I mentioned on Sunday that a Colorado pastor had recently prayed with his congregation in order to undo the damage caused by a gay man who had spoken on that stage days earlier.
The speaker, Justin Garoutte, hadn’t done anything wrong. They were invited to a conference on local philanthropy because they know how to tell a powerful story, and they did just that, talking about the struggles they faced when coming out. (The conference was held at the church only because it was one of the larger venues in town, not because there was any religious component to it.)
Pastor Greg Schaffer of Gateway Church in Del Norte told his audience days later that they needed to “do a one-prayer cleansing of this sanctuary” because the “LGBT movement — Q, X, Y, all the extras” was sinful and it should never have entered his building.
(Update: The original sermon video was pulled, so a mirror is shown below)
In the days since that story was first published here, other outlets have also commented on it, and Garoutte himself told me that, during his speech, “Pastor Greg cut my mic and exclaimed from the sound booth that I needed to watch what I say.”
Now Pastor Greg Schaffer is responding to the outrage exactly as you’d expect. In a Facebook post intended to “open the hearts and minds of those who read it,” he doubled down on his actions.
Update: He “cleansed” the post. I got receipts.
Let’s talk about the problems with his non-apology.
1) He insists he doesn’t have a problem with Garoutte being gay; his problem is that Garoutte talked about being gay.
… Let me make clear that the surprise and eventual offence was not that he was homosexual but the content of what he shared. What was shared in our church behind our pulpit was a message that clearly mocked God and belittled our faith. In his story the reference was made to his sexual experiences and the shaking off of his religious guilt.
Garoutte sent me a copy of the speech he gave. There’s no mocking of God. There’s no belittling of faith. Instead, Justin talked about going to a Catholic church and praying to God to “cure” their homosexuality, only to realize that was never going to happen:
… I’d go to confession every week, hoping the priest would perform a miracle and straighten out my life. I prayed hundreds of Hail Marys and Our Fathers during those oppressive years, yet God seemed not to care, forcing me to look elsewhere.
It’s at Colorado College where my entire understanding of the world as I knew it was erased and written anew. I put all those Our Fathers and Hail Marys, along with all the conversion therapy lessons and threats of hell, in a sealed box in the depths of my closet. Out of that same closet came a beautiful rainbow-colored box that had been patiently waiting for the right time to be opened.
That’s not anti-God. That’s not mocking God. That’s a story many LGBTQ people could tell you about what they experienced in their churches.
2) He pretends like he did everyone a favor by allowing Garoutte to finish his speech… even though the church had no formal role in the conference.
… To think that someone who was invited into our house would share such a story was beyond comprehension. Even with all that he said he was allowed to finish his story.
How generous of the Christian leader to allow outsiders to speak without interruption. It’s quite literally the least he could do.
3) He acts like Garoutte did something wrong.
Here is the problem. If I were to come into someone’s house and disrespect their beliefs, their convictions and their way of life I think most would say that would be insensitive at the least. Whether it was intentional or unintended by the gentleman that shared it was still offensive. Our sanctuary is a sacred place to us. It is a holy place. On that day, trust and sacredness were violated.
No one disrespected Christian beliefs, unless Schaffer thinks bigotry and hatred are synonymous with his faith. More to the point, Schaffer allowed an outside group to use his church (whether voluntarily or at a cost), and he doesn’t get to dictate what they say. I’m unaware of any faith-based contract the philanthropy conference organizers had to sign that prohibited content that might be perceived as anti-Christian.
4) He blames the whole damn world for his own actions.
This past week has been a difficult one. It has been a week filled with misunderstanding, and misrepresentation of who I am and who we are as a church. The outlash of anger, vulgar speech, personal attacks and mocking of our faith on social media, internet sights, phone calls and emails were shocking. They were insensitive and uncalled for.
There’s no misinterpretation. There’s no misunderstanding. We have the video. I posted the transcript. We know what he did, we know why he did it, and he deserves to be criticized for his Christian bigotry. If he doesn’t want to be criticized for his beliefs, he should stop believing horrible things. This isn’t complicated.
5) He wants you to give him credit for not protesting a local Pride festival.
When [San Luis Valley] Pride Fest took place a few weeks ago in Alamosa I did not respond negatively in any way (nor do I know of anyone who did). Even though I heard it on the radio every day, saw it advertised on FB daily I did not respond. I also did not go to pride day and protest waving signs or shouting. One reason was out of respect and two because that is not my place nor is it who I am.
He doesn’t get credit for “respect” just because he didn’t go out of his way to be an asshole. LGBTQ people don’t stand outside his church every week protesting his bigotry, either. Should they get a cookie for that?
All of this just shows how little he understands LGBTQ issues, even as they relate to religion. He still thinks he did nothing wrong. Despite saying bullying is wrong, he’s still the guy who calls them the “LGBT movement — Q, X, Y, all the extras” and talks about how they’re coming “into our communities” and schools as if they’re going to infest them with Gay Cooties.
It’s never good when someone’s response to backlash is worse than the comments that inspired the backlash.
The way Schaffer speaks, he should just hire a weekly cleaner since he’s soiling that sanctuary every week.