I Don’t Think It Means What You Think It Means

A little while ago, Pastor Sean Harris of Barean Baptish Church in Fayetteville, NC decided to preach a sermon. Not particularly impressive, I know. However, let’s see what it was that he decided to preach about:

So your little son starts to act a little girlish when he is four years old and instead of squashing that like a cockroach and saying, “Man up, son, get that dress off you and get outside and dig a ditch, because that is what boys do,” you get out the camera and you start taking pictures of Johnny acting like a female and then you upload it to YouTube and everybody laughs about it and the next thing you know, this dude, this kid is acting out childhood fantasies that should have been squashed.

Can I make it any clearer? 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. Ok? 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 to Butch you reign 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. You are going to dress yourself up.”You say, “Can I take charge like that as a parent?”

Yeah, you can. You are authorized. I just gave you a special dispensation this morning to do that

Don’t believe me? Good for you for being skeptical! Now go watch the video so we’re on the same page.

Predictably (and thankfully) this produced quite a bit of backlash that prompted Pastor Harris to issue an “apology”. He made this “apology” public and even took to Twitter to explain how very upset he was that people simply don’t believe his “apology”

He’s very surprised by this.

The reason why I continue to quote the word “apology” is that Pastor Harris seems to have no idea what that word actually means. He is under the impression that to apologize is to find reasons why what he did wasn’t wrong.

I emailed the good pastor today. For the sake of completeness, I will reproduce it here:

Pastor Harris,

With all due respect, your apology for the deplorable sermon you gave is hardly worth the word. I’m not sure what you believe you’re doing, but it’s important to once again point out that you actively encouraged child abuse. You’re now following up with an apology that doesn’t say that you don’t condone the beating of children perceived to be gay, but only that you wouldn’t have said so in light of the consequences of your actions. These are not the words one expects from somebody who claims any sort of moral authority over other human beings and I hope that you will take some time to actually consider your words, though I suspect you will instead shrug off any criticism, tell yourself you’ve apologized, and perhaps take some time to bathe in your own sense of self-righteous martyrdom [KN: Please compare this sentence with the above tweet for evidence of my own prophetic abilities]. I could be wrong about this, but I suspect that I’m not. In the meantime, should you decide to act in a manner befitting human beings, might I suggest trying your apology again, and this time without it being primarily self-defense and perhaps even recognizing that what you did wrong was give permission to your congregants to beat their children and not simply offending people.


Kaoru Negisa

I have no doubt that Pastor Harris has received a number of these sorts of emails, so I am not offended or even particularly surprised to have received the following automated message:

If you are writing about Sunday’s sermon please give me a chance and
read my point of clarification at http://pastorseansblog.blogspot.com/2012/05/important-clarification-to-sundays.html

So I did. I thought perhaps the media had taken him out of context, or he was being unfairly represented. Nope. His “clarification” is nothing more than a list of reasons why he didn’t do what he did, statements that he wished he hadn’t been caught, and justifications for his atrocious behavior. In the interests of time, I’ll simply copy my email reply to him here as well. Since this is longer and as I don’t want to italicize the whole thing, I’ll simply separate it out differently than above. I know, bad blog formatting, but…so there!-


Pastor Harris,

Thank you for getting back to me. I’ve read the link you provided and something immediately jumps out at me.Your clarification is a string of excuses. Let’s break it down a little.”Clearly, I would like to have been more careful with exactly what I said, but sometimes I say things without enough clarity.”

No, you were perfectly clear. Any behavior that doesn’t meet your idea of what a specific gender should do should be violently beaten out of the child. That was made abundantly clear when you said, “Can I make it any clearer? 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.” That is a remarkably clear and direct statement. In fact, you make sure to ask, rhetorically, if you could make it any more clear. No, I think this is about as clear as you can get. There is no amount of clarity that makes that anything more than abominable.

“For the record, I want to ensure everyone that I do NOT believe physical force is capable of fixing effeminate behavior or homosexual behavior.” Then what on Earth would posses you to say so? What could have been possibly running through your mind? Were you “moved by the Spirit” to speak in this manner?

“I would never advocate for such discipline or actions on behalf of a father or mother” That’s a lie. Not only *would* you, you actually *did*. Explicitly. You may “never again” do so, but let’s not pretend that your character makes it impossible to ever happen since it did actually happen.

Either Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are true and we should communicate the truth in love for fear of not entering the Kingdom of God or the entire Bible cannot be trusted to be the Word of God.” Well, it can’t be, but putting that aside, you’re missing a rather obvious third option: you don’t speak Greek. Your quote is a horrible mistranslation that didn’t show up until the 16th century. I can understand your confusion, but I would hope as a pastor you would have bothered to at least attempt to read the texts in their original at one point. And that’s only one of many possible, better explanations.

Those in the opposition are suggesting all sorts of hateful things and using ungodly and profane words. Those who speak of the love of God are using the most hateful terms I have ever read. We must never resort to such language.” In my experience, those who speak of the love of God often do use the most hateful terms. However, this excoriation against language is rather laughable in light of what you’ve said. This is nothing but a tu quoque argument, albeit somewhat well hidden.

“I want to stress just how much I love your children and my desire is only to see them glorify God in the lives they live in obedience to God’s will for each of them as revealed in the Word of God. I believe I communicated that in the sermon as well.” No, you didn’t communicate that well. What you communicated was that you want parents to beat their children for acting gay. Stop trying to defend yourself and just apologize.

“As I emphasized in this sermon, as well as the week before, we must not be hateful toward those whose behavior is an abomination to God.” Let’s use this same construction, on the off chance that you’ll understand why it’s ridiculous: “I really wish you the absolute best in life, even though you’re a complete asshole.” See how the second part negates the first? You cannot call somebody an abomination without simultaneously being hateful. I know, it’s a long shot pointing this out, but I thought I’d try anyway. And before we get into the “behavior” argument, the same applies (i.e. “I think you’re absolutely amazing, even though you act like a prick constantly” is still a ridiculous thing to say).

“The opposition is revealing their complete lack of toleration toward those do not approve of the LGBT lifestyle or agenda.” This argument always makes me laugh. Precisely what do you expect? That we’re just going to roll over and take the abuse we receive at the hands of you and yours? Yes, we are intolerant of your intolerance. You cannot get away with legislating against people and advocating that they be beaten (as children or adults) without pushback. Not any more. And calls to “tolerate” that is basically asking people to please not squirm so much, it makes landing the punch harder.

Perhaps I’m coming at this from the wrong place. Maybe you simply don’t know what an apology is. It’s an admission of guilt, potentially coupled with an explanation of how a person plans to make amends. It is not an extended attempt to excuse one’s behavior, which is exactly what you did with your “clarification.” You are not saying you’re sorry, you’re protesting that you’re misunderstood. You’re not showing remorse for your actions, you’re justifying them and trying to blame people for not knowing you well enough to know that you don’t actually mean it when you advise parents to beat their kids.

My experience has shown that I’m likely speaking to myself, but I sincerely hope that you’ll consider the nature of remorse and how the problem wasn’t that you offended people, it’s that you advocated for the beating of children based on their perceived sexual or gender orientation. There are no qualifying actions for that, nothing that makes that ok in any respect. You’re approaching your actions as if they should be weighed against all of your other ones, and it doesn’t work that way. No matter how many charitable donations I give, it doesn’t excuse my robbing a store.

So I emplore you, Pastor Harris, to try again. Apologize for what you did without qualification and without trying to defend yourself. Show some genuine remorse instead of just providing public relations materials and hoping this will blow over.

Kaoru Negisa

And that’s what it boils down to. Spending more time trying to justify your actions and make them seem like the proper course of action than expressing regret for having done so is not an apology. Expressing regret for having offended people rather than for what you actually did is not an apology.

An apology requires that you stop trying to pretend that there are circumstances by which what you did could have been considered correct. Doing this inevitably runs into one of two problems: either the contrived situation is so unlikely as to be pointless, or it’s likely but still not what happened.

Pastor Harris, you said these things. You advocated for child abuse. You specifically, explicitly, and in no uncertain terms gave your congregants “special dispensation” to beat their children until such time as they act in a fashion that best pleases you. It’s time to stop pretending that you’re so misunderstood (*sigh, hand to forehead*) and just admit that you advocated for something absolutely terrible, stress that violence is never a proper way to ensure obedience (I would hope that you would instead encourage parents to teach their children to question authority figures, but that’s probably asking too much), and do something good in order to make amends, like donate some time and/or money to a charitable organization that deals with abuse victims. Here’s one. Here’s another, and it even has cis gendered kids on the main page. I’m sure you can find something with more than the 10 second Google search I did, preferably not your own church or the church of a friend of yours who’s made similar statements.

However, short of that, no, nobody is going to believe you’re sincere because you’ve given us no particular reason to do so.

Update:  So, it turns out Pastor Harris has issued a retraction and tried to apologize again. And, unsurprisingly, has failed miserably. He got two sentences in before he started lying again, claiming that he “never” endorsed child abuse or abuse of LGBT persons. That, of course, is a lie. He did, it’s on video. The rest is just more of the same “I was so misunderstood and I’m not wrong” whining bullshit.

Ok, I’m now done talking about this vile, monstrous creature. I only hope that he’s lying about getting nothing but support from his own congregants, because if so than the entirety of Berean Baptist Church are nauseating bigots and I sincerely hope they don’t have children.