An Open Letter to Houston Mayor Annise Parker from a Pastor

640px-Annise_Parker

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

E-Mail // Twitter // Facebook

_________________

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

52 comments

  1. Amen! Hate the sin, but love on the sinner. Would enjoy being a fly on the wall if she takes you up the offer for fajitas. BTW… I am going to try and have Dan grab the Pod Cast files off my computer on Friday. Jon

    Date: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:22:42 +0000 To: jon_shore@live.com

    1. You notice that he never once said, “hate the sin, but love the sinner”? Such a BS line. He said, “I’d love to get to know you better.” What a better way to live.

  2. I love this, I used to live in Houston but went to a tiny church so I had a low profile pastor. What nshe ultimately wants to do is censor those who oppose her. Maybe Houston can get rid of her and send her down to Austin

  3. Well said Pastor Titus. We are taught by Jesus’ example to love the person but not accept the sin itself……..that is what Jesus did during his life here among us. We should all strive to look at this as an opportunity to show our true, Christian values in a way that would please OUR FATHER and SAVIOR. The battle is already won by HIM and what HE did on that cross on that hill far away some 2000+ years ago. Who can dispute that this may be GOD’S plan to allow this to happen, and in the process, actually help spread HIS TRUTH to this planet we call our temporary home.
    The OLD TESTAMENT tells of many prophets that went into unwinnable situations,in humanistic terms,that worked out to be the perfect opportunity to witness to those needing to be righted…..same as this situation. We should all pray that HIS will be done and hold steadfast to what we know is true and righteous for HIS glory. After all isn’t that one of our mandates from GOD? Praying for HIS peace and wisdom over this situation in the coming days………Romans 8:31

  4. Right focus. Right language, Right target.

    Mayors have no right to anything unless granted by God, or the people who elect her. Perhaps we should pray for her to find Jesus and honor God by following his teachings and commandments.

    Then, of course there’s that pesky first amendment stuff, violating state law and acting like other anti-God pawns that have come out of the closet.

  5. I’m sick of you pastors always trying to force your beliefs and opinions on people. I mean, what if the Mayor likes burritos better than fajitas?

    1. Read about the issue in question dude! It’s the mayor trying to force the pastors to turn over their sermons. Not them forcing anything on her!

    2. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! That’s great!!! LOL!!! Who knows, she may like only enchiladas or tacos. I guess you’ll find out…eventually…hopefully. Praise God!!!

  6. Conservative and religious groups have filed a suit against the city of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordnance. The city is collecting evidence for their defense. Nothing more. The Fox article was absolutely full of deceptive journalism, half truths, manipulation, and outright speculation. It’s dangerous, untrue, and so many people are falling for it. Again.

    I’ll leave with this: Jesus’s two greatest commandments are to do unto others as you would have done unto you, and to love your neighbor as yourself. The Christian opposition to HERO seems in complete opposition to this.

    1. I agree on the Fox stuff. As I said, I understand why the city was collecting.
      I also agree w/ your second paragraph, which is why I wrote the blog. I love it when people invite me to lunch.

    2. Jesus’ two greatest commandments were ACTUALLY….
      1) Love the lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind
      2) Love your neighbor as yourself

      This is the proper order of our love. If you follow the first, you can’t do anything but the second.

    3. Actually – Jesus’ two greatest commandments were:

      1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind
      2) Love your neighbor as yourself

      If you do the first, you won’t be able to do anything but the second.

    4. “‘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.”
      If you don’t get the first one right, the second one is impossible.

  7. As a former 28 year Katy resident, I agree with everything but except for one thing in your blog. Lupe is great no doubt but the original Los Cucos on Highway 90 next to Midway is a better place to go to get to know a person.

    But seriously, great blog and am proud to stand with my fellow pastors and church leaders in truth and grace. Thank you.

  8. As a former 28 year Katy resident, I must say, I agree with everything you wrote except for one thing: Lupe is great and love it! But to really get to know someone and share Jesus, you go to Los Cucos on Hwy 90 next to Midway. Best fajitas!

    Seriously though, what you wrote is on the mark and well done. I am proud to stand with my fellow pastors and leaders in teach truth and grace! Thank you.

  9. Pastor Titus, although I agree with you concerning the love that God has for all people and his instructions to those of us who are Christians to walk in love; I don’t agree that speaking the truth about a subject that is contrary to the will of God is being unloving. This entire incident stems from this new ordinance (HERO) which provides protection from discrimination against the LGBT community. I agree no one should be discriminated against for no reason. Everybody deserves to work and have housing that is soley based on their humanity. The bulk of the dissension arose when initially the ordinance included a clause giving transgendered individuals the right to use whatever public facilities they identified with. As a woman, I was totally against this. Because of mounting pressure that stipulation had to be removed. This however did not stop the pastors in question from teaching and preaching against homosexuality, which is right for them to do as it is with any sin. I agree that homosexuality is no different than any other sin; but, hear lies the problem; most homosexuals don’t see or acknowledge it as sin. They want people to accept it as right behavior and this is just how they were born. As a borned again believer in The Lord Jesus Chirst, I can’t accept that as truth. So, in my discourse with you or anyone else; I state what I believe to be true. This however does not indicate that I don’t love the person or people in question. Even JESUS when He so lovingly dealt with the woman caught in the very act of adultery: He did not condemn her, but He did deal with her sin. He said “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Love speaks truth. Jesus is the epitome of love, but He never watered down sin in the name of love. Jesus loves you, me and Mayor Parker, but He is not in agreement with her choice of lifestyle or mines either if I practice being an adulterer, fornicator, gossiper, liar, murder or etc… Homosexuality is a sin just the same as those I listed above. So, if God give you the platform and she agrees to have lunch with you, tell her that Jesus came to set the captives free and that true freedom comes from knowing the truth. Be blessed!!

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’m glad you don’t agree that speaking the truth about a subject that is contrary to God’s will is unloving, because I don’t agree with that either. Sometimes it’s the most loving thing we can do. If I led you to believe that I thought that, I apologize. I do not. Thanks again for reading and for the sincere reply.

    2. Bridgett that is beautifully stated. I also believe that God is telling christian choose this day whom you will serve. I will serve God and take a bold stand to say as you have said, God hates our sin and we are to tell others about His love without being a coward and beating around the bush. We should be just as free to speak about our faith and belief as they are about trying to convence others they have all the rights. When did we begin to be so passive about the truth of Gods word. The reality is sin blinds us from the truth and the truth of the matter is that the gays and lesbians are bullying their way through our society by threathing all those who speak out against their behavoir. Just has they believe they have to have rights. I BELIEVE WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP FOR OUR FAITH AND THE NEX GENERATION OF OUR CHILDREN. WE MUST BECOME BOLD SOLDIERS FOR CHRIST. LIKE YOU SAID GOD HATES SIN, ALL SIN. BE BLESSED.

  10. Dude…. I get that you love Jesus and you love people and want to share Christ’s love. I’m tracking with you there. It sounds though as if you are implying, and maybe you actually believe this, that those of us out here who call homosexuality a sin do so because we hate homosexuals and believe that Jesus hates homosexuals. That is exactly the opposite of our message. God loves people, and in our sin, He sent Jesus to pay the ultimate price while we were still His enemy. The problem is, whether we’re talking homosexuality or adultery or lying or stealing or murder; WE (those who are committing the sin) are the ones who have contempt for GOD. It’s the other way around. Calling homosexuality a sin does not mean we think God hates gay people. We know he loves them enough to die for them, so please PLEASE stop twisting our words. It’s very frustrating to have your message twisted by someone who should be rallying with you instead of rolling their eyes and apologizing for you. You’re hurting our evangelistic efforts almost as much as the Westboro crowd. Sin (all sin) is a big deal, and it has to be addressed IN LOVE… not ignored. If it wasn’t a big deal, it wouldn’t have had to paid for with the blood of Jesus.

    1. JJ..
      Thanks for reading and for the reply.
      It’s funny you bring up word-twisting, because in this one piece I have been accused of hating gay people and hating Christians. Not rolling my eyes at the Church at all w/ this. I stand with the church even when we get stuff wrong. Agree sin is a big deal. This just wasn’t a blog about that…it was a blog about my willingness to share my sermons (and my life) with someone some would think of as an enemy.
      Thanks again for reading!

    2. By virtue of our common relationship with the Lord, I call both of you my brother. As a Christian, and communications teacher, I have to agree that the concept of reaching out in love is our commission, and the truth must not be scuttled in presentation or manner, or we send out an unclear message. The line about, ‘we are discussing this amongst ourselves’ made it seem like the truth is up for grabs, and might be re-evaluated over this coming luncheon. I also cringed over the Westboro comment, because they aren’t worthy to be named in the same sentence with true Christians: our writer here has finer motivations, and love is at the center of his comments and ideals. Society’s word twisting is excruciating at times, and causes a few verbal black eyes and far-flung arrows. Hamlet said, ” I have shot mine arrow o’er the house
      And hurt my brother.” In our frustration, let’s be careful not to bite and devour one another. Love to you both in your important spiritual work.

  11. I applaud your willingness to be so open with your sermons, faith, and general love for Jesus with not just your congregates, but also Mayor Parker. We all know that God calls us into battle at different times in our walk, and I agree that a battle is waging…has been waging (Ephesians 6:12). Even still, we are called to love as Christ loved us above all else. Thank you for representing The Body of Christ with kindness, wisdom, and love.

  12. Speaking as honestly and clearly as I can.

    I have a general lack of understanding of the Christian concept of sin and how the church decides what are and are not sins. I genuinely don’t understand and, from an outsider looking in the fact that so many churches are disagreeing on what is and is not a sin tells me that it’s not a clear cut process.

    The question that all this fuss is really wanting to address but is scared to is this – should the government interfere if a religious organization chooses to discriminate on the basis of sexuality, disability, gender or race – ie, “the protected classes”[tm].

    Discrimination has a long and distinguished tenancy in the history of many faiths. King David’s soul “despised” the blind and the lame and prohibited them from entering the temple.

    The Southern Baptist Convention was formed as a pro-slavery party (Read SBC resolution 899 for modern day acknowledgement). The Mormon faith didn’t allow Black people access to temples until 1978.

    Many Churches don’t allow women in positions of authority over men.

    Even fewer churches allow homosexuals positions of authority.

    If one has decided what one wants the scriptures to say, almost anything can be read to reenforce it.

    Truth be told, I don’t see any distinction between the position of not allowing gay, disabled or black people or even women into positions of leadership. There are supporting verses in the Bible to justify anything in the hands of man.

    Regardless, as a secularist I don’t believe it is the role of government to intrude upon how any church wishes to run itself, even if I find its position unfair, offensive or contrary to my personal beliefs.

    Fundamentally, a church member can find another church. A gay couple who want to get married can’t find another government (although thankfully that is changing).

    In your other post you ask the question: “Why is it that we put an invisible sign on the front door that says, “We Love Everyone! (except gay folks)””.

    Sir, last election cycle those signs were not invisible. In my State of North Carolina the majority of Churches put “Amendment I” signs outside – a constitutional amendment aimed squarely at prohibiting marriage between same sex couples.

    That sign was not invisible. That sign, plain as day said “Not Welcome Here”.

    You truly seem to have your heart in the right place and, although I disagree with you on many things I believe the tone you’re trying to set will help ratchet the drama down which benefits everyone except those who wish to profit on the hate.

    I wish you well in your work.

    Red

    1. And I wish you well in yours, Red. I really appreciate your thoughtful reply. Unfortunately, you are spot on with many of your assertions. I wish I knew you personally…I think we would get along just fine. And if you are in NC, we would most certainly enjoy some good BBQ over the conversation. Thanks again for reading and for your kind spirit. If ALL I do is “ratchet the drama down” a notch, then I’ll be glad for it. Peace to you.

      1. @Redvers and @Titus…..thank you. Thank you both for expressing your opinions, sharing your thoughts, allowing yourselves to be vulnerable-and all the while, you each spoke from completely different sides of the issue. I wish we could all learn how to have a conversation in this manner. Neither of you ‘gave in’ to your own beliefs or criticized the other for their beliefs. As odd as it sounds, I feel refreshed from reading the two comments above. You have shown me that patience, and love, and respect are still very much alive and present in humanity. @Titus – I’m glad I read your blog, and I agree with everything you said in it. But I feel like the real value I’m walking with today is the interchange between you two above.

  13. Titus! You constantly amaze me! Actually God constantly amazes me with the insight and wisdom He gives the young! I used to worry about your generation. Never thought any of you would amount to a hill of beans, much less be capable of raising families and leading people to Christ..Oh course, my association at the time was limited and my opinions were jaded by the experiences I had with my bi-polar, drug addicted son and his wife with the same problem and the young people I met at drug rehabs who keep relapsing over and over. I am so glad I have met you, Kari, your children and seen your discipleship at work! And the hundreds of other young Mom’s and Dad’s at Current, A Christian Church, who Love God and speak the truth in love, are devoted to each other and the upbringing of Godly responsible children, to be the next leaders in a world that has gone way to far towards just plain nuts. Keep fighting the GOOD fight. Mayor Parker may have a long battle ahead of her – but, so do you, my dear….and all those who are fighting the GOOD fight along side you. God be with you all! MommaVal

  14. Thank you for such a strong, biblically based stance. My heart breaks when sin is categorized, invisible signs are posted and explosive anger replaces the gentle words of Christ in church. What a fresh wind you are…

  15. It’s 2014 and people still believe in talking snakes, necromancers and that sometimes deities take on the form of burning shrubberies and hand out laws? Well, if you are going to believe all that, at least follow it. And don’t forget the part about ‘No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit’. Yet Titus sounds sure that the mayor is politically motivated and not simply defending the city against a lawsuit by proving that churches violated the law and acted politically. Enjoy your witch hunt (Exodus 22:18).

    1. Al, I appreciate you reading. You sound like a sharp guy. I hear your skepticism about faith in your comment, and that’s no harm. There is no doubt the mayors motives were political. That doesn’t make them menacing, necessarily, but they are most certainly political.

  16. A friend of mine has made a fantastic suggestion. We need to campaign for ALL PASTORS in the Houston Area to send the mayor a bible with “You will find my sermons here” respectfully Pastor ….. Now, I’m not a pastor but I will be doing this myself come Monday. We need someone with a voice like yours to spread the message.

    1. Except Kim, and I mean this with all the respect in the world – how many Pastors limit what they preach exclusively to what is in the Bible?

      I would hazard a guess that the percentage is in single figures and on the low side.

    2. Kim, I think your heart is good on that, but don’t forget that there are some pastors that could not honestly say that. Sad but true. Thanks for reading and for your heart for Jesus.

      1. I do agree.. No names mentioned. However, I am one if the lucky ones. The Ark Church in Conroe. And I’m tired of Christianity being seen as the evil while Miley Cyrus is seen as a role model for our children. I do want to believe that a majority of churches do preach the Gospel, but I ALSO am not naive so let me clarify. Those who can do so with good conscience should send one. The PROBLEM is that “separation of church and state” should mean that churches not take a tax deduction. As hard as that is to say….. It let’s them feel they have the right to do what they’re doing. The same is happening with our schools. We receive 1% government funding and with that we have to throw God completely out of the window. States need to take back schools. Please feel free to read my blogs on these issues.

        http://asaro4.blogspot.com/2010/04/problem-with-american-socialism-and.html?m=1

        This ones just for fun.
        http://asaro4.blogspot.com/2010/01/backwards-motion-of-sexual-revolution.html?m=1

        Sincerely, just a naive housewife who wants a better world where her children can practice their faith without agenda seeking, race baiting, people telling them that THEY are the problem.

        PS. Loved your letter btw

  17. I just wanted to note that you write as if Mayor Parker isn’t familiar with Christianity. She is. She regularly attends church services and wikipedia claims she’s a member of the United Methodist Church. You also claim that she is a bully and insecure. This leads me to think you’ve bought into the way certain propaganda organizations are spinning this story. Certain pastors and religious organizations are suing the city of Houston. The city of Houston is collecting evidence for its defense. This is not about bullying. This is not about Parker feeling insecure. This is not about silencing pastors. This is about a lawsuit. Anyone who tells you differently is lying to you.

    1. The only reason for the lawsuit is the City’s outrageous attempt to squelch the rights of over 50,000 Houstonians. The City Secretary’s office said that there were more than enough valid signatures on the GLBT petitions. However, the City Attorney then inserted himself into the process and declared that, because of procedural issues, the wishes of over 50,000 Houstonians would be summarily overridden. How often in the past has the City Attorney’s office overridden the City Secretary’s decisions on petitions?

  18. The reason for the lawsuit is that Mayor Parker and her City Attorney are trying to squelch the rights of over 50,000 Houstonians. If not for their attempt at squelching the rights of citizens, there would be no lawsuit. It would be interesting to know if the City Attorney has interjected himself into any other petition drives (such as the drainage fee petitions). Always in the past, validation of petition signatures has been the province of the City Secretary, but, in the instance of the GLBT repeal petitions, the City Attorney has arbitrarily inserted himselt into the process, so the citizens had no choice except to sue for their rights.

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