Sunday, August 2, 2020


Then in the audience of all the people he said unto his disciples, Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; Which devour widows' houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.

Luke 20:45-47


On Friday, I wrote about my mother’s Southern Baptist pastor passing away from COVID-19, and I admitted that I have two prejudices: Republicans and Southern Baptists. Besides the unwelcoming nature of Southern Baptists, I thought I would explain why I think they are the modern-day equivalents of the scribes and the Pharisees that Jesus laments about several times in the Gospels. The Pharisees and scribes were upset because they believed the people were abandoning the purity of the covenant that Jews had made with God. They believed that Jews in the Roman Empire were being lax in their morality and in their obedience to the commandments of God. So, they sought to draw together and draw apart from the masses and to set a moral example. These were the conservatives of the day. They had a high system of honor and virtue, and they committed themselves to obeying God. Yet, they outwardly professed their faith the loudest, but they secretly did not follow their own beliefs and morals. They were hypocrtites.


Growing up in the South, the religious right was often centered around the Southern Baptists. They are the largest Protestant denomination, and they tend to be the loudest. Of course, there are other denominations that follow suit, but it is often the Southern Baptists that try to speak for all Protestants and condemn those who do not believe like they do. One reason for this is their seminaries and universities, and another reason is because of the press the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) receives, especially when it comes to their views on the LGBTQ+ community.


In its history, the SBC has issued several resolutions in which it rejects homosexuality as a lifestyle and refers to it as a "manifestation of a depraved nature", "a perversion of divine standards and as a violation of nature and natural affections" and "an abomination in the eyes of God." It opposes same-sex marriages and equivalent unions. The SBC has urged churches not to show any approval of homosexuality; however, it also holds that "while the Bible condemns such practice as sin, it also teaches forgiveness and transformation, upon repentance, through Jesus Christ our Lord." But that is only if a person turns away from the sexuality that they were born with. I personally think it is a gift from God. The SBC doesn’t even allow the term gay Christian because they say that even if you are celibate you cannot identify as both gay and Christian at the same time. The SBC only allows members of the LGBTQ+ community to worship with them if they denounce their sexuality.


My sister and I were raised in the Church of Christ. My father was far angrier at my sister for converting to being Southern Baptist when she got married than he ever was for me being gay. Yet, to show you how filled with hate he has become, he and my mother now attend a Southern Baptist Church. When I was growing up, he hated to even step foot in one of their churches. My mother was raised a Southern Baptist but claimed years ago that she was truly a member of the Church of Christ where we attended. I just don’t understand the sudden change in them. The only excuse I can find is because the church is convenient to where they are now living, and all my parents’ friends and neighbors attend that church. I find it disgusting that they would attend a church that is part of such a hate filled denomination. They think I will attend with them the next time I am home. I will not be. It will probably cause some strife, but I will not budge on this. I have been to a Baptist Church a few times in my life, and I always felt an evil surrounding me.


I am probably being a hypocrite on this because the Church of Christ is no better when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues. However, there are fundamental differences between the Church of Christ and the Southern Baptist Church. Most importantly, every congregation of the Church of Christ is independent. Southern Baptists claim the same thing, but they have the Southern Baptist Convention that governs all their churches and the denomination’s doctrine. The Church of Christ has no equivalent. Each Church of Christ could decide on their own to affirm the LGBTQ+ community because the elders of the church are in charge, but the Southern Baptist must abide by the doctrine of the SBC. Therefore, while I hold no hope for the SBC ever changing their stance, I do believe that the Church of Christ could and should. Will it ever happen? I can only hope and pray. One day, Christianity will accept the belief in a true universal love of God and will act accordingly.


Michael said...


I’m thankful for your blog. I came across it several years when I was looking for gay Christians that grew up in the Church of Christ. Although I am not a member today, it is still part of my heritage.

My mother is still active in the Church of Christ. She supports me but to my knowledge does not publicize it to her church friends. I would assume she falls under the definition of a Pharisee but wouldn’t dare to confront her on it. She is a hard-core Republican, supports our current resident in the White House and religiously watches Fox News. Because of our political differences our relationship has deteriorated. I pray that she will come to her senses eventually but fear it will be too late

I totally understand your struggle because our mothers are still our mothers.

Cody said...

Joe, I was also raised in Church of Christ. I still hold to most of the beliefs, such as the plan of salvation that centers on baptism. I have attended a Southern Baptist Church for about two years. My parents eventually joined me. The reason I made the jump is because the Church of Christ that I had been a member of constantly preached against homosexuality and "the moral decline of America." To my knowledge, no one there knew I was gay. Not even my parents. And, it had been years since an openly gay member had even attended.

I like the preacher at the Southern Baptist Church down the road from my house. When my Southern Baptist grandmother was in the hospital and, later, in hospice. He always came to visit her and he was so nice to us. He and his church brought our family loads of food and offered their deepest sympathies when she passed away. He had been inviting me to church with him ever since and I finally accepted the invitation. I have never heard him mention gay people or homosexuality in his sermons. If I had to bet, I would bet he is not pro-same-sex marriage and I'm sure he believes homosexuality is a sin. But, he has never said so. There is a lesbian couple who attends the church and they are included as much as the rest of us. One of the partners sing in the choir and the other works with the hospitality team that feeds the congregation before each Wednesday night service.

What I learned when I became a Southern Baptist is: there churches are autonomous, much like Churches of Christ, even if they do belong to a county association and denomination. Just because the official denomination takes a position doesn't mean that an individual church does. Just because the Baptist Faith and Message expresses a belief doesn't mean that an individual church adheres to it. Alabama State Representative Will Dismukes was recently the center of controversy for speaking at a dinner to honor Nathan Bedford Forest. He also happened to be a Southern Baptist pastor. His county Baptist association met with deacons, to see what actions the local church wanted to take. They decided to ask him to resign and he is no longer a Southern Baptist pastor. The local church made the decision, not the denomination or the county association. They simply supported the congregation.

Some Southern Baptist Churches are Calvinist. Most are not. Some Southern Baptist Churches are continuationists when it comes to the Gifts of the Spirit. Most are not. Some Southern Baptist Churches do not take an official position on LGBT people and some of them in the news have even married gay couples. Most do take an official position and do not marry gay people.

Of course, I am not trying to brand the SBC as an LGBT affirming denomination. Most non-mainline churches are not affirming. A gay friend of mine was recently removed from a Church of Christ nearby. He had attended the church since birth and I actually met him at a Church of Christ youth camp while growing up. On his Facebook, the preacher saw that he had entered a relationship with another man. His preacher reported it to the elders. The elders called my friend to a meeting and, on the Sunday that followed, the preacher announced to the entire church, before his sermon on a livestream video that has since been taken down (it was livestreamed due to COVID-19), that because my friend, whom he called by name, had been unwilling to acknowledge and confess his "abominable sins," the elders had decided unanimously to remove him from the church. While he was not banned from attending, he was no longer part of the church, the preacher said. He could not bring himself to return. I have invited him to our Southern Baptist Church, but he is untrusting of most churches for now and, understandably so, after the experience that he just suffered. As harsh of positions as most Southern Baptists take, I have never heard of them doing any thing like what was done to my gay friend.

Cody said...

*Excuse my grammatical errors. This English teacher failed to proofread.

Joe said...

Michael, you are right. They are still our mothers. It is similar to when I came out. My mother initially rejected me, but my father told her to get over it. I was their son and would always be their son, and they WOULD ALWAYS love me no matter what. I have never had a good relationship with my father, and that is THE one time he stood up for me. Mostly he is a man that is very cruel to my mother and to me. We have good moments, but they are few and do not last over a few minutes. My parents may not agree with my sexuality, but they do still love me in their own ways, and I will continue to love them. I just don't have as close of a relationship with my mother as I once did. I've never really had any kind of relationship with my father.

Cody, I am very happy you have found a church you are happy attending. I did not mean any offense when I wrote about the Southern Baptist Church. However, with that being said, my experiences have been the opposite of yours. The Church of Christ I grew up attending only mentioned homosexuality once and that was right after same-sex marriage became legal. I should have stood up and said something to the preacher, who I had always found to be a very good man, but I really wanted to walk out of that church that day and never return. During COVID-19, the church closed (it was a very small country church), and it is doubtful they will ever reopen for services.

The Baptist Church that many of my friends in high school attended was extremely homophobic and kicked the few gay couples out that attempted to attend church there. Also, the country Baptist Church near where I grew up and was forced to attend Vacation Bible School, kicked out two men who they only suspected of being gay, even though they were both married to women. in both instances, these people were told they were not welcomed and to please not return. Also, my granny and most of the students I taught in Alabama went to one particular Southern Baptist Church. They were taught in sermons and Sunday school to hate gay people. I heard it in my classroom every day, and I tried to educate them differently, but I was called a "fucking faggot" behind my back. Not a very Christian thing. When the song "Take Me to Church" by Hozier came out, they initially all loved it, but when they saw the video follows a same-sex relationship in Russia], the vitriol against the song was amazing and sad.

I know that Church of Christ are no better. I had a cousin who died of AIDS in the 1980s and when the Church of Christ his family attended tried to have his funeral there, the church refused. That particular congregation had some of the most hate filled people I have ever met that attended it. They were all racist and homophobic.

I did know that Southern Baptist Churches do claim to be autonomous, but I have always found that the ones I had dealings with held strictly to the decrees of the Southern Baptist Convention, especially concerning homosexuality. I also knew about the split between Calvinist and non-Calvinist congregations. I heard a lot about that from my granny when her church accidentally hired a Calvinist preacher. He did not last long.

I am thrilled to hear that Will Dismukes lost his pastorship. He deserves to be removed form office as well. I think there should be a law barring people from serving in the government who belong to Neo-Confederate or hate groups.

I too still hold to most of the beliefs of the Church of Christ, such as the plan of salvation that centers on baptism. I find the churches in Vermont to be far too liberal, especially since many of them are more spiritual than Christian. I also do not like musical instruments in churches. I know that is just a preference, but I cannot attend a church that has a complete band or someone who plays the organ or piano so loud that they drown out peoples voices. It is just so unpleasant to me.

Joe said...

Apparently, there is a character limit for comments, so here is PART II:

The attitude of so many churches, especially those in the South, saddens me to no end. The Episcopalians and half the Presbyterians seems to be ok, and maybe some of the Methodists, but most have such contempt for gay people and refuse to really look at the Bible to see what it truly says about homosexuality. Churches desperately need to turn to the teachings of Jesus about universal love and away from the doctrines of exclusion because someone does something you do not agree with.

Cody, please understand that I am not arguing with you, trying to dispute your comment, or discounting what you said. I just wanted to relate my experiences. I am truly glad you have found a church where you feel comfortable. It fills my heart with warmth, because I know how unwelcoming the South can be for LGBTQ+ people. I personally have never had any positive dealings with the Southern Baptist Church, but I am glad that you have.

Cody said...

Joe, I did not take offense to your original comments, but I so appreciate you sharing your experiences with me. Truthfully, I could never consider myself a Southern Baptist, but I will always see myself as Church of Christ, even though I attend a Baptist church. The absence of the Lord's Supper and the presence of instrumental music burden me greatly in the Baptist church. The church even promotes eating and drinking in the sanctuary, offering coffee and donuts to everyone before each service, but we cannot have the Lord's Supper. Thankfully, the music is more tolerable than some Baptist churches. There is only a pianist who plays softly while the church sings hymns aloud. Still, it's not my cup of tea.

Growing up in the Church of Christ, we had a very Christlike minister whose lessons taught me so much about the Bible. If he ever mentioned homosexuality, I do not recall it. He was more worldly than a lot of Church of Christ ministers in Alabama, I guess some might say, but he was far more holy than any I have met. He had been in the military and preached at churches in several different states before returning to his home state of Alabama. He was educated locally at the University of West Alabama, then the Memphis School of Preaching. He could answer any question I had, always doing so in love and with wit. Unfortunately, he passed away and the church has never been the same. The elders hired a minister, who is a nephew to one of the elders. He has no education outside of high school and he was a plant worker by profession (there is nothing wrong with having no formal training or his job), yet he thinks he knows everything there is to know and is rude when someone questions him. His political posts on Facebook drive me insane: they are so uninformed and usually consist of a link to some satire site that he believes to be serious and informing his points. When I have disagreed, he tells me I am liberal, like the typical educator. (I'm quite the opposite. I was a Republican until Donald Trump, but I will never vote Republican again.)

If the current minister ever leaves, I would not rule out returning to the Church of Christ of my childhood. In addition to his rudeness, stupidity, and rants about homosexuality, he talks a lot about the need for more contributions to the church. He allows his wife to lead songs and administer communion. She even attends business meetings to "record minutes," but always dictates the conversation and let's her demands be known. I'm sure, as a fellow Church of Christ, you understand that is different, to say the least. If the minister at the Baptist church ever leaves, I will almost certainly leave the church. The attitudes that you describe above match many of the attitudes present among the congregation at the church.

Your assessment of southern churches is spot on! Maybe, some day, we will find a church that meets all of our Christian needs. The Church of Christ options are very limited where I live, but there is a Baptist or Pentecostal church on every corner. I enjoy hearing your experience and sharing my own. I found your blog looking for resources for gay Church of Christ members and it is very edifying to be having this conversation about church. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


Next time you are home...if you really want to stir the pot,
tell your mom and dad you will be attending Catholic services.


Joe said...

Alexander, or worse yet, that I’ve become an Episcopalian. They have a particular hatred of them because of the Episcopalian’s liberal stance on all things LGBTQ+. The only thing worse might be to say I’ve joined the United Church of Christ, which is prominent in Vermont, or that I’ve become a Unitarian. They’d blow a gasket.

Dylan said...

I feel your pain. Two things were certain when I was growing up: we were Methodists and we were Democrats. My parents joined a Baptist church a few years ago and they started voting Republican a few years before that. It reminds me of the mysterious transition in Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird to Go Set a Watchman. The release of Lee’s sequel could not have come at a more fitting time for many of us, whose southern parents would have frowned upon a President with the ethics and morals of Donald Trump only a few years ago. This year, I will be teaching 11th Grade English, in addition to my Social Studies classes. I am working Go Set a Watchman into my curriculum, since our students read To Kill a Mockingbird in 9th Grade and I have a feeling that yours, mine, and Scout’s experience is a common experience.

Joe said...

Cody, I had about six different preachers while I was growing up. I barely remember the first two. The third one was this very sexy young man from Faulkner University. I should have known then that I was gay, as he was very distracting to look at. Another, was my basketball coach. He was very nice and always answered my questions. Then we had a preacher who was similar to the guy you described. He was uneducated and very fire and brimstone. He always preached half of his sermon to those who were not members of the church and how they would go to hell. He nearly destroyed out church. Eventually when only 2 or 3 people were showing up each Sunday, he go the message and started his own church that consisted mostly of his family. Then, we got the preacher we've had the longest. He always preached a lesson more so than a sermon. Rarely did he ever mention anything controversial. I always enjoyed his sermons, and he would include the congregation in his sermons. He would ask me history questions, my mom medical questions, my aunt country music questions, all in the middle of his sermon to make a point. I miss those days. But we had some other people come into the church, and things changed for the worse. I don't enjoy going as much as I used to, even though the people there I still continue to think of as family.

Dylan, growing up, my mother always taught me that a good Southerner was a Democrat. Now, she's so Republican she only watches Fox News and votes straight ticket. My father hated Bob Riley with a passion. He ranted about him all the time and would often vote Democratic, but now he only votes Republican like my mother. I was really ugly to both of my parents about voting for Roy Moore. I asked them how could they vote for a child molester over a man who had decent morals and character. Doug Jones may be a centrist Democrat, but at least he follows the law. I have become so disappointed in all of my family for their conservative, uninformed, and hateful politics.

I think it will be good for your students to read Go Set a Watchman. I really like the book, and I also felt that it was true to the character of Atticus Finch. As a politician and a leading an in his town, he would of course have been on the White Citizen's Council. Lee showed that his views had always been paternalistic. He was never an outright racist, but he was a white man of his time. I think that is important for the kids to know. I think by seeing a truer portrait of Atticus, they might be able to understand the racism that surrounds them all the time. I always worked hard to broaden the horizons of my students and make them more aware of issues and problems in society. It was a hard fight thought especially when teaching at a nearly all-white school (we had three black students) in a rural Alabama Black Belt county that was nearly 75% Black.