When David Platt, the pastor at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, cited the Bible and argued that homosexuality is wrong, he opted for an old rhetorical device. He applied the reasoning used by “those in the homosexual movement to describe or justify homosexual desires or actions” to “pedophilia, more specifically homosexual pedophilia,” Platt said in a 2008 sermon.
“After all, the pedophile argues, we both enjoy this, how can it be wrong?” he said. “Jesus never spoke against. He welcomed children to himself...I am part of a persecuted minority and as a result I am all the more deserving of civil rights.”
Platt asked his audience “Are you convinced? You say ‘Of course not. It’s against the law.’” Then, after pausing for dramatic effect, Platt said “Ladies and gentlemen so was same sex marriage two months ago in California.”
The 32-year-old Southern Baptist pastor never explained the point he was making other than to say “Please hear me, I am not equating these two things completely together, but I am showing us in scripture and practically in our lives that causation does not imply justification.”
The transgender, bisexual, lesbian, and gay community has never said that causation implies justification, but that is the advantage of a sermon. The pastor states all the facts and reaches the conclusion without presenting alternative views or opposing voices.
Platt still has problems. The first is that he apparently cannot distinguish between sex between consenting adults and sex between an adult and someone who is younger than any state’s age of consent. The gay, transgender, lesbian, and bisexual community sees a difference in those relationships.
The North American Man Boy Love Association, or NAMBLA, was founded in 1978. That political and social group had support within the broader community, but it also met with resistance that grew louder and more strident with the passing of time. Today, NAMBLA, which never had more than 1,200 members and a few thousand dollars in the bank at any given time, is a shadow of its former self and its members do not even try to associate with queer community groups.
Platt’s bigger challenge is his Furman problem as in the Rev. Dr. Richard Furman. In 1814, at the first Triennial Convention of the American Baptists, Furman was elected president of that denomination. He was also the first president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and served in that office from 1821 to 1825. In 1845, a schism, largely over the morality of slavery, led southerners among the American Baptists to form the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination that Platt belongs to.
In 1822, Denmark Vesey, a former slave, was accused of organizing a slave rebellion in South Carolina. Authorities in that state arrested, tortured, and tried Vesey and roughly 100 co-conspirators. Thirty-five, including Vesey, were hanged and 40 were shipped out of the US.
Historians debate whether Vesey ever planned a rebellion. It was common across America in the 19th and early 20th centuries for authorities or mobs to manufacture charges of insurrection or rape of a white woman by a African-American man as a pretext for responding with lynchings or other forms of violence.
In 1822, John L. Wilson, then the governor of South Carolina, asked Furman if he would recommend that the state establish a “Day of Public Humiliation and Thanksgiving” to commemorate its having avoided this rebellion. Furman responded affirmatively and offered a fullthroated defense of slavery. His source for that defense was the Bible.
“The result of this inquiry and reasoning, on the subject of slavery, brings us, sir, if I mistake not, very regularly to the following conclusion -- That the holding of slaves is justifiable by the doctrine and example contained in Holy writ; and is, therefore consistent with Christian uprightness, both in sentiment and conduct,” Furman wrote.
“That it is also the positive duty of servants to reverence their master, to be obedient, industrious, faithful to him, and careful of his interests; and without being so, they can neither be the faithful servants of God, nor be held as regular members of the Christian Church,” Furman wrote later in the 19-page treatise titled “Rev. Dr. Richard Furman’s Exposition of The Views of Baptists, Relative to the Colored Population of the United States.”
Does Platt believe that Furman was correct? Furman’s authority was the Bible, the same good book that Platt cited in his attack on homosexuality. If Platt does agree, he has endorsed slavery and he has no moral authority to preach on any topic. If he does not, then he must concede that the Bible can be used by vile people to serve immoral ends. Having conceded that, he must explain how his congregation can distinguish between right Biblical teaching and wrong Biblical teaching. He must also concede that there is a very real possibility that his teaching on homosexuality was as wrong as Furman’s on slavery.
Platt is not a minor player in the denomination. He will nominate Brian Wright, the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, to his second term when that group meets in June in Phoenix and he was selected to deliver this year’s convention sermon.
Platt’s Furman problem is shared by every member of the Southern Baptist Convention. That denomination defended slavery and segregation for over 100 years. It remained silent in the face of the brutal violence that was visited upon African-Americans. Its muted 1995 apology for that has done little to heal the wounds caused by that history. It remains a predominantly white denomination.
In contrast, the bisexual, transgender, lesbian, and gay community has thoroughly and completely repudiated NAMBLA and yet Platt employs the device of the homosexual as pedophile to argue against gay marriage.
It is no surprise then that it is always galling to be the subject of a lecture on morality and sin from a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.