Evangelical preachers reinforce anti-LGBTQ hate rhetoric

Perhaps the most strident of these preachers was a member of the Stedfast Baptist Church in the Fort Worth, Texas area, named “Brother” Dillon Aweswho was invited to speak from the pulpit of the church on June 5. He spent more than an hour denouncing “homosexuality” and demanding the systematic execution of anyone found guilty:

What God says is the answer, is the solution for homosexuals, in 2022, here in the New Testament, here in the book of Romans – that they are worthy of death! These people should be put to death! Every homosexual in our country should be charged with the crime, the abomination of homosexuality that he has, he should be found guilty in a legal trial, he should be sentenced to death, they should be lined up against the wall and touching the back of the head! This is what God teaches! That’s what the Bible says. You don’t like it, you don’t like the word of God.

Awes justified his condemnation by reading passages from the Bible, saying that LGBTQ people “are dangerous to society” and said that “all homosexuals are pedophiles”.

“I’m not saying that every gay man alive right now has done this act with a child before, because he may not have had the chance yet and will at some point in the future. in his life,” he said. “That’s why we must put these people to death through the proper channels of government. … These people are not normal. They are not ordinary sinners. … They have no hope of salvation.”

Meanwhile, Pastor Joe Jones of Shield of Faith Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho recently launched a similar tirade:

It’s not God’s fault! He told the nations how to handle it! He said to the government of his own nation, the nation he ruled, “Kill them. Put all fags to death. They die.” When they die, it stops the pedophilia. It’s a very, very simple process. …

Now, if the system was working properly, okay? It would be like a funnel process. God give up on these people, they expose themselves, like, yeah, they show up, okay? And we find out who they are, we report them to the authorities, and they send them to hell. OKAY? That’s how it’s supposed to work.

Unfortunately these days they get promoted at your job, they want to take your kids, they want to take everything they have, including your soul. If these people could, they would dig up your great-great-grandfather’s best friend and take his soul. That’s what they do! That’s how bad and mean these people are.

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Jones continued that “these people know they deserve death”, which he said explained the high rate of suicide among trans people “Why do fags always blow themselves up or whatever they do?” he added.

Ames’ sermon fully reflected the teachings promulgated at Stedfast Baptist Church, whose pastor, Jonathan Shelley, has drawn attention for his rabid anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Originally based in the Fort Worth suburb of Hurst, Shelley Church was recently evicted from its building in Hurst because Shelley’s violent rhetoric violated its lease and the landlord refused to tolerate it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center designated Stedfast Baptist as an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2021, based largely on Shelley’s inflammatory rhetoric.

In his sermons, Shelley has frequently called for members of the LGBTQ community to be killed, but he says he’s not calling for vigilante killings — he just wants it done officially, at the hands of the state. In a sermon, he celebrated the death of a 75-year-old gay man in Wilton Manors, Florida, after a vehicle accidentally ran him over at a Pride event: “And, you know, that’s great when trucks accidentally go through them, you know, parades,” he said. “I think only one person died. So I hope we can expect more in the future.

“You say, ‘Well, that’s mean.’ Yeah, but the Bible says they’re worthy of death!” he continued. “They say, ‘Are you sad when fags die?’ No. I think that’s great! I hope they all die! I would love for every fag to die right now.

“And you say, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s really what you mean. That’s exactly what I mean. I really think so!”

Shelley caused a stir in Fort Worth last month when he testified at a city council meeting against the city’s involvement in Pride events: “I don’t understand why we are celebrating what was a crime not so long ago,” he told them. “God has already decreed that murder, adultery, witchcraft, bestiality and homosexuality are crimes punishable by capital punishment.”

He recently posted a video on Facebook decrying the expulsion from his church and the negative publicity, claiming he was simply preaching within the Christian mainstream. He quoted Leviticus 13 (which insists that whoever “sleeps with a man as he lies with a woman” has “committed an abomination” and must “be put to death”), saying: “We believe this verse is right. We believe that the law of God clearly condemns homosexuality and even imposes capital punishment, which is the death penalty.

Shelley went through a long list of previous anti-homosexuality laws, including Texas’s. “Now, just because the Supreme Court ruled that law unconstitutional because of the 14e The amendment, which was a technicality, does not mean the Bible has changed or the law of God has changed,” he said. “We still think it’s wrong and the death penalty should be applied in this area.”

At the end, he launched into an explanation linking pedophilia again to the LGBTQ community as justification for putting them to death:

Here’s the thing: I believe the Bible clearly teaches that those who are LGBTQ are pending pedophiles and would love to hurt and hurt children. And so for the best interest of society, they should be punished according to the word of God, no more and no less.

The interpretation of the Bible that it requires the execution of same-sex lovers has cropped up from time to time in conservative religious circles; verses from Leviticus and Romans are frequently cited to justify anti-LGBTQ bigotry. But preachers have generally refrained from insisting on their observance.

The cover of one of Pete Peters’ 1990s tracts.

This interpretation was most famously made in the 1990s by the leading figure of the white supremacist Christian Identity movement, the late Reverend Pete Peters, who preached sermons titled “Intolerance, Discrimination Against and Punishment death for homosexuals is prescribed in the Bible”. “, and also wrote a pamphlet called The death penalty for homosexuals is prescribed in the Bible (a play that was, incidentally, the source of his falling out with the infamous militia leader, Colonel James “Bo” Gritz.) Peters was a major figure in the formation of the “militia movement” of the 1990s: the infamous “Rocky Mountain Rendezvous” in Estes Park, which is credited with fusing militia strategy between a range of far-right sectors, from white supremacists to armed extremists to religious fanatics.

Combined with the belief that American law should replicate biblical precepts – a core feature of modern Christian nationalism, which has exploded in both evangelical and white nationalist circles in recent years – it’s not hard to see how feelings long-standing anti-LGBTQ within evangelical circles could so easily take such a disturbing and deadly turn. Like all eliminationism, this rhetoric aims to create permission – a justification for unleashing the kind of violence that would make Jesus cry.

The question is: Will mainstream evangelicals condemn him?

Barry F. Howard