Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why Can't Churches Live and Let Live?

Anyone that lives here in Fayetteville, NC or the surrounding area is undoubtedly familiar, at least in passing, with a situation that has arisen between one of the local churches and the staff and board of the Dogwood Festival. It seems that the pastor of Manna Church wanted to have an informational booth at the Festival, but was told by the staff of the Festival that they were not allowing religious or political groups to have informational booths, but that they could participate as food vendors or as hosts of a sanctioned Dogwood Festival event. Michael Fletcher, the pastor, has either gone deaf and didn't hear those options given or is just a plain lier and has accused the Festival's staff of never telling him he had those other two options.

I've never felt the need in my blog to wax political or spiritual, but anyone who knows me, knows how verbose I can be on those topics. The entire situation speaks loudly as to why I left Christianity and eventually became a Pagan and now consider myself to be a Universalist. I've also never felt the need to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper before, but I did. Unfortunately for me, it's likely not going to be published since it's been several days since it's submission and I still haven't seen it in the paper yet. The good news for my blog readers is that now I can publish it here in all of it's 500+ word glory (or as much as I can recover after having to edit it for submission) instead of the watered-down 250 word version I had to submit to the Fayetteville Observer.

The issue involving the Dogwood Festival and Manna Church is ridiculous. Rev. Fletcher and his cult-like following of 1,000 people jamming their way into a City Council meeting only wasted time that should have been spent actually taking care of serious city issues. As I watched the council meeting on television Monday[April 14, 2008] night, I was amused at the comments of Rev. Fletcher, et.,al. I also noted that of those who were allowed to speak on the matter, only one person from the Dogwood Festival was allowed to speak, while there were several either from or in support of Manna Church.

The statement was made that the “policy [of the Dogwood Festival] is unconstitutional.” How so? The first amendment of the Constitution states that the government can't prohibit anyone from practicing a particular religion. The Dogwood Festival is a private organization and can make whatever policies it wants. If his church were putting on a festival, would it allow groups such as Pagans, Mormons, Muslims, etc. have an informational booth. Of course not, and it would be well within its rights to do so because a church is also a private organization and is likewise free to make whatever policies it wishes. For it to be discriminatory the Festival would have to exclude specific religious groups, which is does not.

I found the comment, “If one student in a classroom misbehaves, are all the students sent to the principal’s office?” (because the policy was the result of complaints) laughable. Rev. Fletcher felt that the decisions should be on a case-by-case basis. My understanding of the situation is that it was his church that caused the complaints in the first place due to their continual refusal to adhere to the rules by actively walking amongst the crowd and forcing their materials on others rather than remain in their booth as well as offering free food and drink that (1) was a conflict of interest regarding vending booths and (2) was not defined in their initial application. Perhaps he's correct. Only the group who did not follow the rules should be barred from participating. Oh, but wait; his is the group which didn't follow the rules, so he'd still have something to complain about.

I will give Rev. Fletcher credit for denouncing those who have contacted the Festival's staff with nasty comments and threats. However, if he had simply asked “What Would Jesus Do?” and reflected on how Jesus only taught those willing to listen, then there would have been no uproar, no nasty comments and no un-Christlike behavior from so many so-called Christians.

Pay attention Rev. Fletcher. A single complaint does not result in a policy change like the one made by the Dogwood Festival a few years ago, it takes a multitude of complaints from a large number of festival goers. That would seem to mean that the majority does not want your information. "Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them." (Mark 6:11 NASB) If I am not mistaken, those words were spoken by Jesus Himself as if to say, 'if the people do not want to listen to you, then do not force them to, but move on to a place where there are people who are interested in hearing your teachings.'

~ JC

News Stories and Articles

The initial story by WRAL-TV

The article from the Fayetteville Observer the day after the aforementioned City Council meeting.

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