Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More on Sean Harris, Pastor Who Told Audience to Punch "Effeminate" Sons

Remember Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC, who told his congregation to punch their "effeminate" sons? Republic of Gilead has blogged on the aftermath of that sermon, as well as the reaction of Berean leaders to J. Lee Grady's commentary on male dominance. While wandering through the audio selections of the Berean Baptist Church website, I stumbled upon several other sermons and commentaries from Harris that I'd like to share with readers. Harris has much to say about environmentalism, feminism, progressive Christians, and the LGBTQ community.


In a May 30th audio commentary entitled "Gospel Confusion in Christian Environmentalism," Harris praised E. Calvin Beisner's May 29th article lambasting environmentalism as a new "religion." E. Calvin Beisner, as you recall, is the head of the Cornwall Alliance, the organization that released an anti-environmentalism curriculum entitled Resisting the Green Dragon. Harris admitted that he recycles, but insisted that "there are some out there that are just crazy about this stuff." At the 4:13 mark, he argued that stewardship over the Earth is distinct from the Gospel message.
"Now if it's true that if you love God, you'll try to take care of his creation, and Cornwall Alliance, which I represent, encourages Christians to do just that, but that's not the Gospel, it's the Law. We could say it's the cultural mandate ... as described in Genesis 1, 2, and 3, this requirement to have dominion and to repopulate and to be good stewards of the earth, but it certainly is not the Gospel. Here's the truth. A person can take care of the earth all the days of their life and die in their sins."
At the 8:10 mark, he warned listeners about attacks on Christianity in the form of "blurring" the Gospel with other messages, such as environmentalism.
"The blurring and the hybrid and the confusion concerning the gospel is increasing in every different facet possible, in every different direction, whether it be prosperity gospel, environmental gospel, social gospel, it doesn't matter. It's constantly being attacked. There isn't another thing on the planet that is attacked more than the gospel of Jesus Christ, with various assaults from different corners and different angles, and this is a subtle modification of the gospel that is very attractive to a new and young generation who somehow believes that we're going to be able to save the Earth from the plight of global warming through electric cars. It's just absurd."

In a Mother's Day sermon entitled "Complementarianism: A Biblical and Balance Approach to Gender Distinctions and Roles", Harris said that gender distinctions are divinely ordained. He argued that men and women equal in dignity and worth, but not roles and functions. Harris compared the complementary roles of spouses to the Trinity, which is also characterized by distinct roles and identities for its three members. At the 6:41 mark, he stressed that men are not superior to women.
"Nothing in the Bible should be thought or perceived to teach that men are superior to women. Both are made in the image of God. For us to conclude, or for anyone to conclude looking at the outside, that that's some cultic church that's got their women locked up in closets is absurd."
Shortly thereafter, however, he quoted from Paul's letters -- "the head of every woman is man" -- adding that "There are authority figures in life. We all have an authority figure to answer to," at the 11:44 mark.

Harris disapproved of churches on opposite ends of the gender spectrum. On one hand, he disapproved of excessively patriarchal churches, but on the other hand, he also disapproved of churches that allegedly take Galatians 3:28 too far. (Galatians 3:28 states "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.") He accused such churches of having "determined that there are no gender distinctions" at the 13:33 mark.

Harris insisted that complimentarianism does not denigrate females, but rather acknowledges the glory of God in women. At the 27:00 mark, he caricatures feminism and "egalitarianism," claiming that feminism mocks the idea of a wife as God's gift.
"Complementarian recognizes that an excellent wife is a gift from God ... In egalitarianism it's different. In feminism this is actually a suggestion that being a gift from God is a male chauvinistic idea. That's how backwards the world is. The word of God communicates a prudent wife is a gift from God, and the world says that's chauvinistic."
At the 27:30 mark, Harris repeatedly insists that wives are gifts to husband and not the other way around, using this language to argue in favor of gender roles.
"In egalitarianism the husband would be as much a gift from God to the wife as the wife is a gift from God. The problem with that is that's not what the Bible says. The Bible doesn't ever say I'm a gift to my wife. If she chooses to see me as a gift, that's her decision, but the Bible doesn't say that. The Bible says that wives are a gift to husbands. It doesn't say spouses are gifts to spouses. Now that's the gender distinction that the world wants you to eliminate. That's the goal of the world. Eliminate gender distinctions so that a spouse is a gift to a spouse."
Harris expressed disdain for the "feministic world," which he criticized for failing to recognize that scripture says different things about the sexes.


Also in Harris's May 13th sermon, "Complementarianism: A Biblical and Balance Approach to Gender Distinctions and Roles" was disapproval of homosexuality. At the 28:18 mark, Harris argued that departure from traditional gender roles leads to acceptance of homosexuality.
"This church starts right here in the 1800s as a fundamental Baptist church in which the pastor is male and they believe in gender distinctions. And the first thing they do is they eliminate gender distinctions so that the spouse is a gift to a spouse, so the husband is a gift to the wife, and the wife is a gift to the husband. But wait a minute. They don't stop there. See, when you depart from that, and you begin this slide this way, the next things is a dude is a gift to a dude as much as a dude is a gift to a dude. That's what happens."
At the 31:03 mark, Harris correlated "egalitarianism" with acceptance of homosexuality and transgender status.
"In egalitarianism, the philosophy is that a person can be just as happy with the person of the same sex as the opposite sex, or the transgender person, because all sexes are equal in roles and functions."
Harris argued at the 31:28 mark that complementarianism rests on trust in God, 31, "trust that I will find my greatest joy in living out the gender identity God made me with. Trust that gender confusion and conflict is a result of sin. Trust that the gospel is the power of God to save me from gender confusion and conflict."

Harris condemns homosexuality in several commentaries posted at the Berean website. For instance, in a May 23rd commentary entitled, "Why We Focus on Homosexuality with Dr. A. Mohler," Harris condemned the LGBTQ community for allegedly defying God. At the 13:06 mark, he insisted that God has the right to lay down rules for humanity, including rules against homosexuality.
"Those in the LGBT community as a whole deny the creator. There is a minority component, an extreme minority component, that is attempting to affirm a new creator who is all-inclusive and all-affirming. But the God of the Bible, the creator God of Genesis 1:1, is the sovereign who has the right to command those whom he creates, rules. He has the right to command behaviors. He has the right to command standards."
Also, in a June 3rd commentary entitled "Obama Proclaims June LGBT Pride Month; Celebrates Evolving Attitudes", Harris discussed why conservative Christian leaders focus on homosexuality far more than other matters pertaining to marriage and sexuality. At the 6:30 mark, he explained that it is because of the pervasiveness of LGBTQ themes in society.
"So what are we to make this idea that we should not speak more boldly towards homosexual issues that we do with fornication? Here's my problem. I don't have a divorce pride month that I'm battling with. I don't have a scenario whereby there is a concerted effort by the National Education Association and many others to increase the education on divorce with children. I don't have that agenda that I'm fighting. I don't have an agenda whereby comic characters are getting divorced."

Harris is not very fond of progressive Christian congregations. In the May 23rd commentary "Why We Focus on Homosexuality with Dr. A. Mohler," Harris claimed that the more open and affirming a congregation is, the less likely it is to focus on Jesus Christ. At the 11:42 mark, he accused progressive congregations of ignoring the Gospel and the doctrine of sin.
"I have seen, as I've researched this, that the churches that are the most accepting, inclusive, and affirming are the churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ the least. That's what I said, the least. The reason these churches preach the gospel of Jesus Christ the least is because there is no need to get saved in these churches ... These churches do not call sin 'sin'. We make mistakes, poor judgments, errors, personal preferences, but not sin, and without the law as our schoolmaster, we are not driven to a savior."
During his May 13th sermon "Complementarianism: A Biblical and Balance Approach to Gender Distinctions and Roles", Harris pointed to progressive, LGBTQ-affirming churches as examples of the "slow, gradual departure from the word of God." He expressed disappointment in churches that emphasize social justice and "things that don't relate to the word of God."

Finally, Harris devoted much of his May 17th talk with Pastor Bill Sturm, "Disney World in Decline Provides a Great Example of the Church in Decline", to the alleged degeneration of progressive churches. The talk cited a commentary at Mice Age entitled "Declining by Degrees," which claimed that the absence of small touches at Disney World suggested its decline. (See miceage[dot]micechat[dot]com/kevinyee/ky120506a.htm) Harris used the essay as a metaphor for churches theological "decline" as they grow more liberal. As an example, he lamented a Texas church that used to be a conservative, fundamentalist Baptist congregation but has since forgotten its conservative roots and "declined." At the 19:58 mark, he made a reference to Judson Baptist Church in New York, which sent his Sunday school students "Cards of Hope" after the "punching" sermon, according to Huffington Post. Harris claimed that he could not find "Jesus Christ" on the Judson website.
"Think about the church ... in New York, Bill, that decided to send us all those cards from the Sunday school department. So we decided,  because they're going to send us Sunday School cards for our children, to go look at this website and see what's there. And Bill, we can't even find the name Jesus Christ on the website."
At the 22:15 mark, he claimed that conservative Christian churches don't start off intending to be liberal.
"The church in New York, Bill, was started as a fundamental Baptist church in the 1800s ... That's in the 1800s. Now we're in the year 2012, so we've got 150 years of church history, and what we have is ... degrees of decline. They didn't start off to be in the 1800s to say, you know what? We're going to be a church where cisgender, transgender, and queergender are all affirmed. Nobody starts like that."
Finally, at the 17:41 mark, Harris and Sturm talked at length about how yielding on certain issues supposedly contributes to a church's "decline" into liberalism.
HARRIS: What about gender issues in the pulpit, Bill?

STURM: Right. We're talking about the Danvers Statement from the Council of Biblical Womanhood and Manhood, and how they have come out and said, 'here's what we believe God's role in this issue complementarian is all about,' where a man complements a woman, woman compliments a man. They have complementary roles, and you have supposed Bible believers who are absolutely intolerant of those who would say that God designed men and women in different roles, much like God the father and God the son have different roles, and the attack that comes. You even have some with the title of Baptist that are not interested in hearing God's word. They want to say it is historically and contextually sensitive to the point where you wonder if there's any verses in the New Testament that do apply to us, because they were all written in the first century, and they all have specific contexts ... You have to leave certain issues alone.

HARRIS: Those are the degrees of decline, Bill.

STURM: Those one light bulb. It's one light bulb. If we don't say anything about women in the ministry, that's okay. We don't want to make a big deal. That's not a hill to die on. Before you know it, there are no hills to die on. There are no light bulbs to change.

HARRIS: The fact is, Bill, no mainline denomination sets out to be liberal. It doesn't start like that. We're not forming THIS denomination to be liberal. It is a slow degree of decline, and only those who are able to back away and look at the founding of the church and then turn around and look at the current state will see Walk Disney walking away, and a change of leadership, and next thing you know, the church is not what it used to be.
To listen to Berean Baptist Church sermons, visit www[dot]bereanbaptistchurch[dot]org/media-audio.php


  1. LIfe is so short. It amazes me how people waste their time on this beautiful planet by living their lives in fear, hatred, and bigotry. Ugh. So glad I am not brainwashed by religion.

    1. Knatolee -- I'm glad I'm not brainwashed by religion anymore. Living with such bitterness and mental shackles is no kind of life.

  2. After reading this I'm reminded of the futility of trying to reason with people who think this way. If these folks are not willing to use reason, then our efforts, as Thomas Paine stated, is very like administering medicine to the dead. Sad that there is practically zero room for intelligent debate with these folks.

    1. Doug -- Unfortunately, you're right. Reason and critical thought are long gone here.

  3. Is it just me or are the right-wing crazies getting worse by the day? It's so easy to spread this type of vitriol and so hard to undo the damage. But keep writing, we need to know this stuff, even if it is depressing to think about.

    1. Postmormon Girl -- It sure seems that way. I'm grateful that there's a whole progressive internet community devoted to unearthing this stuff. To resist the Religious Right, we have to understand it first.

  4. Great post, Ahab. And amen to Knatolee. What a waste to spend a lifetime boxed into this mindset.

    1. Donna -- Thanks. Life is too short to spend it hating and judging.

  5. I third Knatolee and second Donna.

    But he does make a good point about men and women being equal so long as men rule and women stay in their proper place as subservients. NOT.

    1. Cognitive Dissenter -- Yeah, these fundamentalist types want spouses to be equal, as long as they're not.

  6. I read a few of those and had enough! Yikes. It never ceases to amaze me how demeaning fundamentalist Christianity is. It's not only nature, gays, and women they disrespect. It's everybody -- sin, sin, sin ... nothing else. I don't know where people got the idea that that preaching is good for you.

    1. Lorena -- Demeaning is right! There's not much of the "love thy neighbor" to be found among fundamentalist preachers.


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