Anti-church campaign no victory for tolerance

The News TribuneJuly 24, 2013 

Most Tacomans likely would be put off by Mars Hill Church, a hybrid of old-time Calvinism, raucous rock and charismatic preaching founded in Seattle in 1996 by theological hardliner Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll condemns homosexual relations and supports male-dominated marriages. Like some other megachurch leaders, he loves center stage, and he could be accused of running a self-promoting personality cult.

But genuine champions of pluralism and tolerance will acknowledge Mars Hill’s right to exist even if they disagree with Driscoll’s teachings and style. There’s a difference between disagreement and institutional assault. A recent campaign against the church’s fundraiser at a nearby restaurant targeted the congregation’s home — literally, the roof over its head — not the teachings.

The fundraiser was a strictly private affair. It was meant for the church’s supporters, not the general public. The purpose was to fund repairs on the roof of the landmark First Congregational Church in the Stadium District, a 105-year-old structure that likely would be torn down if Mars Hill were not buying and renovating it for local services.

As The News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan reported Sunday, a number of Tacomans — some working anonymously — pressured the Harmon Hub into canceling the event.

The campaign was a genteel version of “Hey, nice little place you got here. Hate to see anything happen to it.”

A mysteriously opaque website, Tacoma Demands Better, whipped up much of the furor. It put the restaurant in the cross-hairs: “‘Gayest City’ business Harmon invited in/sponsors anti-LGBT, anti-women Mars Hill Church.”

The site’s anonymity deserves note. Gay-rights advocates were rightfully indignant when opponents tried to keep their identities secret after signing petitions to repeal same-sex marriage in this state.

People who incite public controversies ought to have the moral courage to make their identities available to the public. That includes people trying to prevent a church from opening.

It’s hard to see where this ends. Any number of churches espouse traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality, marriage and other flashpoints of moral controversy.

If Mars Hill doesn’t deserve a place to worship in Tacoma, why do the rest of them? For that matter, why shouldn’t the homes of progressive groups be fair game for conservative activists?

The people who intimidated this restaurant into shutting down a private church fundraiser presumably condemn bullying. There’s an integrity problem here. Those who oppose bullying shouldn’t bully.

Bellingham Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service