Perhaps this represents the real price the LGBT community must pay in exchange for same-sex wedding announcements in our daily newspaper. One week after publishing its first gay wedding ads, The Dallas Morning News (subscription only) on Sunday came out with a glowing front-page profile of anti-gay bigot Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas.
The story, under the headline “Pastor hopes to restore glory to First Baptist Church,” reveals that Jeffress has increased resident membership by a whopping 5 percent during his first four years at First Baptist. But overall membership is still down by about 35 percent since the church was led by W.A. Criswell.
The story claims that when Jeffress was a 15-year-old member at First Baptist, Criswell told him, “Robert, I want you to learn every square inch of this place [First Baptist] because one day it’s all gonna be yours.”
OK, that’s just plain creepy. Did they go over every square inch of anything else?
And speaking of creepy, the story concludes with a passage about how Jeffress once dressed up as a bright-yellow, six-foot banana to go on Let’s Make A Deal. Gee, sexually repressed much?
Overall, the DMN story is way too positive given the extent of Jeffress’ incessant hate-mongering — and it really doesn’t belong on the front page to begin with (perhaps an inside religion page?). But there is some token balance, most notably this passage:
Sometimes, critics wish he would just shut up, fearing that his campaigns against homosexuals, abortion, Muslims and Mormons might give license and support to violent extremists.
Jeffress reaped a lot of publicity with his “Why Gay Is Not OK” sermon in November 2008 when he called homosexuality a perversion and “a twisting of God’s plan for sexuality.” But he also characterized premarital sex and adultery in the same terms.
Gays and lesbians who claim to be religious are “worshipping a God of their own imagination,” he said.
“You cannot fear God and disobey him at the same time,” he said during that sermon.
Laura McFerrin, a gay activist in Dallas, said several leaders at more liberal churches tried to meet with Jeffress after the sermon but were unsuccessful.
“Some gay youth spend years hating themselves, and some even try to commit suicide,” she said. “I felt like that sermon was very harmful to gay youth. I’m sticking to the side that says gay is OK.”
Colleen Darraugh, lead pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, said she believes Jeffress represents an element of society that targets the gay and lesbian community for selfish reasons.
“I cannot say anything about his motivation, but we all know there is money to be made and attention to be gained by being anti-gay,” she said.