Circus may be coming to Sunnyside neighborhood
If asked to locate the geographic center of the Portland weirdness movement, we'd probably put it somewhere near the corner of Southeast 32nd and Taylor. It's between Hawthorne and Belmont, in the Sunnyside section of town, just over the neighborhood line from Buckman. You've got your senior citizens still living their patchouli hippie ways of the late '60s, mixed in with your dedicated drum circle hipsters in ramshackle rentals, your greener-than-thou government workers biking to their city jobs, and a few of your working stiffs just barely getting by in Joe Weston's motel-style apartments from the '70s.
There are food cart pods and bike racks galore. Countless urban chickens clucking away. Many bars, few trendy. A lot of heroin -- bought, sold, shot up -- and when you're finished doing that, there's a lovely methadone clinic. Homeless guys rattle their shopping carts full of empty bottles and cans in an eternal loop from the St. Francis soup kitchen to the Hawthorne Fred Meyer.
The politics of the place are left -- as in, way left. Politicians like Earl Blumenauer get 99% of the vote. Republicans don't even bother to try for a seat in the state legislature. At the Catholic churches, they petition the Lord to "deliver us from homphobia." When we lived down there for a couple of years in the '90s, we used to endure regular lectures from strangers who saw some of our lawn sprinkler water landing on the sidewalk or caught us using herbicide on weeds. In short, there is probably no more politically correct place anywhere on the planet.
And so one wonders what's going to happen down that way now that a hard-core right-wing church has bought an old church building at 32nd and Taylor and plans to open for services next weekend. As the O explains, the tenets of this congregation are 180 degrees opposite of the prevailing neighborhood vibe:
Mars Hill Church was founded in 1996 by Pastor Mark Driscoll and operates nine campuses, mostly in Seattle, with three more on the way, including the one in Portland. Driscoll is a tech-savvy minister who preaches — often in jeans and baseball caps — against homosexuality and urges gays to turn from sin.
"A gay couple walks into your group, you’re supposed to tell them to repent," Driscoll said in a sermon posted on the church website. "And if at any point you don’t tell them to repent, you’re not faithful to Biblical Christianity."
He also believes that the sexual abuse of children is a "trigger" for same-sex attraction as adults. In a video sermon posted on YouTube, he calls yoga "absolute paganism."
Within a mile of that church, the segment of residents who would agree with that platform is well under 10% -- probably closer to zero. So who is going to go to the services there? And whoever they are, how will they and the neighbors get along?
Not real well, is what we're thinking. This is not far from the neighborhood whose more extreme elements firebombed a Starbucks. A lot will probably depend on whether the church keeps its zeal within its own walls, or tries to take it out into its immediate surroundings.