Pastor Keith Gomez runs the Northwest Bible Baptist Church in Elgin, Illinois. It’s a place that markets itself as an “independent, fundamental, KJV Bible-believing & preaching Baptist church”… which is the description for a number of churches whose pastors have made national headlines over the past year for the horrible things they’ve said.
Gomez is apparently no exception. He preached a sermon last month describing how the Epistle to Philemon in the Bible makes references to the existence of slavery, which was common at the time.
None of that sounds bad, per se, until you hear what he actually said.
In the clip below, it sounds like he’s justifying slavery in America because we helped black people break free from the really evil kind of slavery they have in Africa.
… we’re talking about 13 books in the Bible, Romans through Philemon. You ought to write that down. I could really shake you up now, but I don’t know if I oughta wake you up that bad… when you get in the Pauline — are y’all listening to me? — when you get into the Pauline epistles, you’re getting in the doctrine. So why would you get in Philemon when he’s trying to teach you how to treat your slave?… If they should be slaves.
[Makes a fake snoring sound] So you wanna go to sleep?
See, what you wanna do is turn in to TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network] and listen to them odd birds who don’t know doctrine whatsoever. And then you hate slavery because we were taught to hate that. Because we’re so nasty.
And some of you little whities can’t get it either. If it wasn’t for slavery, those folks would still be in Africa with a bone in their nose fighting lions, and if you don’t like that, you can lump it any way you want. That ain’t a prejudice. That is factual and historical.
So here we are in the Pauline epistles and the man is teaching us how to deal with our slaves. And I don’t know if you know this or not, I’ve been there four times. I don’t know how many times you’ve been to Africa, but I’ve been there four times. And there are slaves in Africa. All over. African… with African slaves. And around the country, around the third world country, there’s more slaves that what you’d ever want to believe.[Responding to congregation] No, not in America, because we’re civilized and we’re advanced. But I’m asking you a question that you cannot answer. Why is he telling us how to deal and be fair to a slave in a Pauline church epistle? You can’t, can you?
Okay, let’s move on. I told you I was gonna wake you up. Look at that, man. Got your attention. But it’s true!
I should point out a couple of things.
This video comes via Steven Anderson, a pastor who has said plenty of hateful, despicable things against women and LGBT people (though not, as far as I can tell, against black people). Anderson is infuriated by Gomez’s words, too, though he says it’s because it’s a faulty interpretation of the Bible, not because it’s straight-up racism.
Also, Gomez’s sermons aren’t available online unless his church has approved your login (after you tell them some personal details and the contact information for your current church) so I couldn’t double check the context that way.
However I reached out to the church last night on Facebook to ask if this sermon clip was accurate and if they felt it was taken out of context. The person who responded, who wouldn’t tell me his or her name, told me Anderson had “attacked” their church by posting several videos of Gomez and that I shouldn’t trust this video.
I don’t care about their petty fight, nor did that answer any of my questions, so I tried again.
This time I got the following response:
Throughout that sermon, Dr. Gomez cited several passages of Scripture that are very controversial and could be confusing… Except, the whole point of the sermon is “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.” By this, Dr. Gomez is showing that there are sections of the Bible that although they were written down for us to read and learn from, they weren’t written TO us.
People take these confusing sections and create new beliefs that aren’t supported from the Bible.
In this specific instance of slavery, if you read the passage he quoted, why would the Bible teach how to care for a servant? His point (in context), is that slavery brought people to America and gave them opportunity at a new life here. Not in any way that the negatives of slavery were a good thing!
To put that another way: The Bible has controversial, confusing passages and Gomez was merely pointing that out… and, by the way, let me tell you a benefit of slavery in America.
I hadn’t misinterpreted him at all. This person was doubling down on what Gomez said. Putting it in context didn’t help. Adding a biblical explanation for it didn’t help.
An apology might help. But I doubt we’re going to hear that anytime soon.