In 2014 a local pastor of a very small independent Baptist community preached a sermon calling for the execution of all homosexual people, posted a video of the sermon on YouTube, and then bought advertising on Facebook to promote it. It was picked up by the news and the sermon went viral. In response, the local interfaith community wrote a response (see here). In the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Orland, this “pastor” (and I use that term very loosely) has put out another statement calling for the execution of homosexuals, and claiming what happened in Orlando was justified, and then goes on to label all homosexuals as pedophiles deserving of execution. YouTube had the wherewithal to remove the video this time (why this time and not the last time?) on the basis of it being hate speech. Sadly, a number of news outlets both local and national (Phoenix New Times and Rachel Maddow of msnbc, on the The Rachel Maddow Show) were able to get the video and air significant parts of it, once again giving this hate-filled domestic terrorist a platform.
Why do our news outlets keep airing the hate and refuse to give air to the vast majority of pastors who are calling for mutual understanding and peace? Why not air parts of this sermon (which can also be found here), preached partly in response to the Orlando shooting, calling on the Church to step out and be the Church of compassion. And I’m sure there are many others much more eloquent.
(My sermon, of course, does not garner attention because it doesn’t garner the kinds of reactions this other pastor’s words do—reactions equal advertisers, and advertisers equal cash.)
I will be calling the police today and asking that this pastor be investigated and put on a terrorist watch list on the basis that he has made me and my community once again feel unsafe with his hate speech. He has instilled terror in members of my community because words matter. All it takes is one deranged person like Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 innocent people in Orlando, to take this pastor’s words to heart and begin taking matters into his own hands (just as Mateen was radicalized by hate-filled leaders and moved to act on his own). I pray this does not happen (if you are feeling like you might be that person, please call me so we can talk about what is really written in the Bible, like the hundreds if not thousands of times our scriptures tell us to act out of love and compassion, rather than hate).
I call on news outlets who want to air this Tempe pastor’s hate speech to also call on other faith leaders in Tempe to offer a counter response, and to allow us to explain that this lone pastor does NOT represent the faith leaders here in Tempe or around the country.
I beg this pastor to repent of his sins, turn from the ways of hate and fear, and turn toward the love of God who does not call for the killing of God’s children. Rather, often in scripture, when the people claim to hear God’s call for violence, they are often using God to justify the hate and fear they have in their hearts. It is a manipulation and perversion of God and God’s vision for humanity. That is the beauty of our sacred texts, they do not gloss over our human tendencies toward violence but calls us all to another Way.
Peace and blessings,
The Rev. Eric Ledermann