Does Charles Worley and Providence Road Baptist Church really support ‘racial purity’?

Yet another update on the Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church, whose pastor, Charles “Concentration Camp” Worley, has come under scrutiny for his proposal to send LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and his 1978 sermon blessing the hanging of gays.

A mutual friend on Facebook posted a screenshot of a review of the church he found on the church’s overview on Google. The review reads almost too outlandish to believe.

It it legit? Is it a satire? My first impression was the latter, but I’m concerned it could be real for several reasons.

I’ll explain. First, the review (my emphasis added):

TheRodofGod – today – 5 stars
I started attending this church a few months ago and believe me when I say it is absolutely a blessing. It is so nice to be among like minded individuals who praise the time honored traditions of racial and sexual purity. Pastor Worley speaks an abundance of truth and realizes the need for a final solution to our country’s troubled present. He preaches the truth that modern day Zionist media refuses to acknowledge. Providence isn’t some bobble-head ditto chamber either, we all agree that the good days are behind us and only torment await if we continue to travel the road we’re one. I will continue to pray for days when the racially impure do the menial tasks us deserving and god-chosen southerners are breaking our backs at. The dandies should stop choosing sin and the ladies would be much happier if they could just embrace their dependence on the masculine men in society.

Crazy, right? When I first read it, I thought so too. “There’s no way,” I told myself, “that anyone believes this.” And, the username — “TheRodofGod” — just has to be a joke. Plus, the user has only one activity on Google’s network — this one comment — according to the public profile.

Yet, stopping to consider the source, a church whose pastor has preached murder of LGBT people for at least 40 years, and one might be cautious before ignoring these new comments outright. 

Let’s take it blow by blow…

It is so nice to be among like minded individuals who praise the time honored traditions of racial and sexual purity.

Enough said, I guess. There’s plenty of rabid racists and misogynists hanging around. It’s not beyond belief to think they’d seek out places of worship that still preach for the separation of races and subjugation of women. On the latter, for sure, there’s many a church leader who’s yet to fully embrace the dignity and humanity of women.

…realizes the need for a final solution to our country’s troubled present.

“Final solution.” The term Hitler’s Nazi Party used to describe their plan to exterminate our Jewish brothers and sisters. And, the first clue that made me question the legitimacy of the “review.” But, recognizing that Worley, indeed, does preach a sort of “final solution” that would “get rid of all the lesbians and queers,” this one isn’t necessarily a stretch either.

…modern day Zionist media refuses to acknowledge.

Where there’s a racist, a sexist and a homophobe, I’m sure we’re bound to find an anti-Semite, right? But, at this point, the whole thing is starting to sound too ridiculous to bear.

…pray for days when the racially impure do the menial tasks us deserving and god-chosen southerners are breaking our backs at. The dandies should stop choosing sin and the ladies would be much happier if they could just embrace their dependence on the masculine men in society.

And, here’s the kicker.

Upon first glance, I was willing to cast off the entire “review” as mere satire. It took a second, longer look at the review, and these two last sentences in particular, before I questioned my initial assessment.

The last two sentences string together so many complicated themes and histories from the New South (that period from about 1877 to about the 1920s or 1930s) that only two possible persons could have written them: (a) a person who truly and utterly believes in the dogma, or (b) a person deeply knowledgeable on southern history who also possesses a keen intellect and skill for satirical writing.

In particular, the word “dandies” has concrete historical  connotations. Violently racist New South leaders like South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Ben Tillman used phrases like “dudes,” popular in the 19th century, as several scholars have noted, to describe  “effete dandies” — the soft-spoken, refined, well-dressed and well-educated men in Columbia and Charleston with whom Tillman disagreed on matters of white supremacy and racial subjugation and whom Tillman painted with a brush of suspicious effeminacy.

The fact that the writer says he believes in “god-chosen southerners” harkens back to the days when being a “true southerner” meant being a white southerner. Those days weren’t all that long ago. That “southerner” meant (or means) “pure Anglo-Saxon mind” isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a strange concept to anyone anywhere, even in this time. The August Chronicle picked up on the still-relevant and powerful meaning in a 2004 article on polling results exploring who in the South most identified with the label “southerner,” noting: “In the national discourse, ‘Southerner’ has meant ‘White Southerner’…”

From my recent (unpublished and, admittedly, undergraduate) historiography of New South and Progressive-era education reforms (I’ve emphasized relevant portions but left others for clarity):

While at the 1904 Conference on Education in the South held in Birmingham, Alabama, [S.C.] Mitchell, [a southern historian and a former president of the University of South Carolina (1908-1913), among other positions] rose to address the growing movement of radical white supremacy, contrasting the violent racism of leaders like Mississippi Governor James Vardaman and South Carolina’s United States Senator Benjamin Tillman with the desire for “conciliation and progress” embodied by education reform leaders like [North Carolina’s “education governor” Charles B.] Aycock. Finding violence distasteful, Mitchell provided a paternalistic argument for the inclusion of southern African-American citizens in public education. He described white southerners – “pure Anglo-Saxon minds,” as Mitchell made sure to clarify – as “friendly to the negro,” said they knew African-Americans’ strengths and weaknesses, and “wish to do well by him.” White southerners and education reformers, he asserted, could together to “bring succor to white and black” in a united effort to rise toward increased progress in education, enlightenment, industry, and “righteous racial adjustments.” [Footnote 1]

And, all that jazz about increasing educational progress for all? Not true. “All” had its limits. As the “reviewer” or “satirist” notes, black folk had their place.

Again, from my historiography (emphasis added):

Perhaps the most salient examples of education reform occurred in North Carolina, where the “education governor” Charles B. Aycock set out to build one school a day. Modern political observers in the state have romanticized the educational reforms made by Aycock, ignoring the historical record that directly contradicts the myth-made notion that southern, Progressive-era reformers undertook their efforts for the simple of fair and equitable educational opportunities to all North Carolinians, both black and white. Progressive-era campaigners at the time maintained education was a key component of southern modernization and industrialization, though their altruistic motivations had their limits. Newspaper men D.A. Tompkins, a southern manufacturing industry leader and controlling shareholder of The Charlotte Observer, and Raleigh’s Josephus Daniels, owner and editor of The News & Observer, were among some of the most outspoken Progressive-era advocates for education. In speeches and writings during the late-1890s, Tompkins praised the importance of technical education to southern progress and insisted that such progress would only advance as far and in proportion to the level of education offered to the southern people. Like other men of his era, however, Tompkins did not hide his racist tendencies, blaming abolition and emancipation of slaves – and not the Civil War – for the postbellum southern collapse and praising the “beneficent” nature of the Ku Klux Klan, which he claimed had “saved civilization in the South.” Education, Tompkins said, would restore the white race to dominance. Daniels was an ardent supporter of the state Democratic Party’s white supremacist platforms, often using his newspaper to champion the cause of institutionalized racism in government. The depth of Daniels’ involvement in statewide white supremacist politics inspired one essayist to name him the “precipitator” of Wilmington’s 1898 race riots. Daniels argued that education of African-Americans had been the greatest challenge to North Carolina’s education reform progress. “He has been the lion in the path, the ever present and often insurmountable obstacle to public education,” Daniels wrote, asserting that many white North Carolinians remained opposed to taxation for public education endeavors which included benefits for blacks. [Footnote 2]

Edward L. Ayers, an American historian and current president of the University of Richmond (where, incidentally, S.C. Mitchell served as a professor of history when the school was known as “Richmond College), has noted (my emphasis added):

The South’s most distinctive political feature, its stark biracialism, also constantly reflected changes in the larger Atlantic world. The preferred mode of white dominion changed from that of a distant patriarch in the eighteenth century to a “softer” kind of paternalism in the Victorian era to a kind of managerial race relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In every instance, white Southerners followed the best ideals of European, especially English, dominion. They were not merely trying to please the metropole, but were doing what they did in other facets of their lives: trying to make the best deal they could with the central ideas and tenets of the civilization of which they considered themselves a part while maintaining their divergent economic interests and their pride.

It was for this reason that white Southerners felt so wounded and outraged when they were charged with inhumanity as slaveholders. They claimed, with some justice, that they were doing nothing that Northerners and Englishmen had not done for generations, nothing that the Bible and the Constitution did not at least tacitly sanction. The rules seemed to change virtually over night. The white South charged that it was the North that was changing, that was altering the rules. White Southerners, finding themselves on the defensive, quickly began to do something they had not done before: assemble, entirely from materials available in the larger Anglo-American culture, a picture of themselves as a distinctive people with a separate history, culture, and destiny.

And that same racist paternalism that engendered unequal educational priorities also extended to women. The “review” writer’s insistence that women and others give over to dependence on “masculine…society” reflects the racist and sexist paternalism that guided much of New South social and political thought and leadership. The opening credits to the classic film “Gone With The Wind” provide a popularized example — when Hollywood and mainstream historians had long ago accepted the myth of the “New South” — of thoughts of the time and of the preceding 70-some years (notice the “Gallantry,” “Knights” and “Ladies Fair” language):

The Verdict: ‘Review’ or ‘Satire’?

It’s hard to come down either way on a verdict.

The majority of the supposed “review” reads like pure satire: exaggerated beyond belief and hyperbolic beyond measure.

It’s the last two sentences that have me perplexed. The rule of Occam’s razor would lead one to the simplest conclusion — that, indeed, only a person so utterly beholden to these beliefs could pen such a diatribe. It is possible that a rogue member of Worley’s church believes such things — reminiscent of the time an attendee at one of Dr. Michael Brown’s “forums” on LGBT equality at his FIRE Church in Concord, N.C., said during a Q&A session that to take the Bible literally meant also taking literally the passages condemning LGBT people to death.

But, I’m not convinced of the review’s legitimacy. Indeed, the more complicated answer is to think that a person somewhere has both keen awareness of southern cultural history and keen intellect and satirical skill, and was interested enough in Charles Worley to take the time to create a fake Google account and post a fake review.

Until there’s more evidence of Worley’s and Providence Road Baptist Church’s racism, I’ll weigh cautiously toward satire.

But, you can be the judge. I’ve provided plenty of fodder for thought and digestion, that’s for sure.

1. S.C. Mitchell, “The Present Situation in the South,” in Proceedings of the Conference on Education in the South: Seventh Session, Birmingham, Alabama, April 26-28, 1904 (New York: The Conference on Education in the South Committee on Publication, 1904), 55-73, (accessed October 4, 2011).

2. D.A. Tompkins, “Manufactures,” in The South: Some Addresses (Charlotte, NC: The Observer Printing House, 1910), 55; D.A. Tompkins, “Substantial, Permanent Basis of Southern Progress,” in The South: Some Addresses (Charlotte, NC: The Observer Printing House, 1910), 199; D.A. Tompkins, “Technical Education,” in The South: Some Addresses (Charlotte, NC: The Observer Printing House, 1910), 41-54. LeRae UmFleet, “Practical Politics: Writing, Speaking, and Riding in the 1898 Campaign,” 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Report (Wilmington Race Riot Commission, 2006), 58-62, (accessed October 30, 2011); Alexander Weld Hodges, “Josephus Daniels, Precipitator of the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898,” Honors thesis, Department of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1990, quoted in LeRae UmFleet, “Practical Politics,” 61.

5 Responses to “Does Charles Worley and Providence Road Baptist Church really support ‘racial purity’?”
  1. Juan says:

    The only way to really know if this is the kind of church people attend and follow, one would have to go and sit in the pews and see and listen. I find what Charles Worley says quite disturbing. By his words, he can influence other like-minded people. At the same time, I wonder how he was raised…and if his parents were the same way. He’s been doing this for for many, many years, so he should have had an influence from his parents and from those he hung around during his formative years.

    I bet he doesn’t care what others say about him.

  2. badal says:

    I know Pastor Worley personally. He is a good man and does love sinners. He was using hyperbole/satire to make a point. This is not unusual for speakers, of any sort. This is being exaggerated to make this man of God look bad and hurt his church. If you have any sense at all you can tell that this was not a literal call to round up sodomites. The point is that sodomy is wrong. He didn’t make the rule. I didn’t make the rule. God made the rule. If you don’t like it, take it up with God.

    • Matt Comer says:

      Badal, I’m not buying it. But, assuming I did and believed that Worley was using mere “hyperbole,” I’d argue that it is simply unacceptable to call for any minority’s death. Too many people have died as a result of such calls; it is nothing to joke about.

  3. moe says:

    This is the stuff CULTS are made of.
    And I would bet Charles Worley FEARS that he cannot control deep inside himself.

  4. Katja says:

    This man, and other religious and conservative people like him, should occupy just such a concentration camp. Only, I wouldn’t give them any food.

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