"If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." (Romans 12:18)
I had an unexpected and kind of surreal experience yesterday. Most of you know that although I am an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, right now I am working at two very humbling secular jobs. One (my main job) is as an operator at a telephone answering service. The other is a few hours a week as a greeter and handout distributor at a BJ'S Wholesale Club in Framingham, MA. (BJs is very much like "Sam's Club".) One woman stopped and looked intently at me.
"Did you used to be a Framingham Town Meeting Member?" she asked.
I told her that while I was not a Framingham Town Meeting Member, I did live in Framingham for over twenty-three years and was quite active in the town. I asked her if she was Dawn Harkness. (Dawn Harkness is a prominent liberal Framingham activist who ran for State Rep. a few years ago.) She replied in the affirmative and then she asked me for my name.
"Oh, YES," she commented, "I remember YOU. YOU wrote all kinds of nasty things about me without even knowing or meeting me! YOU said I was a MOONBAT!"
"I don't remember writing that," I replied.
"Oh, yes, YOU certainly DID! And it really HURT my teenage daughter at the time!"
I was kind of taken back. I supposed I COULD have called her a "moonbat" in print. I honestly didn't remember.
("Moonbat" is radio talk show host Howie Carr's word for idealistic people on the very far left of the political spectrum. It's not so much meant to be nasty as is to be humorous. It's kind of like the way one of my Bible College professors, The Rev. Terry Lewis, referred to authors who make a lot of money writing pop culture Christian books but really don't know what they're talking about. Dr. Lewis called them, "Twinkies". He said they were "creme filled but not Spirit filled"!)
Dawn Harkness did not stop with that. She added, "You were out to ATTACK me, and I don't know why- you came against my efforts to move Town Meeting to an energy efficient location."
That I definitely did not remember.
Her final gripe was the most cutting of all:
"Weren't YOU a plaintiff in the legal case against gay marriage in Massachusetts?"
How I wished she hadn't brought that up. I'll address that further on in this piece. It's something I deeply regret.
"Yes" I said,
"Yes, A HOMOPHOBE! And I'm GAY!"
What do you say to that?
I kind of nervously said, "I'm sorry,"
Confidently, she proclaimed, "I don't THINK you ARE!"
And she was off.
I had only a short time between finishing up work at BJ's yesterday and starting on my late afternoon shift at the answering service, but I stopped at the Framingham Public Library to do some research. I needed to read some of my blog archives and see exactly WHAT I had written about Dawn Harkness.
First was the "moonbat" issue.
THAT, it turns out, came from a posting on this blog from July 21, 2008. The post was entitled, "Kerry at Dunkin Donuts". It was about Sen. John Kerry's visit to Dunkin' Donuts on Route 126 in downtown Framingham. I wrote that Dawn Harkness was there with her green converted ambulance vehicle. In describing Dawn Harkness, I wrote:
"She is what Howie Carr calls a "Moon Bat"".
THAT'S the "moonbat" comment. Would I write that AGAIN? I don't know. But, actually I didn't CALL her a "moonbat". I wrote that, "She is what Howie Carr calls a "Moon Bat"". THAT is absolutely true. Frankly, I could write of MYSELF, "Bob Baril is what talk show host Jim Braude calls a 'religious nut'!" and THAT would also be true.
NOW, what about the "attack" on Dawn Harkness for wanting to move Town Meeting to a more energy efficient venue?
That comes from a May 5, 2008 posting on this blog entitled, "Don't 'Mothball' the Memorial Building". Here is the exact wording of my first paragraph of that piece:
"A front page article in Monday’s (May 5, 2008) MetroWest Daily News really perturbed me. It was at the bottom left and was entitled, 'Pointing out the "energy monsters" '. The article was about the 'Greener Framingham Committee’s first report to Town Meeting'. According to the article the first target of committee Chairman Dawn Harkness was the two chandeliers in Nevins Hall which 'do not pass the green grade' because they use 3,500 watts of electricity. Criticizing the high ceilings and draftiness of the Memorial building as well as its inefficient heating system (but a new heating system is soon to be installed), the Committee is recommending that the Memorial Building just plain NOT EVER be used after 4:30 p.m. and that committee meetings and other functions be held in other facilities around Town."
At the time, I was an active Member of the civic group Framingham Downtown Renaissance. Several Members of that group, including me, strongly believed the Framingham Memorial Building's Nevins Hall is seriously under appreciated and under used. It was our goal to see Nevins Hall refurbished and used much more for concerts, plays, etc. AND certainly for Town functions. My piece was not and was NEVER a personal attack on Dawn Harkness. Not at all! It was, rather, a strong advocacy of utilizing Nevins Hall more.
Now, for the criticism of Dawn Harkness that has merit: my signing on as a plaintiff on the anti-gay marriage case in Massachusetts. I have regretted that decision hundreds of times. Honestly, I wish I never did that. I probably will never run for public office in Massachusetts, but if I ever did, I'd be "vetted" and that would be thrown in my face. I would be labeled a hate monger, a homophobe, and a dangerous right-wing extremist.
In fact, I have a number of gay friends, including gay clergy; and including married gay clergy. Back in the mid-2000s, I had a couple of very close clergy friends who were activists in the anti-gay marriage crusade. Now, don't get me wrong, I did oppose gay marriage; and I frankly think (to use that famous quote) that "marriage is between a man and a woman". I also, however, do NOT oppose civil unions for gays, and I once wrote a column about that in the MetroWest Daily News. An individual I respect asked me if I'd be a plaintiff in that case. Without batting an eyelash, I said I would be.
Had I even given it twenty-four hours to think and pray about, I really believe I would have said "no". I have been ashamed of what I did and continue to deeply regret it. I have the same honest struggle with this issue that most honest evangelicals do. We really believe the Bible teaches homosexual behavior is wrong. If it was ONLY the Old Testament that taught this, maybe there would be some leeway. But there are New Testament passages, especially the one in the Book of Romans that absolutely condemn homosexual behavior.
NOW, does THAT mean we hate gay people? Outside of those NUTS from the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, I'd say 98% of evangelicals do NOT hate gay people. We have gay people in our churches. We have gay friends. But, we also just can't flush those New Testament passages down the toilet.
An older woman who is a very good friend of mine talked to me about this at the time gay marriage passed in Massachusetts. She told me she has two lesbian friends who live as a couple in western Massachusetts. She really likes them and she considers them friends. But on Biblical grounds, she opposed gay marriage. She said, "I just HOPE they don't decide to get married and to invite me to the wedding. I really like them but I just couldn't go. I just HOPE I don't get put in that position."
And, for my gay friends, do you think you know the late Jerry Falwell's position on gays? It might surprise you that he went through that same struggle. He preached against homosexuality with boldness, but he was deeply pained by the violence done to gays, and one of his closest friends was gay author Mel White. With Mel White, he ran a day long "Gay and Lesbian Dialogue" at his Thomas Road Baptist Church. He felt he needed to get to know the gays in his community and they needed to get to know him. He did not change his mind about the Bible, but he did say he would never preach hate against gays. Incidentally, the Westboro Baptist crowd picketed Falwell's church that day, holding up signs that said, "Judas Falwell!"
I really wanted to give what I have just written to Dawn Harkness. I tried to find her U.S. Mail address but cannot find it. If any reader knows Dawn Harkness personally, would you please direct her to read this post.
And, hey, Dawn, I AM really sorry I offended you.