My Gripe with the TEA Party: The Pastor Responds

This is a continuation of the last post: My Gripe with the TEA Party: My Town Responds please read it after you have read my original post: My Gripe with the TEA Party

The final letter that was addressed to me was from none other than the pastor that I focused much of my attention on in my original submission. Understandably he too thought that I was the heckler that shouted and interrupted his speech at the rally. I have attempted to call Rev. Hicks to inform him that this is not the case and left him a voice mail to that effect. I hope to hear from him soon, perhaps he would be willing to go grab a cup of coffee with me sometime. Due to the length of this letter I will only post it in portions, then deal with it a paragraph or two at a time. His letter can be read in it’s entirety Here without any of my comments inlaid.

Dear Editor, In the last edition of this newspaper, I was the main target of a lengthy letter to the editor. Inasmuch as the writer identified me by naming the church where I pastor, I feel compelled to respond. It is the right and privilege of the writer of that letter to express his “gripe” as he sees fit. I am thankful for the right to respond.

First, thank you very much for your relatively gracious response. We are both mutually thankful to have our right to respond and have gripes and I am even more glad that we can do so in a civil way. My intention was not to bring any negative attention onto you or your church and I am very sorry if that has been the case – I will try to better explain my intentions and failures as we progress here.

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In reading the content of the writer’s website, it is easy to see the underlying bias against anything Christian. He is an atheist. He is not just simply irreligious. His attitude is expressed in his own words taken from his own website: “I come from an evangelical Christian background where my main goal in life other than ‘seeking God’s face’ was to ‘lead people to Jesus’. Maybe this is just me, but for some odd reason, I feel just as urged to spread the ‘gospel’ of atheism as I did to spread the ‘godspell’ of Christ.”

You are exactly right and your quotes have not been taken out of context. I consider myself an enemy of Christ and really any religion in general for various reasons. When I was a Christian I truly had no other desire than to see the will of God done, to know him and make him known. In retrospect that desire, as honest as it was, led me to bring many individuals down the path of Christ. In my zeal to make god known I led hundreds of i it to be so incorrect. I fear that those people may be so intent as I once was to please god that they too are torturing themselves for every sin they commit – as I once did. My nature as a Christian was rather flagellant – I hated to disappoint my god and my inability to be perfect led me into some rather dark mental/spiritual times. The idea that others are doing the same thing because of me gives me a deep desire to dispel the god I once served and spread the idea of logic and reason. I don’t have any intention or desire to do this in a way that harms other people, I do so by just talking to people and trying to make them think outside of their dogmatic box. Because I see religion as a dangerous thing for the entirety of society I find it imperative to work against it. Having said all that, my letter regarding the TEA party was in no way an attempt to attack religion or the religious, so if there is any argument that I would like to make on this paragraph it is that it is not topical in relation to the original article. It is nothing more than an attempt at character assassination. The problem with that attempt is that my desire to see others renounce god should not be considered any less noble than your desire to see the entire world announce him…I know you want to see that because I once did. It should not make our mutual audience have a negative opinion of either of us – we both want what we see as best for everyone!

As an atheist, it is impossible to make the connection between the desperate moral condition of our country, and the multiplicity of problems, which we are now facing. Most of those whom I have met that claim to be atheists hold themselves forth as intellectuals. They claim to have arrived at their atheistic conclusions by “critical thinking”. The atheist rationalizes with his natural mind and concludes, based on his own thought processes, there is no God, but spiritual things are spiritually discerned. The Bible helps us to understand how people can go so far astray in their thinking. Romans 8:7 says, “…because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can it be.” Also, 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, “but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

As a former Christian I do totally understand the connections that you see between moral depravity and physical problems, I simply no longer agree with the connections you make. Rather than making a spiritual connection between (for example) abortion and school shootings (I have seen these connected before as if a spirit or daemon of murder was causing the link) I might see a tangible connection between bullying and school shootings. The conclusion you may reach; the demonic practice of abortion needs to stop in order to let loose the grip of violence and murder on this nations children will fly in the face of my own conclusion that educating and punishing bullies will lessen the tendency to irrationally and violently retaliate against them and others around them. I get why you believe what you do, I just don’t see it as correct.

The very faculty used in arriving at the conclusion that there is no God is itself in opposition to God. Having abandoned any belief in God, the atheist claims to be free. But the kind of freedom he espouses is like a man dropped into the middle of the ocean. He is free; free to swim in any direction he desires; free to swim on his back or his stomach or whatever makes him happy at the moment. He is free but there it, however, bases his life and understanding on his experiences and interpretation of factual information. The Atheist has the solid ground of science and reason to stand on rather than the speculation and desire for correctness in ones religious belief. You are also hinting here that because the Atheist does not have the foundation of God that he is automatically without any sense of morality. If this were true Atheists would be going around chopping off heads and burning people at the stake (Remind me again…what group is responsible for those things throughout history?). Instead Atheists….and really pretty much everyone bases their morality on what is called a Social Contract. I have also dealt with the ideas of Atheistic morality in a few other blog posts: On Morality

I am indeed a social liberal. You and I don’t need to get into a discussion on homosexuality because issues of civil rights make me a little too passionate to be able to keep my temper down. Social libertarianism was common among the Republican party before Jerry Falwell decided to ruin it with his Moral Majority campaign…how soon we forget our roots.

Concerning the gripe about the TEA Party, I was invited to speak at the TEA Party by the organizers and I was honored to do so. I believe that the organizers and I share a belief that the first step to getting this country back on track is repenting for our national sins and getting back on a solid moral foundation. This is a concept no atheist can embrace because it would then require that they believe in, or at least acknowledge God.

Alas we have achieved something that actually relates to what I was initially writing in for!

If yourself and the organizers of said event believe that getting this country back on track begins with repentance and remolding it’s moral foundation then it should not have been called a T.E.A Party Tax Rally (Taxed Enough Already) because none of those words reflect anything at ALL about morality or repentance. You could have just as easily called it a Repentance Rally or a Pray for America Rally, instead the organizers chose to ride the coat tails of the national Tea Party and promote an entirely different agenda. Tax Rallies should focus nearly exclusively on their namesake: Taxes. I honestly don’t see how I can be more clear than that.

In the opinion of the writer, I was the worst of the four speakers. It could be true, but he never waited until the end to see where it was going. I will just respond with a verse from a book he doesn’t believe in anyway: “Proverbs 18:13, He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”

My opinion is not that you were a BAD speaker, I think you spoke quite well and you received the most passionate responses from those in attendance both for and against what you had to say. I just think that your speech was focused on the wrong thing. I did listen to the whole speech (I assume that the heckler did not so you may be trying to say that) and my opinion of it was not changed.

As for me making a living off a tax-exempt business, there are numerous tax-exempt organizations that are not religious organizations and they provide a living for the people who work there. I pay taxes on the salary I get, just like everyone else. I also pay a self-employment tax. In addition, I work a public job from which the maximum amount of tax is deducted every pay period.

This is where I  feel that I owe you a bit of an apology.  I was not attempting to call you out as some sort of tax dodger, I just wanted to make a statement on the fact that you were a minister and you were more or less representing your church which is in fact tax exempt. Had you spoken on issues of taxation or government policy I would not have made those connections, but because you came to present a religious message you were essentially the representative for your church – I assume that it is a 501c3 ministry and therefore subject to certain restrictions on protest. I found it ironic I guess. I don’t agree with any sort of law that attempts to limit free speech but it seemed that maybe the church itself was looking a gift horse in the mouth by participating in a protest against taxes (even though it was not that), For that I am sorry.

As to Karl Marx or Freidrich Engels, would these be the guys who advocated the abolition of the right to own property? These were the fellows who were going to rescue people from oppression by the seizure of property, right? And to whom was it to be given one it was seized? The government?
And then you would have to rent property from the government and the proceeds from the rent be used for “public purposes?” That the right of inheritance be abolished? That people would be told where to live and everybody would be dependent on the government? The only benefit to reading Marx and Engels is to realize that theirs is an experiment that has failed and failed miserably. And we, in America, don’t want to try it again.

I have never seen any reference to America attempting Socialism or Communism in any way.  My point was that the way you were throwing around the word Communist led me to believe that you had no experience with it’s real definitions. I stand by that right now. In my opinion, the experiment has never been truly attempted but we don’t have time to go off on that tangent right now. I did not at any point defend Marx or Engels or Communism.

As to turning the meeting into a parking lot revival, the folks who footed the bill for the meeting did not have that in mind. But, they are dedicated, hard working, Christian people and desired to make the point that America needs to return to its Judeo-Christian roots. Call it a revival if you want to. We need it. If people didn’t want to hear it, they had the right not to listen; the right to be anywhere on the planet they choose to be. They also have the right to be offended. This is America.

If the folks that funded this thing desired or intended to make a TEA Party into a religious event or a call for a return to these roots (That do not exist) then they should have advertised it as such. I have one of the flyers that were distributed around town that has a mission statement on it, here is what it says:

Our mission is to encourage everyone to be aware and to be informed. We, the people, call for an end to the blatant disregard of the individual and state”s rights. The Federal Government was established to guard and secure our freedoms, not to recklessly spend money which we don’t have and then tax us to pay for it. We don’t want a socialistic society where the government owns everything and tells us what we can and can not do. We fought and many have died for our freedom and independence. We demand that it stay a free capitalistic country.

Notice anything missing? I do. It does not say one word about god or “Judeo-Christian” roots. It does not mention morality, abortion, gay rights, or Jesus. Nowhere on this flyer is this country proclaimed as a Christian one. There is absolutely no declaration on this entire flyer nor the more important Mission Statement that there will be any sort of preaching or religious speech. Therefore the flyer was misleading. That is my gripe, that is why I wrote my letter, that is why it is important that the organizers understand that they must deliver what they advertise. Anything else is a bait and switch.

You are correct, I had every right to leave at any point during the event, but why should I have to? I didn’t mislead anyone and I came to protest the federal government because I agree with the announced mission statement on most of its points. That is the point that no one seems to understand right now.

The words, “dishonest and rude” were also used in regard to the meeting. Is it not “rude” to interrupt someone’s presentation because you don’t agree, or don’t like what’s being said?

It is rude to interrupt someone in the middle of a speech, which is why I did not, as I have already stated. The heckler was someone else that I have never met and do not know. However, it should be expected that at a protest people might yell a little bit, it is kind of the way those things generally go.

Again, the obvious atheistic bias appears in the following quote from last week’s letter, “Prayer and repentance are not going to change this nation, only action can do that while prayer is only an excuse to avoid getting your hands dirty.”
We are praying. And we are advocating repentance. And we are getting our hands dirty and spending our money and having rallies and educating our people. And we are making no excuses. We are not defending the previous administration, although we have been accused of doing so. We understand that this problem began a long time ago and has spanned many administrations. The Obama administration has just put the thing in overdrive and we have finally decided that we must do something about it. Granted, it is a bit late, but nevertheless we have begun.

What I am saying is that you can pray all day long, I could care less, but please don’t make that all you do. If all you do is pray and talk about repentance then I can promise you that you will never see a worthwhile result. You might get the warm fuzzies and feel like 10,000 angels are fighting on your side, but there is nothing like speaking against the visible forces at work rather than those that you may see as spiritual interferences.

You are correct that the Bush administration was not praised or defended at the rally by any of the speakers, but the fact that for eight years the Bush administration spent us into a 9 trillion dollar hole and not a word was said by these so called conservatives and Republicans is just as good and lighting all that money on fire on tax day. It was put into overdrive by the Bush administration to be honest, the Obama administration has simply kept it going in that direction. I am glad you all are finally active and pissed off about something, but what took so long?

The writer further expressed his opinion by saying, “The organizers failed to find relevant individuals to speak on this subject opting for clergymen that couldn’t control their zeal and the speakers decided to use their time as opportunities to throw bible verses around proclaiming this nation a Christian one (A very, very wrong statement.) Let me remind you folks, America is NOT a Theocracy nor was it ever.”
“Clergymen that couldn’t control their zeal” was clearly a reference to me. That appears to me to be the pot calling the kettle black. What about the uncontrolled zeal that drives a person to rudely interrupt another just because they don’t like what is being said?

You weren’t the only speaker that I was referencing but you certainly were one of them. Once again, it was not me that interrupted but I can fully understand why you think it was me, I am pretty much saying the same thing that the heckler said, just using a different medium.

Contrary to the accusation of throwing Bible verses around, I did not have even one verse of scripture in my notes and I do not recall quoting one.

You may not have, I can’t remember. I do know that they were quoted by others. I do know that when a person spends as much time in study of the Bible, as I would hope you do and as I once did that quoting it becomes almost second nature and you may not always even realize it when you do it.

The writer stated that, “America is NOT a Theocracy nor was it ever.” That is a true statement. The government of this country never created a state religion. But this has been a Christian nation from the beginning. One only needs to study the history of the nation to prove the point. I would like to offer some quotes from some well-known figures in our history.

Patrick Henry: “The Bible is worth all the other books which have ever been printed.” “ I have now disposed of all my property to my family. There is one thing more I wish I could give them, and that is the Christian religion.” “This is all the inheritance I give to my dear family. The religion of Christ will give them one which will make them rich indeed.”

John Quincy Adams: “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

And there is some interesting reading in the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 (1892) where the Supreme Court of the United States declared the nation a Christian nation.

I can easily find just as many quotes and more from statesmen, signers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and early patriots that were not Christians. Some of them despised Christianity and the Bible and Religion all together. Here is a giant list of quotes from John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and more that advocate my claim.

I would like to quote a friend of mine. He said, “People do what they do because they are what they are.”
I am a Christian. I am called of God to preach. That is what I am and that is what I do. Because I am what I am, I will continue to do what I do to the best of my ability until the Lord calls me home.
Mr. Oxley does what he does because he is what he is. I bear him no ill will. From my perspective as a Christian, I wish that his experience with the living Christ had been as rewarding and life changing as mine.

Just what is it that you believe I am?

My experience with Christ was probably more like your own than you can grasp. I chose to question him and that is how I got to be who I am today, nothing more and nothing less.

I have thought much about how I should respond to all that has been said. I will freely admit that initially, I was angry. But that didn’t last very long. The more I learned of this individual, the more I seemed to understand how he arrived at the place where he is in his thinking. My anger evaporated and I felt only pity. I realize that is the last thing Mr. Oxley wants from me or anybody else, but he may rest assured that I have called his name in prayer to the God he doesn’t believe in and have asked my church to do the same.

You are correct, I don’t care for your pity though I understand that pity is not an emotion that is under your control. I too feel pity for people, often those that are programmed to think only according to their religious dogma and superstition. I hate that those people are serving a god that is a figment of their imagination and that their god requires for them to attempt to legislate morality among those that do not believe as they do.

Oh, and by the way, thanks for all the free publicity.
Rev. Tim Hicks
Pastor, Solid Rock Church of God

You are welcome and thank you for your thoughtful response. I left a message on your answering machine (assuming I had the correct number) and I hope that you will call me back, I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee.

For my readers, thank you for reading through all of this, and I appreciate your kind and supportive comments on my original letter. I hope that you will comment on both of my entries today and tell your friends about them. It is important to let others know that there are still people today that wish to see freedoms destroyed by theocracy because the things they hold as sin are so offensive to them.

  • ray

    Interesting response. I suspect that were he to accept your offer of coffee you would have an interesting and lively debate. A polite, but lively, debate 🙂

    Right – onto what I strongly suspect will be the rabid responses from your fellow townspeople!

  • I'm sorry that the heckler was there. I'd really like to see what he would have said if he wasn't equating you with the heckler.

    • Me too. The frustrating thing about trying to have a civil discussion about anything involving church-state separation is that church folks have too much emotionally invested to keep themselves in check. What should be a purely legal argument becomes philosophical and believers get insulted. Sam Harris said it best, "Faith is a conversation-stopper."

      I'm Taxed Enough Already, but it seems there's automatically distrust and enmity between me and people who feel the same, but with whom i differ in matters of faith. It's really too bad more people can't separate the arguments about LAW from intellectual and philosophical disagreements.

  • Dax

    He actually seems like a nice but deluded person.
    Can we convert him?

  • Scott

    You obviously never posted my previous comment for whatever reasons, maybe it exposed a little too much."Moderate" this one as well and just delete it.

    • hmmm, I see two previous comments from you, one on the gay marriage post ad the other on the original tea party post, both of which I approved and responded to personally….care to check again?

      is it possible that you have your email address in wrong?

  • gosh why do people have to be so snippy all the time?

    ummm…i think my wife must have posted this without knowing she was logged into my acct. so, sorry…..

  • Nora

    I, too, attended the "Tea Party" and was very disappointed. I am not the heckler, either, though I fully agree with him. My friends and I left during Rev Hicks –umm–sermon. It was pretty apparent by that time that it was just an excuse for some people to have a "prayer meeting". I do not know if I will ever attend another event that is billed as a "Tea Party"..well, at least, not in Eastman.

  • I am a Christian but I agree that the religious pandering that many on the “Right”, “Left”, and in positions of power is distasteful. Religion, or one’s lack thereof, is a personal matter, and while I am not opposed to evangelism, it should have been left out of this event. How will those of use who are T.E.A. ever restore freedom to America if we divide ourselves on religious differences instead of coming together for liberty?