May 2, 2008
There was no place to park.
There was a satellite truck parked illegally over a curb in front of a fence but, except for a narrow slot right behind it, there was no choice but to keep driving slowly through a growing crowd of protestors spilling out onto the street on the north edge of the Mt. Si High School campus in the small town of Snoqualmie, Washington.
Not far up the road was a lazy intersection. Veering right, hoping to find an easy U-turn, I noticed a teenage girl sitting off to the side of the road. She was wearing a jet black shirt with bright white letters: "Straight ain't all that great!"
She looked sad and entirely disinterested in the growing band of counter-protestors gathering about a quarter mile away, across the street from the police protected perimeter of social conservatives and evangelicals. "Can't park here so leave me alone," she said flatly, correctly assuming I was there to join the protest of last Friday’s National Day of Silence (the event was designed to rally support for the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals—an event that hardly seems needed at a public high school).
But on this morning, along this road in small town America, at this particularly unusual moment, I felt pain for this young woman whose attitude betrayed bitterness.
And yet, rather than recognize the moment as a golden opportunity to share the gospel of Christ, I pointed through my window toward the demonstration and asked, "Why aren't you over there? Looks like your side of this thing is getting mighty lively."
She looked me straight in the eye, teared up, and didn't say a word as she began walking away. I would not see her again that day, and probably never will.
It was not the way Jesus would have responded. Instead, it was the sort of smarmy sarcasm Satan uses to soften the blow on our own insecurities. Why witness to someone who might be hurting when you can make a snap judgment based on a t-shirt?
Mt. Si had become the site of this peaceful prayer protest orchestrated by a suburban Seattle pastor whose children had been harassed there following their father's recent presentation on campus. Dr. Ken Hutcherson had been heckled as a hypocrite for supporting equal rights for fellow blacks while not favoring the supposed civil rights of homosexuals to marry.
As ugly as that evening had been for Hutcherson and his family a few months ago, the former National Football League linebacker hadn't seen anything yet. Not three minutes after finding a tight parking spot behind another TV truck on campus that morning, two teenage boys returned to the smaller cluster of counter-protestors and began banging a drum in hopes of drowning out a prayer huddle just a few yards away.
A moment later, while Rev. Hutcherson declared scripture through a bullhorn, a coarse sign with an unspeakable word venomously attacking him was hoisted and loudly cheered by kids who didn’t look a day past 16. Whistles blew, profanities flew, and yet, all I could see in my mind's eye were the tears of that hurting girl nowhere in sight.
Inexplicably, except perhaps for my being the only radio or TV personality in his huddle, Hutcherson handed me the bullhorn and encouraged me to say a few words.
None came to mind. All I could think about was how I'd fumbled the chance to speak wisely a few minutes before when I would not have been preaching to the choir.
Finally, words did come to mind. I spoke about the importance of affording respect to those with whom we disagree (Acts 10:34
; Genesis 1:27
); not judging others' souls (Matthew 7:1-5
; John 7:24
; Romans 14:13
); and guarding against the false assumption that homosexual sin is somehow a greater affront to Jesus than heterosexual sin (Romans 3:23
Considering how hard I was trying not to think about that girl in the jet black shirt with the bitter message in bright white letters, the short time with that bullhorn had been a welcome distraction.
After musing a short while over all the tattoos and colored hairdos across the street, and just as I was turning to leave, a teenager with powder blue hair and a silver ring piercing his eyelid asked my impression of the rally.
Figuring the kid could use some seasoned insight into our fallen world and its evil ways, I cautioned against his being different for the sake of being different, adding, "That sort of thinking doesn’t put somebody very far above dumb."
Looking puzzled, he said, "No sweat. I don't like what these schools are doing and my girlfriend here doesn't either. She wanted to meet you."
What I wouldn’t have given for my handshake to be with that girl in the jet black shirt and bright white letters.Thor Tolo is the host of “Live From Seattle.” His program is heard daily on KGNW-AM 820 in Seattle and at KGNW.com. Contact Thor at firstname.lastname@example.org.