Two weeks ago, on Saturday, Nov. 18, we opened our arms to approximately 60 homeless men and women, hosting Tent City 3 for the third time here on campus.
On Thursday the 16th, just two days earlier, an appeal was filed at the last minute in an attempt to prohibit the residents of Tent City 3 from moving in.
This 13-page appeal was written by a local organization acting under the name “Safe and Affordable Seattle.”
Although they had ample opportunity to voice their disapproval during the provided public comment period of SPU’s land-use permit, Safe and Affordable Seattle opted to employ a manipulative, eleventh-hour appeal to halt the progress of Tent City 3.
Claiming that the school neglected to abide by and address city land use and construction codes, as well as environmental and criminal concerns, Safe and Affordable Seattle demanded legal action from SPU.
The organization’s members were utterly incensed when university officials responded otherwise.
City code authorizes homeless encampments to remain in one place for only three months at a time, and because those three months were to expire that Saturday at the previous Tent City 3 location, SPU had to act quickly.
Partnering with First Free Methodist Church, which has the right, as a religious organization, to host Tent City without public process per Seattle, SPU managed to save the project.
Thus ensued a bitter protest by Safe and Affordable Seattle.
In a hateful Facebook post on Nov. 20 entitled “The Church in Revolt,” Safe and Affordable Seattle criticized SPU for “taking the laws into their own hands,” and proceeded to denounce the university as well as the Christian faith.
It is this post, or rather the fallacies therein, that I will be refuting.
Beginning by calling the collaboration with First Free Methodist a “lease of convenience,” the organization asserted sardonically that the Church had a right, supported by University President Dan Martin, to disregard the laws of Seattle.
The first flaw I find here is that this “lease of convenience” was hardly that.
Instead, I believe it was a “lease of necessity.”
If university officials would have chosen to “chaff under and endure” the slow bureaucratic process, as suggested by Safe and Affordable Seattle, the Saturday deadline would not have been met.
Consequently, as stated in SPU’s counter-appeal, “If Tent City 3 could not come to the university’s campus, its alternative was the street.”
Therefore, it was imperative that SPU take advantage of the church’s right, granted by the laws of Seattle, to disregard the appeal so as to not disregard the homeless.
Safe and Affordable Seattle, however, does not agree with this right and argues that our university has not only overstepped the parameters of the law, but also the parameters of Christianity.
Stating, “there are those among us who … think they are more equal than the rest,” the organization alleges that “in SPU’s case, they transcend the rest” and “they are mistaken in that belief.”
When I first read this, I rolled my eyes at the accusation that we, as a Christian university, might think ourselves above the justice system when we pledge our commitment to the goal of achieving social justice, as seen in our participation in the Tent City initiative.
Then, I realized that this accusation is actually accurate.
We, as Christians, do indeed transcend the laws established by men because we abide by the Law of God.
In their post, Safe and Affordable Seattle quotes Matthew 22:21 and Romans 13:1 to argue that Christians should be especially subject to the law of “governing authorities.”
It is true that the Bible encourages respect toward earthly authority, but what if this authority does not align with God’s?
What Safe and Affordable Seattle fails to acknowledge is that true followers of Christ value first the supreme law of the Lord, and this law, according to Galatians 5:14, “is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
We, as Christians and affiliates of a Christian university, have an elevated sense of responsibility to take care of the people around us, and must not take this responsibility lightly.
We must never cease spreading the love of God, even when met with resistance, and even towards those who resist.