Some of you may know Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church. We are the little white church that sits on the corner of Airport Road and Main Street in Destin. Our neighbors include the Texaco Station across the street, Kell-Aire Gardens, American Legion Post 296, the Porsche dealership, and apparently — if things do not change — the new Destin strip club. Their front doors will be about 250 yards up Airport Road from the church. We would prefer that they not move in.



Now someone might tell me that that does not sound very neighborly or loving. They might remind me that our Lord Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Not welcoming our new neighbor does not sound very loving.



But here is the thing: we are loving our current neighbors by speaking out against the strip club.



Study after study has shown that there are negative effects on neighborhoods where strip clubs that serve alcohol are located. “All types of crimes, including sex related crimes, occur more often in neighborhoods where sexually oriented businesses are located. A summary of 34 secondary effects reports from communities across the United States shows dramatically increased rates of violent crimes and property crimes in neighborhoods with sexually oriented businesses” (http://www.scribd.com/doc/85050904/SB3348-Fact-Sheets).



These are just plain facts. There is a direct correlation between sexually oriented businesses and crime. Tragically, Terry Stephenson, who began the campaign to bring a strip club to Destin, illustrated the truth of these studies when he was robbed and murdered outside one of his own clubs in Atlanta — and according to newspaper reports, it was an “inside job.”



A recent study in the FSU law journal adds: “Not only does a community have to deal with the increased crime brought by these businesses but also the impact on moral values. Signs erected on public streets and highway billboards intended to solicit patrons ultimately indicate to the community’s youth that the moral standard of the community is to depict women as tools for sexual gratification and fantasy fulfillment, rather than as friends, lovers, mothers, and equals” (http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/landuse/Vol122/Tucker.pdf).



It is no surprise that increasing crime plus decreasing morals in a neighborhood equals declining property values for the residents and businesses around these clubs. This proposed strip club will hurt our neighbors, and for their sake we stand against this establishment.



We will attend city meetings, and appeal to the owners, and ask our God and Father to halt the opening of this club.
Someone might still ask: what will you do, if God does not see fit to answer your prayers and the club opens? Well, we will have a new ministry. And we will continue to fight the club with truth, love and humility (not with anger, hate and self-righteousness).



These are the weapons that the followers of Jesus wield. When Jesus was confronted by brokenness in this world, He responded with compassion. When he was confronted with sin, He spoke the truth. Many of the women who work in these clubs are hurting and needy.



They may not know it, but what they need above all else is to know the love of Christ in their lives (not to be used and abused by men or frowned on by the disapproving). So we will show them compassion and speak honestly and point them to Jesus.



We’ll do the same for the men who go there. We will tell them these clubs are places of darkness and hurt. We’ll tell them that these places promise joy and fun, but what they deliver (in the end) is emptiness and destruction. We will tell them that it is foolish to drink from a broken cistern that does not satisfy, when you can drink from the Fount of Living Waters.



And finally, we will repent. Seeing sin in others is a grand opportunity to ask, “Where is this sin or one like it in my life.” Yes, we will repent and rejoice in a merciful Savior.



So humble, broken sinners will cry out in love and honesty to other broken sinners that there is a better Way, that there is a better Life. In the end, this battle belongs to the Lord.



James Calderazzo is pastor of Safe Harbor Presbyterian Church in Destin. He can be reached at safeharborpca@gmail.com.