“Those who want to push and promulgate the politics and language of hate need to shut up. And those who know the politics and power of love need to speak up and stand up.” – The Reverend William Barber, architect of the Moral Movement.
For the overwhelming majority of Americans, the massacre in Orlando, Florida – the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in United States history; the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of the United States (surpassing the 24 June 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack); and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since 11 September 2001 – was a gut-wrenching tragedy.
But for some Christian pastors, instead of responding with compassion and grace as one would expect from Christian leaders, this attack was seen as a blessing to be cheered and an opportunity to spew hatred. Such rhetoric is enough to make one sick. As an Episcopal priest, I know that such a response is not the norm among Christian pastors, but the extremists in every field are the ones who garner the headlines. This unfortunate fact, of course, does not make their radicalism any less offensive.
A case in point is Pastor Roger Jimenez from Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California who told his congregation that Christians “shouldn’t be mourning the death of fifty sodomites.” I should put quotation marks around the word pastor because I have real problems seeing this man as a representative of Jesus. I know that is a judgement call on my part, but listen to the man himself and you decide. (Warning: The following remarks contain offensive and hateful language. Reader discretion advised.)
From the pulpit at Verity Baptist Church, Jimenez called the massacre “great.” He further said: “People say, like: ‘Well, aren’t you sad that fifty sodomites died? (Actually, 49 victims, plus the gunman) Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me – what if you asked me: ‘Hey, are you sad that fifty pedophiles were killed today?’
“Um, no, I think that’s great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight. The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is – I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job! As Christians, we should not be taking a sympathetic approach to these types of news and saying: ‘This was a tragedy, this is something that we’re sad about, we should be mourning these people.’ The Bible teaches that they’re all predators. That’s all the Bible says about them: They’re wicked, they’re vile, they’re predators. And God says that they deserve the death penalty for what they do. I’m not saying that we should be doing that. But in God’s government, where God set up the laws and God set up the rules and God set up the people in charge, God said: When you find a sodomite, put them to death.”
Jimenez continued: “Let me say this: As Christians, we shouldn’t be advocating the killing of sodomites. I’m not standing up here tonight and saying: Let’s go get some guns, and let’s go get ’em. That’s not what I’m saying at all. People will sometimes hear people like me preach, or other pastors, and say: You guys are advocating violence. We’re not advocating violence. We’re not saying we should go do this. But we’re just saying this: If we lived in a righteous nation, with a righteous government, then the government should be taking them. There’s no tragedy. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.
“If we lived in a righteous government that loved God and loved children and wanted to protect them, that’s what we’d do. I’m not saying we should do it. I’m not saying we should go, you know, blow up Planned Parenthood. I’m not saying that at all. All I’m saying is this: If God has his way, that’s what he’d do. And by the way, in the millennium, that’s what will be done. God’s laws will be reestablished.”
Throughout his sermon Sunday, Jimenez preached about what he said was God’s view on homosexuality. He referenced Paul’s Letter to the Romans and “natural” and “unnatural” sexual relations and the “recompense for their error.” Jimenez said, “If you don’t mind writing in your Bible, right there next to Romans 1:27, you ought to write this word: AIDS. The recompense for their error, you know what that was? AIDS.” Romans 1:27 states: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.”
“These people are predators. They are abusers,” Jimenez told his congregation. “They take advantage of people. And look, as Christians, we need to take these stands that it is not our job to sit there and say, oh, this is a tragedy, or oh, this is something we mourn. Look, the Bible paints the picture that these are wicked people. These are evil people.”
He said that Christians must “fight a spiritual battle. We shouldn’t be advocating what happened today,” he said, “but we shouldn’t be sad about it, either.”
And this kind of offensive muck, including grammatical errors, is from a Christian pastor no less!
Verity Baptist Church is not affiliated with any branch of the Baptist faith. That lack of affiliation means that Jimenez can say whatever he wishes without any accountability to a larger religious community. A pastor who is not accountable is a pastor who can actually facilitate an atmosphere of spiritual corruption. A lack of oversight serves as fodder for theologically erroneous teaching.
Members of the LGBT community are not allowed to join Verity Baptist or to attend its services, according to the church’s “What We Believe” page. It states the church believes “sodomy” – referring to homosexuality – is “a sin and an abomination before God which God punishes with the death penalty.”
In an interview after his sermon went viral on the Internet, Jimenez said “we’ve received a lot of threats.” “But,” he added, “there are many people out there who agree with what I’m saying. In America, you’re no longer allowed to have an opinion that goes against mainstream society. The whole point that I was making is that if people who God puts the death penalty on die anyway, that’s not something that we necessarily need to be mourning. When people die who deserve to die, it’s not a tragedy. In fact, the gunman that went in there, he deserved to die because he killed those people; we shouldn’t be mourning his death either.”
If those comments by Jimenez do not make you want to retch, then here is another example for your digestion or indigestion, as the case may be.
An Arizona pastor who is listed as an anti-gay hate group leader by the Southern Poverty Law Center posted his response to the Orlando killings that was similar to Jimenez’s. Pastor Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona celebrated the shooting rampage by Omar Mateen, the American-born Muslim who allegedly claimed allegiance to the Islamic State.
“The good news is that at least fifty of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore,” Anderson said. “The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle. The other bad news is that this is going to now be used as propaganda not only against Muslims, but also against Christians.” (Here is another example of confusing and equating homosexuality with pedophilia.)
“I’m not sad about it; I’m not going to cry about it,” Anderson said of the massacre, adding that the victims “were going to die of AIDS and syphilis and whatever else; they were going to die early anyway.”
Anderson, it should be remembered, gained notoriety in 2009 when he told his congregation that he hates President Obama and would “pray that he dies and goes to hell.” A member of Anderson’s congregation then showed up at an Obama appearance armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Anderson said he has never advocated for violence. “I don’t believe in taking the law into our own hands. I would never go in and shoot up a gay bar, so called. I don’t believe it’s right for us to just be a vigilante. We’re supposed to obey the law of the land and obey the powers that be. I would never take things into my own hands.”
He added: “But I will say this: You know, the Bible says that homosexuals should be put to death in Leviticus 20:13. Obviously, it’s not right for somebody to just, you know, shoot up the place, because that’s not going through the proper channels. But these people all should have been killed anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels. As in, they should have been executed by a righteous government that would have tried them, convicted them and saw them executed.”
How is that for Christian compassion!
Pastor Jimenez said we “shouldn’t be mourning the death of fifty sodomites.” Well, I want to say to Pastor Jimenez, Pastor Anderson and any others like them, that I do mourn. I do mourn those forty-nine deaths. I grieve deeply over these attacks. I mourn even more when Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, seeks to use this tragedy to score political points. I am amazed to hear not only innuendo from Trump, but also actual hints that the President of the United States is either so weak and so inept as to be helpless in the face of this threat, or is actually in collusion with these terrorists. Such comments border on accusing President Obama of aiding and abetting the enemy – a treasonable offence! Trump said: “Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it.” Trump said during an interview on Fox & Friends: “People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.” Trump, it is worth remembering, is largely responsible for the “birther conspiracy” in which he accused President Obama of being born in Kenya and therefore not a United States citizen, and that he is really a Muslim. As lawyer Joseph Welsh famously said to Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin when he was on his witch hunt for Communists: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Those words are once again appropriate at this time in our national life.
I also mourn the fact that terrorism is now linked with homophobia, which makes one of America’s most oppressed minorities newly vulnerable. Recent articles in the press have reported that Omar Mateen not only had been to the Pulse gay nightclub on a number of occasions, but also had contacted some of his victims previously through a gay dating app, presumably seeking to line up sexual encounters. If repressed homosexuality turns out to be a factor in this horrific tragedy, which I am worried may be the case here, then I fear that the floodgates of hostility toward the LGBT community will once again be opened. Such hostility makes me want to march in the next Gay Pride Parade as an act of solidarity with my LGBT friends and associates.
This nation’s rising consciousness about homosexuality will not be suppressed or turned around, but mentally sick people will still make others their victims, before this prejudice joins other such shameful moments in our nation’s history as the witch hunts of Salem, Massachusetts or the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans in internment camps in the United States during World War Two. One should never underestimate the power in human beings to do evil to their fellow human beings.
We can indeed honor the victims of the Orlando killings by building a nation based on the hope for a better tomorrow for all Americans, not by yielding to the politics of hate, or of vengeance, or of exclusiveness, or of the fear of those who are “not like us.”
If I believed in Hell, I would say that there are special places reserved in that eternal dark pit for the likes of Roger Jimenez, Steven Anderson, and all others like them when they die. Like many others, I am absolutely disgusted by their message of hatred – a message that just makes me want to puke – and I will neither be sad nor mournful that they and their hateful message are no longer with us.
1. At least 1,000 people protested Pastor Roger Jimenez at his Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento on Sunday, 19 June, many of them waving pro-LGBT signs and rainbow flags as parishioners struggled to maneuver through.
2. The property management company and owner of the building in which Verity Baptist Church and its Pastor Roger Jimenez preside have decided not to renew the church’s lease, and have asked church officials to consider moving.
While Harsch Investment Properties, owner of the Northgate Business Park where the church is located, cannot legally evict the church under the terms of the lease, representatives of the property management company say they cannot tolerate “tenants who advocate hatred and the taking of innocent lives.”