State News

Fayetteville pastor: Telling parents to punch kids was joke

Posted May 2, 2012
Updated May 3, 2012

— A Fayetteville pastor said Wednesday that he was joking when he told parents in a Sunday sermon to punch their sons if they acted effeminate.

Rev. Sean Harris of Berean Baptist Church said he's been overwhelmed with angry emails and phone calls after comments he made while preaching about marriage. The sermon was tied to next week's vote on a state constitutional amendment that would make marriage between a man and a woman the only legal domestic union in the state.

The group Vote For Marriage NC urged church leaders to preach a marriage-themed sermon last Sunday and encourage church members to vote early this week in favor of the constitutional amendment.

Berean Baptist Church posted a video of the sermon on its website, and the congregation can be heard laughing when Harris tells fathers to "crack that wrist" if they see their sons "dropping the limp wrist."

"Man up. Give them a good punch. (Tell them), 'You're not going to act like that,'" he said in the sermon.

He also suggested that parents should be "squashing that like a cockroach" if their children are cross-dressing.

On Wednesday, Harris said he regrets his choice of words and doesn't advocate hitting children.

"If I had to do it again, would I say it differently? Yes, I would," he said, noting that he was talking off the cuff. "Sometimes when you do that, you say stupid things. For that, I am sorry. For all of those I offended, I am sorry.”

Harris said he was only trying to make the point that parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children act like their gender, and he said he wouldn't apologize for that.

Minister says he regrets suggesting hitting effeminate boys Minister says he regrets suggesting hitting effeminate boys

"Everyone in the congregation on that morning understood that there was no intent in any way, shape or form that I meant to break a wrist," he said. "I was using hyperbole to strengthen the argument that parents have responsibility to maintain the gender distinction that God created in them.

"The Bible makes no compromise on effeminate behavior," he continued. "God created you a male; God created you a female. If you were created a male, you are to act like a man."

Yet, Harris closed the sermon by preaching tolerance.

"If you have a person in your house who is gay, you love them with Jesus Christ. Your job is not be homophobic," he said.

No one in the congregation complained about the sermon, he said, but gay and lesbian advocacy groups called his language hateful and inflammatory after finding the video online.

Kathryn Royal, who heads a ministry called Diversity in Faith and describes herself as bisexual, said Harris crossed the line with his sermon.

"There could have been a child in that congregation, and you know kids, they have a short attention span, and all they heard of that sermon was that," Royal said.

Chuck Fager, who heads the Quaker House in Fayetteville, said he doesn't think it's funny for people to even joke about hitting a child.

"Maybe he intended this thing about smacking your kids around if they don't act like ideal little boys and ideal little girls – if they don't smell like girls – as a joke. I'm not laughing," Fager said. David McClennan Expert: Fiery marriage amendment rhetoric could alienate voters

Tony Cartledge, a divinity professor at Campbell University, wrote in an email to The Fayetteville Observer about the sermon that, "Harris' position presents a distorted view of scripture that is completely out of keeping with the teachings of Jesus."

Earlier this week, a Cabarrus County man posted a video to YouTube that depicted him shooting a rifle at an anti-amendment lawn sign in his neighborhood. The video went viral but has since been taken down.

Political analyst David McClennan said Wednesday that these examples of impassioned rhetoric against the gay and lesbian community could backfire.

"For people on the fence, it really pushes them in a way that these folks – the minister or the guy in Cabarrus County – don't want them to go," he said. "They (might) see it as so extreme and such an emotional response to the issue."

He warned that extremism could push potential voters away from the polls.


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  • Lightfoot3 May 4, 2012

    "A Fayetteville pastor said Wednesday that he was joking when he told parents in a Sunday sermon to punch their sons if they acted effeminate" - article

    He is lying. You can tell my the tone and delivery that he meant every word of what he was saying. He wants parents to physically punish kids that act effeminate, in order to get the gay out of them.

    "Those who know the bible understand the comments. " - sannconner

    Yes, spare the rod and spoil the child. He meant what he said.

    "God knows your heart and your sincere intentions." - sannconner

    Yep, and he better confess his sin and ask forgiveness. God considers lying to be a burning offense.

  • kbear0708 May 3, 2012

    This pastor is so, extremely IGNORANT!!! I am a christian. We are taught not to judge, and not only to tolerate but to love everyone just the same. Whether he spoke the words literally or figuratively it doesn't matter, he is sending the wrong message. And he, like so many others, sees Amendment One as beneficial for only Gays and Lesbians. That is false. I'm unmarried to the man I have lived with for 5 years, we have children together, a house together, 4 cars and a dog. We are everything a married couple is minus a ring and paper. I shouldn't have to have that ring or piece of paper to make life or death decisions. And if he's ever stupid enough to put a hand on me this amendment will make it darn near impossible to have a domestic violence charge brought on him because we are not wed, there for, the state will not recognise us. UGH! VOTE AGAINST AMENDMENT ONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • sannconner May 3, 2012

    Give me a break! Rev. Harris did not mean those comments literally, I mean come on! It was only symbolic. No matter what a person does or says, you can never make everyone happy. Those who know the bible understand the comments.

    Everyone has a right to their opinion, but sorry Rev. you can't apologize and make everyone happy, God knows your heart and your sincere intentions. The Rev. should only be concerned with speaking God's gospel and scriptures, leave the rest alone.

  • storchheim May 3, 2012

    If he's using his pulpit for political reasons, why is the church tax-exempt? Separation of church and state, remember.

  • storchheim May 3, 2012

    "That's everyone's response to making an inappropriate comment- no taking responsibility, just saying that it was a joke or 'obvious hyperbole' for cover."

    That horrible sinner Dan Savage did none of the above. He's a better man than this guy.

  • storchheim May 3, 2012

    I'll bet according to this loser, I don't act my gender. I'm not a good little girl who shuts her mouth and bows her head when a man interrupts her midsentence. I don't giggle and pretend to be less knowledgeable than a man. I don't do my nails and twirl my hair. I don't want to be pregnant. I don't want kids. I know math, science, small engine repair and maintenance, can bandage and clean up blood, have stood in the median of an interstate highway to calm and keep safe a loose horse whose driver didn't properly fasten the trailer door. I earn my own money - well, used to all my life - and never, ever have used a man or anyone else as a piggy bank. I don't believe that having the boys like me is the most important achievement of my life.

    My father obviously didn't punch me often or hard enough.

  • glencindy May 3, 2012

    preachers/priests like to do things to boys behind closed doors, then preach about not being gay. Makes me insane!

  • geoherb1 May 3, 2012

    I read the guidelines for students at the church's school. It's too bad that the pastor doesn't follow the one against "using unkind, offensive, or hurtful words."

  • teleman60 May 3, 2012

    This is what happens when you have politics being preached from the pulpit.
    Every legislator who demanded this misguided amendment be espoused from the pulpit should resign immediately.

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 May 3, 2012

    So this is the was this pastor ministers, by joking. Glad I don't attend his church. I would not personally want to hear him either. God is not pleased.