Coping With Spiritual Attacks

Attacks From Media Pastors

In September 2004, there were news reports that televangelist Jimmy Swaggart talked about killing gay people in a sermon. He is quoted as saying, "I'm trying to find the correct name for it ... this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. ... I've never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I'm gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."

The news story can be found on the web site. To Jimmy Swaggart’s credit, he apologized for the remarks.

People who are troubled about what Jimmy Swaggart said are able to write him and express their concerns. Jimmy Swaggart, c/o Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, PO Box 262550, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70826-2550.

Spiritual and emotional damage may have been done to some people in Jimmy Swaggart’s congregation and to some of the people watching on television. We will never know for sure.

In the opinion of this writer, for a few minutes Jimmy Swaggart abdicated his role as a pastor and protector of the flock and preyed upon the weak members of his flock. Gay people are a minority group. Like any minority group, gay people are weak and need to be protected by their pastors, not preyed upon by their pastors. Our hope and prayer is that this is the last time Jimmy Swaggart will ever say things that hurt gay people.

A few church members can be spiritually disillusioned and torn apart when a person they respected and loved turns on them. When a loved pastor turns on a person, the pain can be very intense.

Unfortunately, Jimmy Swaggart was not the first pastor to make inappropriate statements about gay people from the pulpit and he is not likely to be the last pastor to do that. How should gay people respond when they face spiritual attacks from lay leaders, pastors and church administrators?

First, decide what is important. God is important. Your relationship with the Lord is of utmost importance in life. Nobody can destroy that relationship without your permission. Determine no matter what happens nobody will come between you and God. Should you let a homophobic pastor stand between you and God, you have made that homophobic pastor more important than God. In effect, the pastor you despise becomes an idol, because the one you allowed the person who hurt you to get between you and the Lord.

Determine if the action is a one-time lapse in judgment or if this person often says things that wound God’s people. Should this be an isolated event that is completely out of character, you may wish to work to help educate the pastor. When there is a history of mistakes being made that isolate the sheep from the pastor, the situation is very serious and a very serious response is needed.

Think about what you will do. Decide how you can teach your pastor what is appropriate pastoral conduct and healthy theology. Think of the different kinds of political and economic pressure you can ethically bring against a pastor who appears to need to be disciplined for his or her conduct.

Should you decide the pastor only needs to understand more about homosexuality and he will be fine, you may choose to purchase some very good books on the topic and mail those books to him. You may decide to take a close friend with you to meet with the pastor to discuss your concerns. A letter sent to the pastor or to the church board may help too.

In the event that the pastor appears to react this way routinely, you may decide to take stronger action. You may wish to withhold offerings until the situation changes and write a letter to the board stating what you are doing and why the action is being taken. You could choose to lobby the board or denominational leaders to have the pastor disciplined. Disciplinary action should only be sought after there have been attempts to get the pastor to change his or her approach.

An ethical approach is important. The pastor, the church board and denominational leaders need to see that you have a different ethic than the pastor demonstrated. When you show you operate on a higher ethical level than the pastor, people will understand that you are walking with the Lord. And that is a powerful testimony that people can be queer and Christian.