Thursday, March 29, 2007

Act Now!

I knew the name Lou Sheldon looked familiar. When I saw his name in my inbox, I had that oogy feeling in the pit of my stomach that said he was one of the guys who send out emails like this one:

Pro-Homosexual/Drag Queen Hate Crimes Bill Will Move Quickly!
Begins to Lay the Legal Framework Whereby Bible-believing Pastors,
Business Owners and Individuals can be Persecuted and Prosecuted.
It is vital that Bible-believing people immediately contact their U.S. Representative and Two (2) U.S. Senators.
We must defeat H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, by Congressman John
Conyers, Democrat from Michigan, who is Judiciary Committee Chairman! Also, it is expected that Senator Ted
Kennedy, Democrat from Massachusetts, will soon introduce similar legislation in the U.S. Senate.
Without your action, this anti -Christian legislation will pass -- under the guise of hate-crime prevention -- and accomplish
the following homosexual goals:
 Silence the Bible-believing Churches, Pastors and Christians
 Criminalize so-called “hate speech,” – which is any speech that is critical of homosexuality or cross -dressing
behaviors. The suppression of free speech will be justified by the claim that such speech “incites” individuals to
commit violence against homosexuals, cross -dressers etc. Any remarks about homosexuality, such as reading
Bible passages, preaching on these passages, telling a person they can come out of the homosexual lifestyle, etc.
will be deemed critical remarks and will be ruled to be outside the bounds of First Amendment protections for
pastors, business owners and individuals.
 Elevate homosexuality and cross -dressing behaviors such as drag queens, transsexualism, she -males, etc. to the
status of federally-protected minorities. These behaviors will be considered equal to race under the federal law.
 Interfere with local law enforcement by elevating every alleged incident of “hate” against a homosexual or
cross-dresser into a federal crime.
 Fund anti-Christian curriculum for children K-12, through the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to
promote homosexuality and cross -dressing as normal behaviors.
The passage of H.R. 1592 will be a serious threat to free speech and freedom of religion. This so -called Hate Crimes Bill
begins to lay the legal framework to persecute and prosecute those who refuse, for moral and religious reasons,
to agree or teach their children tha t homosexuality, transgender, cross-dressing etc is normal and desirable.
Ultimately, a pastor’s sermon concerning homosexuality could be considered an incitement to violence and punished with
a fine or prison.
This has already occurred in Sweden, Canada, and England and efforts are underway in Brazil to punish any person who
speaks out against homosexuality.
139 C Street, S.E., Washington, DC 20003 (202) 547 -8570
100 South Anaheim Blvd., Suite 350, Anaheim, CA 92805 (714) 520 -0300
 Send an urgent email to your U.S. Representative and 2 Senators – /
 For more information on Hate Crimes go to –

As a Bible-believing pastor, I certainly don't want to be prosecuted for any sermons I preach about homosexuality. I'm sure there was a time when the stuff I preach about homosexuality (you know "love your neighbor," stuff like that) would have been highly inflammatory.

Who knew that a hate crimes bill was really an underhanded attempt to target "Bible-believing pastors, business owners and individuals" and to create anti-Christian policies? We'd better all contact our two (2) senators today!

I do think they should change the name of the bill. The "Pro-homosexual/Drag Queen Hate Crimes Bill" will never pass.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"Dr." J

I love Rev. Jerry Johnston. He is my brother in Christ, and I love him.

I'm afraid I don't have a lot of respect for him, but I love him. I have prayed for him several times in the past nine days, ever since the Kansas City Star ran five separate pieces on First Family Church Rev. Johnston--who calls himself "Dr. Jerry," even though he doesn't have a doctorate...or a Bachelor's degree.

I deserve no kudos for saying I love Rev. Johnston and am praying for him. Truth be told, I wasn't all that sad about the Star hatchet job. Some yucky stuff is going on at First Family Church. It likely goes all the way to pastoral misconduct, though all the Star unveiled was a ridiculously high level of secrecy about the financial dealings of the church.

I disagree with Pastor Jerry about just about everything, but it is this financial stuff that is galling. He repeatedly declares that it is "common practice" in the church for parishoners to be kept in the dark about the church's spending, including things like the pastor's salary.


In any church I have known, the people of the church have the right to an accounting of every dime the church spends and what it is spent on. After all, the assets of the church--money and property--belong to the parishoners. Except in congregations in which some property is owned by the denomination. Want to bet that denominations who own church property know about the finances of those congregations?

My church met on Sunday to go over the budget for our new worship space. We're spending around $8,000 on the new space, which is probably what First Family spends on copier paper in a year. But we walked through the budget, line by line, allowing folks to raise any concerns and ask any questions. There weren't many, but it was still an important thing to do. Everything the church does should be out front and beyond scrutiny. Otherwise you wind up in the paper.

I hope it turns out that the people who have devoted time and money to the ministry at First Family have gotten what they paid for. I guess that will be true either way.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Nonviolent Semi-civil Action

I tried to pull into the parking lot at Penn Valley College yesterday. I was met in the driveway by two young women, one of whom asked "Are you part of the peace caravan?" I paused for a second, not sure if I wanted to admit that I wasn't joining the peace caravan--I was staying for the vigil and then going home to spend the waning hours of the afternoon with my wife.

Since I paused, she asked a clarifying question. "Are you going to have your car decorated and go with the caravan to the Ammunition Plant?"

"No," I answered.

"Okay," she said. "The parking lot is for the people joining the peace caravan. You need to turn around and go to the next road; turn left and park in the parking garage."

I drove into the parking lot, circled around, driving by dozens of empty spaces, and dutifully drove out, parked in the parking garage and walked back to where the "Bullets Fail, Let Peace Prevail" peace rally and vigil, marking the fourth anniversary of the war on Iraq, was taking place.

The anniversary is actually today. But the rallies and vigils were held over the weekend, in order to garner maximum participation.

There were about two hundred people at Penn Valley College.

The population of the Kansas City metropolitan area is just under two million. So one person in ten thousand in the metro was at the rally.

Of course, if we are statistically equivalent to the rest of the country, a third of the people in the metro wouldn't have been at the rally because they still believe the war in Iraq is an okay thing.

So really, one out of every 6700 people in the metro who feel that the war is not an okay thing was at the rally.

By contrast, there were 4000 people at the taping of Extreme Home Makeover, which built a house north of the river last week. That works out to one person in 500 in the metro. I don't think that figure has to be adjusted, because surely there can't be that many people in the metro who are against building a house for a deserving family.

Okay, here's the point I am not making: the people of the Kansas City metro are apolitical schlubs who would rather get on national TV than speak out against a morally bankrupt and devastating war. I don't think that is true at all.

In fact, I think that there could have been four thousand people at the peace vigil/rally. (For a superior market share!)

But people don't know what they're going to find when they go to a peace rally/vigil. No matter how careful you are with your language, people will translate "rally/vigil" into "protest" in their heads in a nanosecond. A lot of people aren't comfortable at a protest. Okay, yeah, this number is higher here than other places I've lived, like, oh, Berkeley, CA.

The "protest" thing keeps a lot of people away. Especially people with kids. And as hard as the organizers of these events have tried, I noticed yesterday that the numbers were down from past events, and that there was a glaring decline in the number of kids there. And even though the posted rules for the rally forbade violence, even the spoken kind, a speaker (or two) always crosses that line.

People also don't know if they are really welcome at peace rallies. I don't really know how to address this--do you appoint a cadre of "greeters?" It probably couldn't hurt. I do know that when you show up and are told you can't park in the half-empty parking lot next to the action, but you should drive a couple of blocks away and park, you're likely to feel just a little unwelcome. Even if you understand why they wanted all the cars in the same area.

Maybe I'm sensitive to "unwelcome-ness" because I'm a mission pastor trying to help grow a congregation. But I think it's a basic human need, the need to feel welcome.

AND...welcome-ness is especially a Kansas City metro thing. We are heartlanders, midwesterners...The People of the Great Plains of Potluck Grub. We place a high value on making others feel welcome. And we place a high value on feeling welcome. So when we go to a strange place--a church, say, or a peace vigil/rally/protest--we will judge the event based on whether we felt that our presence there was welcome and appreciated.

I did feel appreciated yesterday. I'm sure I was welcome, as were the other folks on the lawn. I was glad I went. If for no other reason than that I got to see and hear my congressman, the Rev. Emmanuel Cleaver, II, who speaks eloquently and passionately about the war, as he does about so many important issues.

I was sorry there weren't more people there, though, since I know the poor turnout is read as lack of political will in Washington, and that means Dick Cheney saw his shadow yesterday and we'll have at least six more months of war (over and over).

There has to be a better way. How can those who want this disaster to end gather together in a positive way, and make their voices heard? I really want to know.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dialing Down the Rhetoric

A very interesting conversation is taking place over on Andy's blog. He is concerned about the level of vitriol in church convention dialogue about homosexuality. I already wrote a long comment there, so I will just commend it to you. You'll want to go to his entry of Feb. 26th in order to pick up the whole thread.