Maryland Pastor Dennis Leatherman is the latest conservative religious leader this week to attempt to walk back his comments supporting the killing of gay people. In a recent sermon, he told his congregation at the Mountain Lake Independent Baptist Church that his “flesh kind of likes the idea” of killing all gay people, but that doing so would be “wrong” because it “violates scripture.” On the church’s website, Leatherman now offers this significant retraction:
Pastor Dennis Leatherman and the Mountain Lake Independent Baptist Church never has, does not now, and never will advocate the incarceration, mistreatment, and especially not the killing of homosexuals (or any other group of people).
In a recent 50 minute message on homosexuality, Pastor Leatherman made a 5 second reference to his “flesh.” The term “flesh” in the Bible simply refers to our fallen, sinful nature. It is through the “new birth” of trusting Jesus Christ as Saviour that our nature is changed (2 Cor. 5:17, Galatians 5:19–24). Here is the full quote in question, “First of all, there is a danger of reacting in the flesh, of responding not in a scriptural, spiritual way, but in a fleshly way. ‘Kill them all. Right?’ I will be very honest with you. My flesh kind of likes that idea. But it grieves the Holy Spirit. It violates Scripture. It is wrong.” You cannot get any clearer, “it is wrong” to respond to homosexuality in any other way than a scriptural, spiritually mature and firmly compassionate way. To suggest that Pastor Leatherman or the church advocates violence of any type toward homosexuals is to completely misconstrue what his message was saying.
We DO NOT advocate (or like) the idea killing of any individuals or group of people. Though we understand the Bible to teach that homosexuality is wrong (like many other sins mentioned throughout scripture), we also understand that the Bible teaches we are to be kind to all men, regardless of their lifestyle.
So Leatherman is willing to admit that he kind of likes the idea that all gay people should be killed, but that doesn’t mean he actually likes the idea of killing them himself. This seems to be a superfluous distinction.
Far-right church leaders like Leatherman, Curtis Knapp, and Jeff Sangl should stop trying to have it both ways. If they preach anti-gay hate, they should own it. In all three cases, they’ve attempted to manage damage control without actually correcting their positions. They clearly all believe that gay people are going to Hell and should be treated as such in life. Reaffirming their anti-gay disdain in a less violent way doesn’t help their public image — it’s just fuel on the fire.