Like most pastors in Memphis, I received a mailing from a group called Memphis City Churches. As the president of the Memphis Ministers Association, I am at least somewhat aware of ecumenical organizations in town, and I must say I have never heard of this one.

News of the mailing made the front page of The Commercial Appeal. It is a full-color flyer with a large set of handcuffs at the top and a picture of a woman holding a sign that reads “Gay Rights Now.” There is also a picture of a man’s face with tape across his mouth.

In bold red letters it reads: A WARNING TO ALL PASTORS AND CHURCHES!

Then this: “PASTORS AND CHURCHES WILL BE SILENCED–On May 3, 2007, the House of Representatives voted to SILENCE CHURCHES. The decision could cause pastors and lay Christians alike to be ARRESTED for preaching the truth or for sharing their faith.”

The flyer then goes on in this vein.

This mailing is nothing but deceptive fear-mongering, and I am disappointed in those who sent it and in those who have fallen for it.

The legislation they are referring to is a new hate-crimes bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

If it passes in the Senate, the bill would provide federal assistance to local governments in investigating all hate crimes, including those against people based on their race, religion, color, disability, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

It is a bill about crimes that are exacerbated by discrimination or hate. It has nothing to do with churches, ministers or preaching. The bill even expressly states: “Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct.”

In other words, this bill will have no effect on preaching or expressing faith, including preaching about one’s beliefs about issues such as homosexuality.

What is most discouraging and disappointing to me about this type of nonsense, though, is that it is effective. It works. It garnered a front-page article in the newspaper.

Genuinely concerned Christians in Memphis have been bombarding Rep. Steve Cohen’s office with calls and e-mails expressing their outrage.

Here’s what is so discouraging to me. Why are Christians such an easy mark for political manipulation? Why are we Christians so gullible?

Is it because we are we so prone to fear? Is that why these fear-mongering tactics work so well on us?

And if so, why are we Christians trembling in fear? Is the power and the truth of God really so vulnerable?

In thinking about this, I can’t seem to get this verse from 2 Timothy 1 out of my head: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Brent Beasley is senior pastor at Second Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.

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