When the Bible is taken literally, we end up with Bible-thumping hatred.
“Pastor” Grayson Fritts is also a sheriff’s detective in Knox County, Tennessee. During his sermon four days ago at All Scripture Baptist Church, he screamed, “I hate homosexuals! I hate reprobates!….Because the Bible commands me to.” (52:45)
He’s not wrong about what the Bible says.
Mr. Fritts (for I refuse to call this man “pastor”) shares such nuggets of teaching wisdom as:
“If you do not hate the homosexuals then you are in violation and God’s wrath will be upon you.”
“There’s never gonna be a homo at this church.”
He describes a man coming to him and claiming to be a “former homosexual.” Mr. Fritts tells the man he cannot come into “my church” even to get a bottle of water, even to use the parking lot because God has clearly given that man over to a “reprobate mind.”
At 55:56 in the video, Mr. Fritts says, “I hate them. And you should too. And if you don’t hate them, you’re brainwashed. You think all, ‘God’s loving,’ you don’t know how wicked these people are. So how about we just believe the Bible? We just read this list in Romans 1 and be like, ‘Ok, I believe you, God, that’s what they’re like. I don’t care how sweet they are [here he did air quotes], your little sweetie at your workplace, you know your little twinkle toes at your workplace that he’s just so sweet and fruity and everybody likes him. He’s wicked as hell. You understand that? He is wicked as hell.”
“Let’s just agree to believe the Bible. Can we do that? The Bible says that it’s filthy, it’s disgusting, it’s unnatural and God help us when we can’t go to the church and, you know, hear the truth and escape the filth of the world. God help us that we’re in a nation where I can go to a Baptist church and be sitting next to one of these freaks….You say, ‘You’re hateful.’ Good. That’s fine. I’ll take it.”
He uses vile name-calling. And he faithfully bases everything he is teaching on “what the Bible says.”
This is the kind of thinking that comes from building your faith on the requirement to believe that the Bible is literally, 100%, true, God-written, and unchanging.
When I first watched Mr. Fritts’ video, I was filled with fury. I wanted to lash out. To spew my righteous indignation all over my own social media accounts and here, at Freevangelic. I wanted to feel the satisfaction of being affirmed by others that this man’s belief is disgusting, gross, inhuman, hateful, and utterly unacceptable in kind society. I wanted to report his hate speech to YouTube, to have his video removed before it could harm my friends. I wanted him silenced. Hurt. Destroyed.
And then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about five years ago. My friend is gay, married to and with his husband for many years. We were discussing his potential inclusion on the Board of Trustees of the non-profit for which I served as President & CEO. Many Christians populated both the Board and the larger donor list. My friend asked, “But what about the fact that I’m gay?”
Today, my heart twists just writing that. My sweet, smart, relationship-driven friend, having to worry about such a thing.
“What about it?” I asked.
“Would that be a problem for them? For you? Do you believe I’m wrong for being gay?”
In my Bible-steeped Self Confidence of Truth Knowledge I said, “We disagree on this issue, yes. And that means one of us hasn’t come into a right understanding. It could be you. It could be me. I can trust that Truth will make itself known as it always does.”
He was gracious. “Okay, he said. Thank you.”
My friend thanked me for my ignorance. He didn’t argue at me, he didn’t even let me know that I had hurt him, though I probably had. He just accepted, in his own wisdom, that I still needed time to get to understanding.
While I didn’t yell my hatred, I did align with Mr. Fritts in my Bible-beliving past. And so I looked again at Mr. Fritts.
This time, I really looked at him as he screamed and yelled and pounded the pulpit. I set aside the familiar religious caricature he represented (hateful, Bible-believing Baptist) and looked at him as a human.
I paid closer attention to which parts made him scream. What his body did afterward. When he appeared to be authentically angry.
And I began to see his fear.
The fear acted like a lightbulb. I saw him. Him, the man, not him the character.
I think Mr. Fritts may be attracted to men. (Often the ones screaming most loudly are the ones fighting their own desires.) Or someone he authentically loves is attracted to the same sex and he doesn’t know how to deal. He always thought that if he raised his son right and populated their world with people who believe as they do, this “vile sin” would never be something he’d have to actually address.
Mr. Fritts’ body language screams, “I’m in conflict! I’m scared! I feel defeated! Lost! Help!”
No longer in his screams did I hear hatred. I heard the fear. I saw the defeated slump of his shoulders – ever so slight – after a screaming tirade. I saw him railing against what probably feels like an inner demon in his worldview.
I heard with ears that hear. I saw with eyes that see.
And then I began to feel compassion for this lost soul. He is like the tired toddler in the grocery store who screams, cries, and throws things as a way to communicate, “I’ve had enough! I need to rest! Help!”
Oh, Mr. Fritts, you are loved. The book on which you have built your life was written by humans, writing through their own filters and experiences.
It is okay to let the book be what it is: a book. Not a dictate. Not a command. Not a god you worship and feel compelled to obey to every letter lest the god you worship strike you dead.
It is okay to stop fighting.
It is okay to sit down, to accept what you already know is.
Accepting that good and kindness can be in what you formerly rejected is not defeat. It is wisdom. It is the scales falling from your eyes.
You will never go wrong resting in love.
What do you think?