I mentioned yesterday a Dallas publication’s report of a family’s complaint that it had been denied use of a church in Baxter County for the funeral of a Baxter County native who’d died in Texas because he was gay (and married).
The Baxter Bulletin followed up on the story.
So, too, did J.T. Eberhard on the Patheos blog. He’s a Mountain Home native who went to high school with James Stone, whose funeral was at issue.
First some corrections to my original report based on the Dallas publication. The church at issue where the family said it was turned away was a Church of Christ in Clarkridge, the small community where Stone grew up, not in Mountain Home proper The church pastor disputes multiple family members’ insistence that they were refused use of the church. There is also a disagreement on whether the family was denied use of the local volunteer fire department for a reception, a custom granted to many others at funerals. The pastor of the church told the Baxter Bulletin that he had not been asked to perform the graveside service. The family says the church canceled a service planned at the church when it found out Stone was gay. The family insists the fire station reception was canceled on account of church pressure, though the Baxter Bulletin quotes unnamed family members as saying the event was canceled at their request.
But on one central point, there is agreement. Baxter Bulletin:
The one thing everyone involved in the story can agree upon is that two members of the Clarkridge Church of Christ, Jerry and Vicki Oels, handed anti-gay religious material and sympathy cards to Stone’s mother, Joan, Hoskins and Liebbe following the graveside service at Thacker Cemetery.
Here’s how Eberhard put it at Patheos, quoting Stone’s husband Jay Hoskins:
I can tell you that there were not only issues having a service for him, but also in so much as that one or more members of the Clarkridge Church of Christ called and “CANCELLED” our family get-together after the service, and that TWO members of the Clarkridge Church of Christ, Jerry and Vicki Oels gave James grieving mother, myself and the preacher a nice big envelope each one filled with over 10 pages of Bible passages condemning us to hell, referencing God’s marriage laws, marriage amongst people and animals, and then a sympathy card.
Patheos notes that the Clarkridge Church of Christ is home church to County Judge Mickey Pendergrass, currently in a legal fight to open the Baxter County Courthouse lawn only to Christian symbolism at Christmas time.
Eberhard’s report at Patheos concludes with commentary on comments around the web expressing the sentiment that the treatment Stone’s family received surely was an aberration and representative of only a tiny number of people.
So if you’re a Christian in the comments suggesting these people are a wacky minority and that most of the Christians in Mountain Home/Baxter County would never visit misery upon the lives of gay people out of deference to their love of Jesus, you’re simply wrong. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite: you are the minority, and the gay haters are thriving – and they’re being stoked from the pulpit.
This is the reality in Mountain Home. This is where James Stone grew up. This is the community that forced him into the closet out of either shame or fear, and it’s done so almost exclusively because of the community’s thick and overpowering faith in Jesus. These are the people who swear up and down there would be so much more love in the world if only everybody were Christian like them (and if they get to be the ones writing our laws).