Well, you might be gratified to know that, as CNN's Belief blog tells it, harsh anti-gay preaching alarms gay rights supporters and Christian conservatives alike. Yep, that's right:
The incidents drew outrage and condemnation from gay rights supporters.
But they also left many Christians uncomfortable – even those who call themselves conservative.
One leading expert on American Protestantism has a simple explanation for why some pastors preach against homosexuality while others go further, encouraging violence against gay people.
"There is a significant percentage who think it's a sin," Ed Stetzer said of homosexuality. "And there are a small minority who are stupid."Stupid, you say? Is that the problem?
Many conservative Christians would agree with pastors such as Worley and Knapp that homosexual behavior is fundamentally wrong, Stetzer said.
But that doesn't mean they support them or their sermons, he added.
"If you asked, they would say that's really unhelpful and stupid," he said.Yes, stupid. Got it. Okay, but isn't there more to it than that?
But the Rev. Robin Lunn said these preachers are much worse than that. She calls such pastors "genocidal."
"If someone is talking about rounding up me and all my kind in a pen, what is the difference between that and what is happening in Syria and Sudan and what happened in Germany and Poland during World War II?" asked Lunn, executive director of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists.
"We are talking about people who believe somehow that the Second Coming is connected to a Final Solution," said Lunn, a lesbian, using the Nazi term for the mass murder of Jews in the Holocaust.
"I think these men expressed something that many Baptist preachers think," Lunn said. "We need to stand up and denounce this powerfully."
Her group campaigns for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion across all Baptist churches.Oh, so not just stupid, but wrong. The problem isn't in the fact that they said it, or how they said it, but that they think it in the first place. Is that it?
One of the most respected voices in conservative Christianity agrees with Lunn, up to a point.
"The Gospel does not condemn homosexuals, it condemns homosexuality," said R. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. "The Bible makes clear that homosexuality is a sin, in the context of making clear that every person is a sinner."
What preachers such as Worley and Knapp are doing wrong, he said, is that they are "not merely rendering a moral judgment on homosexuality but extending it to the condemnation of people. They are speaking with a certain venom and hatred."
He called their sermons "reprehensible."
And, he said, "they are doing grave harm to the cause of conservative Christianity by speaking messages of hate that obscure the message of the church."
"What you're seeing here is a very dangerous fringe that does not represent conservative Christianity in America," he said.Hmm. Nope, it looks like the problem really is just that those pastors are stupid. Yes, homosexuality is a sin, but hey-- we're all sinners! So having sex with another man or another woman is just like one of the other bad things that humans do everyday, like lying or stealing! And yes, Christians who do these things know they're sinful, so they repent for them, whereas homosexuals don't believe that what they're doing is sinful so they don't repent, and hence presumably won't be granted salvation and will be cast into hell when they die...but that's all! No need to get all hatey about it by actually concluding what any normal person would about someone who deserves eternal torture, and deeming it appropriate to condemn that person from the pulpit-- that's just reprehensible. What you're supposed to do is keep your dedicated conviction that that these unknowing and unrepentant sinners will burn in eternal agony after they die as punishment for their behavior to yourself, rather than taking the logical action of speaking loudly about the horribleness of their lives and the grave peril their souls are in, because that would be hateful. Believing precisely that but keeping quiet about it, not proclaiming it for all who need to hear this very-important-if-true message, is the way to go.
After all, we wouldn't want to be stupid.