Last week a huge white tent appeared in Pack Park in downtown Asheville — the very spot where the Occupy Asheville folks were told they couldn’t pitch tents — and it stayed there for a week, hosting a “revival.”
Every night, someone preached about sin and hell fire and brimstone, condemning everyone who disagrees with them. One of them even weaseled his way into Asheville Middle School under the pretext of being a “motivational” speaker. As he preached at the students, no one moved to stop him, even though he was in violation of the First Amendment.
Now, I’m a Christian. I follow the teachings of Christ, which I find very different from what’s preached by many Evangelical Christians, especially those who sponsor tent revivals (as a rule).
A friend of mine was downtown with friends during the revival and was approached twice by revival participants who wanted to save her soul. She was very polite with the first one, a little less so with the second.
So what’s my problem with the revivalists? Well, they took over a public park and accosted passersby, and the city allowed it after denying people wanting to protest the immorality of our economic system the same right. So, who approved it? What did the revivalists pay for the permit, if indeed there was one? And why couldn’t Occupy Asheville occupy that same spot even for a single night?
Then they violated the First Amendment by preaching in a public school. Why didn’t anyone know what they were going to talk about in advance, and if they lied to school administrators about what they were going to talk about, why didn’t anyone step forward and tell them they were in violation of the First Amendment?
My friend, Byron Ballard, is leading the fight to keep religion — all religion — out of public education. She’s not looking to take Jesus away from anybody; she just believes — as do I — that the place for religion is in the home and in church.
I don’t know about other Christians, but I find Jesus rather portable. I can take my faith wherever I go, and I don’t need to push it onto people who already have a perfectly good belief system.
So, when Byron said she wanted to bless the park after the revival, I wanted in. I joined her and a couple other people this afternoon and we left some cheap candy, a blue bead, a brand new penny and a bird feather where the center tent pole had been, then we walked the perimeter, sprinkling woad and waving a sage smudge, jingling our keys and picking up bits of trash.
One little boy asked what we were doing, and Byron said, “We’re blessing the yard.”
We spent about an hour there, and if you go by now, I believe you’ll find the place refreshingly blessed.