Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This is America, right?

Gutenberg College, a very small, private, Christian academy, is looking seriously at moving to Sisters.

You’d think this would be regarded as good news by folks in Sisters. Economic Development Manager Mac Hay has been working with the college for months to try to make this happen; it would be an early success for Sisters’ economic development efforts. And it seems that most people do see it that way.

However, some folks don’t like the idea. When Gutenberg first looked into Sisters in 2007, there was a raft of letters to the editor slamming a figurative door in their face because the writers found the college’s doctrine offensive. The same kinds of comments are circulating again.
The objections boil down to “we don’t want your kind here.” Comment on our Facebook page: “wow, I thought we already fought this battle....here we go again :(.”

What battle? Why should there be any hostility? Could it be, perhaps... bigotry?

This is America, folks. “We don’t like your kind” doesn’t fly here. Sometimes it takes us decades or even centuries to recognize that freedom for any means freedom for all, but gradually, often painfully, we do.

People of a certain cultural/political persuasion are adamant about the establishment clause of the first amendment to the Constitution, yet seem to forget that its purpose was not so much to keep religion out of government, but to protect religious sects from being suppressed or dominated by a state-sanctioned denomination as they were in the Mother Country.

Like it or not, the foundation of this country rests largely on the desire of the first settlers to freely exercise their faith — and we must continue to uphold the principles of free exercise in the Constitution’s third century. That goes for mosques in Manhattan or Christian schools in Sisters.

Back in ’07, people were saying that the school would “take over the town.” That’s as absurd and paranoid as believing the Muslims are going to take over America. Have we really lost our faith in ourselves that completely?

Personally, I am as unchurched and non-religious as you could be — and will resolutely defend my right to be so. I carry no brief for Islam, but I want Muslims to be accorded the same religious freedoms our Christian forefathers insisted upon for themselves. And if a Christian school wants to teach a biblically-centered curriculum in Sisters, I have no problem with that, either.

There is something comical — or maybe pathetic — about touting “diversity” and “tolerance” on one hand and limiting to whom they apply on the other.

There’s too much fear and loathing these days. Let’s not add to it.

Jim Cornelius, Editor


  1. What's wonderful about America is that we get the choice to choose our choices (if that makes sense?). Shouldn't Democrats and Republicans both have the option to be heard? Personally, though I lean to one side, I want to hear the opposition in order to know if what they are saying is better/smarter than "my" side. Just as with schooling, I'd like people to be able to choose their preferred way of teaching, so long as it's not violent or hurtful to others.

    On a purely economic note, Sisters needs this! It is a wonderful small town, and that's part of its charm, but Sisters just can't stand alone. It depends on tourisism and the occasional tout that comes along with magazine editorials and the claim of having excellent schooling options, etc. Growing up in a place which cannot live without tourism, but sometimes gets a bit bothered by the tourists, I've learned that you sometimes have to be a bit bothered in order to make it work.

    Be happy about this newcomer or be a bit bothered, but either way, enjoy the business it will bring to an economy that is not immune to today's financial hard times.

  2. Jim - glad to see someone understands the establishment clause. Protection of religion - not from it.

    As for the college, I remember those letters back in 2007. One lady even said that we don't need any more Christians here! Bet these same people would come out and support a mosque in town to show how accepting of others they are.

    Having 50 (yes that is how many attend the school) Christian college students in town who will be involved in outreach programs like the food bank, assisting seniors, helping Habitat, etc. is somehow a bad thing?

    Bigotry comes in all shapes and from all sides of the political spectrum. It will be intereting to see how intolerant some of our neighbors will be on this issue.

  3. I might add that, from what I understand, a "great books curriculum" / discussionary approach to education is typically purposed to give students the tools to have respectful, rational discourse with others on all subjects.

  4. Jim - I truly appreciate your thoughtful and fair comments. Lest we forget that one of the founding principals of our country was freedom of religion. It didn't stipulate that only one religion was welcome.

    I moved to Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area - a place that is immensely diverse. I was taken back by the lack of diversity in Portland. My sister-in-law once commented that I was moving to "Lake No-Negro" as it was known among the African-American community. But, unfortunately she was partially right - there were very few blacks in that community, which led to a lack of diversified culture in that town.

    Are people too ignorant to see that their attitude of intolerance that they try to push is just a bad as their fear that the "Christians" will try to push their way of thinking?

    There is room for everyone, we don't all have to agree with one another, but we do have to respect one another.

    Kudos to Mac Hay for continuing to pursue Guttenberg.

  5. Jim,

    Since it was not how i remembered it, i used your website to find the letters and articles from 2007 that you are writing about.

    What I found was an article where you, Jim, asked for people to send in their thoughts on having the college locate in sisters. The reaction was far from the cascade of intolerance you portray. In fact the first few letters were very positive.

    The first criticism was of your Article not of the school: that letter writer was taking you to task for not mentioning in the article that the college was a Christian school. A pretty big omission of fact. Others were concerned not about the school locating here but about whether it was proper to provide public assistance to a private religious organization.

    Then there were the the letters that commented directly on the college's purpose. Pretty equally divided between Pro and COn and also pretty equally irrational in their content.

    You so easily write off the concerns of those who are defenders of the 1st amendment as being of a particular political leaning. But it was in fact the founders intent to keep politics out of religion.

    Freedom of religion is absolutely Guaranteed by the first amendment, but freedom from criticism is not. Sure Gutenberg has the right to locate here. But folks who object to what the folks who run Gutenberg do also have the right speak their minds. Which, by the way, you asked them to do.

    Many of us are concerned about the negative impact a focus of controversy will have on sisters, like Gutenberg has become -in no small part through your encouragement to provide you with our "thoughts".

    Nothing can increase circulation like a little controversy. So before you get on a high horse, examine your own role in the controversy and whether the editorial choices you made encouraged understanding or fanned the flames of division.

  6. Anonymous 5:03

    I was specifically referring to the comments re: the college's content, those that attack the college for who and what they are.

    The letters are but a patch on some of what has been verbalized to myself and others. Those comments have, indeed, been of the nature "that's not what we want for Sisters" and "we don't need that kind of thing here."

    That's not intelligent criticism of where the college is coming from — which they seem to welcome, by the way — that's just bigotry. Put yourself on the receiving end; it's not that hard to see.

    Yes, I encourage people to share their thoughts and opinions — that's why this blog exists. Some thoughts are ugly ones, which is what I'm pointing out here. They are especially ugly when coming from people who espouse values of diversity and tolerance.

    You say "You so easily write off the concerns of those who are defenders of the 1st amendment as being of a particular political leaning."

    That is not correct. I am dismissing those of a particular leaning who distort the meaning of the first amendment. There's a difference.

    "But it was in fact the founders intent to keep politics out of religion."

    Yes, that's what I said.

    "Nothing can increase circulation like a little controversy."

    Well, no. The paper is free and the circulation stays the same every week.

    "Many of us are concerned about the negative impact a focus of controversy will have on sisters, like Gutenberg has become..."

    Sorry, I don't buy it. But you're welcome to show me I'm wrong. You know where to find me.

    Jim Cornelius, Editor

  7. Jim,

    When the Great Vow Zen Buddist Monastery made its interest in opening its doors in Clatkanie, Oregon, now many years ago, the reaction of some in the community was similar to what has been described in Sisters.

    At a town meeting all manner of hysterial, xenophobic, racial, and otherwise fear-mongering was heard. Still, the monastery was built and remains to this day.

    It is quiet, peaceful, productive, and a good friend and neighbor of the overall community. I recently spend several hours in the outdoor garden, meditating, while visiting the area. I was welcomed, shown great courtesy, and enjoyed my own "Moment of Zen" in complete safety and acceptance.

    And I am not a Buddist but rather Christian in my faith beliefs.

    Fear, stupidity, and ignorance are not constrained by borders, counties, or city limits much less cultures or the lack thereof.

    It is better to plant gardens than to build walls, wiser to encourage openess that to celebrate isolation, and more honest to shed light into the darkness than to allow the darkness to remain.

    Sisters should welcome Guttenberg.


  8. I attended the Gutenberg College community meeting last evening at the library. After listening to the college staff and Gutenberg graduates I had two thoughts. One, this is exactly the type of college I wish I had attended. Two, the diversity the college will bring, along the economic benefits of approximately 27 students and faculty, are exactly what Sisters needs to help bring us out of our "severely distressed" state status.

  9. Besides putting some rent money into a few hands how is this going to stimulate the economy here? They will probably bring in staff from outside of Sisters and already I can see 20 some college students in need of part-time non-existent jobs that out of work older locals are already competing for.Could some one please explain the stimulus?
    Thank-you..an unemployed local who would like to thank the Kiwanas and the "brown bag ladies"for helping feed our family this winter!

  10. The Wietech Building is by far the best facility in Sisters for high technology manufacturing; it was designed for that purpose. The community has been told over and over again that light industrial is the preferred solution to economic development. Light industrial was the justification for creating an enterprise zone with tax payer funded incentives for locating such operations in Sisters.

    The last anonymous post raises a question that should be asked: Is a private school the best use we can attract for a facility designed for a manufacturing operation in an enterprise zone? If the answer is yes it suggests economic development is Sisters will be very difficult to achieve if it happens at all.