THE UMBRELLA DILEMMA

I’ve never seen so many umbrellas in my life.

That is what my oldest daughter posted on Facebook this morning.  She is a freshman at a small Baptist liberal arts college in East Texas.  Today was the first day of significant rainfall since she arrived.  Everyone brought their umbrella to class.

Except her.

The reason she didn’t bring one is because she grew up in the Pacific Northwest.  On Puget Sound, we knew how to spot the foreigner.  It was the one who is carrying the umbrella.  People in Western Washington do not avoid the rain–they plow through it.

She didn’t bring an umbrella because we don’t own any.

Tut Tut, Looks Like Rain
Tut Tut, Looks Like Rain
(Live Radar from The Weather Channel App)

Here in the Texas Hill Country there has been a drought for the past three years.  Rain has been scarce, but today, oh boy, today it has rained like a typical November day back in Port Orchard.  My youngest daughter was planning to go the high school football game tonight, but when I picked her up she doubted her friends would go because they cancelled everything–the band, the dance, the cheerleaders, the concessions, everything because of the rain.  Rain.

I distinctly remember watching Belle march in a monsoon with the South Kitsap band.  Yeah.  Different culture indeed.

How do the people respond to the rain where you live/grew up/used to work and so forth and so forth?

ACCORDING TO THE NEWSPAPER MY HOME IS HEATHEN–NO SHOCKER THERE!

Yesterday morning when I came out of my study no more than five minutes had passed before people were asking me about the article in the Kitsap Sun newspaper.  Because Sundays are busy busy work days for me, I obviously had not read the news.  I read it today.  Apparently Kitsap County is not very religious, according to a recent Gallup poll.  The article (read it here) was interesting.

The breakdown of the article is that Kitsap County is the most irreligious county in Washington and the seventh most irreligious county in the country.  More than half of the people in the Silverdale-Bremerton-Port Orchard area report having no religious convictions.  The article was accompanied by photographs of small congregations worshiping.

People wanted my opinion yesterday before I ever had a chance to read it.  Well, here is my opinion.

1.  I know where I live.  I did not need the numbers to tell me this a heathen place.  By heathen I do not mean unsophisticated or evil, I just mean that most people do not value God, church, or spiritual vitality.  I have great neighbors, but they consist of committed atheists (That Darwin fish is on the car!), lapsed Catholics, Mormons, and secularists.

2.  This heathenness is one of the reasons we came here in the first place 14 years ago.  It makes it exciting to do ministry in a place where the majority of the people are against you.  This is where the action is.  Why anyone who is interested in advancing the Kingdom of God would want to stay in areas heavily saturated with the gospel is beyond me.  I knew what I was getting into.

3.  Blame seems to be put in the military culture and the anti-institutionalism of the area.  I agree.  I researched quite a bit of this for parts of my doctoral work.  If I may quote myself:

“The State of Washington has one of the  highest unchurched populations in the nation.  Many prefer other activities to interest or involvement.”

Then I go on to quote the Bremerton Sun, the same newspaper that published article (back then it was called the Bremerton Sun) from article titled “State 49th in Pew Time” published on 19 September 2002.

“Hiking, biking, and sailing win out over prayer and Sunday school as weekend activities.”

So this is not a new development as yesterdays article indicated.  Its been this way for a long time.

4.  In the same chapter of my doctoral project I observed that the lack of Christian numbers has resulted in a larger than normal fundamentalism in which fundamentalist Christians have ‘closed ranks’ and control the religious dialogue.  That is still happening but less so.  It is interesting to me that the photographs with the article are of smaller congregations, while ignoring the fact that many larger communities, primarily in South Kitsap and the Poulsbo area are doing great work in impacting their world and attracting people who previously were not in a church community.

5.  It makes me very proud of my church.  I think FBC Port Orchard has done a spectacular job of overcoming her historical tendencies  by embracing a strong growth pattern that is leaving a larger footprint in the culture.  What I mean by this is that many churches planted here were done so by transplanted people from other parts of the country, primarily the American South.  The result was a church culture that did not reflect the indigenous population of Western Washington.  That hinders cultural impact.  We at First Baptist have worked hard to overcome this and I think we have turned a corner and are actually more attuned to Western Washington than to the sociological constructs transplanted here from other places.

Okay, so that is what I think about that.

OCCUPY WALL STREET COMES TO MY STREET

Today during my lunch I dropped by my local bank to do some…well, banking.  On my way into the bank; at which I’ve been with for over 20 years in one variation or another, I saw something I’ve never seen before.

An armed guard.

My first thought was that there was a delivery or something form the armored car.  But no, there was no delivery truck anywhere.  He was standing out front; guarding.  He had a firearm on his side and biceps that could pass for guns.  The guard must have stood about 9 feet 2 inches, (okay, maybe not that tall, but he was very tall) and there was a permanent scowl upon his face.

When I got into the bank I talked to the manager working the line about it.

Me:      Is that a security guard out front?

Him:    Yeah, pretty tough looking, isn’t he?

Me:      Absolutely.  But why is he here?

Him:    We had some protesters out here on Friday causing problems.

Me:      Protesters, here, in Port Orchard?

Him:    Yeah, it was a part of that Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Seattle thing.

Me:      Here?  Really?  In Port Orchard?

Him:    On the corner, yes, between us and the other bank.

Me:      Wow, kind of unbelievable that we need an armed guard.  I’ve never seen that before.

Him:    I wouldn’t want him to mess with him, would you?

It was a short conversation, really.  The banker was nice enough.  Eventually he moved onto the next customer behind me and then I went up to the teller and I did my banking without any problems.  As I got back into my office this afternoon, though, I did a little research.   Turns out the local paper covered this “protest.”    The article, though short on depth or anything like journalism, does tell how many protesters there were.  There were “about a half dozen.”  That would be six.  I’ll even be generous and say maybe seven.  Seven.  That’s it.

Would you have expected it to be more like seventy if it is going to gain a newspaper article and an on-site armed guard?  A half dozen is barely a crowd around a coffee table at Starbucks.  I think the newspaper made much of nothing, and I think my bank may have slightly overreacted.  Besides, is protesting something that needs an armed guard?  I thought that protesting in a civil way was a constitutionally protected activity so long as the public is not endangered and no laws are broken.  I have a hard time believing that these half-dozen people intended to harm anyone or that any laws were broken.   They just wanted to get their voice in with the other people across the nation protesting; even if doing so is more of a fad than any kind of movement.  That corner where they were at is used all the time for various “protests” from everything to support the troops to school levy support and even car washes.

In the end, the Occupy Wall Street thing will fizzle, especially when winter comes; and I’m not too concerned about their cause because most do not really know what their cause is.  But I am worried about my town–what exactly is the armed guard going to do if the half-dozen show up again?  One certainly would hope this doesn’t escalate; but protesters and armed guards surrounded by lots of customers coming in and out feels like a receipt for disaster.