(Photo: Thomas Road Baptist Church)
Joining pastors throughout the country in denouncing President Barack Obama's support for same-sex marriage, Pastor Jonathan Falwell told thousands from the pulpit that they must protect the biblical definition of marriage, even if the culture and the president tries to redefine it.
"We've got to protect marriage; we've got to protect our families; we've got to protect the Church," Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., preached Sunday. "I don't care what the world says; I don't care what the culture says; I don't even care what the president says. With all due respect ... the Bible says that God made them male and female and the two shall become one flesh.
"Marriage is between a man and a woman, period," he said to applause from the congregation.
Following Obama's announcement last Wednesday that he believes same-sex couples should be able to get married, pastors have spoken out either rejecting the president's views or welcoming it.
The Rev. Emmett Burns, who was previously a staunch supporter for Obama's election in 2008, announced on Sunday that he is withdrawing his support over his gay marriage stance.
"Burns has been at the forefront of the Maryland fight against same sex marriages and is appalled at the president's decision to endorse this practice," according to an announcement. The Maryland pastor also intends to encourage other Baltimore pastors to follow suit.
Dr. Ken Hutcherson, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Redmond, Wash., meanwhile, advised his congregation to support a candidate who aligns with biblical teachings. And if no one fits the bill, they can choose not to vote for any of the candidates, he said.
Falwell, son of the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, had pondered and prayed about whether to continue his message series on "Holy Wars" or preach on something more pertinent to Mother's Day on Sunday.
But he was convinced that there was no better day than Mother's Day to talk about marriage and family especially at a time when those institutions are being attacked, he told the megachurch of some 20,000 members.
"We've got to understand that indeed we are in the midst of a battle ... the battlefield is something that is very, very real in our lives," he preached. It's a battle that rages in our hearts, souls and minds, he added.
Satan, Falwell warned, is trying to keep people from enjoying God's great blessings.
Reading from the New Testament, Galatians 5, Falwell listed adultery, fornication, uncleanness and lewdness as sins.
God, he stressed, provides a "very clear understanding so there is no gray area" on sexual sin. But the culture is redefining what a sexual relationship should be like, he lamented.
"We're redefining what is right and what is wrong," he said. "God knew that we were going to live in a culture today just as many in that day were living in where we redefine what sin is, where we change the idea of what sin is so that we can make room for the things that we want to do," the Virginia pastor said.
"It's easy when we understand that adultery is wrong and fornication (any sexual relationship outside of the bonds of marriage) is wrong but if we can change the definition of fornication then we can open all kinds of doors and that is where we live today."
He continued, "When we do that .... when we begin to make cases for and explain away what the Bible says, then we begin to destroy our very souls and the battlefield is raging and Satan is winning."
Americans are split on whether homosexual behavior is a sin. According to LifeWay Research, which surveyed more than 2,000 Americans in September 2011, 44 percent say it is a sin and 43 percent disagree. Among born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, 82 percent call it a sin.
While exhorting the congregation to stand on the Word of God and be clear about what the Bible calls sin, Falwell urged caution.
"What is vitally important to understand is that while we stand on truth, we must speak the truth in the love of Jesus Christ," he stressed. "There is no room in today's culture and there better not be any room in the Church today to attack people who disagree with us. Rather, let them see the love of Jesus Christ in us.
"I will tell you this, that God loves homosexuals just as much as He loves Baptists. Jesus died on the cross for every single one of us."
The message Christians should be spreading is about the gift of eternal life, he urged.
"Yes, the Bible does call sin sin but let me reveal to you through the Word of God not what God says 'no' to but rather what God gives us the opportunity to say 'yes' to and that is the incredible gift of God's eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Falwell, who became Thomas Road's second-ever senior pastor in 2007 after his father's passing, kicked off the "Holy Wars" sermon series last month. In Sunday's message, he also warned against pornography and urged believers to fill themselves with the things of God and not let Satan destroy them, particularly through their eyes.