That was my reaction after reading the article and listening to the video. In fact my reaction was filled with anger, and here’s why:
This is a little bit of an unplanned post, but since a friend of mine shared a USA TODAY article with me I couldn’t keep silent. This past week has been filled with tragedy, fear, an outpouring of love and even many political responses to the evil actions in Orlando. However, one person has chosen to respond in a way that I believe is an abuse of the gospel and is part of the reason that the name “Baptist” is incredibly confusing in our culture.
In today’s USA TODAY, there was an article and a video (you can find them both here) posted regarding the actions of a Baptist Pastor in Sacramento, California. Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento openly stated that those victims who died in the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando quote, “Got what they deserved.” He was also quoted as saying the following:
“Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?” asked Jimenez. “Um no. I think that’s great. I think that helps society. 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 he didn’t finish the job — because these people are predators. They are abusers.”
This occurred at a Baptist Church. In fact, this is what they say about themselves on their website: “We are an independent, fundamental, soul winning, separated, King James Bible believing Baptist church–and not ashamed to say so.” In this particular situation, I’m not going to debate all of those issues, however I have 2 issues.
First, the lesser issue is the message that this is sending to our culture, to people that we love and want to know Jesus, about what it means to be a Christ follower. We would never – and many other Christians would never – identify with, agree with or have anything to do with this type of “teaching.” However, our culture, our neighbors and co-workers don’t know that!
Second, the larger issue here is a rejection and replacement of the gospel of of Jesus Christ with a performance -based legalism. Here are just a few thoughts:
- You cannot legislate the human heart. Jimenez seems to be arguing for a government mandated morality. A friend of mine recently said this: “There is no government, no legislation, no political policy that can fix our world…the cross is the only solution to my sin and it’s the only solution to the world’s sin.” Trying to legislate the heart by morality is a rejection of the good news for sinners like me.
- There are two major ditches to the Gospel. A ditch is something to the right or the left of a road where if you go off in it you are going to wreck. The first ditch that destroys the gospel is a license that says – “do whatever you want.” The second ditch is legalism which says – you can only be worthy of God or worthy of salvation if you meet certain requirements. Both are a rejection of the gospel. The good news is this: I’m a wretched sinner, maybe in different ways than you, but God died for me and you just the same! We don’t clean ourselves up and then come to Jesus. He wants to wash us and restore us – He does that!
- In summary, the Gospel is for everyone! I don’t get to pick and choose based on the particular sins that are different than mine. I say this because it seems like Jimenez is trying to say that certain sins are “unacceptable” and others are “more acceptable.” This is just not true.
We want to connect with, befriend, and even share life with people who wouldn’t call themselves “church people” – regardless of sexuality. We do this because the Gospel is for everyone.
So yes, I am sad for the victims of this horrific act of violence. Yes I am sad for the families because people matter – no matter their beliefs or backgrounds. They matter! Yes, I am praying for a city and a community that is hurting today! And yes I am praying for my friends in the LGBT community, because I know they are hurting.
My guess is that there are some great churches in Sacramento that are “paying the price” for the choices of another church.
So, what conclusions are you drawing? I’d love to hear from you.