The Context Behind Why BLM “Stormed” A NY Church Whose Pastor Preaches That Blacks Are “Cursed”

Buckle up, y’all. I’ve got something to tell you, and it won’t be quick.

Earlier this month, you might have seen a handful of videos showing an angry mob of Black Lives Matter protesters accosting members and “storming” a church in Troy, New York.

The videos have since been shared by several conservative and Christian bloggers and news sites, and I understand why. They appear to fit right in with the images of rage and destruction seen during the numerous riots that branched off of peaceful police brutality protests after the death of George Floyd.

On the surface, the videos fit right in with the narrative flowing through conservative news media right now—BLM is a Marxist group and now they’re targeting churches, how horrendous!

Don’t get me wrong, y’all. In no way, shape, or form do I wish to excuse or justify the actions of the protesters seen in the particular videos shared by the church. Shouting at a mother with young children, accosting a black family entering the church, and coming dangerously close to sparking a physical altercation after entering the church during its Sunday service isn’t the wisest plan of action.

[Update 7/16: My source has told me that the protesters “absolutely” were in fact invited into the church and did not “storm” the building as has been reported. The source also states that the protesters have also spun their own biased narrative of the situation alongside Koletas’. This does not justify their actions in the slightest but, once more, it adds more detail to the situation.]

My only goal is to provide what I believe is valuable context about the church itself, Grace Baptist Church, that I firmly believe is either being ignored, overlooked, or hidden.

When this story first crossed my path, something didn’t seem right. I’d never heard of BLM just randomly targeting peaceful churches. Why this church?

Most articles I’ve seen that offer any speculation on the motive protesters had for targeting this church suggest that it is likely to do with their recent AR-15 giveaways. Fair enough, some videos shared of the altercation do show one of the protesters angrily mentioning the giveaway.

And, as I would eventually find out, this is the official story that the church is claiming. Well, depending on who they’re speaking to, that is.

Still, I felt compelled to do a quick dig to see if there was more information to be found. First, I checked Facebook, where I easily found the church. As a public page, Grace Baptist has elected to enable public reviews, the vast majority of which are negative. I scrolled through a few vague reviews accusing the church of preaching “hate,” which is an easy label to toss around these days.

Then, a review caught my eye, including several screenshots of messages titled “Blacks Are Cursed.” “Jungle African Music Is Ruining The Church.”

Say whaaaaaat, now?

To the unassuming conservative Christian who has only just heard of them, Grace Baptist looks like exactly what it markets itself to be, that is, “an ol’ time church preaching the ol’ time religion.” Beneath the surface, however, Pastor John Koletas, the church’s senior pastor, preaches to his congregation a dangerous false teaching that may just have something to do with BLM showing up at their doorstep: that “the black race” are the descendants of Ham and Canaan and are especially cursed by God. The original sin of Africans, if I may be so crass in labeling this hideous doctrine.

Go to their website for yourself and find the Grace Baptist sermon archives. They don’t hide it. There you’ll find “Blacks Are Cursed,” which Koletas preached last February.

In the sermon, which follows other sermons titled “Jews Are Cursed” and “Greeks Are Cursed,” Pastor Koletas gives a textbook demonstration of the danger of mixing a little bit of truth, such as the tragedy of the inflated abortion rate among Black mothers, with a whole lot of lies, namely that dark-skinned people are subject to an ancient curse that causes them to act like savages.

Here is the clip of Koletas ranting about “jungle African music” in the same sermon:

At the start of the sermon, Koletas goes to Isaiah 9:16, which in the King James reads, “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” He then notes that two weeks prior, he preached a sermon called “Greeks Are Cursed,” which he jokes cleared out “most of the Greeks” from the congregation. Last week, he says, he preached that the Jews are cursed and “got rid of all the Jews.” That morning, he planned to “thin the crowd” by teaching that blacks are cursed, warning listeners to sit still and see what God says in His word and learn why “the black race is cursed by God.”

Koletas goes on to explain that his church doesn’t hate black people, they just believe they’re inherently cursed. Oddly enough, Koletas only mentions the curse of Ham or even cites Scripture in passing. Instead, he spends the bulk of the sermon simply shouting and screaming about what he perceives to be evidence of the curse in black culture, such as laziness, propensity for crime rather than work, and all-around “savage” behavior.

If you can’t bear to listen to the sermon and would rather take my word for it, here are a few direct quotes and faithful paraphrases from the sermon:

—Koletas very casually talks about the first time he saw old school food stamps: “a colored person using colored money,” referring to the fact that paper food stamps were colored paper.
—He refers to Italians as “waps and guineas.”
—He says Sodomites and Gomorrans were black, Philistines were black, Goliath was black, Ninevites were black.
—He says he grew up with mostly black friends and started copying their gait, “bebopping” down the street. He says his dad kicked him and said “why can’t you walk straight like a man? Why are you swinging like a monkey?” “I tell you why, because you’re cursed of God,” Koletas says, “and the day you realize you’re cursed of God you can start to wake up.”
—”The day you understand that God Almighty has cursed the black race, the sooner you can start living right.” (exact quote, around the 27 minute mark of the sermon)
—He goes on to recall an interview on “communist radio” (NPR) with a “black sodomite ballerina dancer” who quotes his grandmother as saying “if it took the white man enslaving us to bring us here and share the Gospel with us, then it was worth it.” (this is Koletas quoting the man on NPR quoting his grandmother)
—Koletas goes on to say that the quoted grandma said slavery was well worth it, “but you’re stuck in a mentality of hating people because your own people sold you up the river and you don’t wanna get a job because you’re too stinkin’ lazy!”
—”I’m 61 years old, I have not at one time in my life called anyone a ‘n*****’, of course, those people who call themselves n***as do it all the time” and get mad when a white person says it, Koletas goes on. “Do you know how stupid that is? So you’re okay with a black person calling a brotha ‘n***a'” in songs and conversation, he continues, because “the land of Nigeria is spelled the exact same way, but you’re upset when a white person says something like that about or to a black person? You’re too thin-skinned.”
—”Just out of trying to win blacks to Jesus I try to be very careful about my language, but I think we’re all adults here this morning, aren’t we?” Koletas says, explaining why he so easily drops the n-word. “I’m not afraid to use the word as you can tell.”
—”Go and search online the highest IQs highest to lowest IQs and you’ll find that Shemites— China, North Asians—have the highest IQs in the world…Blacks have one of the lowest. Go look it up. History proves that God cursed the blacks.”
—”Maybe some black preachers aren’t concerned about their own black people that the black leaders have sold down the tubes for money, the love of money is the root of all evil—while the vast majority of black people are, I shouldn’t say illiterate, but they’re taking their dope they’re drinking their liquor, they don’t have jobs, they’re broken homes, kids are growing up in fatherless homes, and these leaders are lining their pockets.”
—”My mom used to call them termites—everywhere they went they destroyed everything. ‘That’s not nice, pastor!’ Well. the truth hurts! She used to tell me a can of paint doesn’t cost much. Why can’t you just get a can of paint and just paint the house? ‘Cause you’ve been taught to just live like a bunch of natives in the land of Africa!”
—Koletas spends several minutes rattling off the names of a battery of black elected officials from the antebellum period onward, as well as Olympic sprinter Jesse Owens, most likely as evidence against the notion of systemic racism.
—Koletas concludes by saying most folks in his church don’t like the old-fashioned music in the church because they’ve been “too Africanized” and have watched too many “Charismatic Pentecostal shows. “‘It’s just too dead and boring here, pastor!’ ‘Cause you’ve been Africanized…instead of Christianized.”
—Koletas continues listing more black elected officials from the antebellum and post-Civil War period.
—He finally concludes by restating Isaiah 9:16, quoting Matthew 15:14 in which Jesus refers to the Pharisees as “blind leaders of the blind,” and closing in prayer, calling his message “just a tip of the black ice that we’re talking about.”

Thankfully, I’m certainly not the first person on the internet to have discovered Koletas’ trove of kinist rants.

IFB Preacher Clips™ is a Twitter anon doing the thankless job of exposing some of the most hilariously, disgustingly, heartbreakingly heretical and heterodoxical teachings from within the persistent independent fundamentalist Baptist movement. IFBPC has saved several video clips of Koletas’ other sermons for warning and posterity, such as this one in which he explains what he considers the biblically-justified use of the “n-word:”

And this one, in which he explains that, if you go by the dictionary definition of the words, he is “a bigot” and a “racist” and that he prefers to keep “the races” separate:

The church also mocks sexual abuse survivors in sermons and in a blog post (signed in Greek by “D. Georgios Koletas,” who is John Koletas’ son) on its website, an especially heartbreaking aspect of the issue given one of his daughters’ public allegations that she was groomed and sexually abused as a teenager by a leader in her father’s church.

Though Koletas’ repackaging of it is exceptionally caustic, the “Curse of Ham/Canaan” myth is by no means new and has been soundly and thoroughly debunked for longer than I’ve been alive. Koletas’ particular brand seems to branch off from the ideology of highly controversial independent fundamentalist Peter Ruckman (whom Koletas speaks quite highly of), but the teaching that Black people are the cursed descendants of Ham and Canaan and that black skin is the “mark of Cain” was also notably adopted in early days of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (who has since denounced this belief) and Christian defenders of the Atlantic slave trade.

Koletas falls back on this theory to explain what he sees as inherent inferiority in black culture, not only in Africa where “in 5,000 years” he says not a single “great kingdom” arose, and in America. I shared this quote with friends, who quickly pointed out Egypt. In the next breath, however, Koletas anticipates this line of reasoning: “You think Egypt was a great kingdom? Ladies and gentlemen, it’s the land of darkness and it’s a picture of the world and the best thing God says is to leave Egypt and go into the promised land.”

Nevermind that, as one friend pointed out, “We’re all descended from all 3 sons of Noah in all likelihood. They mixed for 100 years or so after the flood until the dispersal at Babel. And even since then, people intermarry all the time and even more often in the past. Trying to claim separate and ‘pure’ ancestry is just ignorant. Nobody is purebred. It doesn’t exist.”

Or, as Rev. William R. Glaze put it so clearly in the conclusion of his 100-plus-page work on the subject published by Liberty University, “there is positively no relationship between the ‘Curse of Canaan’ and the black race.”

It’s not just Black people who are singled out by Koletas’ eisegetical teaching and un-Christlike speech. When the church first began responding to me on Twitter, their only response was simply to point out that Koletas also did sermons on Greeks being cursed (as Koletas himself is the child of Greek immigrants) and one on Jews linked earlier in this work. On its website, in the rules for its recent AR-15 giveaways, the church reminds prospective visitors that they will be made to touch a piece of ham used to ensure that Muslims and Jews do not infiltrate the church:

As always, there will be a slice of ham (the Bible word is swine) outside the front church doors. 

Everyone entering the building for the service is required to touch the ham before entering the building.

Anyone refusing to touch the ham outside the front church doors is not permitted to enter the building.

A photo of the ham was taken and shared to the subReddit for the city of Troy, where the church has had a reputation likened to the Westboro Baptist Church for some time now:

Oddly enough, the church adds that it “reserves the right to allow any Orthodox or Hasidic Jew to enter without touching the ham.”

When I first set out trying to warn folks about Grace Baptist as hordes of adoring, pro-Second Amendment, conservative Christians fawned over them, wishing their churches would hold AR giveaways, I got far more pushback than I expected.

At that time, late last week, the story’s popularity was starting to wind down in the news cycle. Folks had already seen the video, had the images of BLM protesters shouting at young mothers, stoic men of the church, and even a black family seen being escorted into the church.

The typical knee-jerk reaction to my warning that I suspected there was more to the story was the assumption that I was in favor of the protestor’s actions seen in the video. To reiterate, I was not, and still am not even after learning what I have about Grace Baptist.

But the church has black members, they can’t possibly be racist! Yes, the church was careful to record and share themselves escorting a black family, who was later identified to me as a family of missionaries from Haiti, into the building as protesters shouted at them. I have reached out to the family to see if they are aware of the Blacks Are Cursed sermon and, if they consent, I will provide a statement from them. For his part, Pastor Koletas’ son George confirmed to me in an aggressive Twitter exchange that the family was not at the church when “Blacks Are Cursed” was preached—which I never suggested—so for now I will presume that they have not heard the sermon. (Note: It was privately confirmed to me that “George From Schaghticoke” is, in fact, Koletas’ son Daniel George I spoke with. I was also provided with a stack of screenshots of racist, sexist, and otherwise offensive tweets of his.)

Koletas the younger also argued that the church is “multiracial” and has several black “members.” An anonymous source familiar with the church, however, informed me that the church has no real membership process to speak of and that simply attending two consecutive services can earn one the title of “member” for all intents and purposes. The source also revealed a screenshot to me in which two of the church’s black attendees told them they do not want to comment on the situation at this time because they do not consider themselves members of Grace Baptist.

As a quick detour, I don’t know how reliable a witness George Koletas is, as he directly contradicted a statement his father gave to PJ Media when they sought clarification on his racist sermons for their article.

Speaking to PJ Media, the senior Koletas said he “did not know exactly why” protesters targeted his church. (Note: I reached out to The Daily Wire, The Blaze, PJ Media, and others with the “Blacks Are Cursed” sermon. Only PJ Media responded and amended their article with the information and further comment from Koletas.)

Speaking to me, however, George Koletas said that they know “exactly why.”

A letter to the editor published Sunday in the Troy Times Union also makes the claim that headlines are telling the “wrong story” about the church protest and declares that “it’s within the context of Koletas’ anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, anti-Black ranting that this gun raffle becomes a much more sinister and potentially dangerous act.”

I have also reached out to the Troy Police Department for comment, as I was told that the officers present at the protest heard protesters mentioning Koletas’ sermons. I was also told that, when fielding angry calls from folks who had seen the limited story on the internet, the department assured callers that there is more to the story than was shared by conservative news at that time. I will update this article upon receiving word from Troy PD.

In an interview Sunday night with someone who calls himself “The Coxinator,” Koletas only added to the confusion surrounding my original claim—that the protesters were there because of Koletas’ racism, not just the gun giveaway. Early in the interview, Koletas calls the protesters “sheeple” who had probably never heard any of his sermons. About 36 minutes into the show, however, Koletas admits to “Coxinator” that his “Cursed” series of sermons “probably added fuel to the fire.”

We could also settle the issue of whether or not the protesters knew about the sermon with this quick video in which one of them specifically mentions the “Jews Are Cursed” sermon, taken from a now-deleted livestream from a church attendee:

At the very end of the video, protesters even show the man recording the video the image on Facebook of the “Jews Are Cursed” sermon which, if you ask me, explains why the livestream was deleted.

Further on in the Coxinator interview, he asks Koletas to explain what he means when he says “that a race of people, a group of people, are cursed.”

Koletas, the man who spent over an hour shouting about the various ways in which “savage” black people are ruining everything they touch in his sermon, proceeded to give the following answer. Get yourself something to be sick in, it’s an exact quote:

I think it’s pretty plain what the word ‘cursed’ means. Galatians 1 is very clear that if you do not receive Jesus Christ as your savior you are cursed. If you’re not born again, if you don’t have the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you’re cursed. And even people that are saved, when they rebel against God, the Old Testament is very clear that they’re cursed. We don’t realize how cursed we really are. I think if I remember correctly, the sequence of sermons was I preached against the Greeks first ’cause I’m Greek, okay, and so I said Greeks are cursed. I think the second was ‘Jews Are Cursed,’ and then the third one was that the blacks are cursed, and I think I was very clear in all those sermons on why I was saying that. And I think I used enough—you know people [are] criticizing me for using too many Bible verses in most of my sermons but I think I was very clear and in that last one with blacks are cursed, I used the words of black leaders themselves for a lot of that sermon where blacks are cursed. And so, you know, I don’t apologize for it, just preaching, I know that sometimes they’re uncomfortable but it’s the truth.

“Yeah,” Coxinator interjects, before Koletas concludes, “I don’t care if you’re saved or lost, when you disobey God, God’s curse is on you. That’s very clear in the book of Deuteronomy. And if you’re lost, you’re already cursed.”

Coxinator takes over, adding that “just by telling somebody that perhaps they need to be born again, it is insinuating in that that there’s a problem, that there’s a curse.” The two then go on to conflate the cultural/generational curse of Ham that solely affects “the black race” with the curse afflicting all humanity resulting from our nature as fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and I reach for the Pepto-Bismol.

And to think I half expected Koletas to explain Genesis 9 and the curse put upon Ham’s fourth son (Canaan) who would be the “lowest of slaves to his brothers” and draw dark-skinned dwellers of the African continent to the Hamites through the table of nations in Genesis 10 and build upon that foundation to explain why, as he said, black people today act like “savages” and “natives in the land of Africa.”

Instead, we get equivocation of the unique curse put upon dark-skinned people through their ancestors Ham and Canaan and the curse of original sin upon all mankind. No, they tell us, Koletas didn’t mean black people are cursed, he meant all people are cursed apart from God. So he won’t take down or retract the sermon, but he’ll brazenly contradict it in this sickening sycophantic dialogue.

Oddly enough, in my brief exchange with the church Twitter account (which I feel fairly safe in assuming is manned by Koletas or his son), George Koletas, and some seemingly unrelated lackey, I could not get any of them to simply affirm their belief that black people are cursed.

Aside from being called a “spoiled white woman” and being directed to the sermons on Jews and Greeks, this is the best I got:

That’s what I get for expecting honesty from wolves.

So what to do when someone admits on video that he is a racist and a bigot who prefers to keep races separate, preaches the myth that the black race is cursed by God, and then poses for photos with and shares quotes on Facebook of black folks he does approve of? What should I do when a purported shepherd spits this dangerous venom and lies through his fangs about it?

I warn the church, I mark and avoid, and I pray.

I pray fervently because I believe Koletas and his comrades are atheists. I believe that they must be atheists because if they believed in a holy God who has reserved for false teachers and prophets a greater judgment, they’d fall on their faces in repentance and accept correction and plead forgiveness from the Savior they mock and all those they have led astray.

“Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Romans 16:17-18
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” James 3:1
“May lying lips be silenced—lips that speak with arrogance against the righteous, full of pride and contempt.” Psalm 31:18
“The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:7-8

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