A Fayetteville, North Carolina pastor says he was just joking in a sermon Sunday when he authorized parents to make their "butch" daughters smell like girls and to “punch” boys with limp wrists.
Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church, told The Fayetteville Observer that the comments that have made international headlines were simply misinterpreted.
They should have taken as a joke, he said.
Indeed, national news outlets, such as CNN, have reported that laughter that can be heard in the background, from some members of the congregation, as well as cries, of “Amen!” as the 46-year- old pastor spoke about what some say is violence against children if they are gay.
Harris’s remarks to the Observer came right as he posted a statement on his church’s website for "any and all words that suggest that child abuse is appropriate for any and all types of behaviors, including (but not limited to) effeminacy and sexual immorality of all types."
Harris' comments spread rapidly on the virtual highway Tuesday after his sermon was posted online.
In the sermon, given Sunday, Harris gave members permission to take charge as a parent especially in maintaining gender roles.
Harris said if parents see young boys acting “a little girlish” when he's 4 years old, fathers should "squash that like a cockroach" and tell the four year old boy to "man up son get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch because that's what boys do.”
"Can I make it any clearer?" he says
Pastor Sean Harris, Fred Phelps Protests, LGBT Protests
He makes it clearer
"Dads, the second you see that son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give them a good punch. OK?" Harris said, who has a son, Austin.
Boys were not alone, girls were next. "When your daughter starts acting too butch, you reign her in,and you say, oh, no. oh, no, sweetheart. you can play sports play them, play them to the glory of God" Harris said. " But sometimes you're going to act like a girl and walk like a girl and talk like a girl and smell like a girl, and that means you're going to be beautiful and you're going to be attractive and you're going to dress yourself up."
"Smell like a girl?" asked MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donell in response to this remark. "The child abuse advocating pastor did not explain what smell like a girl means. Does he mean that he knows little girls who don't smell like a girl? What do they smell like? Does he know how very, very sick that sounds?"
“I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended,” he added in his apology. “I did not say anything to intentionally offend anyone in the LGBT community."
Unfortunately, Gay rights activists in Harris' community didn't feel the same way.
"I feel like we have our very own Westboro Baptist Church right here in Fayetteville," said Storm Silvermane, president of the Alliance, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people in the Sandhills, according to the Fayetteville Observer.
Pastor Sean Harris, Fred Phelps Protests, LGBT Protests
Harris asked for forgiveness in his statement of retraction from Christians. He said to those in the greater body of Christ in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the world, I seek your forgiveness if i have offended or hurt the cause of Christ."
After listening to the sermon Tuesday, the Observer reports, a divinity professor at Campbell University made it quite clear if he caused offense to the cause of Christ, calling the sermon "one of the most disappointing and un-Christ-like diatribes I have ever heard."
"I would not dishonor the word 'sermon' by identifying it as such," said Tony Cartledge, who teaches Old Testament at Campbell, a Baptist university in Harnett County.
He also said he wanted to make it clear that Harris does not represent the whole of Christianity.
"We must be careful not to assume that every Baptist, or even everyone who believes homosexual behavior to be sinful, would endorse Harris' over-the-top promotion of beating gay tendencies out of their children," Cartledge told the Observer.
"At the same time, we have to state unequivocally that Harris' position presents a distorted view of scripture that is completely out of keeping with the teachings of Jesus."
Never ever advocate hitting a child
His distorted view of scripture, critics say does not stop there.
"We know that children thrive when they grow up in safe, stable, nurturing relationships," said Rosie Allen Ryan, president of the nonprofit Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, according to the Observer.. "Unfortunately, this pastor is telling his congregation to harm their children. We know that when children are fearful and feel unsafe, that they're far more likely to suffer emotionally, socially and physically."
Despite his statement that to the Observer that he "would never ever advocate" hitting a child, the Berean Baptist Church has a code of parental discipline on its website, complete with what appears to be supporting biblical references, that advocates –– hitting a child. At one point, saying in part "we reject the idea that bruising is ever the objective when disciplining a child."
Discipline of Children: We believe that parents should train their children in light of the gospel... At times this may include appropriate and reasonable physical means (Prov. 10:13) employed upon the fleshy portion of the child’s buttocks (Prov. 22:15; 23:13)
"He said what?" asked Samuel Strachan, pastor of West Pullman Church of God in Chicago, IL., in a telephone interview, who said that the supporting biblical passages given in the code of discipline does not support discipline to " the fleshy portion of the child’s buttocks".
Strachan, who obtained his Biblical and Theological training from Wheaton in IL., also said the scripture used to back discipline of a child by "appropriate and reasonable physical means" appeared to be taken out of context.
"Why did he think this verse referred to a child?" Strachan said, who has been a minister for over 40 years, adding that the verse doesn't mention children and that within the context of the chapter could refer to many people.
Scriptural approach to discipline
In his interview with the Observer, Harris pointed out that the kindergarten-through-12th-grade school, Berean Baptist Academy that the church operates, has different policies from the church.
Harris, a teacher at the academy, where his son is also a student, according to the church web site, told the Observer that the school has its own discipline policy that he called "completely non-physical in any way, shape or form. A teacher never - I cannot emphasize this enough - a teacher never touches a child, other than to protect the child from harm."
The school handbook says, "none of our personnel will act in the place of the parent to administer corporal correction."
But according to the Parent Agreement of Corporal Correction: K5-6th Grade form, the teacher doesn't touch the child because the parent is asked to.
... the parents of the student will be called to come to the Academy and administer corporal correction or if they prefer, take their child out for a day. In most cases, if the parent chooses to administer corporal correction, the child may return to class. If the parent chooses not to administer corporal correction or if they choose not to respond, then the student may not return to school for at least one day.
The policy adds: "Some of the areas in which corporal correction may be required are disobedience, disrespect, willful defiance or temper tantrums, fighting, destruction of property, and cursing or profanity."
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