Opinion: Practice what you preach

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This article quotes language and derogatory terms that may be offensive to some readers. The Meade County Messenger and its staff does not condone the use of any of the terms, language or sentiment therein. However, to avoid ambiguity and to shine absolute transparency on the situations, the phrases have been written as they were said.

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Clips have been circulating online of a preacher in Breckinridge County espousing some, let’s say, questionable opinions at the pulpit. In one of these clips, the preacher seems to suggest that it’s not fitting for a Christian to work as a first responder.

“We live in a world that everybody wants an adrenaline rush in everything they do,” said J. Dale Massengale, who has preached at Pleasant View Baptist Church in McQuady for more than 25 years. “They can’t handle getting up and going to work. I’ve told some of these boys here, I said If you’ve got a wife, and you’re on the volunteer fire department, EMT and all that stuff, all that’s about adrenaline rush. It ain’t nothing but a glorified soap opera. And you don’t hang around at the fire house and with a wife at home without ending up in trouble. And that’s the truth. Some vocations, even though they’re needed vocations or they have to be done, they’re not fitting for Christians. It’s nothing but a soap opera.”

As you can imagine, first responders and their supporters didn’t appreciate this sentiment, and they lambasted the preacher on several social media platforms.

“There is no adrenaline rush about trying to resuscitate a baby while his parents scream and cry,” one comment read.

“He better make sure his church building has an amazing sprinkler system,” another user quipped.

Massengale apparently received enough feedback on his statements that he felt the need to upload a video in an attempt to explain himself, saying that his words have been taken out of context and that his only objective is to help.

However, context can’t save all of Massengale’s words.

“My wife don’t go nowhere and let some slant-eyed Japanese man hold her feet and fix her toenails,” he said in another clip.

Is Massengale so filled with hate that he decided his message could not be delivered without the use of a racial slur? Does he see nothing wrong with referring to an Asian American as a “slant-eyed Japanese man” or see nothing wrong with communicating to the children in his congregation that they can call someone that too?

Massengale says in his YouTube response to the viral clip about first responders that he wants to find solutions to problems and not create division. In a clip from another sermon, Massengale brought a Black man up in front of the congregation and said that the differences between them were a “natural, visible distinction that God has made,” and that “There’s a lot of racial division in this nation. …It don’t have to be that way.” Maybe there is some scripture I’m unaware of that says Black people are okay but Asian people aren’t. I reached out to Massengale for clarification and for an explanation of the context that would make a phrase like “slant-eyed Japanese man” acceptable, but he did not respond.

“I’m not gonna tweet no more,” Massengale said in another clip. “That sounds faggish anyway to me. What are you doing? I’m just over here tweetin’. Don’t that sound pretty gay to you? Not happy gay.”

I am curious as to where the line of “gayness” is drawn between YouTube and Twitter, since Massengale seems to have no problem using the former on a regular basis. The church shouldn’t be using YouTube anyway since it’s a video-sharing social media platform, and Massengale has said that church staff are not permitted to use social media.

The pastor wasn’t the only one that found themselves under the magnifying glass after the clip went viral. Josh Calloway, the 10th District State Representative elected last November, has been attending Massengale’s church since 1995. Some viewers suggested that Rep. Calloway can be seen in the video nodding his head in agreement as Massengale spoke about first responders. Rep. Calloway took to Facebook to provide an explanation about the sermon to his constituents.

Before I get into what Rep. Calloway said, the church’s website lists Rep. Calloway as their music director. Shouldn’t he be prohibited from having a Facebook page since staff members aren’t allowed to use social media? I guess God makes an exception for politicians.

Anyway, Rep. Calloway told readers what he thought the sermon was really about.

“The message counseled to make decisions based on faith and facts, not fueled by a desire to be a hero as well as putting yourself in an environment that could create spiritual problems in your life,” Rep. Calloway said in his Facebook post. “…I truly regret that anyone took offense to the use of this profession as an example.”

I encourage you to read Rep. Calloway’s statement yourself, but nowhere in it does he disagree with Massengale’s example; he simply “regrets” if it offended you.

The whole “slant-eyed Japanese man” phrase was really a thorn in my side, so I reached out to Rep. Calloway to get some more information. I asked him if he would discipline or correct his child if he discovered that they called an Asian American friend or classmate a “slant-eyed Japanese man.” He didn’t respond to my question.

If Rep. Calloway were not an elected official, what he did on Sunday would be between him and God, and I would have no skin in the game. But Rep. Calloway helps make decisions on how my tax dollars are spent. Not only did Rep. Calloway not condemn Massengale’s racist reference to Asian Americans or his disparaging of first responders, but he also came back next Sunday and sat right up front to let Massengale direct his heart and mind. He signed that check and put it in the offering tray so that Massengale could keep doing what he’s doing. Whether Rep. Calloway would teach a child that language like that is acceptable or not is irrelevant because his actions demonstrate that he ultimately sees nothing wrong with it.

Rep. Calloway, as a State Representative, should condemn Massengale’s racist remarks and assure his constituents that racist language like that is unacceptable to him. If he sees no wrong in the language that Massengale used, he should step down as State Representative and give the privilege to someone who truly believes that God created all men in his own image.

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