Who would have thought that our little coastal community built around the beauty of God’s creation and family values would find herself in the midst of a struggle for her very soul? And yet here Destin is, faced with the very real possibility of a strip club right in the heart of the town, on Airport Road, down the street from a church and across the street from one of our more beautiful neighborhoods — an area filled to overflowing with children who will pass by the proposed club every day. The Destin community is almost universal in its revulsion at the thought, but there are great powers at work to see that the club gets built.
As I prayed about the situation the other day, I found myself remembering a story from long, long ago which is familiar to many. Israel was a little kingdom surrounded on all sides by the great powers of the world. There was a time when one of these powers, an army of Philistines, marched into Israel’s land with a list of terrible demands. What made their demands so terrifying is that the Philistines were strong, worldly, self-confident and had a history of crushing all those who stood against them.
All these characteristics were made fearfully apparent to the Israelite army in the form of a giant warrior named Goliath who appeared to them to be invincible. Day after day Goliath stood on the hill opposite the Israelites and taunted them. And in the face of such threats the people of God found themselves immobilized with fear that they could lose everything they had struggled so hard to build. Who could ever defeat such a mighty foe?
Then one day a shepherd boy named David came to bring food to his brothers in the Israelite army and heard the threats of the Philistines. Without batting an eye, the youth volunteered to enter into the contest with the giant. In desperation, the king of Israel gave his approval. David was offered armor so that he might fight in the expected ways, but he declined. Instead he went down to the stream and carefully chose five smooth stones for his sling. Then he confronted the foe who arrogantly mocked him.
David replied, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts … whom you have defied.” As Goliath drew near, David ran toward the contest and as he did he drew just the right stone for his sling. Whirling it around, he released it in the direction of the Philistine. The stone struck the giant in his forehead, he dropped to the ground and the battle was won.
As I think of the way Destin is being threatened today, I see more than a few similarities with the story of David and Goliath. There is a great power arrayed against our town making terrible demands. What makes their demands so scary is that they, too, are backed by might, money and a self-confidence built upon a history of getting their way with little communities. Day after day they have threatened us with litigation that might break us. All we have to do is surrender to their demands and they will back off.
It is all about free speech, they say. That’s not a bad thing, is it? Of course not, but let’s get real. These modern day Philistines are not about upholding the value of free speech. They are using the pretext of free speech to make money at the expense of the women who will be used by them to amuse men, at the expense of the businesses and homes nearby who will suffer, and at the expense of children who will be taught by our capitulation that such things must be okay. These people need our prayers.
Most especially, we need to pray for and encourage our City Council. They have stepped forward to be our David. They are fighting for what is right. They need to rush to the contest without batting an eye. They need to not let our adversaries fight to their strength, but instead, fight to ours. To do so, they will need to choose wisely from among the various options available to them the equivalent of the stones they will use.
And then they will need to use them well, confident that they are not fighting alone. The community is behind them. More importantly, we have a God who will fight for them to bring these modern Philistines who have defied Him to their knees.
The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.