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Is Demeaning or Beating a Child Ever Funny?

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Sean Harris, pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., has now "apologized" for a delivering a sermon in which he told parents to "punch" their "limp-wristed" sons and force their "butch" daughters to "dress up" and "smell nice" from time to time. However, he claims that his words were meant "in jest."

That is outrageous, as even the most open-minded and generous viewing of his sermon will quickly reveal. (Click on the link above and see for yourself.)

Having seen the remarkable documentary "Bully" just last night, I couldn't sit back and swallow his calling this "a joke." I sent him the following email this afternoon.

Dear Pastor Harris,

I hope this finds you well. I wanted to thank you for the apology you issued with regard to your sermon advocating parents getting strong with kids who don't conform to your idea of appropriate gender roles. I take you at your word that you did not mean to insult members of the GLBT community or to advocate violence toward children.

However, what I do not accept is that you meant what you said "in jest." I've seen the video of your talk. I've watched your comments in context. There was nothing the slightest bit funny in what you said. What, precisely, is the meaning of your "joke"? Where is the humor in telling a father to "punch" his "limp-wristed" son or a mother to force her too-"butch" daughter to be "attractive" and "smell nice"? Explain to me the hilarity of telling parents that any non-gender conforming behavior they observe in their children should be "squashed like a cockroach." What could possibly be funny about any of this? Especially since violence against "feminine boys" and "masculine girls" is a real problem in too many real homes in this country. What, pray, is funny -- or even potentially funny -- about reprimanding a child in the horrible and demeaning ways you recommended?

No, this wasn't a joke. You meant what you said. The only thing you are sorry about is that you got caught saying it. Trying to weasel out of it by saying humor was the intent is the worst form of lying and hypocrisy. As a man of God, you know that lying and hypocrisy are serious matters. I assume that as a Baptist you take personal testimony seriously. As such, you should know that this lying and hypocrisy call the power of your witness to the Lord into serious question. By trying to get us to believe that what you said was "a joke," you, sir, have undermined the truthfulness of your word. Allow me to remind you that the Ten Commandments are silent on the "proper" gender expression of children but they have something unambiguous to say about the crime of lying.

You said "limp-wristed" boys need to "man up." I know lots of sissy-acting guys. But guess what: they all show more "manliness" in their actions than calling the horrible things you said "a joke" demonstrates about yours. The sissies I know are kind and strong. They don't demonize other people. They defend the weak. They rise up for justice. They tell the truth. And they stand by their words. Man up? I suggest you take the plank out of your own eye and "man up" by admitting what you said was no joke at all. You may be sorry for hurting people. But you should be honest, stand by your words, and admit that what you said, as the video of your "sermon" so clearly demonstrates, was no joke.

If you really want to apologize, sir, invite gay and lesbian people -- particularly gay and lesbian Christian people -- to sit down with you and tell you how your words struck our ears. Listen to what we could tell you about parents who abuse us in the ways you advocated. About friends who've been thrown out of their houses by parents who have done as you suggested. About other friends we used to have but who have killed themselves by suicide or the slow death of drug or alcohol abuse because of the self-loathing caused in them by parents acting in the ways you suggested. About our GLBT peers who think Christianity is a load of bull and can no longer think of Jesus as anything other than a hate-monger because so many of his supposed followers condemn them in his name. All of this is inhuman, inhumane, and a scandal to Christianity. This is the stuff that should be "squashed like a cockroach."

It is no apology at all when the apology is not meant. The lie of calling your disgusting words "a joke" shows you aren't really sorry. If you are, then apologize by your actions. Not by your hollow, hypocritical attempt to justify the unjustifiable.

Man up, indeed.

Regards,
Scott MacDougall

I'll comment on this post with his response. If he's "man" enough to send one.