WARNING: Treatment could result in cuts and bruising, deep emotional and psychological damage, and/or suicide. Discuss risks and side effects with someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about before starting effeminacy correction therapy.
Believe it or not, the cure has been found! Parents with sons who just act too girly or daughters who wear baggy pants and crop their hair too short finally have a solution! Thanks to Pastor Sean Harris, these and other infractions of conservative American gender norms can be corrected with one simple tool: brute force. That’s right! Just shove ’em around a bit and tell ’em, “No son of mine is gonna act like some queer!” or, “No way my daughter is gonna be a butch!”
Skeptical? You should be.
You might be wondering who Sean Harris is by now. Well, he’s the senior pastor of a church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who preached a so-called “sermon” on April 29 of this year that can be best-described as moronic. You could also throw in “ignorant,” “bigoted,” “blasphemous,” or any similar adjective and arrive at a fairly apt understanding of what transpired within the walls of Berean Baptist Church that Sunday morning. His sermon concerned the marriage amendment which was approved in a referendum on Tuesday, May 8, and his basic point was that if people in the church did not go to the polls and vote in favor of the amendment, they would be in sin and would have to stand accountable before God.
I managed to get through all fifty-five minutes of his sermon, though not without difficulty. In addition to the outrageously offensive and stupid comments he made toward the end that I’ll get to in a moment, he also dropped these delightful gems:
- Unless there was an actual historical Adam (as in a man whose name was Adam that is the direct ancestor of every human being on Earth), Jesus was a liar and the entire Christian faith is invalidated. If that be the case, he said everyone might as well “close shop and go to the lake on Sunday.” So, he obviously doesn’t know how to read Scripture correctly, but, then again, few Evangelical pastors do.
- Basically all of the problems facing America boil down to people not getting married and having babies. From his point of view, the purpose of life is to get married and have children and if a person isn’t doing that, they are living in sin (unless they’re celibate, of course, but then they have to devote every waking moment to the Church). So, in an equation format, it would look like this: life = marriage + babies2.
- By living out “gender distinctions,” men and women glorify God. Of course, he doesn’t define exactly what he means by “gender distinctions,” but I wouldn’t expect him to understand the different between sex and gender. So, actually, what he said was that unless men and women act according to the traditional, culturally-constructed American expectations of proper gender expression, they’re living in sin. “Men oughta act like men and women oughta act like women,” he says. This will be important later on.
- Since marriage carries tax benefits, government should only promote opposite-sex marriages because they produce children. Right, because that’s the only real purpose marriage serves. I mean, it’s babies or bust.
Then, from 46:20 to 47:30 in his speech, Harris delivers his most profoundly ignorant statement:
“Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up! Give him a good punch. Okay? You are not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you are going to be a male. And when your daughter starts acting too ‘butch,’ you rein her in. And you say, ‘Oh, no, sweetheart! You can play sports, play them to the glory of God. But sometimes, you are 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 are going to be beautiful, you are going to be attractive, [and] you are going to dress yourself up.'”
Absolutely! Because “men oughta act like men and women oughta act like women.” You can’t allow some young boy to be anything other than gruff and gross. And women, you can’t let them have fun being dirty, playing sports, or doing stuff men are supposed to do. That would be an affront to God! It should be noted that Harris issued a quasi-apology through an interview with David Mattingly, though he never actually backed away from his faulty understanding of gender distinctives or origins of gay desires. He also didn’t apologize for his view that boys and girls who act outside of what he thinks are appropriate expressions of gender shouldn’t be corrected by their parents. He legitimately thinks that all of these distinctives are found in the Bible.
Look, after watching the sermon, I am forced to admit that Sean Harris is probably well-intentioned and definitely believes he’s doing the right thing. While I respect that, I am in no way, shape, or form obligated to call his words anything more than what they are: ignorant, misinformed, and downright dumb. “Pastors” like him leave shattered young men in their wake because they weren’t able to live up to their enormously unrealistic and unfair expectations of how men should act and feel, whether they’re gay or not. The same can also be said for women.
People like Sean Harris are a part of the reason why suicides among gay teens are such a serious problem. Instead of leaving the science to people who actually know what they’re talking about, they come out swinging and saying being gay is a choice, nothing more or less, and that “gay and lesbian desires […] [are] a hardness of heart issue.” Yeah, okay. I’d like for Sean Harris to go tell that to all the victims of Christian reparative therapy or “gay conversion” who come out exactly as they went in, only feeling more hopeless than ever. I’d like him to go tell that to all the men who would literally give anything and everything if they could be rid of the desires that just won’t go away and be just like Christian culture expects them to be. The desire to conform and to belong is incredibly potent in human beings. Gay Christians are particularly affected since so many feel it’s impossible for them to conform or to belong, especially in a Christian culture where voices like Harris’ continue to resonate.
Sean Harris is a moron and a fool–one who loves the Lord, sure, but a moron and a fool nonetheless.
Personally, I find that these types of situations are particularly difficult. They’re difficult because I’m confronted with my own propensity to hatred. I find it very, very hard to not hate Sean Harris and throw every obscenity I can muster in his direction, especially after enduring fifty-five minutes of his stupidity. The only thing that stops me is the knowledge that he is well-intentioned and that he does only want the best for his congregation, even if he is misinformed and uneducated.
There is far more to the Christian faith than mere good intentions. Indeed, some of the more horrendous things imaginable have had only good intentions as their primary motivator. Situations like this are sticky because not only does Harris mean well, but this isn’t a case of competing goods: Harris is flatly wrong. Because he is flatly wrong, he needs to be corrected. If he won’t accept correction, he then becomes ostracized from legitimate discourse. He, in effect, becomes the cause of his own marginalization by refusing to back away from an inane and debunked fundamentalist belief that being gay is a choice. The challenge, then, becomes finding a way to educate him and people like him in a manner that is consistent with the love of Christ.