Matt Brown, the lead pastor of Sandals Church in Riverside, California, preached to his congregation about whether they should attend the wedding of a gay or lesbian couple. He spoke of being the best neighbor possible to the LGBT couple, but had particularly violent words for clergy who bless the marriage.
"I really don't have that much of an issue with a gay couple, but I do want to go 'old testament' on the pastor that's saying 'this is great,'" said Pastor Brown. "And that would be unfortunate for us as a church, for me to punch a pastor in the middle of a sermon, and I'm in jail, and you have to explain to people why Pastor Matt's in jail."
This is a shift from last summer, when violent anti-gay preaching was directed at LGBT people. Pastor Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in North Carolina suggested in a sermon to his congregation that LGBT people be placed behind an electric fence until they died out. Sean Harris of the Berean Baptist Church Fayetteville, North Carolina suggested beating a son who was too effeminate to toughen him up.
Pastor Brown attacks clergy who have studied scripture, prayed, and discerned that God's will is for gay and lesbian people to form loving, stable relationships. He claims that these pastors have "thrown Jesus out in the name of love."
Some facts to remember:
- Jesus said nothing about gay and lesbian people or their relationships. The vast majority of his public condemnation was for those who preach piety, yet do little to alleviate suffering, especially for the poor.
- Jesus' quote that a "man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh" is in response to a question about whether it is legal to divorce (Mark 10:7-8). This sentence often is misconstrued to be a comment on gay and lesbian relationships, and yet is not focused on gay and lesbian people at all.
- While Pastor Brown is upset that pastors have "thrown Jesus out in the name of love," he forgets that God is love (1 John 4 repeats this phrase over and over). The love that exists between two members of a couple, just like the love of neighbor, of family, and humanity, is understood widely in Christian circles as an expression of the love of God.
Pastor Matt Brown admonishes his congregation to be "good neighbors" to their LGBT neighbors, and claims that he will be "the best neighbor to a homosexual couple. Welcome them. Greet them. Love their kids. Coach their kids. I'll be the best ever."
However, his violent language toward other clergy negates any claims he has about being a good neighbor. A good neighbor does not physically attack others.
Pastor Brown's sermon comes at a time that the LGBT community is experiencing highly publicized levels of violence. In the most recent report on anti-LGBTQ hate violence in 2012, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects documented 25 anti-LGBTQ homicides in the United States, the 4th highest yearly total ever recorded by the coalition. Likewise, pro-LGBT churches have been targeted for vandalism.
Pastor Matt Brown is under no obligation to attend the wedding of a gay or lesbian couple. However, claiming that he would attack pro-LGBT clergy sends a dangerous and chilling message that such violence is acceptable. Sandal Church needs to remove the video and make it clear that they in no way encourage or condone violence against LGBT people, or their allies.