As investigators try to find out who targeted a Carroll County man in an alleged hate crime that appears to be fueled by anti-gay religious rhetoric, local spiritual leaders are speaking out against the act and reaching out to the victim.
Keith Jiles, pastor of Word of Life Gospel Ministries in Carrollton, said he reacted with disbelief when he heard that Christopher Staples’ home on Alvin Drive was burned Sunday morning after a large rock wrapped with a threatening note containing anti-gay slurs was thrown through a window the house Saturday night.
Jiles said the church will help by rebuilding Staples’ home.
“You always hear about things like this happening somewhere else, but not in your own community,” he said. “I am saddened to think that someone in our community could have this much hatred toward another person. However, it is at times like this that the church has the opportunity and responsibility to rise and shine. After all, this is what Christ commands Christians to do.”
Jiles said churches often travel far and wide to fulfill the great commission, but in the process, may neglect their communities. He also referenced pastors who get so caught up in saving the world that they neglect their own families.
“We must realize that God places us in our communities for a reason and that is to reach out and make an impact on the community in which we live,” he said. “This is neither about Chris, nor about the crimes that were committed. This is about the church being a light unto the world and reaching out and loving our neighbors as ourselves. This is about allowing Chris, our community and the person or people responsible for this crime the opportunity to witness firsthand the Love and Grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Larry Massey, the pastor of Life on the Word in Carrollton is thankful that Staples was not hurt.
“I definitely hate anything like that to happen to anybody,” Massey said.
While a person may not approve a someone’s lifestyle, he feels it is important for to make a distinction between the person and the way they life their lives because everyone is “precious in God’s sight.”
“I’ll definitely have our church praying for him,” Massey said.
University of West Georgia psychology professor Daniel Helminiak believes the anti-gay religious movement plays a major role in allowing violence against gay and lesbian people. Helminiak is an advisor for LAMBDA, the university’s only gay-straight alliance organization and wrote the best-selling book, “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality.”
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