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Poison at the pulpit

Published May 19. 2012 09:01AM

The Rev. Sean Harris has made himself the most reviled pastor in the country.

The Fayetteville, N. C., man took to the pulpit at Berean Baptist Church on Sunday, April 29, and wildly ordered his flock to punch and assault children and break their bones.

This must be done, he says, of any child who doesn't live up to a gender-affirming role as determined by the pastor. In other words, Harris is laying down the law about all children. All boys must be visibly masculine and dig ditches, he says. "The second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch. Ok?"

Girls need to be feminine and shouldn't be allowed to do boyish things or else they deserve the same treatment, he says in Hitler-esque rantings. Girls possibly can play sports, but they can't act mannish all of the time, he says. They need to be forced to wear a dress and look pretty, he demands. He goes on and on in a most appalling way.

A videotape of his sermon went viral on the Internet and shows the purveyor of poison at his best, or worst.

Harris places himself among those pastors who don't support the separation of church and hate.

After doing his best to incite violence against kids, the promoter of vitriol earned widespread public outrage.

He quickly pieced together a half-baked apology, under pressure from a shocked public.

He says he was misunderstood. He calls his outburst "Baptist fun." One only needs to watch the video to see his version of fun. Blantant hate is never "misunderstood." Harris has distinguished himself as the face of hate and intolerance; a dangerous individual mistakenly put into a position of leadership.

People are repulsed and reactions are strong.

"I think it's time to put religion on trial," says one outraged observer. "It's already against public policy to advocate violence against anyone, especially children, in any forum, even the pulpit. Had those comments been made in any other context, such as the media, the speaker would be publicly skewered and forced to resign. Why should church leaders get a pass on hate speech and inciting violence?"

Others are upset because they believe Harris' church may be poisoning the minds of nine young students.

"This man is obviously sick and the fact that they run a school is dangerous," says another. "Those children are certainly being abused and this needs to be investigated."

Harris didn't do any favors for Christianity with his tirade. His actions illustrate why many precepts of religion are deemed incompatible with modern times and human rights. Harris' outbursts remind us that religion is a double-edged sword. It can do plenty of good and wondrous things. But historically, it's done unspeakable harm, beyond the pale of sanity. The late journalist Ruth Hurmence Green put it this way: "There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is called the Dark Ages."

Truth is, babies aren't born with a sense of hate. Hate is acquired, taught by those who fear.

Harris and other gladiators of gore likely deal with their own fear and insecurities when they use a 2,000-year-old book to cause physical harm to others, including defenseless children. In psychology, it's called predatory aggression. Of course, it's wrong on every level, a throwback to the Dark Ages. One can't reintroduce primitive, pagan practices in today's times.

Still, we don't need to wonder why we have bullying in our schools and a high rate of suicide among teens.

One can figure it out by watching the malicious, sanctimonious sermons of pastors like Sean Harris.

In a civilized world there are some things that can't be done no matter what.

You can't yell fire in a crowded theater.

And you can't order adults to break the bones of young children in the name of the Lord. Those who do and those who promote it need to be isolated from society and put away where they can do no harm. And it doesn't matter which holy book they're using to fuel their evil.

Hate and violence are not family values. And those clergy who thrive on it need to be dealt with in the harshest terms.

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