On Sunday, October 14, another violent action around a sporting event was tied to the Bay Area. Fans on Candlestick Point initially clashed over one's choice to wear a Dallas Cowboys jersey. It escalated until that fan was stabbed by a San Francisco 49ers fan.
Two suspects were apprehended on Tuesday, October 16. (It is the policy of this column not to list names of those not yet convicted, but it is a matter of record on Pro Football Talk, the source of the above information.) But arrests have not made the Bay Area safer.
One recent attack only had the Bay Area as a victim. Bryan Stow's attacker was arrested before two recent incidents, but it is not unreasonable to think that since the defendant and location were 400 miles away, prosecution might provide little deterrent.
More important than the arrests is that security has been beefed up. Undercover police are in opposing apparel to the point of borderline entrapment (not a complaint—not being an absolutist, I acknowledge there are times when it is prudent to choose safety over freedom).
Yet through all this there have been multiple felony assaults over a 14-month period. While these senseless violent displays of fanaticism are on the rise around the country, the Bay Area is one of the regions where they are most prevalent.
I have a theory about why.
There is a known divide between the Bay Area and Christianity. It is one reason I chose this Bay Area topic to be my first professional column. There is a darkness in the Bay Area that comes from wrong-thinking or ineffectual churches.
Ministry is about bringing light into darkness. That is why I must correct the darkness in the Church.
That is no mistake. The corrections must be made not by those living without God in the Bay Area, but by those claiming to be about His business. And that is not the church as in the individual places of worship failing to feed enough of the Bay Area, but the Church as in the collective body of believers.
The message many people in the Bay Area are hearing is not one of love but of condemnation. While that may not be the case with many or even most churches, the most prevalent voices of Christianity are often the most extreme.
God wants us to be right with Him in our own walk before we condemn others (Matthew 7:3). And since we are never quite right in our walk on this planet, we simply should not condemn.
Does this mean we should not stand against immorality? Not at all. In fact, not making one's voice heard (even if at times you are wrong, so long as you recognize you are fallible) is the prime cause of churches being ineffectual.
But we have to make sure we exhibit compassion, and that we do not have different standards for sins we might not find as distasteful.
Jesus spoke of the consequences of religion, from the burden the Pharisees put on others with the Law and in driving away potential believers. Those without churches that lead them down the right path are bound to get emotional after being liquored up and before a big game.
Bad things will happen more often when there are not enough good examples. People are driven toward darkness when the self-proclaimed source of light sets a standard of intolerance and extremism.
I get it. I am a liberal and a Christian. Sometimes those things force soul-searching to find if both values can reconciled to one another.
If they cannot, they require I choose God over liberal values. But if you do not have this happen as a conservative, those lines are not so black and white as you think.
And that is the way it should be. God is not about left and right, but up and down. Liberals need to know we are welcome in the Kingdom of God. Many of us might perish for lack of knowledge if the partisan takeover of the Church continues.
That is why I heard my calling when I read Ephesians 3:8 in my very first Shiloh Bible College class: Liberals are the modern-day Gentiles, no longer to be excluded from the gospel, and I am to spread it to them as Paul did outside Israel.
I still encounter people that claim irrational partisan viewpoints fit with an all-knowing, loving and powerful God. It presents a faith as irrational when it is used to selectively justify blowing a few policies pushed through into socialism, reject proof of American birth or Christian faith for Barack Hussein Obama, but no such scrutiny to recent Republican presidents that have more sketchy things in their past.
It would be equally irrational to say Mormons should not be president. Liberals were guilty of it in rejecting the scrutiny on William Jefferson Clinton...or his hand in the deregulation that contributed to the 2008 economic collapse that allowed Obama to get elected.
But very few liberals are claiming their actions in the name of God. Anything attributed to the Lord must stand stricter scrutiny.
The one thing God cannot do anything about is free will. He has given it and will not take it away.
That means the will to do wrong, the will to act on the law rather than in love like Old Testament Pharisees. It also means the will to stand against this. If we allow the extremists to define us and drive more away from God, there will be more incidents like Sunday.
He can only help the willing, and a Church that is not led by love is not going to turn hearts.