Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Children: Beat them and Feed them to the Wild Things

Most of you know that I have a warm, squishy place in my soul for children. The precious few years we spend innocent of the world's ills should be considered sacred; they help form who we will be for the rest of our lives. Without citing statistics or inserting graphs, I would be willing to say there isn't a psychologist out there that would say adults aren't permanently affected - both positively and negatively - by the pains and triumphs we experience before we're shoved out into the world.

This is why I have been trying to process the news story regarding pastor Sean Harris. (He actually has a blog here.) Sean Harris is the pastor of a church in Fayetteville, North Carolina called Berean Baptist Church. About a week or so ago, pastor Sean said this in his sermon: (quick trigger warning: the guy advocates child abuse)




Out of the numerous statements he makes during this section of his sermon, the ones that I love the most are when he tells fathers that crack their sons' wrists and advise their broken child that they are not acting like the creature god made. "You were made by God to be a male and you're going to be a male."

Yeah, Pastor Harris, you're a real example of a good male.

I also love how he then launches into what 'real woman' is...she's beautiful, she dresses up and puts on make-up, she walks and talks in a certain way. So...women...apparently you're not how 'God' made you unless you're Pastor Harris' idea of beautiful.

Like any controversy, in the days since this has come to light and circulated through our 24-hour media cycle, Pastor Sean has issued a retraction on his aforementioned blog. He's saying he misspoke, that he's being taken out of context by those in the LGBT media...because, you know, there isn't a YouTube video of the exact words that came out of his mouth or anything. He has also reposted the entire audio of the sermon in question for those of you that feel like listening to its entirety.

I've been to quite a number of hooping and hollering sermons. I grew up in the belt buckle of the Bible belt, after all. I've seen pastors get red in the face and stomp their feet and people in the crowd jumping up and down and waving their arms and the whole place gets wild with energy. (Honestly, I'll admit, those are some pretty powerful places to be...I don't care what your religion, being in the presence of that much faith is just kind of awe-inspiring.) I must admit, though, that I've never had the privilege of being in a sermon in which gays were bashed...or other religions were bashed... At least, not to my recollection. The churches and conferences we attended were more about keeping watch of your own actions, making sure that you lived in a way that you could be proud of, and all around try not to screw people over. They made you feel good. Bored, but good.

So, I'd just like to say here and now that I know for an empirical fact that there are good church pastors out there, tolerant pastors preach good messages to willing ears. I'm glad they exist.

But...this guy...this Sean Harris. I'm not really sure there's a way to take his comments out of context. What is the proper context, Pastor, for us to understand why it's necessary to crack our sons' wrists and call our daughters ugly? This situation makes me angry; it brings up every time I was punched or hurt or called a name by my so-called peer group. It brings up the knock down, drag out fights I had with my own mother and father about trying to come out, which was something they didn't take to very well. My father at one point told me that if ever I brought my Partner over to their house, he would shoot him. This is the same father that calls up my Partner now to go horseback riding and...you know...just chat.

What do you do, though, with a Pastor like this? His audience is laughing along with him. They agree with him. They're his flock - please, PLEASE rise above the urge to use the sheeple joke - and he's taught them well. You can't really sue him. He's not going to get fired. He'll get publicly shamed, but from his website he seems to be using that as a basis to get even more sympathetic followers. Will he actually learn any lesson from this? Can it be classified as hate speech? A threat? Not legally, no. All we can hope is that, the gay children that are (according to statistics and reality) part of his congregation are kept from harm's way, that they know how to get help if they need it, and that it gets better.

When the Wild Things Die

Maurice Sendak died today. You might not know his name, but you know Where the Wild Things Are, his most famous work that was published in 1963. Sendak's work is, probably, part of your childhood. It's part of the best part of childhood. The part that knew you could turn your bed into a boat and go to and enchanted world and be a king. The part that watched Seven Little Monsters on PBS when you were in all likelihood far too old for such childish things. 

It's authors like Sendak that spiritually combatted the Sean Harrises of the world. It's the folks who hold children - however the Creator made them - and childhood up as sacred who have the power, even if for an afternoon of imagination, to chase the wicked ills of the adult world away. 

For that, Mr. Sendak, I'm sorry the world has lost a treasure. 

One of the only times I've seen Sendak interviewed was on the Colbert Report. Enjoy the video below.


Fire Lyte

3 comments:

  1. I watched the entire sermon becase I wanted to make sure that the media wasn't taking it out of context...they weren't. At one point he said to email him if you had any quuestions, so I used my google-fu to find his email and I sent him one. Of course I used a craft name because I remember what happened to Dr. Tillman. I don’t expect that he will read it, or even respond if he does, but it felt good to say my piece.

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  2. I live in North Carolina, and I'm appalled at his words, his earnest, and the response by the congregation. Then again, I'm appalled at the state's latest actions, too. The worst part is that even though he retracted his statement, the damage is already done.

    Bad form, Pastor Harris, and those who voted for Amendment One. Bad form.

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  3. I love this article. Your ability to temper rightful outrage with compassion and your willingness to separate the hateful few from everyone else when they all call themselves the same label is admirable. We can all take a lesson from you. Thank you.

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