On Wednesday evening, I joined 200 people outside of the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento to protest the hateful words of Roger Jimenez. In a sermon last Sunday after the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, he said: “The tragedy is more of them didn’t die … I’m kind of upset he didn’t finish the job.”
His vitriolic words speak clearly that the pastor is not a man of God but a bigoted hatemonger of the likes of a David Duke or a Dylann Roof. Members of the LGBT community are an integral part of the multi-layered fabric of our society and deserve respect. Rather than using his pastoral power to promote love and healing, Jimenez incites hatred and violence.
It pains me to have to publicly disparage another human being, but the Christian Bible clearly teaches that rebuke is at times necessary. The Book of Matthew supports the idea of rebuking a sinner, and correcting someone in love: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” (Matthew: 18:15). I tried to share my thoughts Wednesday night with the pastor, but I was not permitted to enter the church.
If Jimenez is consistent with his theological interpretations of the Bible, then he would strictly follow all of the Biblical teachings from the King James Bible. If his children become stubborn and rebellious, and continue that behavior after Jimenez warns them, is he prepared to take them outside and have the elders of the city stone his children to death? (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). I truly doubt it. I could list many other such examples of how taking words literally from the ancient texts would be morally wrong in today’s world.
And that is the crux of the issue. Where is Jimenez’s moral compass? His hate speech in the aftermath of another national tragic mass murder continues to fuel the fires of division and hate. And sadly, as I watched adults and some with children walking into his church with Bibles in hand, I just could not fathom that people with common sense, morality or decency would condone such hateful messages.
Years ago while visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., I listened to a recording of a survivor who tells of watching another inmate in the camp praying.
“Why are you praying?” he asks.
The man answers, “I am thanking God.”
The first man is stunned. “For what could you be thanking God? What is there to thank God for in this hell?”
The second man calmly responds, “I am thanking God that he did not make me like them.”
I thank God that she did not make me like Roger Jimenez. And I hope that all good and decent people in Sacramento and throughout our nation will continue to stand up and protest against anyone who uses the pulpit or any soapbox to spew forth hatred toward any group of people.
Let us be reminded of Desmond Tutu’s warning: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Rabbi Reuven Taff, a past president of the Greater Sacramento Board of Rabbis, is rabbi and spiritual leader of Mosaic Law Congregation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org