To the Editor:
As a member of the Island clergy, and a resident pastor, I wanted to speak to the recent act of affixing offensive decals to three of our Island churches, as reported in the Dec. 5 edition of The MV Times (“Homophobic decals affixed to Vineyard churches”). I’d like to first speak to the action that was perpetrated, and then to the reaction that was published by The MV Times.
In looking at the photograph of the decal, I could see that it was produced (and obviously placed) by someone reasonably familiar with the biblical text, as the message of the decal does indeed echo the meaning of Isaiah 3:9 — I encourage my readers to look up and read Isaiah 3:9. However, in focusing on the message printed on these decals, we’re missing the real problem — the action of whoever placed these decals. After all, affixing decals to buildings that are not one’s own is by common understanding and legal definition an act of vandalism. It is a crime, and as a criminal act against someone else’s property, it is by biblical definition a sin. I’m sure that whoever did this act would not appreciate a stranger “tagging” their home or their business — as such, this criminal and sinful act was at core an unneighborly act, and therefore an unloving, un-Christlike act that whoever did needs to confess, repent of, and make restitution for.
As Christians, Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself” and to “first take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” While the New Testament does record that the earliest Christians did not shrink from identifying the presence of sin, they more often did so to correct the sins present within their own faith community, rather than in their surrounding society. They also certainly never vandalized the pagan temples of the Greeks and Romans to emphasize their message. To do so would (and does) misrepresent the Christian message of redemption and restoration from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.
That said, I find that I must also speak to the reaction — specifically in how The MV Times chose to publicize this event with the headline, “Homophobic decals affixed to Vineyard churches.” What was it about these decals that made them “homophobic”? Was it the act of vandalism that occurred, of which these decals were the means, or was it the message of the decals themselves? It was clearly the message printed on the decals that is regarded as homophobic, and therein is the issue in question. Rather than focus on the vandalism, the act that occurred, The MV Times chose to react by labeling, and dismissing, a certain viewpoint (a viewpoint gained, by the way, through a legitimate reading of scripture) with a pejorative. This, I believe, is just as damaging an act to our community as the act that was initially perpetrated, and only serves to increase the dearth of discourse in our society and culture.
The statement presented by the Island Clergy Association (and gladly signed by myself) contains the excellent statement, “We are deeply concerned by the erosion of civility and the current trend that relegates those who disagree to a demonized other, one whose voice and opinions are not worth listening to.” The label “homophobic” does precisely this to a traditional moral and spiritual teaching of Christianity gleaned from both the Old and New Testaments that is held by millions of sincerely loving Christians worldwide. I’d like to suggest that a far more accurate and unbiased headline for this article should have read, “Three Vineyard churches vandalized.” Such a headline, along with an appropriately written article, would have served to unite our Island community instead of further fueling the problem.
The Rev. Matthew B. Splittgerber
Vineyard Assembly of God