What Happened When My Gay Partner and I Went to a Bigoted Church and Confronted the Pastor
Last week, someone who hardly ever shows up on my Facebook newsfeed actually DID, and it was Mark McKeel’s photo that caught my eye. Not more than a mile from my own home, along Highway 707 in the rural Burgess-Socastee area outside Myrtle Beach, the Socastee Free Will Baptist Church posted the message you see on the accompanying photo. At first, I thought maybe it was an old photo from years ago, just resurfacing. Then I actually drove by the church later that day, and – to my shock – saw the message was, in fact, current. (photo of Church billboard above)
It occurred to me I HAD to attend this church. First, I cannot express enough how much I loathe attending a church I’m not familiar with, as it is. Secondly, walking into what could very well have been a lion’s den of hate and defiance and venom (at least that’s what ran through my mind leading up to actually going) had my better half (Ethan) and I anxious.
Because Ethan couldn’t be bothered to awake before 1pm Sunday (the bum), we decided we would attend the 6pm service. We walked in, took our seats, were warmly greeted by a half dozen or so congregants and the church’s pastor, himself, Pastor Darren Squires.
Through most of the service, the topic on their marquee wasn’t a topic in the service; until (I’m guessing an understudy-in-training) Thomas weaved his sermon into that realm. In all fairness, he’s new to the “calling,” so it can be understood that his sermon lacked a little focus and sort of wandered at times, and so I sort of lost focus, myself, and cannot actually recall how he eventually got to the message that drew us in.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure how or when I was going to speak up; as the service wore on, I opted to wait for a one-on-one with Pastor Squires, and he obliged us – for three hours I might add – and we engaged in quite the exchange of ideology on the matter.
Squires is no newcomer to this conversation, either, and having gotten wind of the attention his sign had gotten on my Facebook timeline before our attending, he was well-prepared to deflect the standard pro-gay talking points. Seems Jesus hit the “reset” button on a lot of the absurd “abominations” listed in Leviticus (shellfish, for example) so those bullets were immediately taken out of our chamber.
However (and I stood my ground on this), Pastor Squires had zero actual quotes from Jesus’ lips when it came to homosexuality. A female congregant did try to interject with some scripture she’d found but it actually included the word “homosexual,” and that word itself didn’t exist prior to – at the earliest – the 1860s. It’d be like saying Jesus would approve of space shuttle missions because he loves rocket-propulsion. it simply didn’t exist, then. Then the same young woman (who I believe we’d learned earlier in the service is married) brought up sodomy; believe it or not, Pastor Squires blew that one off himself (pardon the pun…I literally typed it THEN caught the correlation) and even went so far as to say he didn’t care if consenting married couples introduced jackhammers into the bedroom, so long as they were married. When we asked the woman if that meant she and her spouse were to never partake in the legal definition of “sodomy,” her silence was deafening.
This actually went on and on and on, for three hours, with a few sidebar conversations that I diffused a few times because I hate getting off-topic (and our stomachs were rumbling from hunger). Here’s what we learned: the message on the sign isn’t new to that church or that sign itself. They’ve apparently garnered (some) local and national press attention from posting the message before (I was unaware) and Pastor Squires admits he posts the message to get attention. It’s his (and his congregants, too) belief that the entire Bible is “the word of God” (despite the fact that there are dozens of contradictions in the New Testament alone, and that all those Leviticus “abominations” apparently get wiped out by Jesus somewhere later in the Bible). Despite the contradictions and despite the wiping out of “old law” (aka ‘Leviticus’), somehow something Peter said and something in 2nd Timothy IS “Jesus’ word.”