Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Diversity & The Devil's Inn

There were two things that disturbed me this week: The first was the result of an incident that occurred in June of this year at Gulnare Free Will Baptist Church. Stella Harville (she goes by Susie) brought her fiancé to attend a Sunday morning worship service at the Kentucky church where she had grown up. The couple even performed a duet with Stella playing the piano and her betrothed providing vocal accompaniment.
Stella & Ticha
The trouble began when Stella’s father, a longtime member, was approached by the pastor who imparted these words of wisdom, “Susie and her boyfriend are not allowed to sing in this church anymore. Furthermore, Susie can take her fella back where she found him from [sic]." The incident reemerged at a November meeting where board members voted 9-6 in favor of banning interracial couples from attending the church.

The move made national news, which in turn prompted immediate condemnation from The National Association of Free Will Baptists who offered to provide educational materials to “better equip their leaders.” The organization was quick to point out that each church governs itself autonomously (hence the free will) so they could not force the church to accept interracial couples. The church recently voted to lift the ban, but seems perplexed that their diversity has not increased.

The pastor’s statement is as shameful as it is grammatically inept. Either the church is under the care of a devout racist, or they have the worst visitor’s greeting program ever. My church generally goes with a houseplant, but I suppose everyone has their own opinions concerning outreach. When your entire flock is less than forty people, self-preservation alone should enable you to look past ethnicity. This poor couple probably doubled that day’s Sunday school attendance.

Setting aside the pastor’s personal views, how did this thing make it to the meeting for a vote in the first place? I can just imagine the poor secretary reading the agenda:
  • Discuss roof repair for the fellowship hall
  • Vacation bible school material selection
  • Vote on the “ebony & ivory” proposal
 I would also be curious to discover what “materials” the Free Will Baptist association was going to provide to convince these people that interracial couples were acceptable. I can just imagine a box of Oreos and a DVD copy of Jungle Fever arriving at the church office with a note that says, “Just give it a chance….”

The Devil’s Inn           

Residents of Carter County, TN are upset about a Christmas lights display that adorns a building along Highway 19. The display was constructed by local resident Jackie Blevins, and features the phrase “The Devil’s Inn” followed by the quaint saying “Satan Satan Hear My Plea, Satan Satan Come To Me.”  The letters are outlined by red strands of lights, and Mr. Blevins explains that the display is in response to his custom automobiles being banned from local car shows.
He contends that he is no longer allowed to enter the contests because his vehicles feature skulls, horns, and other demonic imagery. Local residents are incensed and some have even tried sneaking onto his property to take the display down. One local mother summed up the community’s fear thusly, "Knowing that a child could ask a parent is Satan really there? Is Satan in his home? What is a parent supposed to say to a child?”

I realize that illuminated demonic poetry is not going to find a large fan base in the Bible-belt, but I am not convinced that citizens should be sneaking onto this guy’s property to sabotage the display. As for the concerned mother, I can assure you that your child will witness far more disturbing scenes on a Tennessee state highway than an ill-conceived car show protest. The next time you are tailgating an F-150 with a “Tits & Beer Is Why I’m Here” bumper sticker above their set of Truck Nutz, you can field some tough questions.

Assuming his gripe is legitimate, what kind of custom car show does not allow skulls? Was the event sponsored by Quakers? He is probably leaving an important detail out, like how at the last car show he ran over a hot dog vendor while throwing kittens at paraplegics. Even so, this is still America and if he wants to decorate with satanic phrases or Nightranger lyrics, that is his prerogative. I suppose the local government could cite him for running an unlicensed motel, but I am not sure what else could be done. Personally, I can’t wait to see what he does for Easter.      

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