Annise Parker is not the biggest problem my Church faces. So help us God, what a better world it would be if this were true.
We support a bishop in Syria who finds himself surrounded by ISIS, at the mercy of the kind favors of Putin, and fired at with American supplied weaponry. Twenty-two million of us died in the last century, were denied university education, and lived as second class citizens for the crime of being faithful. Redshirt thugs lash us in North Korea, in Sudan we are sold into slavery, and in Egypt we face extinction in an ancient homeland.
Pray that the “Houston Room” in a Syrian church used to feed starving people of all faiths and named for the gifts of Houston Christians can continue to feed the poor. American guns in terrorist hands surround this place and priests are murdered.
Next to these evils, the pettifogging Parker, a mayor with an overly eager legal team, is not much. She has decided our sermons, our emails, and our private communications are “fair game” because we dare oppose immorality with morality and moral confusion with moral clarity. We want to keep our bathrooms private, but evidently the right to use the toilet of one’s choice is Constitutional, or important, or something.
This precious right to pick a potty is worth using the power of the courts, the executive, and the law. And yet we know the real problem is that we will not say that private immorality is moral in public. In fact, we dare publicly disagree. We dare petition for redress. We suggest a vote on an issue railroaded through a compliant and corrupt city government. Most leaders are afraid to challenge the power of City Hall, hoping for government favors and contracts, but pastors answer to a higher power than the mayor.
Our morality is based in philosophy, theology, and history and not on our desires. We do not even give ourselves the right to force people of our sex to share their bathrooms with us. And yet, I can already hear certain pundits pronounce: potty rights are not worth the fuss. Christians are being martyred. Why kick up a fight?
One must pause and ponder the injustice that those who respond to change forced on us by politicians become accused of responding politically, but so it goes.
It is true, utterly, absolutely, terrifically true that Parker’s power play is not equivalent to the persecution my Church faces in Syria, Nigeria, Sudan, or Iraq. Fighting ISIS is far more important than fighting Parker, but a nation capable of defeating Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany simultaneously is surely capable of dealing with ISIS while swatting back the unjust demand of Parker. ISIS is Nazi ideology without the power of Germany and Parker hardly is worth the bother if her petty tyranny did not transgress an important principle.
Don’t be confused or distracted: Parker is trying to chill religious speech. Challenge her politically on the basis of Christian ethics and she will come after your Christian minister. She wants her morality publicly applauded and we call her morality a false morality: immoral. She accuses us of making morality political by making her immorality political. So while dealing with the real foes, ISIS and the radical atheists of North Korea, we must pause to swat back Parker.
One might despair of cleaning up City Hall, but we do not want them fouling our toilets!
Any attack on the Bill of Rights is an attack on a beloved protection of our most cherished liberties. Some slopes are slippery and we are wise not to stand on the edge of them and Parker is pushing us to the edge with her petulant refusal to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Houstonians think she is wrong. We love the person, but hate the tyrannical politics.
And so nobody thinks Parker the greatest problem of our age. There is human trafficking, Ebola, hunger, and drug abuse, but the churches of Houston are already fighting those evils. Now Parker forces us to turn, for just a moment, to say of our sermons, our emails, and our private communications: “We would give them to you with love if you asked, but we will not give them to the government by force ever. Come and see.”
It is almost a bore, but not quite. Our Constitution is not quite in peril, yet, but this is too much, Mayor Parker. One can concentrate on fighting Ebola and still bemoan the common cold.
We faced Nero. We outlasted Attila. We defeated Stalin. Come and take our sermons, our emails, and our ideas, Ms. Mayor, if you can, and we will endure. Our sermons were preached in the open, our emails contain views you already know, and the ideas of moderation, virtue, and republican decency might do you some good. We will turn the other cheek to you as a person: our Lord commands us not to hate, but we will fight your unjust power as mayor to protect the First Freedom: the freedom of religion.