A North Carolina pastor who in a recent sermon advocated giving gay children “a good punch” now says he was just joking.
Berean Baptist Church pastor Sean Harris told The Fayetteville Observer on Tuesday that he had made the comments in “in jest,” but defended the idea of reinforcing traditional gender roles.
“If I had to say it again, I would say it differently, no doubt,” Harris said. “Those weren’t planned words, but what I do stand by is that the word of God makes it clear that effeminate behavior is ungodly. I’m not going to compromise on that.”
Video of the evangelical preacher’s Sunday sermon went viral after he told parents in his congregation to use violence to punish children for showing any perceived signs of LGBT inclinations or urges.
“Dads,” Harris urged, in a sermon that was broadcast as part of a “Marriage Sunday” event at churches across the state, “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?”
Harris issued an “official statement of retraction” on his church website on Wednesday.
“I should not have said what I said about ‘cracking,’ ‘punching,’ and particular bias toward outward attraction of girls,” he wrote. “I have never suggested children or those in the LGBT lifestyle should be beaten, punched, abused (physically or psychologically) in any form or fashion.”
“I apologize to anyone I have unintentionally offended,” Harris added. “I did not say anything to intentionally offend anyone in the LGBT community. My intent was to communicate the Word of God concerning marriage. … To those in the greater body of Christ in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and the world — I seek your forgiveness if I have offended or hurt the cause of Christ.”
“However, I do not apologize for the manner in which the Word of God articulates sexual immorality, including homosexuality and effeminacy, as a behavior that is an abomination to God. Nothing in this official statement of retraction should be perceived as an apology for the overarching intent and message of the sermon and the need to define marriage as one man and one woman and to maintain the gender distinctions that God created from the beginning when He made them male and female (Genesis 1).”
MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell on Wednesday blasted Harris for his “official statement of retraction.”
“What kind of holy man, what kind of man of God lies about what he has said in a video taped sermon when he is apologizing for what he said in that sermon?” O’Donnell wondered. “He did say that if your son has a limp wrist, you should punch him. … He lies about having said that.”
“Sean Harris asked for forgiveness in his statement of retraction, but he didn’t ask for everyone’s forgiveness — only Christians,” the MSNBC host continued. “So if you’re Jewish and you’re offended and hurt, he doesn’t care. He’s not seeking your forgiveness. He lives in that world where only Christians matter.”
North Carolinians go to the polls on May 8 to vote on Amendment One, which will enshrine the existing ban on marriage equality in the state’s Constitution. Early voting began on April 19. Recent polls indicate that the amendment is likely to pass.
Watch this video from WRAL, broadcast May 3, 2012.
— With earlier reporting by David Ferguson