A couple of weeks ago, at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, Illinois, Pastor Mike Baker gave a long sermon about sex to the roughly 5,000 members who visited over the course of the weekend.
I often get criticized when I post clips from fundamentalist Baptist preachers screaming about how homosexuality is the worst kind of sin… but Baker’s not like that. He’s not screaming. He talks a lot about love. He’s trying to help a diverse crowd in his audience. He’s the sort of pastor that Christians often point to as an example of someone who’s not an extremist and the kind of person they wish we atheists would listen to.
So that’s what I did. I watched the whole sermon. (When you’re handling an infant late at night, you get a lot of free time on your hands.)
What did I learn? Baker’s rhetoric is as bigoted, awful, and just plain wrong as the stuff you’ll hear in those infamous YouTube clips.
Here’s a rundown of the stuff that stood out to me. And I would strongly urge you to read these carefully, because this is the sort of garbage you hear in non-denominational evangelical churches across the country.
Sex is cool with Jesus… and the reason I know is because you go back to the very beginning of history, the very first time in human history where two people had sex, and it’s the Creation in Genesis, Chapter 1.
Males have a penis and women have a vagina. This is not rocket science, people!
God made man’s penis to fit perfectly into a woman’s vagina. Actually, they become one flesh. The physical side of this is fascinating in God’s creation…
If you take this… all-consuming act of love between a husband and wife, and then you have sex with two or three other people, or four or five other people, or all these pornographic images, or 17 different partners… all of a sudden, now your mind is confused and we have issues now. Now we gotta work some stuff out.
Back in the 60s and 70s, almost, across the board, every person who said that they were gay or bisexual or a lesbian or transgender, they all said, “I’m born this way. There’s nothing I can do about it. I was born this way.” Now, nearly 50% of people in that community say, “I wasn’t born this way. I just choose this way. This is the way I’m gonna be. It’s my choice and you can’t say anything to me about it”… I just want us to understand today that the science doesn’t say that you’re born that way.
Now some of you are saying, “Yeah, but I feel this way. I feel like I was born this way. I feel like I’m a guy but I really should’ve been a girl. What do I do with these feelings?” Well, I would ask you just to consider that maybe these feelings are based on something other than genetics. Just consider: Maybe it has something to do with the way I was raised. Maybe the environment I was raised in. Maybe a feeling of inadequacy or a feeling of loneliness… Just consider maybe what you feel is not your reality. It certainly is not proven scientifically yet.
… Porn is abusive. There are no two innocent people having sex on the camera. 85-90% of the people have been kidnapped, forced into it, drug addiction, they’re forced to have these sexual acts to stay alive. It’s abusive.
… I think it’s clearly biblically, I think it’s clearly scientifically that these [same-sex] relationships are not healthy.
1:05:22 (answering a question about why a same-sex relationship isn’t also designed in God’s image):
… The kind of sex that you have to have between a man and a man and a woman and a woman is only an imitation of the real thing. Beyond that, there’s no way to really have kids naturally in that relationships. And beyond that, when you adopt kids in that relationship, they don’t have a mom or a dad. And so there’s a lot of complications that make it very different. I know monogamy is one of the new things about this same-sex attraction lifestyle, but the reality is that even a monogamous relationship between two men or two women is not healthy for them and, according to God’s Word, for the culture.
And I haven’t even gotten into the on-stage interview with the man who was gay but is now married with six children. (Therefore gay conversion is possible for everyone!)
So to recap…
- Mike Baker thinks the first time anyone had sex was a few thousand years ago between Adam and Eve.
- Mike Baker dismisses the very existence of transgender people (“Males have a penis…”) implying that those who say they’re trans just have some kind of disorder.
- Mike Baker acts like every man’s penis fits in every woman’s vagina perfectly. Even Goldilocks could tell you there’s such a thing as too big and too small.
- Mike Baker says that having a sexual history longer than a single name means you’re bound to have issues. As opposed to those who are celibate before straight marriage, who never have any hang-ups about sex…
- Mike Baker says nearly half of LGBTQ people say they chose that lifestyle. No citation was provided. The closest thing I could find was a 2015 Gallup poll in which 51% of all Americans believed people were born gay or lesbian… which would (wrongly) suggest that nearly half believed it was a choice. But even then, this was a poll of all Americans, not LGBTQ people. And America is full of idiots who have opinions on things they know nothing about. (e.g. The President.)
- Mike Baker says that people who claim to be transgender were either raised in a bad environment or just feel lonely and inadequate. (As if being openly trans is so damn easy…)
- Mike Baker says nearly all pornography involves people forced into it. Which would be a huge surprise, I’m guessing, to all the men and women who freely chose that work because they love what they do and don’t see recreational sex as shameful.
- Mike Baker says same-sex couples can’t have real sex and that their relationships are harmful to the people in them.
And this is from a mainstream pastor.
There is actually some good news out of all this. While he was giving this sermon, dozens of protesters were outside his church offering a different message:
As Baker spoke, about 25 protesters from a group calling itself Humans for the Advancement of Religious Equality, gathered outside the church. They held signs they said reflected their interpretation of Christian Scripture.
The signs bore messages such as, “God Doesn’t Make Mistakes” and “You Are Beautifully And Wonderfully Made.”
Jackie Gunderson organized the protest outside Eastview.
“I am the leader of a small group of Christians. Some of us are LGBTQ Christians and some of us are allies, but all of us have witnessed or experienced the hurt Christians have caused,” Gunderson said.
I love how that message is coming from other Christians and not only atheists who almost universally and reflexively oppose sermons like these.
The local NPR affiliate at WGLT reached out to Baker for comment on some of the horrible things he said. He wasn’t around to answer their questions:
GLT News asked Baker to comment on his sermon. He replied through a church official that he was leaving on a retreat to write a book and would not be available.
Another positive: One Bloomington City Council member even took time at the end of a meeting to express his disappointment that this sort of bigotry existed in their community.
There’s also a fantastic response to this sermon from a Facebook group called Feminists Instigating Social Transformation (FIST):
I got an email asking what’s the best way to respond to Baker’s sermon, especially now that it’s over and the person couldn’t just join the protest. Coming from a straight/cis background, I think the most powerful way to respond to faith-based bigotry like this is to say very openly — on Facebook, for example — that you support the LGBTQ people in your life and no pastor’s supposedly “loving” words will cause you to turn on them. You love them. You trust them. You know there’s nothing wrong with them. You won’t vote for anyone who says otherwise. And you know damn well that throwing a Bible in their direction isn’t going to change their orientation.
It’s a start, anyway. I’m open to other suggestions.
(Thanks to Marcos for the link)