PASTOR'S COLUMN: Calming the storm of the strip club

Rev. Mike Hesse
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear later this year a case that could determine whether praying before government meetings is legal.

The Gospel of Mark tells of the time when Jesus was crossing the Sea of Galilee with his disciples only to have a violent storm break out against them. As the disciples were tossed about such that they feared for their lives, they noticed Jesus asleep in the stern. They awoke him in a near panic, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” Mark says, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid?  Have you no faith?” (Mark 4:35f)

As I write this, the people of Destin find themselves in the midst of a storm so terrible in its own right that we fear the destruction of our town. Trident Operations, a company backed by considerable funds and handsomely paid Atlanta-based attorneys, is moving forward with plans to establish an adult cabaret (a lofty sounding name for a strip club) in the heart of the community. They have arrived demanding their First Amendment right to free speech, using the full weight of the law to support their position. This is a revisit of a mediation the city and this company reached several years ago when the issue first came up and surprised everyone. Those initial plans were put on hold when one of the principals of the agreement was murdered outside a similar club in Atlanta. Now the company has returned and is moving forward under the agreed terms of the mediation. 

Surprised once more, the citizens have begun to organize in response to the threat. I, personally, am hoping and praying that a way will be found to stop the project before it ever gets off the ground. Yet I am well aware that legal mediations are binding on all parties. I am neither an expert in the law, nor someone well-versed in Destin politics. What I would offer is some reflections from Mark’s account of the storm in light of what I see confronting our community. I offer them with all humility.

The first observation is that in Mark’s account, Jesus was heading toward a confrontation with the demonic on the other side of the lake. It is probable that the sudden storm was an effort by the demonic to stop the Lord before he arrived. That would explain why Jesus rebuked the wind. The Apostle Paul will later remind us that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. What is being proposed for Destin is evil, but the men doing the proposing are simply tools that Satan is using to destroy our city from within. 

A second observation is that, for good or for ill, the disciples stood together in the midst of their crisis.  Nobody was accusing another of making a bad decision to cross the lake. One of the worst openings we can give the powers of darkness in our community is to allow him to divide us into angry factions. Whether the mediation was the best that could have been produced, our town leaders did the best job they could. They are not the enemy.  There is not one of them who does not hate the idea of a cabaret in our community. However we go forward, we need to do so together, perhaps disagreeing vigorously on specifics, but trusting each other’s intentions. As Jesus cautions us, “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25) Darkness has no right to win a victory by tearing our community apart.  Then it wins and we all lose.

A third observation is that while the disciples were doing their part to secure the cargo, and trim the sail, and row with all their might, they knew that, ultimately, their hope was in Jesus. In the midst of their greatest need, they turned to the one who can not only calm the winds, but could also bring peace to their hearts as well. If the prince of darkness can use human beings as tools to threaten our town, then cannot the Lord of heaven and earth use us as instruments in his hands to deliver us from that threat? We are called to love our enemies, but sometimes that love involves refusing to help them do wrong. No business can long survive if there is no one to support it, whether in building its facility, furnishing it, or patronizing it.

When Jesus landed on the shore he was met by a demon-possessed man. Jesus delivered that man and restored him to health and life. Do we think for a second that he cannot win the same victory for Destin?

The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.