An Open Letter to Houston Mayor Annise Parker from a Pastor

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Dear Mayor Parker,

Most folks are a little confused as to why you subpoenaed sermons from some high-profile pastors who have opposed you. I’m not. I think your reasons are obvious and they are very political. I would expect nothing less from, you know, a politician. Also, between you and me, I don’t understand why the pastors don’t just hand the sermons over. Most of them probably have a podcast or sermon video on their websites, anyway. But I doubt you’re innocent in your motivations. I don’t think it is your intention, exactly, to possess these sermons for your own personal devotion time.

But that’s what I like to call Kingdom of This World stuff, and I’m not interested in that back and forth. Really, I was just writing to say one thing:

You can have my sermons. I’ll send all of them to your office.

I’ll send you the one about Jesus. There are actually several about Jesus. Okay, actually most of them are about Jesus. Blogs, too. You’ll notice on my home page I talk about Jesus the most. I know some of the pastors you’re butting heads with are complaining because “Political and social commentary is not a crime.” But I don’t think political and social commentary are preaching, either, so you won’t find a lot about that. Instead, you’ll find a lot of talk about Jesus — following Jesus, trusting Jesus, sacrificing for Jesus, and surrendering to Jesus. Lots of Jesus stuff. You can have them all. Did I mention you could find them pretty easily

I’ll send you the one about the central truths of Christianity. Here’s the thing, Mayor Parker. You may not agree with what some people believe, but they believe it is the truth. It is very difficult to strong-arm people out of their belief. The church has tried it in the past, and we regret those days. Those tactics won’t work. You won’t change anyone’s mind, you’ll just make them more resolved to oppose you. Jesus said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. He said if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. Jesus laid his own life down and called his own followers to do the same. Attempting to out these pastors publicly by airing out their messages is at least in poor taste and maybe even unconstitutional. Why not give them a taste of their own Christian medicine and turn the other cheek?

Let’s have lunch. You, me, and Lupe Tortilla. You’ve got those in the city, right? We’ve got them out here in Katy, and the flautas are to die for. I’m buying. We can talk over queso and get to know each other better, because I think there’s some things you’re not hearing that you should.

I want you to know that the entire Christian community does not hate your guts. I don’t. From what I can tell, you’re pretty good at governing. As for you being a lesbian, well, here’s what I have to say about that. Not only do I not hate you, I’d love to get to know you better.

I’d love to tell you that this Jesus that I preach about loves you too. He loves you when you’re a bully, and when you’re insecure, and when you are a Democrat. He doesn’t want you to stay a bully and insecure, but you probably can stay a Democrat–though some of those outspoken preachers you’re going toe to toe with would probably disagree with me. He even loves you when you’re a lesbian, although some folks would disagree with that, too. As a Christian community, we’re discussing this amongst ourselves.

But here’s the deal — as the news hit yesterday and the Fox opinion article started circulating on Facebook I realized this would probably blow up. I usually don’t jump in on controversial subjects right off the bat, because time has a way of making bloggers like me seem uninformed. There may be more to this story. Even if there’s not, my guess is you are a shrewd politician and you’ll figure out a way to get this controversial ordinance enforced without putting every Houston preacher’s sermon under the magnifying glass of public scrutiny. This fight won’t be worth it long term, Mayor Parker. Why even start?

In the next few days, people are going to shout louder. It’s going to be rough. You don’t strike me as one who intimidates easily, and I don’t know you well enough to know how you’ll respond. Proceed with caution. This may not be a hill worth dying on. To the people you’re opposing, it most certainly is.

Mayor Parker, you’re in for a battle, I’m afraid. This whole thing looks to the Christian community like the dreaded day some in our community have been waiting for — the government tyrannically imposing sanctions on our sermons. I’ve already told you I’ve got nothing to hide. In fact, I’m going to tweet some links of the sermons I mentioned to you with the hashtag #MayorParker. I’ll send over a bunch. I’m no Billy Graham, but they’re halfway decent.

The other preachers probably aren’t going to be as forthcoming. I don’t know if it’s because they’re standing up for what they believe in or because they’ve got something to hide. But there will be protest signs and blogs and lawsuits a plenty. It will be noisy, and confusing, and lines will be blurred, and otherwise reasonable people on both sides will act unreasonably. The word “persecution” will be thrown around. Folks will be all in a tizzy. This is the kind of thing that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Yes, you’ve got a little battle on your hands, Mayor Parker. I don’t envy you. And you won’t find me in the middle of it. As for me and my house, we’re just going to serve the…well, I’ll send you a sermon about it.

Where you will find me is at Lupe’s. Have you had their fajitas? Come on out to Katy and I’ll buy you some and we’ll talk. That’s what we preachers do best is talk. And there’s so much I’d love to tell you.

Because of Jesus,

Titus Benton

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Titus Benton is a Student Pastor, Author, and Executive Director of a nonprofit organization benefitting the world’s poorest people. His latest book, Grip: Let Loose, Dig Deep & Take Hold, is for sale on Amazon and 100% of author profits go directly to The 25 Group