Southeast Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood protests give bad image of the LGBT community

We have to admit it – it’s a little strange that a conservative church would purchase a building in the middle of a mostly liberal Portland neighborhood. Clashing is expected, but sometimes it goes too far for comfort. Even though many see the church as a threat to the community, instead of acting hostile, citizens could have responded in a more mature manner.

Seattle-based Mars Hill Church bought a vacant, 106-year-old church building at 3210 S.E. Taylor St. for $1.25 million in late August. It was founded by Pastor Mark Driscoll 15 years ago. The church has expressed views against homosexuality and has claimed yoga as “demonic.” They are also strongly rooted in evangelical Christian beliefs and customs.

Southeast Portland’s Sunnyside neighborhood, which has an active gay/lesbian community, responded strongly to the church’s stance against homosexuality, and their overall conservative outlook. A kiss-in was scheduled on Sept. 10 to protest the first service of the new church, but both the service and protest were cancelled.

On Oct. 16, however, about 20 protestors stood outside the church and shouted at the church-goers as they finished their first service. Adults and children alike were bombarded with obscenities and insults, most of them from people wearing kerchiefs to hide their faces. Not only were protestors acting in an irresponsible manner, they were doing so under the cloak of anonymity. This is absolute cowardice.

These events go against what LGBT supporters and the community stand for, and give the movement a bad name. Yes, they have a right to protest, but the church has the same right to operate in that location, and pretending that they don’t is wildly hypocritical.

I’m sure most would agree that American freedom is ideally about accepting all opinions and viewpoints. This display is an example of thinking that rule only applies if the opinions are in a group’s favor. It’s especially shocking to see supporters of tolerance and love act so bitter and hostile to people they hardly know.

The neighborhood shouldn’t have dealt with this situation in such an immature and childish way. Instead of complaining and throwing a tantrum, they could have turned it into a positive example by accepting the church and its members as their neighbors, proving the people who are against them wrong in every way.

Being a passionate supporter of tolerance, I think the church was much more open-minded about the situation. This could also be an example of what not to do in a situation such as this, teaching us to treat others more respectfully, even if opinions differ. Who knows, maybe labels and stereotypes aren’t as reliable as they seem.