Friday, July 4, 2014

Appreciating our city's elected officials



My fellow community members:

Fred Pattje
You may not be aware that Nanaimo’s city councillors and mayor have taken a huge pounding over their decision to disallow a leadership conference in May. While they regret their decision, and apologised for it at last evening’s special council meeting (July 3/14), they are still getting pounded. I consider that campaign to be psychological warfare.

The councillor who moved the motion to prevent the event, and who yesterday bravely moved the motion to rescind that decision, is councillor Fred Pattje. He has been the one who has taken the greatest hit from these phone calls and e-mail’s. This has been a dark time for him.

Quite apart from the rightness or wrongness of his original motion -it is how he has been treated, mostly by people living outside of our city, that has gone far beyond disrespectful. One writer wished him to die of AIDS.

I appeal to you to do one simple, yet humane thing: write him a one or two sentence e-mail message, or quick phone call, thanking him for serving us. He is a very community-minded person, going way beyond what is expected of a part-time councillor. His is a thankless job. I think he deserves better from all of us, but especially at this time. They all do.

If you agree do to this, please make sure that the title of the message is positive so that he knows it isn’t more hate being thrown at him. I am writing a message that is simply entitled “Thank you,” but anything pleasant will likely be appreciated.

fred.pattje@nanaimo.ca; 250-758-7575 (home phone)

If you wish to write to all of the councillors and mayor you can use this address: mayor&council@nanaimo.ca

I also request that you ask others to give Fred and the others respect for what they have endured on our behalf. 

Thank you.

Ian.



My speech to Nanaimo’s Mayor and Council July 3, 2014 re: a motion to rescind an earlier decision to ban an organisation from using the conference centre


Mayor and Council: I am very sad to have had our fair city, and you as council members in particular, not only judged for your decision but even abused for having made it. I believe that you have been subjected to psychological warfare. Some media have been happy to join in –at your, and our, expense.

Some say that you as a Council discriminated against Christians.  If this is so then how it that both the Jehovah Witnesses and the United Church both recently held major events in civic-owned properties?

I do not often tell people that I am an ordained Presbyterian minister. Sadly many will distrust me when I identify myself as being a follower of Jesus. / I do not blame them. Horrible things have been done in the name of Christ. Women have been burned to death, children and First Nations people abused.  Less than a century ago Jewish people, members of the communist party and gypsies were killed in Europe by those supported by the Christian church. This is only a partial list. I believe that most of this horror is a direct result of the Christian faith having been taken over by the Roman and subsequent empires. The once peaceful followers of Jesus have been used to support hatred as well as state and now corporate abuses of power.

I want to be clear: What I have to say here is on my own behalf. I do not speak for any church or group.

When I first moved back to Nanaimo 20 years ago there were frequent letters in local papers denouncing homosexual persons, written by those who quoted the Christian Bible as grounds for their vitriol. When I finally wrote a letter and pointed out that Jesus had instructed his followers to not judge but instead to love, and that such letters did not seem to reflect these teachings, the letters suddenly stopped. I was glad. But I knew that such expressions of fear and hatred had not gone away.

13 years ago I chaired Nanaimo’s ministerial association. This group had members from both the evangelical and mainline churches. When 911 occurred the association became split, with some members trying to better understand the Muslim world and others appalled that Christians would even meet with Muslims.

The drama that has unfolded in our fair city, I believe, is a continuation of this divide, and the belief by some that they alone can speak for the Christian faith, that the Bible can be interpreted without needing to understand its historical, literary, political and other contexts and so be used to judge others.

I believe the original intention of the Council’s motion in question was to indicate that the City of Nanaimo is not in favour of giving voice to those who would discriminate against the homosexual LBTQ community. The irony? Evidently those who wish to use our city venue to teach their values themselves felt discriminated against. / Perhaps this is true. Who can say for sure?

Yet here is an even bigger irony: the purpose of the motion was ostensibly to prevent hatred toward some in our community, yet a number of those who have felt wronged have chosen to attack you as elected leaders in our community with utter disrespect and hatred! I hear that one complainer even wished death on one of you! If this is how they treat other human beings then perhaps they should not be allowed to use our facilities. We certainly have enough hatred in our world. But how can we stop them? Council alone cannot. The purpose of your motion failed.  It is up to us as a society who need to stand up to those who would bully and be verbally violent, regardless of their faith affiliation, philosophy, beliefs or convictions. Lovingly. And firmly. And with full knowledge that none of us is perfect.

A word about those who claim to have been wronged: If these are representatives of the Christian faith it is understandable why so many in our society distrust Christians. In other words, these who believe themselves to be wronged are only inviting our community to discriminate against them and push them to the margins.  No wonder there is so much distrust of such Christians!

As a follower of Jesus Christ I wish to offer you a sincere apology for how you have been treated. While I hardly think you are perfect, and obviously your motion has failed, you are human beings, just as worthy of respect as are those who wish to have this Leadercast event at the conference centre. I am sorry. May you one day be able to forgive us Christians for also not being perfect.



3 comments:

  1. Thanks Ian, These words convey a system of values and a perspective that inspires and motivates me. One of the most dangerous aspects of human nature is our tendency to divide the world into us and them. I join you in working towards seeing all people as imperfect members of the same community, with different perspectives and beliefs, but all able to choose to respect and love one another.

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  2. Ian, you may/may not remember me, but I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you've said here. I've had mixed feelings about this whole debacle, especially our "Christian" response.

    Thanks for writing.

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