Pastor Curtis Knapp says he doesn’t want gay people to die but to turn to God.
By Bob Allen
A Kansas pastor who made national headlines for saying the government should execute homosexuals says he never expected his words to be taken literally or discussed beyond the walls of his local church.
“This has been an interesting week,” Pastor Curtis Knapp said in his June 3 sermon at New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kan. “Last week I thought I was speaking to a group of people who already had a good bit of scriptural knowledge and the background and love for God’s word, and as it turned out I was speaking to thousands of people, as the Lord would have it, including national news agencies.”
Knapp acknowledged that media tuning in to an excerpt of audio from his May 27 sermon that went viral after it was posted on a pro-gay website had no context to understand his comment that gays should be put to death as they were in Old Testament Israel.
“You must have a thoroughly saturated biblical worldview,” he said. “You must know your Bible pretty well.”
Knapp compared somebody with the “typical worldview” hearing a short sound bite lifted from an hour-long sermon that is just one in a series of messages to a student walking into a college class for the first time in mid-semester.
He termed the death-penalty reference “merely a hypothetical situation” to illustrate that the Bible condemns things that most Americans no longer consider sinful. The point he intended to make, he said, is that if a government wanted to establish itself in keeping with God’s word, it would have no choice but to impose the death penalty for a variety of offenses, including homosexual behavior.
“Do I think gays should be harmed or killed?” Knapp asked. “No, I don’t. And to any homosexuals listening, I don’t hate you… I know I have been branded as a hate preacher, but I really don’t hate you.”
Knapp said he knows gay people and loves them. “I have never yet met a person on earth, homosexual or any other kind of person, that I looked at and thought to myself ‘I hope that you burn in hell,’” he said. “I’ve never met anyone like that.”
“Do I think the government should start arresting homosexuals and killing them?” he continued. “No. That is not at all what I meant last week. Absolutely not.”
“And by the way, I don’t think the judicial branch of our government is tuning in every week to Sermon Audio and hanging on to my words to get instruction on how to govern or how to develop their penal code,” he said. “I don’t think you have anything to worry about the government putting homosexuals to death. That’s not going to happen.”
Still, he said, there is no getting around the fact that Leviticus 20:13 declares “homosexuality is a detestable act and is punished by death” and Romans 1:32 says those who practice it deserve to die.
“Do I believe that those verses are evil, cruel and barbaric, or if we broaden the question, do I believe the death penalty is cruel and barbaric?” he asked. “No. If I did then I would be criticizing Scripture, because it all over the place prescribes it for many different crimes. For me to criticize those verses would be to criticize God, and I cannot do that.”
He said the point is that God considers homosexuality worthy of death but culture has accepted it. He added that God declares a lot of sins deadly and that in fact everyone deserves to die, because all have sinned and the “wages” of sin is death.
“I’m not advocating anyone to go out and start harming homosexuals, not at all, or killing,” he said. “Christians have no business with that at all. Churches have no business with that.”
The reason he mentioned the government, he said, is because it is the only institution with the legitimate power to carry out capital punishment. He said even if such a law were passed he doubts it would lead to large-scale executions, because individuals would be deterred from acting in certain ways.
“I don’t want homosexuals to all be rounded up and put to death,” Knapp said. “What I want is for them to be saved and to know Jesus Christ and to know real joy and real happiness.”