Pastor Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church has a problem.
As the nation grapples with this topic made newsworthy by the President’s desire to not have to run on his record, people on all sides of this issue seem to be stepping up the rancor and rhetoric. Whether it is Expert Bully Dan Savage’s appeals for tolerance disguised as anti-Christian rants against school kids who dare to believe what their religion teaches about homosexuality, or pastors like this new subscriber to the Westboro Baptist Newsletter, there is an appearance of a desire to push both civility and understanding out of the discussion that we seem to be trying to have and not have simultaneously as a country on this subject.
In the case of Mr. Savage, I can at least understand and rationalize his anger. People sometimes get angry when they are being told they shouldn’t do something that they enjoy doing. Anyone who knows an alcoholic who doesn’t want to get cleaned up, and has been on the receiving end of the anger and resentment that comes from suggesting it knows exactly what I am talking about. Under that circumstance, I wouldn’t expect Mr. Savage to be a rational actor.
Pastor Worley doesn’t have that excuse.
As a Pastor of a Christian denomination, he should fully understand that there is an Old Testament and a New Testament. As a Pastor of a Christian denomination, he should fully understand that the New Testament gospel doesn’t preach hatred for the sinner. The measure of undeserved grace that we ALL enjoy should be sufficient to remind any believer that we are all sinners. This does not excuse sin, but is meant to motivate each of us to make the daily attempt to NOT do so. Despite the clear and specific admonitions against homosexuality that are contained in the New Testament, that does not excuse any believer from the commandment to love one another…a commandment that I find myself struggling with in increasing frequency. To do otherwise does not comport with this commandment. To do otherwise does not comport with the book of Jude, which states:
17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. [Emphasis Added.]
The Pastor does violence to the Word and the Spirit when he speaks like this. Shouting with anger and malice doesn’t make the sin he condemns any more a sin than calmly saying so. But it does make people defensive, and when they get defensive, they stop listening and start shouting. And when he attacks the sinners for their sins, in hate and anger, he embraces hypocrisy, and becomes a poor ambassador for the one whom he claims to serve.
I confess that my gut reaction was “If Dan Savage can take time out from bullying school kids for being Christians, then maybe he and the Pastor can have a cage match. But the sad fact is that the Pastor’s rant only makes people like Savage feel justified in their own hatreds, and makes it that much harder for those who want to speak the truth to a world that sorely needs it. I am ashamed of my Brother, and I apologize for him, but I am glad that we have the same hope of redemption, forgiveness, and grace that are the hallmark of the Christian belief, and are what sets it apart from so many other faiths.