How much prayer can an entire family speak in 60 years? how much money can that family put in the offering plate? How many friends can they make, and how many hours of counseling, love and devotion could they show to a church in the course of six decades? How long does it take for one serpent in the garden to make all of that irrelevant?
According to Pastor Ken Willis of Ridgedale Church of Christ in Chattanooga, TN, as long as it takes to sit beside your lesbian daughter at her wedding.
Earlier this week, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported that following Kat Cooper’s marriage to Krista, Willis quietly pulled Cooper’s mother, aunt and uncle aside and issued them an ultimatum: Publicly renounce your sin and your daughter’s sinful ways in front of the entire congregation, or get out and don’t come back.
Of course, Baptists have a longstanding tradition of public shaming, one that goes back to the stockades of Europe. It’s how they enforce the status-quo, the authority of the church, in a polite society where the sweetest smiles so often hide venomous tongues.
According to Willis: “The sin would be endorsing that lifestyle. The Bible speaks very plainly about that.But you certainly can’t condone that lifestyle, whether it’s any kind of sin — whether they’re shacked up with someone or living in a state of fornication or they’re guilty of crimes. You don’t condone it. You still love them as a parent.”
Speaking as a Southerner, raised in a culture where quiet shame is the norm, it’s refreshing to see a blacksnake like Willis slither out and show his true colors. People like him hide in the grass of “God’s love,” while snapping at the heels of anyone they feel doesn’t belong.
Like the Tea Party, churches like this are gradually driving themselves into the fringes of society, marking themselves as the congregations of hateful savages they’ve always been. But the world moves on, and leaves savage serpents like Willis in history. You can count on them to squeal “Don’t Tread on Me” to the bitter end — but strong families like Kat’s will still walk through that garden, fertilizing the soil with snake blood on their boots.