The phrase “love thy neighbour as thyself” appears at least seven times in the Bible, from Leviticus 19:18 to James 2:8. It’s a pretty important tenet of Christianity and, according to All About God, it was Christ’s answer to religion.
Love thy neighbor was, in part, Jesus’ answer when the Pharisees, the chief religious sect of that day, asked Him about the greatest commandment in the Law (See Matthew 22:36-40). These religious leaders had made almost an art form of classifying all the various laws and giving them relative degrees of importance, so in asking Jesus this question, their aim was to test Him. His answer stunned them: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Apparently, to the First Presbyterian Church of Medford, Oregon, that principle does not apply to their new neighbors who will drink beer across the street from the church where they also have a daycare center and preschool. Because in their words, “[a]lcohol and children do not mix. We have to maintain zero tolerance,” said Michael Hubbard, a church administrator. The Gypsy Blues Bar used to be located elsewhere in town, but is moving to a new location — which is zoned for a bar — across the street from the church. “Members and leaders of Medford’s First Presbyterian Church sent letters to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission asking [the] OLCC to deny the bar a liquor license — contending spirits, churches and children do not mix.”
Maybe they should of thought of that before locating the church in a neighborhood zoned for bars? This is the exact reason why the separation of church and state is so important. The church “claims” they’re not opposing the bar on moral grounds and then list the most tortured excuses I’ve heard for why they don’t want the bar across the street.
According to Reverend Joyce DeGraaff, “the church also has concerns about contact between bar patrons and people who use the church buildings. The church and its support buildings provide space for as many as nine different community groups during a typical week, including family oriented clubs, support groups and civic organizations.” Just who exactly does she think is going to the bar? Does she really think people in families, support groups or involved in civic organizations don’t drink? Is she delusional? But wait, she’s nowhere near finished making up potential situations that concern her delicate sensibilities and those of her parishioners. “It is my view that people who drink and drive and walk in the proximity of a bar often exhibit inappropriate behavior and impaired judgment. Furthermore, our young female staff walk to their cars after dark and are most concerned about who they might encounter.” What the hell kind of place exactly is Medford that she doesn’t think someone could walk safely from a church to their car if there’s a bar across the street? And she’s even worried about people drinking and walking?
But she’s still not done. “Some of the people in the groups are participating in recovery programs. New anti-smoking laws will take effect in January and increase the likelihood of contact between bar patrons and those who are attending meetings at the church, Hubbard said. The bar ‘will be turning people out onto the streets to smoke and that is going to bring out more people who are under the influence of alcohol.'” Uh, I’m pretty sure the smokers will turn themselves into the streets to smoke, the bar will only be enforcing the law. How the hell does she expect anyone to successfully make it through a recovery program if they can’t see others smoking or drinking without lapsing back into their “bad” habits? I mean, WTF? They must not be very effective recovery programs they’re putting on if they’re that worried what just the sight of a bar might do to the participants.
The bar owners, Clay Bearnson and Robin Bittinger, have said at their old location they ran a “tight ship.”
“It’s not like we’re going to have a bunch of crazy psychos throwing bottles and taunting little boys and girls at the day care,” Bearnson said. “At the old location, we didn’t get going until 9 or 10 at night. If these kids are out at that time of night, they should be talking to the parents. Not us.”
“I’m disappointed,” Bittinger said. “Our clientele is respectful and tasteful. We’re creating a socializing atmosphere where people can chill out and listen to the jukebox. Where you don’t have to hang out with a bunch of drunk meatheads.”
As Bearnson points out, it’s “day” care, when the bar is either not open or has only a few patrons. And most bars I know really don’t want rowdy patrons. Those kind of problems are simply not worth it to them. And if you’re a regular reader of the Bulletin, you know how much I hate people using the “it’s for children” gambit to further an agenda. The way the church is painting the problems the bar will bring to the neighborhood suggests they’ve never set foot into a local bar.
This is just so staggeringly ridiculous that it just completely pisses me off. If nothing else, a church is made up of people from a given neighborhood and I’m guessing that many, if not most, of these same church-going folks enjoy a legally permissible drink at least from time to time. Drinking is, at least for now, still legal in this country and is legally permitted to exist in the space where the Gypsy Blues Bar is relocating. They really have no basis on which to object, yet they feel they must try to impose their will anyway. That the church officials assume that this particular bar, let alone any bar, will be such a blight on the neighborhood without any evidence, without any sense of proportion, without any sense of tolerance is so fanatically reactionary that I can’t quite understand how they can even consider themselves Christians at all. The church isn’t even willing to give them the benefit of the doubt or give them a chance to demonstrate that they can be good neighbors.
From their own words, it’s obvious their objection is on moral grounds, despite how they’re spinning it. Hubbard says that he “was concerned from the moment I heard about it.” Between that sentiment and the remark about “zero tolerance,” it’s clear the rationale for their complaining came after their emotional reaction to it, and they simply made up whatever flimsy arguments they could think of, no matter how divorced from reality they were. But doesn’t the 8th commandment forbid their lying to the OLCC? The 8th Commandment “forbids misrepresenting the truth in relations with others,” which also includes lying. Is that something the Presbyterian Church would endorse?
To me this brings out the worst of how religion can be intolerant of other lifestyles and impose it’s own narrow moral code on the rest of society. The Presbyterian Church naturally has the right to believe whatever they wish and to act accordingly, but until we’re a theocracy they don’t get to dictate to the rest of the world how we must behave, where we can congregate, and where we can legally drink. That’s for the government, separated from the church, to decide. And since “the building is legally zoned for use as a bar,” they’ve already decided. The church here just doesn’t seem to respect the right of the government and believes they should decide, even though they most likely want the government to respect their rights. There’s a word for that kind of thinking, but I think I’ll try to be a good neighbor and turn the other cheek. Besides, I understand there’s a bar across the street, and I am thirsty. Now, what would Jesus brew?