No, the title is not about a wardrobe malfunction … you just never know when opportunities will arise to say something that needs to be said, or where those words will go …
I was minding my own business on Tuesday afternoon when reporter Greg Phillips from the Fayetteville Observer called me to ask if I would comment on an intemperate “sermon” by Fayetteville pastor Sean Harris that was spreading across the Internet. He sent me a link to the rant, in which the pastor advocates physical discipline to train perceived gay or lesbian tendencies out of children.
I sent some thoughts to Phillips via email to and expanded them into yesterday’s blog, which has drawn many and varied responses. Phillips included some of my comments in an early version of his story for the Fayetteville paper, just after the pastor offered a semi-apology and claimed to be joking.
The story was picked up the next day by several other papers, by WRAL TV in Raleigh, and even by Lawrence O’Donnell’s “Last Word” feature on MSNBC. O’Donnell not only quoted me, but plastered my picture from the Campbell University Divinity School website across the screen. I thought O’Donnell’s treatment of the issue was over the top and unfair in its own way, and he mistakenly connected Harris’ get-out-the-vote sermon with the presidential primary rather than the vote on Amendment One, but at least he got my quotes right. Anderson Cooper’s people called, but I wasn’t in. I presume they would have handled the story with more balance.
It’s sad when a momentary brush with celebrity comes from nothing more than stating the obvious about hardline and harmful attitudes that are all-too-common, but just happened to gain notoriety when the preacher’s diatribe went viral.
What’s even more sad, to me, is that so many people in positions of some influence have remained silent about the issue. The so-called “Marriage Amendment” that North Carolinians will vote on May 8, which Harris was promoting as part of a coordinated “Marriage Sunday,” is an injustice: its language is more polite than the bumptiousness heard at Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, but its intent is the same, and it will hurt people far more deeply and lastingly than Harris’ prescription of a “good punch.”