john kelso’s column on thanksgiving

Hyde Park might not want to rent space to me, but why not the Muslims?
There’s a big difference between selective and exclusionary.
By John Kelso

Monday, November 19, 2007

If I were Hyde Park Baptist Church, ain’t no way I’d rent out property to me.

First of all, I’m not your leading authority on religion. When I found out the Bible has a book called “Numbers,” I was glad to hear it had a chapter devoted to casino gambling.

When I see a “What would Jesus do?” bumper sticker, I think, “Jesus wouldn’t put a bumper sticker like that on his car.”

Besides, if I rented a place from Hyde Park Baptist for a function, the first thing I would do is put in a keg. I would also have a smoker going and do sausage wraps. I might even bring in Miss Bud Light, and I would hire the Austin Lounge Lizards to provide music with disturbing lyrics. So I can understand why Hyde Park Baptist is a bit selective on who it rents to. But what I can’t understand is why it wouldn’t rent it out to a prayer group because it includes local Muslims. Muslims don’t bring in no hoochie-coochie dancers. Muslims don’t even drink. If you took a 12-pack of Milwaukee’s Best and had a bet on who could hold out the longest from breaking into it, I’d take the Muslims over the Baptists and give you the points.

Why is Pastor Kelso delivering today’s sermon? See, way back in July, Austin Area Interreligious Ministries, who believe different stuff but get together and pray anyway, booked Hyde Park Baptists’ gymnasium at its Quarries property for a Thanksgiving interfaith prayer session. This event has been going on for 23 years and has yet to involve a single fistfight, which is more than you can say about most family reunions.But last week, Hyde Park Baptist told the group they couldn’t use the Quarries, mostly because of the Muslims. So the prayer gathering took place Sunday at Temple Beth Israel instead. You had Jews and Muslims in the same place and no barbed wire. So in a sense, the Baptists performed a miracle.

Why did Hyde Park Baptist decide to give the mixed prayer group the old heave-ho? Simple. They don’t want non-Christian stuff going on on their land. I didn’t realize telling people to get lost was Christian, but you learn something every day.

“Although individuals from all faiths are welcome to worship with us at Hyde Park Baptist Church, the church cannot provide space for the practice of these non-Christian religions on church property,” a statement from Hyde Park Baptist said. “Hyde Park Baptist church hopes that the AAIM and the community of faith will understand and be tolerant of our church’s beliefs that have resulted in this decision.” So they’re pleading for tolerance while being intolerant. In these situations, people often ask the question I mentioned earlier, “What would Jesus do?” If Jesus ran the Quarries, I don’t think he’d charge rent. I also don’t think he’d turn anyone away. And, from what little I’ve read of the Bible, he’d probably provide free grub, although probably seafood.

John Kelso’s column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Contact him at 445-3606 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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