Religion

First Baptist's Robert Jeffress is Toning Down His Anti-Gay Rhetoric

It wasn't long ago -- July, in fact -- that First Baptist's Robert Jeffress was comparing homosexuality to bestiality and incest.

This wasn't particularly surprising. Matter of fact, it was in line with his past pronouncements on the subject of homosexuality, which are summed up most succinctly in the title of a 2008 sermon, "Gay is not OK." (Sample line: "What they [homosexuals] do is filthy. It is so degrading that it is beyond description. And it is their filthy behavior that explains why they are so much more prone to disease." Like AIDS, which 70 percent of homosexuals have, according to Jeffress.)

But The Associated Press reports that Jeffress is part of a growing contingent of evangelical leaders taking a softer line on homosexuality.

"I think we were too quick to dismiss the possibility of a genetic predisposition," he told the AP, acknowledging that it's possible that homosexuality can't be cured or prayed away.

He still thinks acting on homosexual desires is a sin condemned by the Bible, but he puts it in the same category as adultery, premarital sex and "unbiblical divorce." In other words, there's not a special place in hell for gays. They'll just go to regular hell.

How much of a shift this marks is debatable, since Jeffress has long tempered his condemnations of homosexuality with a message of compassion. His 2008 homosexuality-is-filthy line was followed by an exhortation to his congregation to love and cherish their gay family members.

And Jeffress' bottom line -- that homosexuality is a sin -- remains unchanged. Until he begins preaching otherwise, any shift in rhetoric is just putting lipstick on a pig.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson