A local pastor at a tiny church in Hood River, Oregon, a small town on the banks of the Columbia River, is taking on the world’s fastest growing religion and not backing down.
The Rev. Michael Harrington, 74, leads the Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist Church in a rural outpost along I-84 about an hour and 10 minutes east of Portland.
The church is so small it doesn’t even have a website.
It’s main method of communicating with the outside world is its outdoor marquee sitting out front of its building along a highway that few travel.
Harrington posted messages last month on the board that read: “Wake up Christians. Allah is not our God. Muhammad not greater than Jesus.”
The other side of the marque stated “Only the Bible is God’s Word. Koran is just another book.”
In a matter of days word spread to Muslim groups and their left-leaning supporters well beyond Hood River. About a dozen protesters descended on the small church with signs saying “take down this sign.”
This church is so small it often can’t muster more than a dozen members for a Sunday service.
“There may be, on a good day, 30 cars go by and see our sign,” said Pastor Harrington. “My intent was anybody who agrees with that come on in, and anyone who disagrees with it, come in and we’ll talk about it.”
But that wasn’t the case.
This simple expression of religious conviction was too “controversial” for some to tolerate.
One man, Eric Cohn, was riding his bike by the church one day and said he “could not believe” what he was seeing. He stopped and told the pastor he wept because he was so offended by the message on the reader-board.
“I literally had to stop and back up and make sure I saw what I saw, and I was profoundly offended and upset by it,” Eric Cohn told KomoNews.com.
Cohn was so offended he wrote a letter to the editor in the local newspaper that Harrington says painted him “as a terrorist almost.”
The big-city paper, the Oregonian in Portland, also filed a report lecturing the pastor on what is “appropriate Christian behavior.”
Then the local mayor intervened with comments that helped stoke the controversy.
“I was really annoyed and sad. I am annoyed that in this political season there’s a solid case of ugly going on,” Mayor Paul Blackburn told KATU in an effort to smear the pastor of the tiny church. “I think it norms up this kind of behavior like ‘oh, it’s okay to be a bigot now.'”
The pastor was forced to defend himself in the local and national media.
“I’m not politically correct. I’ve never been politically correct, but I think I’m biblically correct, and that’s what matters to me,” Harrington told KATU. “It isn’t against any particular denomination. It’s just the fact that I have taught and will continue to teach that I have one God, one way of salvation and one Bible that’s holy.”
Fair enough, right? We all have freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and Americans are generally tolerant folks, right? Not for some, such as the Raw Story, which called the pastor out as a bigot.
Watch video interview with Pastor Michael Harrington:
One can’t help but wonder what type of penalty the good mayor would like to impose upon free speech that he considers “annoying,” said Carl Gallups, who pastors a Baptist church in Florida, much larger than Harrington’s but similar in theology.
“I find it amusing that the ‘progressives’ are always screaming about bullying and tolerance, so here’s an American pastor who has a reader-board on his property with a message that states nothing but clear, 100 percent biblical truth and his First Amendment rights are summarily dismissed by haters who are calling him a ‘hater,'” said Gallups, author of “Be Thou Prepared” and “Final Warning.”
“The hypocrisy is astounding,” he said.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Trespassers sneaked onto the church property at night and re-arranged the letters on the marquee from “God’s holy book” to read “God’s holy boobs allowed” and “Lady Gaga is our God.”
The anonymous trespasser left a note saying he (or she) would be back if the church dared to put the sign back up. “Stop with the offensive signs. I will continue to change them if you do not,” the note said. “Also go research the Muslim religion. You are WAY OFF!”
The pastor and his church stood firm and did not buckle to the bullying tactics of the mayor, the media or the protesters.
Critics point out that at the same time the Oregon liberals are giving a small-town pastor hell for posting a sign on his own church property, Muslim groups are plastering the roadsides in several states with billboards promoting their faith targeting Christians and Jews. Some read “Find Jesus in the Koran,” while others talk about Islam being the “religion of peace,” a blatant lie exposed by even a cursory inspection of the historic record, Gallups said.
Atheist groups have for years been posting billboards along America’s major highways questioning and criticizing Christianity without controversy. Yet when someone put up an “anti-Islam” billboard in St. Cloud, Minnesota, the owner of the billboard space got a call from someone at Catholic Charities who told him to take it down and cancel his contract with the advertiser or face a lawsuit, WND reported in February.
“You don’t see any protests when it’s Christianity being bashed. How come they can put those things up but this Oregon pastor can’t put a factual, biblically based sign up on his own church property?” asks Pastor Shahram Hadian, a former Muslim who came to the U.S. from Iran and operates the Truth In Love ministry based in neighboring Washington state. “And I’m so glad, thank God, that he’s not backing down.
“People are hungry for some courageous pastors,” he continued. “They’re like an endangered species. Can we find a courageous pastor anywhere in America? That’s I think why people are so fired up about this, is we’re actually finding one who will take a stand.”
There has been much support for the pastor’s actions. Fellow Christians from other congregations came and held a joint worship service at Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist recently.
“But what’s not being reported is the threats and the signs being altered,” Hadian said. “If they were defacing a mosque’s reader-board that would have been all over the news, and you probably would have had Obama out there with the Department of Justice filing hate crime charges.”
But this seems to be the norm with the leftists, Gallups said.
“Why is it OK for them to attempt to bully this pastor into silence? It’s not,” he said. “The pastor is right in what he is doing and I applaud him. People of God all over this nation should come to this pastor’s defense, publicly, before we lose everything. The church has been asleep and lukewarm far too long.”
After watching the video of Harrington explaining his ministry, Gallups said it’s clear the pastor is not a hater of Muslim people.
“He is simply speaking to the truth of Islam, according to their own writings and teachings, and comparing that with the biblical truth,” Gallups said. “There is a difference between being kind, loving, and helpful to individual people and still speaking truth about universal issues. I practice this principle all the time in my own ministry.”
The Word of God is clear, he said.
“In the last days, before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, truth would be ‘thrown to the ground,’ and deception would rule as the order of the day,” Gallups said. “It appears we are getting very close to living in a worldwide deluge of that biblical and prophetic truth.”
Hadian says if the tide of rising political correctness is not soon reversed, the U.S. could be headed for even darker times.
“It sickens me that Christians are capitulating to this,” Hadian said. “And to me it’s just a pattern where we’re following exactly what happened in 1930s Germany when churches were getting in line to carry the water and follow the mantra of the Nazi Party.”