Ohio preacher Rod Parsley denounced racism and white supremacy as demonically-inspired and blamed the church for being one of its breeding grounds in a sermon delivered after the shocking and deadly racial violence in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month.
“I had a different sermon planned for today, but the Holy Spirit would not give me rest last night or this morning,” Parsley told congregants during a Sunday, August 13 service, which was recorded and published online. He partly introduced his message, titled “A Time to Speak,” by reading from Ecclesiastes 3:7 in the Bible about “a time to speak and a time to be silent.”
After a 10-15 minute introduction to his message, in which Parsley acknowledged that he would likely offend some people, the Pentecostal preacher recounted how Heather Heyer was killed the day prior while protesting against a “Unite the Right” rally.
Parsley explained how Heyer, 32, was murdered when James Alex Fields, Jr—an Ohio resident—allegedly drove his car into a group of demonstrators on August 12. He also injured 19 other people. Protesters, including locals, had gathered to oppose the “Unite the Rally” organized and attended by those who identify as white nationalists, members of the racist alt-right, the KKK and other extremist groups. Fields, 20, was charged with second-degree murder, among other charges.
Heyer, and two state troopers killed in a helicopter crash as they monitored the rally, died “because of the friction of hatred,” Parsley said. He added that the “wind of hatred” was no different from “radical Islamic terror.”
“This is homegrown terror produced in our schools, in our homes and in our churches. White supremacy is a hellish, demonic lie. There is no human being superior to any other human being on the face of this earth,” Parsley bellowed from the pulpit.
Before he even finished speaking, congregants, Black and White, stood to their feet and applauded his remarks. One person was heard shouting “Amen!” off-screen.
Parsley went on to insist, however, that it was not a “race issue” that was dividing Americans, but a “heart issue.”
Quoting in part from a 1895 speech by Booker T. Washington, Parsley added: “Our hearts are wrong. A Black heart and a White heart. But all shall be melted by deeds of sympathy, of patience, of forbearance into one heart, the great American heart.”
The Ohio pastor also attempted to show how racism has been a part of America’s history from the beginning, and cited how the founding fathers allowed enslaved Blacks to be sold openly in the marketplace and how Christians participated in slavery. Parsley also briefly noted how Christians demonized Native Americans. He insisted that being trapped by the past impedes possibilities for the future.
At another turn in his sermon, Parsley revealed to congregants that he had been called “the Uncle Tom pastor” in public. He also appeared to say that he had been called “the n-word-loving pastor” in public—although Parsley did not actually utter “n-word” but instead gestured with his hand to complete the phrase leveled by racist Whites against other Whites who embrace Black people.
Parsley insisted that it was “a badge which I wear proudly.”
The preacher went on to call for empathy for negative experiences Black brothers and sisters face because of their skin color, but also asked Blacks who feel wronged by police violence to have empathy for the difficult jobs law enforcement officials have in “confronting the worst aspects of our society every day and every night.” Parsley added, however, that any “discredit to the badge or to the office” should be prosecuted.
Parsley concluded his message by asking congregants to be “agents of redemptive change.” He prayed that preachers would have the courage to “confront this evil and lead us to show the world that your Son and his love are the only answer.”
Before dismissing worshippers, Parsley called one of his elders, a young Black man, to the pulpit. The two embraced at length. The elder appeared visibly emotional as the two men held onto each other.
“Thank you, pastor,” the unidentified elder said after the two parted. “Thank you for bringing hope to our lives. I’m not just standing here representing the African-American race … but thank you for speaking to our hearts today.”
Parsley’s message came after the August 11-12 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville that shocked the nation and led to calls for strong denouncements of white supremacy by some Christians. The rally was purportedly organized to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. However, “Unite the Right” participants’ use of Nazi salutes and phrases like “blood and soil” (an anti-Semitic reference), “you will not replace us” and “White lives matter” made it clear the rally was about putting racism on open display. Some alarmed observers called the “Unite the Right” rally “an act of terrorism.”
Parsley, described by his church as “a TV host, evangelist, educator, humanitarian and statesman,” has long been controversial for some Christians who view him as a prosperity preacher. His World Harvest Church, founded in 1977 and located in Columbus, Ohio, is home to 12,000 worshippers, according to the ministry’s website.
Watch Rod Parsley’s “A Time to Speak,” which is almost an hour long, in the video below.