn’t we practice radical hospitality? As long as we ‘see through a glass darkly’ isn’t it wise to err on the side of inclusion and compassion, rather than condemnation?”  Surely, the same Jesus who invited the outcasts and marginalized to sit at the head of the banquet table of the kingdom would be the one to call upon his church to broaden the circles of inclusion, not narrow them.

Mark Sandlin: “A Wickedly Beautiful Response to NC’s Latest Gay-Bashing Minister

In addition to sending in a donation to your favorite LGBT advocacy group in his honor, I’m asking you to do one more thing: download the postcard you find at the end of this post and fill it out. It is addressed to Pastor Worley and says, “A donation has been made to __________ in your name. Thank you for helping advance the fight for equal rights for our LGBT brothers and sisters.” Just fill in the blank and mail it to the right Reverend. In a few days, he’ll also start receiving all the wonderful educational material from each organization to whom he has “donated.”

John Shore provides the mailing address: 3283 Providence Mill Rd., Maiden, NC 28650. And Worley’s email: pastor@prbnc.com. (Please be firm, but polite.)

Warren Throckmorton gets a reaction from Bob Stith, the “national strategist for gender issues” at the Southern Baptist Convention, who was eager to emphasize that Worley’s church is not part of his denomination. Stith called Worley’s sermon “a vile outburst” and told Throckmorton, “I think it is important to say in the strongest terms how disgusting and unchristian his comments are.”

Alvin McEwen: “Mark my words. Gays and lesbians are not the destroyers of Christianity. Some of these folks are doing an excellent job of it themselves.”

Wonkette: “Pastor Charles Worley and his congregants at the Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, North Carolina, will take your World’s Best Christians plaque now please, the end.”

Eugene Cho: “[Worley] speaks for himself and possibly, some or most of his congregation but since it is a church and part of the larger Christian community, I join others in calling him to repentance and ask his elder board to hold him accountable for these ungodly and heinous words.”

Chuck Currie: “All Christians … must condemn hate speech from pastors and denominations where this occurs are obligated to hold their clergy accountable — taking away their status as ordained clergy. Because let’s be clear: these hateful men are not preaching the word of God.”

Kurt Willems: “This is sin! Church, lets name this as evil and lets recognize that hatred justified by the bible is never biblical. Heartbreaking.”

David Badash covers the coverage of Worley by Anderson Cooper on CNN and by Martin Bashir on MSNBC.

Alise Wright: “He’s sick and I’m tired

And, finally, Paul at Disoriented/Reoriented is so repulsed by Worley that he turns away, focusing instead on the welcome story of one church getting it right.

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  • Apocalypse Review

     The thing that always impresses me is how close Old English is to a kind of German, and then realizing that Icelandic kind of still looks like that. :P

  • Apocalypse Review

    Every other version of the Bible is actually a corrupted translation of
    the KJV.  That is to say that the Bible was written in its entirety, by
    God, at the beginning of time, and what God wrote was what we call the

    B-but the Revised Standard Version was explicitly retranslated from the oldest extant Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, with particular reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls!

    How can these people believe the RSV in any way is some “corrupted” KJV is beyond me.

  • sketchesbyboze

    You know, in my younger and more vulnerable days I belonged to those boards as well. I sometimes wonder if all the hatred directed at Lewis & Tolkien by the fundies is because of their virulent anti-Catholicism. Fundies hate Catholics; for them, Catholicism is the ultimate Religion of Evil. Tolkien explicitly said that “The Lord of the Rings” was a “primarily Christian and Catholic work.” Lewis wasn’t actually Catholic, but, he
    believed that salvation is a gradual process involving a combination of faith
    and works, that purgatory is real, that penance is important, that the bread
    and wine do in fact become the body and blood of Jesus, that the story of Adam
    and Eve was at least partially symbolic, that the Bible is not infallible, and
    that there are people who will be saved without ever officially professing
    faith in Jesus. He also attended
    Mass, confessed his sins to a priest, and received last rites—from a priest! So, you know… close.

  • sketchesbyboze

     This is owing to the quasi-Gnostic nature of contemporary Christian fundamentalism. To put it very simply: fundies HATE the world. Fundies view all human attempts at art, beauty, and excellence as being rebellion against God. Fundies are generally socially awkward, incompetent, and uncoordinated. It’s as though they’re trying to jam a key into a lock that doesn’t quite fit. They’re people who aren’t at home in their own skin. They’re people who really don’t get these crazy things called “bodies” and why we have them. They’re people who give off a perpetual vibe of wanting to avoid the mundane things – and, on discovering that these things constitute most of reality, decide to construct their own reality.

  • sketchesbyboze

     It’s interesting to note that in the U. K. it’s illegal to publish a copy of the King James Bible without the Apocrypha. Imagine the confusion of American fundies!

  • sketchesbyboze

    Back in the days when I wore a cape, I once visited a Christian bookstore with a friend who was looking for a new Bible. The manager took us on a tour of the store, pausing every now and then for the purpose of pointing out some gaudy accessory or other. My friend and I have been Christians all our lives, but it was incredibly offensive, even by the admittedly-low standards of tacky Christian marketing.

    “These are ‘Jesus nails,'” she explained. “I keep a pair of them on the Bible next to my lampstand. Whenever I look at these nails, I’m reminded of the cross and the incredible price that He paid to redeem me from God’s wrath.”

    When we arrived at the counter, she turned to me and said, “I really have to know – why are you wearing a cape?”

    “Well, because I’m a wizard,” I replied.

  • Turcano

     Actually a better tack is to ask,  if the 1611 KJV is uniquely divinely inspired, why the Apocrypha was removed from it in 1666.

  • LMM22

    There’s apparently a movement to translate the KJV into other languages, because it’s clearly the inspired word of God.

    I had an ex whose brother attended a hyper-Christian high school for a few years. Among other things, they kept non-KJV Bibles under lock and key in the library. Students taking a special advanced course in Bible study could read them. Everyone else was apparently too weak to be exposed to other translations.

  • LMM22

    One oddity about Christianity is that it’s the only Abrahamic religion which *doesn’t* require — or even encourage — its followers to learn the original language its texts are written in. Even the *priests* aren’t expected to know the language. 

    This may actually be an oddity among major world traditions, come to think of it — I definitely know (lay, educated) Hindus who were taught Sanskrit.

  • John__K

     It’s probably a smart marketing move. I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to convince a bunch of Franks and Romans that they all have to learn King James English, a language that wouldn’t originate for centuries.

  •  Ah, good to know. Thanks.

  • LMM22

    I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to convince a bunch of Franks and Romans that they all have to learn King James English, a language that wouldn’t originate for centuries.

    Allegedly (and my Latin is rusty enough that I can’t verify this), Anselm’s ontological proof of God (“a being greater than any that can be conceived”) is aided by the fact that his phrasing uses the word “complete” as “perfect”.

    Either way, it’s struck me as amusing to think of a single divine language of God: one that, by virtue of the weak Sapir-Worf hypothesis, makes it easy to think in certain ways.

  • Joshua

    One oddity about Christianity is that it’s the only Abrahamic religion which *doesn’t* require — or even encourage — its followers to learn the original language its texts are written in. Even the *priests* aren’t expected to know the language.  

    Well, depends on time and place. USA and NZ are very monolingual. I certainly prefer a priest who is enthusiastic about going back to the original languages when preparing a sermon, and some do. It used to be a lot more prevalent a few decades ago.

    I had an acquaintance in Germany who was studying at a seminary. He said he needed a two-year qualification in Hebrew, Greek and Latin in order to enroll.

  • P J Evans

     I tend to think that they confuse authorized-for-the-Church-of-England with authorized-by-God. And then there’s the problem of them apparently not knowing that there are more recent translations that they might find easier to understand. Sneak an annotated NRSV (with the Apocrypha) onto the pulpit with all the markers from the KJV put in at the correct locations….

  • Joshua

     I tend to be a rather strict Revised Standard Version kind of person 

    So if the non-Christian, gay, Canadians read the RSV, what does that make me, with my New Revised Standard Version With Apocrypha?

  • Tricksterson

    Please explain what you mean by Charismatic.  My impression was that Charismatics were ppeople who speak in tongues, also identified with the Pentacotals.  I’ll admit to the possibility of my total wrongness.

  • Tricksterson

    Okd English aka Anglo-Saxon was a Germanic language.

  • Tricksterson

    I actually wouldn’t have a problem with that if they didn’t keep trying to impose that reality on the rest of us.

  • Tricksterson

    Sapir-Worf?  So the original language of the Bible is Klingonee?

  • Joshua

    B-but the Revised Standard Version was explicitly retranslated from the oldest extant Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts, with particular reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls!How can these people believe the RSV in any way is some “corrupted” KJV is beyond me.

    Well, that just makes it *really* corrupted, you see.

    As well as the obvious things like “and a young woman shall conceive” and “all scripture that is inspired by God is useful…”.

    I heard one preacher took a blowtorch to it during his sermon, when it first came out.

  • friendly reader

    Depends on the denomination. Most so-called Mainline denominations have Hebrew and Greek as part of basic seminary curriculum. One of the benefits of having denominations vs independent churches is that you can have some control over pastoral candidates to make sure they actually have an education.

    Also, Hinduism is the religion with by far the biggest tent so there are always exceptions, but until recently Sanskrit was primarily the language of the Brahmin caste. I’m not sure Sudras and Untouchables were supposed to learn it. They certainly weren’t allowed to read the Vedas. And much of Hinduism on the ground is a-scriptural or uses vernacular scripture (this last point is particularly true in Dravidian south).

    Also, telling these groups that they should be more like Hindus, Muslims, Jews, or “Mainline” Christians is not going to help the cause.

  • friendly reader

    English still is a Germanic language. We just have a thick coat of French vocabulary smeared over the German base (which is part of why our spelling system is such a blinking mess).

  • Turcano

     Actually, the reason English spelling is so counterintuitive is because the spelling was based on Middle English pronunciation.  Consider the word “enough.”   This confuses the hell out of children and ESL students, who just have to learn to deal with it.  The reason behind this is that English doesn’t have the /x/ sound anymore and was either dropped entirely or replaced with /f/ for some insane reason.  The history of the word is as follows:

    Old English: genoh (IPA /jɛnɔx/; cf. German cognate genug)
    Middle English: inogh (IPA /inɔx/)
    Modern English: enough (IPA /ɪnʌf/)

  • SisterCoyote

     I know I tell this story too often, but one of my very few crystal-clear memories of church as a child was the pastor giving an entire sermon – a real, true, Baptist sermon, the kind where you have a hymnal break two hours in before the hour-long conclusion, about a mark of punctuation in the KJV – the dash at the crucifixion, and the dash where Moses says “–If thou wilt forgive their sins,” and explaining how it was about the fulfillment of a sort-of-prophecy, since those were the only two dashes in the Bible, because Moses’ dash left something incomplete (the sins of Israel), and Christ’s words on the cross completed it.

    It made sense, technically. But there’s probably stronger evidence than punctuation marks in the actual text.

  • EllieMurasaki

     there’s probably stronger evidence than punctuation marks in the actual text.

    That’s worse than the Harry Potter shipwar over a semicolon.

  • sketchesbyboze

    @ Tricksterson
    Charismatics are generally defined by a belief in the continuing validity and practice of prophecy and miracles. Some of us speak in tongues, but it’s not a requirement. There are Evangelical Charismatics and Catholic Charismatics. I’m Catholic, but the organization for which I work is Evangelical. Strangely, most of us don’t think very highly of Pentecostalism.

  • Many of the psalms do sound better in KJV which isn’t so much due to the age of the language as simply that when dealing with poetry, literal translations are often lacking.

  • You can even “see” the original version in Dutch, which is the closest Low German ‘relative’  to English: “genoeg”.

  • friendly reader

     I was thinking more of how I had to explain that there are three ways of using C to my classes this week… in spite of having K and S. Though admittedly much of that can be blame on Latin vocab too.

    Btw, I do advocate for some kind of simple spelling reform, even of only a small percentage of words. Enuff is enuff, I’ve gone thru too many spelling tests to not want things changed, even tho it mite by hard to do.

  • Turcano

    Frisian is closer, and maybe Low German as well (drawing a family tree for Germanic languages is very subjective; I’ve seen four different ones for West Germanic alone).

  • LMM22

    Ok, I have to ask. Details?

    ETA: Which is turn related to the early SF gay-marriage weekend that was prolonged a judge’s decision that the appeal to halt the proceedings was missing a “very important” comma.

  • Turcano

     There are worse languages for spelling out there.  Gaelic comes to mind.

  • EllieMurasaki

     …dammit DuckDuckGo. I found the offending semicolon: http://ssa-alexk.livejournal.com/8394.html section the last. But that is, let us say, a slanted description of the shipwar. (Slanted my way, yes, but slanted.)

  • There are people who’ve insisted, publicly, that there’s possible evidence for Draco/Hermione in the books.


    That’s a lot thinner than Harry/Draco, even.

  • EllieMurasaki

     *blink blink blinkety*

  • Tonio

    Did the shipwars start before the last two books were published? I watched Smallville for years before finding out that fans were having shipwars over who should be paired with Clark. I thought that was strange because 60 years of canon had established Lois, and since the show was presumably about the pre-Superman years, any other relationship would be pre-Lois by default.

    Recently I read all the Potter books for the first time, in a row, and then saw all the movies. The latter tended to be two or three entries behind the written versions, and I noticed that the screenwriters more explicitly foreshadowed the pairings that eventually happened in the last two books.

  • EllieMurasaki

     I think the shipwars started in the three years between GoF and OotP? But don’t hold me to that. When OotP came out I was fourteen and I don’t think I’d realized anything but Sailormoon had a fandom.

  • Looks like the Westboro wingnuts have some major competition.
    My two cents: There’s a rumor that some of the KJV was actually written by William Shakespeare himself, nice idea. If the Bard of Avon was good enough for Jesus Christ then he’s damn well good enough for any ordinary Christians like us! (tongue firmly in cheek)

    If Bacon wrote Shakespeare, did Shakespeare ever write him back? Okay, old joke…

  • Steven Burr

    On one at least one site there was a large contingent of very dedicated Clark/Lex shippers. Pastor Worley would not approve!

    Aaaaaand we’ve come full circle.

  • Rose

    Hey guys, (and Fred) I absolutely love the idea of donating to an LGBT organization using this preacher’s address and all….But then, I started to worry if drawing his attention to the organization would be detrimental to them. Just wondering what y’all think. Would he make trouble for them? I would hate to bring this guy’s wrath down on a lovely, hard-working non-profit.

  • Lunch Meat

    @Rose, I see what you mean, but I think enough people are doing it (if you look at the comments on the post) that he couldn’t cause too much trouble for any one of them. I just donated to Equality Texas. :-)

  • Mrichards49

    This post is absolutely priceless.  People who swear by the KJV know absolutely nothing about King James. Maybe if they knew a little more about the man and the control the he exercised over the translators they wouldn’t be so convinced that this is the only ” true bible”,

  • A friend of mine once had the experience of conducting a Sunday School class for people in an isolated community who had no concept of languages other than English: http://bradhicks.livejournal.com/304243.html

  • Tricksterson

    I’m only half joking when I suggest some of them probably think it’s called the “King James Bible” because he recieved a holy vision and wrote it himself.

  • FWIW King James was homosexual, he only got married and had Charles I in order to carry on the royal line. 

  • hapax


    FWIW King James was homosexual, he only got married and had Charles I in order to carry on the royal line.

    Oh, please.  I am perfectly ready believe that James I was sexually and romantically attracted to other men.

    But it’s really a stretch to talk about sexual orientations in historical periods that simply didn’t have the mental category.  You might as well say “King James was an Apple devotee, and would only have used Windows because that’s what the company provided.”

  • Dummie

    Wow! All you folks are soooooo… Smart I could hardly understand you with my very small fundie brain. I did manage to say a prayer for you though. I asked that I could be as non judgmental as you folks are.

  • P J Evans

     He had seven kids who survived at least two days. And three who reached adulthood. That’s a really serious case of ‘homosexuality’.
    Would you like to reconsider your views?

  • Mckeez

    Some prechers and very few these days stand on God’s word and I commend Pastor Worley for his stand, I have heard him preach many times and he has his own way with words and that is all that has happened here, however we are in a battle with the devil and he loves to use peoples mistakes to cause mayhem and tryto stop God’s soldiers the Bible teaches homosexuality is a sin and God hates sin and so should we. We all should learn to love one another but hate sin. You have your rights and so do we.

  • I have heard him preach many times and he has his own way with words and that is all that has happened here

    Har. Har. Har. That’s funny. Does that remove culpability just like Richard Nixon seemed to think just barking out “I’m not a crook” made him look any less of a criminal?

    however we are in a battle with the devil and he loves to use peoples mistakes to cause mayhem

    Oh, that’s your excuse?

    I suddenly feel a great compulsion from the god Flaming Spaghetti Monster to flay you with wet spaghetti noodles.

    What’s that? You don’t think FSM is real so you don’t think I have any justification behind my doings?

    GUESS WHAT?????

    I don’t think God is real!

    That means I don’t think Pastor Worley has any justification what-so-bloody-well-ever to say whatever crap comes across his brain that masquerades as the act of thinking.

    So YOU can take YOUR pitiful attempt to excuse what he’s saying and GET! THE! FUCK! OUT!