In his sermon Sunday morning on 12 June 2016 Baptist pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California had something to say about the killings that took place early that morning in Orlando, Florida.
Among other hateful things he says, speaking about those who died in the tragic nightclub shooting in Orlando, Jimenez expressed his opinion that,
The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die.
Referring to the horrific acts of the shooter in the Pulse nightclub, Jimenez claimed,
The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!
It is tempting to dismiss Jimenez as merely a crazed lunatic fringe preacher who should simply be ignored. But Jimenez self-identifies as a Christian. His church calls itself “a family integrated church.” They purport to teach “The Bible Way to Heaven” and believe in “putting your faith in Jesus Christ.” http://www.veritybaptist.com/whatwebelieve.html
Sadly, Jimenez is not alone in his abhorrent opinions.
Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe celebrated the shooting rampage in Orlando saying,
The good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore. The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle. The other bad news is that this is going to now be used as propaganda not only against Muslims, but also against Christians.
And of course, like all good Christians Steven Anderson quotes the Bible:
You know, the Bible says that homosexuals should be put to death, in Leviticus 20:13.
We have a problem in the Christian Church. For many people Jimenez and Anderson represent the public face of Christianity. We are dammed by association. And, as Julia Ioffe pointed out on Tuesday in “Foreign Policy”, our history does not help: http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/06/14/if-islam-is-a-religion-of-violence-so-is-christianity/
So unless we make a clear distinction between ourselves and the violent rhetoric that spreads on the internet in the name of Christ, we deserve to be lumped together with those from whose opinions we are unwilling or unable to distance ourselves.
In the wake of Orlando, the question that confronts all Christians is what we will do to make a clear distinction between our beliefs as Christians and the despicable attitudes of anyone who preaches hatred and violence in even the most subtle forms.
Steven Anderson is right, the Bible we share does contain Leviticus 20:13. We must deal with the fact that, without qualification or nuance, the sacred text of our tradition appears to counsel the death penalty against people in same-sex relationships.
If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them.
We cannot condone any reading of Scripture that supports the first half of this verse, while without thoughtful well-reasoned explanation, dismissing the second half of the same verse.
Words, actions, church policies, and organizational regulations are important. The choices we make as a church either tend towards Steven Anderson and Roger Jimenez, or they draw a clear distinction between the vicious words of such men and the truth we seek to embody in our communities.
Many issues exist in the grey area where things are not entirely clear. But, in the face of the darkness of Orlando and the hateful response of some who call themselves Christians, we no longer have the luxury of refusing to face the reality of the polarized world in which we live. And, when opinions are so dramatically divided between hatred and love, there is no room to be unclear about where we stand.
In case this issue seems to you to be irrelevant or overblown, read the facebook post below: