By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
CENTRAL – When Dennis Terry was asked if he felt like he was in the middle of a tornado, the senior pastor of Greenwell Springs Baptist Church laughed and said, “bunches of them!”[img_assist|nid=8061|title=Rev. Terry|desc=Dennis Terry, senior pastor at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church, preached a sermon on Sunday evening, March 18, about how Christians should be involved in the political process before introducing presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R., Pa., (seated left) and Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, who for nearly two hours interviewed Santorum on his views.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=438]
What started out as a patriotic Sunday evening service last month turned into a media frenzy after heavily-edited video clips of Terry’s sermon went viral across the internet and network talk shows.
Dozens of liberal web sites accused him of bigotry and hate, and he is being called all sorts of names by politically left and atheist critics. Many sites compare him to Jeremiah Wright, President Barack Obama’s former pastor who was exposed during the last election in videos cursing America.
Terry and Greenwell Springs Baptist Church on March 18 hosted presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, R., Pa., during Santorum’s first swing through Louisiana prior to the Republican primary – which Santorum handily won a few days later.
Before Santorum spoke, however, Terry told the packed sanctuary – and a handful of reporters, TV camera crews and a worldwide audience via streaming internet video – they’d have a regular Sunday evening service.
His sermon, titled, “Our responsibility to human government,” is being called by critics, “Terry’s ‘get out’ sermon” because he enthusiastically proclaimed that if a person doesn’t love America, they are free to leave.
Since the sermon clips went viral, Terry has been bombarded by hate calls, mocked by comedians and swamped by the media. He clarified his situation at the Louisiana Family Forum’s pastor’s briefing following the 48th annual Louisiana Governor’s Prayer Breakfast on March 28.
“I want to set a few things straight today because I’ve watched the video clips on You-Tube and then I watched the replay of the Sunday evening service and what I saw on the replay and what I saw on You-Tube are two different things,” Terry told the pastors.
The message, based on I Peter, chapter two, “is about our responsibility to government,” Terry said. “I believe it is time for pastors in Louisiana and across this nation to awaken. It is time to get involved. I believe we can turn this great state and America around.”
The Bible calls on Christians to be salt and light, Terry said. Salt irritates and light exposes sin.
“I discovered this week we have caused some irritation,” Terry said as the pastors laughed and applauded. “I cannot tell you the hate calls, the hate e-mails – it is so bad we have literally unplugged the phones in our office.
“People are calling me and telling me … you wouldn’t believe the vulgar-ness and the filth that comes out of their mouths,” Terry said.
“I believe in this country you have the right to worship the way you want to,” Terry said. “Regardless of what they say, I do not hate anyone who is not of my faith. I love the Muslims. I love the Buddhists. I love everyone – I love people because Jesus loved people.”
“I am against people coming to our country and wanting to change our laws and change our constitution, change our way of life,” Terry said.
“I’ll say it again: love America,” Terry said. “Love it or get out.”
Many of the viral videos chop the 18-minute sermon into out-of-context sound bites that highlight Terry’s enthusiastic, revival-style of preaching.
What Terry actually said – according to this reporter’s video recording of the entire service – was, “America was born with a declaration of independence from Great Britain and a dependence upon a Holy God. I don’t care what the liberals say, I don’t care what the nay-sayers say. This nation was founded as a Christian nation. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. There is only one God! There is only one God! His name is Jesus!”
At these words, the crowd rose to its feet in applause, including Sen. Santorum.
“I’m tired of people telling me that I can’t say those words,” Terry preached. “I’m tired of people telling us as Christians that we can’t voice our beliefs or we can no longer pray in public.
“Listen to me, if you don’t love America, if you don’t like the way we do things, I got one thing to say: Get out!” The crowd heartily applauded and Santorum smiled, but did not applaud.
“We don’t worship Buddha. I said, We don’t worship Buddha, we don’t worship Mohammad, we don’t worship Allah. We worship God. We worship God’s son Jesus Christ,” Terry declared, turned to Santorum and held open his arms. Santorum smiled, but did not applaud. The audience did.
When Santorum was confronted later by reporters regarding the perceived controversy, he demurred, saying he wasn’t paying close attention to Terry at that point and did not applaud. The video shows he was listening but did not applaud.
Terry said he has not heard from Santorum since that Sunday evening. Terry’s quotes of Jesus being “the only way” to Heaven are edited out of many viral videos.
When asked how it feels to be compared to Jeremiah Wright, Terry said “That hurts my heart because that’s the farthest thing from the truth.”
“According to II Peter 2:17, I talked about how we’re supposed to honor all men,” Terry said. “Everybody. We are to honor the king, verse 17 says, whether the king or the president, we are to honor the man in the office. I’ve said I don’t know how many times that President Obama is invited to come here.”
He did, however, tell the pastors at the governor’s prayer breakfast that he had received a text from Republican candidate Mitt Romney, asking to speak at the church, but that there had been no contact since Terry gave a positive response.
In spite of the “tornado” swirling about him, Terry declared, “I stand firm. I’m going to wave the flag and hold the cross as high as I can get it.”